Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Baby Yu-yan: liver donor comes forward to give Hong Kong toddler new hope

  • Parents announce family friend has agreed to donate his liver to help sick infant
  • Child, 23 months old, went into cardiac arrest after liver surgery
PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 8:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 10:46pm

There is new hope for the 23-month-old Hong Kong baby who suffered a cardiac arrest following liver surgery at a public hospital, with a suitable organ donor being identified.

The family shared the news in a post on a Facebook page dedicated to the recovery of the baby, called Yu-yan, on Sunday night, saying that“a friend” was willing to be a donor.

“He is a long-time friend of ours,” the baby’s father confirmed to the Post on Monday.

“We are very much grateful for his selfless love,” said the father, who preferred to be identified only as “Yu-yan’s father”.

The father revealed doctors would need to cut away as much as a third of his friend’s liver for the transplant.

“He has passed the liver function tests and if he can pass other examinations for kidney or heart functions, he can be confirmed as a suitable donor,” he added.

The father also said his daughter’s condition had remained largely stable. She has been staying in the intensive care unit at the Queen Mary Hospital.

Hospital staff ‘didn’t notice baby’s heart had stopped beating’

“Doctors said that unless her condition takes a dramatic turn for the better, it will be a matter of time before a liver transplant is needed,” said the father.

Yu-yan was born on December 9, 2016 and was diagnosed with biliary atresia. The condition means that bile cannot be effectively discharged from the body. A build-up of bile can lead to jaundice, and, in more serious cases, liver failure.

The infant underwent surgery in February last year at Prince of Wales Hospital. The operation involved removing the blocked bile ducts and replacing them with part of the intestine, allowing bile to drain from the liver and into the digestive system.

Her condition, however, worsened again. She was transferred to Queen Mary Hospital in November last year and underwent further surgery on the liver the following month. Doctors said the operation was a success.

Experts investigate hospital where teen became half-paralysed

Yu-yan was sent to the regular paediatrics ward after the surgery, instead of a paediatric intensive care unit.

Her condition deteriorated and she lost consciousness, suffering cardiac arrest. Her heart stopped beating for as long as six minutes and she was diagnosed with brain damage.

This prompted her parents to demand the government investigate whether it was a medical blunder.

A subsequent investigation report, released in March this year by an expert panel, concluded that Queen Mary Hospital staff were “inexperienced in recognising the continuous deterioration” of the baby and “resorted to their learned behaviour and overreliance on using monitoring devices”.

But it was satisfied with the hospital’s decision to not admit the baby to the paediatric intensive care unit, saying it was “acceptable” and “did not deviate from international practice”.

The panel could not ascertain the cause of Yu-yan’s acute deterioration but ruled out the possibility of medical error.

Medical sector lawmaker Dr Pierre Chan, a specialist in gastroenterology and hepatology, said that it is generally more difficult to perform transplant surgery on very young children.

“Their blood vessels are very small … and the working space within the body is also smaller,” Chan said. But he said doctors in Hong Kong had the skills to perform such operations on young children, and there have been successful cases of liver transplants on patients of such a young age.

According to statistics from the Hospital Authority, nine liver transplants from live donors were performed in the first six months this year, and 34 such cases were recorded in 2017. As of June 30 this year, 74 patients were awaiting liver transplants to continue their lives.

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Cheung