He was a little yellow boy. From his skin to his eyeballs, the unhealthy hue permeated Jeremy Guo's tiny frame, as though he had been dipped in paint. His liver had failed, toxins were building up, and he was living on borrowed time.
Last month, with a new liver courtesy of father Guo Yang, 34, who gave up part of his own organ, he finally got to eat cake for the first time, and blew out his second birthday candles a healthy, lively boy.
When Jeremy was operated upon, over 12 hours on Aug 1, a team from The Straits Times was allowed to be present the whole time to document the complex procedure that has saved numerous lives here. ST has waited for Jeremy to regain his health before releasing the details in print today, as well as video footage on its website.
Since it was started 20 years ago, Singapore's National Paediatric Liver Transplant Programme has achieved success rates comparable to the best in the world.
But things were less certain when Professor K. Prabhakaran stood at the operating table for 27 hours, performing Singapore's first successful paediatric liver transplant in 1995.
"Those days are over now," he said, pointing out the refinements in surgical techniques.
Nonetheless, that first patient, who was 11 when she had the surgery, recovered and went on to get married and have children.
Prof Prabhakaran, director of the Paediatric Organ Transplant Programme at the National University Hospital, is now a veteran who has helmed most of the over 100 such operations done here.
"The aim of a liver transplant - it's not just surviving, it's going on to lead a normal life," he said.
Likewise, the paediatric kidney programme at NUH has gone from strength to strength since it began in 1989. Said Professor Yap Hui Kim, head and senior consultant at the hospital's Division of Paediatric Nephrology: "A transplant... gives patients the best quality of life, and the best opportunities ahead."
Professor Quak Seng Hock, of the NUH Division of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, said: "For children who are growing and developing, many of the patients are affected in terms of development... so one of the measures of success is growth."
For Jeremy, the future looks bright. He has gained weight, weighing in at 12.9kg on his birthday, from around 10kg just after the operation, and tests show his liver is working normally.
Said his mother Maggie Yu, 33: "He has lost the yellow colour. I can see the difference."
SEE SCIENCE : The Straits Times has documented, for the first time, the complex procedure which saved Jeremy's life.
Watch the video on http://str.sg/ZbAz