A gift that keeps on giving

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2012, 12:00am


At age 11, doctors told Lomond Chu Lok-man he had no more than two months to live if he didn't get a liver transplant. Born with congenital bile duct obstruction that developed into liver cirrhosis, he had spent his childhood vomiting and passing blood, and making trips to the doctor and hospital.

With time running out, he was given a second chance at life through a liver donated by the family of someone who died. The precious gift turned Chu's life around - he's now a scholarship student at Baptist University and a track athlete who's represented Hong Kong at the World Transplant Games.

Heartwarming stories like Chu's are becoming more common in the city as organ donation is gradually being accepted.

At the end of last year, there were more than 90,000 registered donors in the Centralised Organ Donation Register, up from about 65,000 at the end of 2010.

However, this still represents just 1 per cent of the population, despite 70 per cent of respondents to a phone survey in 2007 by the Health Department saying they were willing to donate their organs.

To help boost donor numbers on the three-year-old register, the Health Department recently inaugurated the Garden of Life, a 300-square-metre area near the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre in Kowloon Park. Not only will the garden be used as an educational site on organ donation and a tribute to donors, it also will be a venue for publicity activities aimed at getting people to sign up for the register.

The garden's design is based on the theme 'light up lives'. It is laid out in a circle to represent life's continuation, a pond with a butterfly logo symbolises organ donation, and pillars mimic candles that signify the kindling of hope and the continuation of good deeds.

Last year, Hong Kong saw organ donations from seven people (deceased) per million, up from four per million in 2005, according to statistics compiled every five years by the government. Despite the rise, there is obviously still a severe shortage, with more than 2,000 people on the waiting list, most of whom need a kidney.

Preliminary results of a phone survey conducted by the Health Department last year show that among 2,100 people aged 18 to 64 interviewed, 95 per cent indicated that they wouldn't object to organ harvesting if their dead family member had expressed a willingness to donate organs.

'The finding underlines the importance of potential organ donors to register their wish early,' says Dr Kung Kin-hang, senior medical officer at the department's Central Health Education Unit.

There is no restriction of gender, age or race for organ donation. The kidney, liver, heart, lung, cornea, bone and skin can be transplanted.

It takes only a minute to put your name on the register (www.organdonation.gov.hk), but it could mean a lifetime of happiness for someone else.