Fighting to stay alive: liver transplant mother in Hong Kong shows signs of recovery after second operation

Professor Lo Chung-mau says patient is relatively stable but not yet out of danger and he hopes her new liver will function as soon as possible

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 April, 2017, 1:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2017, 8:37am

A dying mother who underwent a liver transplant last week after an appeal for donors showed signs of recovery but was still in a coma following a second round of surgery on Monday, one of Hong Kong’s top organ transplant experts said.

Tang Kwai-sze received two-thirds of a liver on Thursday from a live donor who stepped in when her own daughter was not allowed to donate her organs because she was still below the legal age of 18. The 43-year-old mother is in intensive care at Queen Mary Hospital.

Head of surgery Professor Lo Chung-mau said a blood vessel problem had prompted the second round of surgery at 2am.

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“She has begun to react ... and shows small signs of reviving. But she is still not conscious at the moment,” Lo said on Monday afternoon. “She is relatively stable but is not yet out of danger. We hope that her new liver can function as soon as possible.”

It is not fair on Michelle when the public believes she has to make the donation to her mother even before knowing if she is a suitable donor or not
Professor Lo Chung-mau

Around 20 per cent of liver recipients required a second operation after a transplant, as it was a very complicated procedure, Lo explained.

The 26-year-old donor, Momo Cheng, was recovering and in a stable condition at the hospital.

Cheng came forward to donate her organ after Tang’s 17-year-old daughter, Michelle – who was three months shy of the legal age to be a live donor – began desperately searching for ways to save her mother.

She had even considered taking legal ­action against the Hospital ­Authority to be allowed to donate her liver, sparking a citywide debate on whether the age requirement should be lowered.

Lo rejected the notion on Monday, but before Cheng donated her liver, Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok drafted a bill seeking to amend the law.

Lo, a pioneer in liver transplants, said the public should focus on promoting organ donations from deceased donors instead of living ones. He reminded the public that live organ donation posed huge risks to the donor.

The city has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the world – only 5.8 donors per one million people. Around 250,000 people have signed up in the government’s Centralised Organ ­Donation ­Register, accounting for 3.4 per cent of the population.

“It is not fair on Michelle when the public believes she has to make the donation to her mother even before knowing if she is a suitable donor or not,” Lo said.

He praised Cheng for her generosity and self-sacrifice, saying she had saved Michelle from public pressure and potential health risks that a donor would face. She also saved the liver transplant team from facing public criticism, Lo added.

Cheng received HK$100,000 from the Promoting Happiness Index Foundation for donating part of her liver, but she decided not to keep the money and instead donated it to the Liver Transplant Patients’ Association.

She said she had helped Tang without thinking about any reward.