Surprisingly short wait of 10 days for multiple-organ transplant

Guangzhou local Mr Zhang Ming-yuan (right), 57, who was diagnosed with liver cancer, diabetes and an intestinal illness in 2012, had mentally prepared himself for a long wait after he joined a waiting list in May for a multiple- organ transplant.

He was aware of the acute organ shortage in China, where some 300,000 people are awaiting organ transplants and only 10,000 get to undergo operations yearly.

Even though he was put on a priority queue as a multiple-transplant patient for liver, pancreas and a segment of the small intestine, he still thought he would have to wait at least half a year.

But 10 days later, Mr Zhang was informed by doctors that a 10-year-old boy and his father had died in a car accident and the family had donated the son's three organs to him.

Mr Zhang, who went for the operation at the Sun Yat-sen hospital in Guangzhou, capital of the southern Guangdong province, believes the improved public perception of organ donation had helped him.

"I was extremely lucky and I feel deeply grateful to the boy and his mother. Without their selfless act, I wouldn't be able to get the donated organs even if I had all the money in the world.

"Now, I feel like I'm as healthy as I was at age 40," Mr Zhang, who works in a private enterprise, told The Sunday Times.

Stories like Mr Zhang's and reports on rising organ donation rates have heartened a 53-year-old engineer in Inner Mongolia, who wanted to be known only as Mr Li.

Diagnosed with uraemia in 2008, Mr Li has been on the waiting list of the Chaoyang hospital in Beijing for a kidney transplant since 2010 and has spent 85,000 yuan (S$18,500) on medical fees.

"It is good news for me, but I don't know when my turn would come," he said.

In his desperation, Mr Li had thought about buying a kidney on the black market and was told that a transplant would cost about 700,000 yuan in all.

"I can afford at most 300,000 yuan. Now there's nothing I can do but wait for the life-saving phone call from the hospital," he said.

Kor Kian Beng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 27, 2015, with the headline 'Surprisingly short wait of 10 days for multiple-organ transplant'. Print Edition | Subscribe