Punggol East MP Charles Chong 'in good spirits' after liver transplant, says son

Mr Chong is seen here with his younger son Glenn and granddaughter Sidney, in a photo taken in Mongolia recently.
Mr Chong is seen here with his younger son Glenn and granddaughter Sidney, in a photo taken in Mongolia recently.PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE CHONG FAMILY

He stayed optimistic throughout episode and did not stop doing what he loved, says his son

When it became clear that Punggol East MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Charles Chong needed a liver transplant, he took the news better than his family members.

"He didn't seem to let it bother him much - at least not that we could see," his younger son Glenn told The Straits Times yesterday.

"But I know my mother and paternal grandmother were very worried," he added.

Glenn, 30, a regional programme manager at the Konrad-Adenauer- Stiftung think-tank, had donated part of his liver to his father.

Both he and his older brother, Marc, 32, volunteered to do so, but Glenn was the better match.

  • Unfazed, he took on big challenge

  • The prospect of a liver transplant would have caused most people to curb their activities or review their goals - not take on major challenges.

    But that is what seven-term MP Charles Chong did when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked him to contest the Workers' Party-held Punggol East constituency at last year's general election.

    Disclosing this in a Facebook post yesterday , Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, the People's Action Party's organising secretary last year, highlighted Mr Chong's "almost instantaneous response" when asked: "Yes, I'm ready to fight."

    Dr Ng said he was sharing the story "even though Charles himself would not have wanted this story told... But it bears telling, not because we are of the same political party, but because in essence, the story is about courage and acting on what one believes in, despite uncertainties."

    Mr Chong, 63, who entered politics in 1988, was diagnosed with a liver condition in 2013 that could lead to liver cirrhosis - where the liver is permanently damaged - over time. In October this year, doctors advised him to have a transplant.

    "Charles knew that any candidate there must expect a hectic campaign and a tough fight. The rest is history," Dr Ng said in a nod to Mr Chong, who wrested Punggol East from the WP's Ms Lee Li Lian. "How he could do this, with the shadow of a liver transplant over him, I cannot pretend to understand fully, except that Charles has guts and the courage to act on his convictions," Dr Ng said.

    "I have great respect for Charles Chong, and now you know why."

    Rachel Au-Yong

 
 

The older Mr Chong, 63, was diagnosed with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis three years ago.

Over time, the condition - an inflammation of the liver caused by a build-up of fat - could lead to liver cirrhosis, where the liver is permanently damaged.

After finding several small lesions on Mr Charles Chong's liver, doctors advised him in October that a liver transplant would be best for the long term.

On Dec 1, both father and son underwent surgery at the National University Hospital.

"To be honest, it hurt a lot for both of us in the immediate aftermath of the surgery," said Glenn.

But, he added, his father's signature optimism came through again.

"What sticks out was how good-humoured my dad was throughout the whole episode; how he never let the thought of his condition, or what it might eventually entail, get in the way of him doing what he loved," he said.

"He continued to be a wonderful son, husband, father and grandfather. Contributing to the community is also very important to him. His branch and grassroots volunteers are like a second family to him."

They were both discharged two weeks later, on Dec 14.

The older Mr Chong is on eight weeks of medical leave, and is now at home far more than before.

Quipped Glenn: "It's a bit of a change for both him and my mum! He seems to be in pretty good spirits now."

He said that while his father loves meeting people, he is unable to do so now as he is taking immunosuppressants. "He's dying to get back to his old schedule though," Glenn said.

On Tuesday, Mr Charles Chong said doctors will have to give him the all-clear before he can return to his MP duties full time.

But the family's priority for now is to see him recover fully. They have opted for a quiet family dinner at home this Christmas.

Said Glenn: "These sorts of events have a way of making you focus on life and family, and less on material things."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2016, with the headline 'Charles Chong 'in good spirits' after liver transplant'. Print Edition | Subscribe