MP Charles Chong recovering from liver transplant; son donated part of his liver

Punggol East MP Charles Chong underwent a liver transplant at the National University Hospital on Dec 1, 2016.
Punggol East MP Charles Chong underwent a liver transplant at the National University Hospital on Dec 1, 2016.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Punggol East MP and Deputy Speaker Charles Chong went for a liver transplant earlier this month, with his younger son, Glenn, the donor.

The People's Action Party announced earlier this month that the veteran MP, who defeated former incumbent Lee Li Lian of the Workers' Party at last year's general election, was taking eight weeks of medical leave following a "planned medical procedure".

In an e-mail interview with The Straits Times on Tuesday (Dec 20), Mr Chong, 63, said he was diagnosed with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis three years ago following a routine medical check-up.

He said the condition - liver inflammation caused by a build-up of fat - is "not something which has had any impact on my work or personal life". But he added that it could lead to liver cirrhosis, where the liver is permanently damaged and no longer able to work properly.

His doctors gave him the green light to continue with his political and grassroots duties as he was still in good physical condition, he said.

While monitoring his condition, they found several small lesions on his liver. While there was no immediate need for surgery as his liver was still functioning well, doctors advised him in October this year that a liver transplant was best for the long-haul.

"We decided to do it now while I was still in overall good health, rather than wait until things got worse," he said.

Mr Chong said both his sons volunteered to be donors, but his younger son Glenn, a 30-year-old regional programme manager at think-tank Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, was a better match.

The surgery took place on Dec 1 at the National University Hospital. Both father and son were discharged two weeks later, on Dec 14.

For now, Mr Chong has been told to get plenty of rest, and is on immunosuppressants so that his body does not reject the new liver.

This has led to his body having a lower immunity than he was used to, but he is taking the opportunity to eat more healthily - "so less oil, less salt in my diet," he said.

He will also have to spend the festive period doing follow-up blood and liver function tests, which he said he does not mind "as that takes the monotony out of being at home all the time."

While he is "itching to get back to Punggol East", he can only do so after doctors give him the all-clear.

 

"If things go well, my doctors may clear me for limited public engagements after (the eight weeks of medical leave is over), but it is right now still too early to say," he said.

But he added that the Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MPs, particularly Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, have stepped up to help look after his single-member constituency in the meantime.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday night, he also thanked all his well-wishers. "My family and I are very touched by the concern and words of encouragement I have received since I had my surgery," he wrote.

Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Teo Ser Luck said he had been exchanging WhatsApp messages with Mr Chong, whose text messages displayed his "trademark good humour".

"Charles is like that - he will handle any difficult situation well," Mr Teo said.

Asked about his current condition, Mr Chong said he feels "pretty good, maybe a little less energy than before but the initial pain from the surgery is pretty much gone now".

He quipped: "I hope to provide Ser Luck and the rest of my colleagues in Pasir Ris-Punggol with many more entertaining text messages."