A chance at life for 14-year-old

Boy with rare heart disease gets transplant just days after parents' desperate plea for a donor

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 4:31am

A 14-year-old boy who had been surviving on a mechanical heart for about a month received a new heart yesterday, two days after his parents made a public appeal for a donor.

Lai Pak-yin, who had a rare heart disease, went under the knife for eight hours at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam. Doctors said the transplant operation went smoothly.

The donor was aged about 30 and died of head injuries from a traffic accident a few days ago. She weighed 70kg, compatible with the 79kg Pak-yin.

News of the available heart reached the boy's parents on Tuesday night, as he was first on the waiting list for a transplant.

"The donation was offered almost immediately after the news reports went out," said the father, Lai Kam-hung, who waited outside the operating theatre for the duration of the surgery, from 9am to 5pm.

"I wish to thank all organ donors and their families for giving others new life. I hope everyone will treasure life and their loved ones. And thanks a million to the heart donor for giving Pak-yin another chance to live."

It was not known whether the donation was related to the parents' appeal on Monday, which was published in several newspapers the next day.

"The new heart is working very well, with good pressure and heart rate," said Dr Timmy Au Wing-kuk, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at the hospital.

"But Pak-yin will be in critical condition for the next 24 to 48 hours. The operation was very difficult because of scars inflicted by the heart pump and lots of bleeding, but it went smoothly."

A heart donation is possible only if the donor had earlier expressed the will to give, or if family members agree to let others use the organs. The donor must have been in good health, and have a blood type that matches the recipient's.

In Pak-yin's case there was another obstacle - he is overweight. Securing a donor similar to his size was expected to be difficult because about 90 per cent of the city's heart donors weighed under 75kg, Au said.

Pak-yin fell ill in April last year and was found to have a rare case of dilated cardiomyopathy, in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged. The cause is unknown. His condition deteriorated three months ago and he received a mechanical heart last month.

He is the eighth heart-transplant case in Hong Kong this year. There were 17 last year.