Liver patient finally gets transplant

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 July, 2011, 12:00am


Family members of a severely ill liver-failure patient were keeping their fingers crossed for a successful transplant operation yesterday after finally receiving an organ donation from a relative.

Admitted to hospital two weeks ago, Ricky Cheng Kin-kwong, a 42-year-old optometrist, had the transplant operation yesterday morning when a relative was identified as a suitable donor, ending a nail-biting public search that had attracted many offers to help but no compatible donors.

'We are still waiting for the result of the operation,' Crystal Ku Wing-yin, Cheng's niece, said last night. 'We hope everything is OK.'

She thanked the many people who had contacted the family to offer help.

The condition of Cheng, a hepatitis B carrier since he was young, became critical when his liver function dropped to 10 per cent of normal.

Doctors at the Queen Mary Hospital told the family that without a transplant, death within three months was a 90 per cent likelihood. But if a transplant could be carried out, the chances of him walking out of the hospital were 98 per cent.

Cheng was placed on top of the waiting list for a liver from a dead donor, but it is rare to find a suitable and functional one from such a source. Cheng's siblings were all deemed unsuitable, as the family has hereditary hepatitis B.

Many kind-hearted people who were total strangers to the family volunteered to donate part of their liver to Cheng after reading news reports about his case - but none were deemed suitable.

Luckily, one of Cheng's relatives was eventually found to be a suitable donor on Thursday night. Doctors started the transplant operation yesterday morning after conducting a series of biological and psychological tests.

In such an operation, donors end up with a 20cm scar and need four to five weeks to recover, but the donor's liver will grow back to its original size in about a month. There is a five per cent chance of complications and a 0.5 per cent chance of death.

Doctors urged more people to sign on to the donation registry. There are now over 69,000 people registered as willing donors, according to the latest Centralised Organ Donation Register data. Last year, of the 95 liver transplants, 42 involved deceased donors and 53 were living.

The latest liver transplant is the second high-profile case in recent months. Last November, a 39-year-old customs officer received a liver donation from a colleague after being seriously injured in a raid against illegal-cigarette sellers.

Yuen Wai-cheung, who received part of a liver from fellow officer Simon Hui Sai-man, is recovering well.

In Hong Kong, a universal hepatitis B immunisation programme for newborns started in 1988. And yesterday, the western Pacific regional office of the World Health Organisation certified Hong Kong as having successfully achieved the goal of hepatitis B control, as the city had reduced the number of hepatitis B carriers to fewer than 1 per cent among children five years or older.