Nursing student gave to others, even in her death

Carmen Mark (right), 18, with her mother Ariess Tan, 41, and father Mark Kok Wah, 44. An only child, Carmen collapsed suddenly on July 3 while having lunch at Nanyang Polytechnic, where she was studying under a nursing scholarship from the National H
Carmen Mark (right), 18, with her mother Ariess Tan, 41, and father Mark Kok Wah, 44. An only child, Carmen collapsed suddenly on July 3 while having lunch at Nanyang Polytechnic, where she was studying under a nursing scholarship from the National Heart Centre.PHOTO: COURTESY OF MARK KOK WAH

Organs of 18-year-old who died of arterial rupture in brain donated to five recipients

She was a bright, cheerful nursing student who had wanted to help others in life.

But after suffering an arterial rupture in her brain, 18-year-old Carmen Mark fell into a three-week coma and died on Tuesday.

Yet even in her death, her desire to help others was honoured, as her organs were donated to five recipients.

The "cheerful and helpful" Malaysian first stepped foot here in April to study at Nanyang Polytechnic under a nursing scholarship from the National Heart Centre.

She was settling into her course when tragedy struck on July 3. She collapsed suddenly while having lunch in school and was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

  • Rare disorder with rare fatalities

  • Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are defects of the circulatory system generally believed to be congenital.

    An AVM puts additional strain on the blood vessels and the surrounding tissues in the brain. The strain weakens them and can cause them to burst, leading to bleeding.

    The rare disorder affects less than one per cent of the general population.

    Symptoms of AVM include seizures or headaches. They are commonly detected through a brain scan and can often be treated to prevent further complications such as stroke or brain damage.

    Fatalities from AVM are very rare, affecting less than one per cent of sufferers.

    Lester Hio

Doctors discovered that she was suffering from an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), an abnormal tangle of thin-walled blood vessels in the brain.

Her parents rushed from Penang immediately to be with their only child. Carmen spent the first 10 days in intensive care, largely unconscious. Subsequently, her condition improved and she was moved out of intensive care when she began showing signs of recovery.

There was a glimmer of hope about two weeks ago, according to her father, Mr Mark Kok Wah, when she was able to move her hand in response to him while in a semi-conscious state. "She likes dogs, so I told her that if she wants a husky, she should squeeze my hand, and she did," said Mr Mark, 44, who works in construction.

But Carmen's condition deteriorated last week after she suffered a seizure, and she was moved to intensive care where she died.

Carmen's wish to donate her organs did not surprise her friend and fellow nursing student Adriana Ng, 18 , who described her as a sweet girl who was generous in helping others.

"When I found out she wanted to donate her organs, I was very touched. That was the attitude she had always had," said Adriana.

Carmen's lecturer at Nanyang Polytechnic, Ms Chew Ling Huo, said she was a giving and loving person who put others before herself.

"She was generous with her time, often taking the time to share her knowledge with her classmates," said Ms Chew.

Mr Mark said his daughter's decision to donate her organs has given him and his wife a sense of closure.

"We feel a lot better, actually," he said. "These five recipients are alive and having her organs in them we feel there's still some part of her around. Our daughter did something good. Now five lives can move on in Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'Nursing student gave to others, even in her death'. Print Edition | Subscribe