Carman's legacy is the gift of life for six others

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2012, 12:00am


Carman Ho's family decided within half an hour of her death to donate her organs - but for the six people who benefitted, the legacy will last a lifetime.

Her liver, kidneys, heart and corneas are now helping people aged between six and 60. Ho's family and those she helped say they hope her story will inspire more people to become organ donors.

'I was still holding her body, crying, when the nurse asked me whether I wanted to donate her organs,' Ho's mother said. 'It was a really tough decision.'

Ho, a 31-year-old cashier, died in hospital earlier this month, nine days after a traffic accident.

Her family decided to donate her organs because 'she really liked to help others'.

The youngest of those she helped, six-year-old Sky Lai, had needed a liver transplant since birth after a bile duct obstruction left him tired all the time, susceptible to bruising and feeling bloated.

His father said he was thankful that Sky was given a second chance. 'I brought him into the world, but I only gave him six years of life. The donor is giving him many more years.'

But while Sky and the other five transplant recipients can look forward to a better life, thousands of Hongkongers still await transplants.

The situation for renal patients is particularly dire. While 1,800 people are awaiting a kidney transplant, there were only 59 deceased and eight live donors last year, down from 74 and seven in 2010. One patient waited 27 years for a donated kidney.

'Many people are waiting for help. We're just giving out things we no longer need,' Ho's aunt said. 'Now we feel like Carman has really turned into an angel.'

Ho's mother said she was very happy when she saw three of the patients, who were recovering after the transplant surgery. Sum-yee, a 43-year-old who had suffered heart disease since birth and received Ho's heart, said she 'regained the feeling of living' after the transplant.

'The feeling [of waiting for transplantation] was unimaginable to others,' she said. 'No one knows how long you need to wait for.'

Mrs Chan, who received half of Ho's liver, was grateful for the family's decision. Without it, she may not have lived to see the birth of her grandson in two weeks, she said.

Dr Albert Chan Chi-yan, an assistant professor and a specialist in general surgery at the University of Hong Kong, said doctors used a surgical procedure to divide Ho's liver to allow other patients to benefit.

Dr Kenneth Chok Siu-ho, a consultant at the department of cardiothoracic surgery of Queen Mary Hospital, said it was rare for so many organs to be donated from one patient (the average is three).

Medical professionals are encouraging members of the public to sign up as organ donors, and explain their feelings to their family.