Cabby donates liver to stranger after reading Facebook appeal
Sick civil servant was counting his last days when cabby responded to an appeal for help
Mr Tong Ming Ming, 34, was on a tea break during reservist training in early March when an SMS and a Facebook post by his secondary school friend Regina Lim caught his eye.
She wrote that a mutual friend's colleague was likely to die within days if he did not receive a liver transplant. The family was urgently looking for a living donor who, among other things, had to weigh 80kg or more. Could anyone please help?
Mr Tong, a big, burly cabby and former police officer, messaged his old friend immediately to find out more.
The patient, civil servant Toh Lai Keng, 43, from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), was a colleague of their mutual friend from their Peicai Secondary School days, Ms Leow Shee Yin.
"What can I say? He's a great man. With his kindness and generosity, Ming Ming has shown that even strangers can step forward to save lives."
Recipient TOH LAI KENG (seated in picture with donor Tong Ming Ming). Mr Tong stepped forward in time after doctors said Mr Toh had a week to live.
"The liver can grow back, so I will be fine. As a cabby, there is probably a greater chance of dying in a road accident."
Donor TONG MING MING (standing in picture on right, and below, showing the scar). Before the operation, he underwent extensive interviews to ensure he was psychologically sound, not coerced and no money had changed hands.
LIVING DONOR TRANSPLANTS RARE
Transplants from living donors are still rare in Singapore. There were only 28 such kidney transplants and 10 liver transplants last year and the vast majority of donors were family members or friends of the recipient.
Altruistic organ donations, where the recipient and donor do not know each other, are exceptional.
Liver donations are considered riskier than kidney donations - and are much less common. Demand for livers is also far smaller. As of the end of last year, there were 457 people waiting for kidney transplants and 23 for liver transplants (see chart).
National University Hospital (NUH) transplant coordinator Priscilla Wee told The Sunday Times there are extensive checks by doctors, psychiatrists and medical social workers to ensure that altruistic donors are psychologically sound, not coerced and money is not exchanged. Each case is also assessed by an independent ethics committee.
In the case of bachelor cabby Tong Ming Ming, who donated part of his liver to a stranger, his mother and the friend who knew the recipient were also interviewed.
Donors have a 10 to 15 per cent risk of complications. "However, at NUH, we have not had any deaths or serious complications from any of the donors for adult liver transplants from living donors," said Ms Wee.
The vast majority of organ transplants in Singapore are from dead donors or family members of patients.