Liver donor hopes to spur kind acts

This story was first published in The Straits Times on March 12, 2014 

His wife thought he was joking and his children said he was crazy but that did not deter factory supervisor Chow Wei Lin from donating part of his liver to a little girl he had never even met.

It was an extraordinary act of generosity by any measure but Mr Chow, 48, doesn't see it that way.

He told The Straits Times: "If it had been my children who needed the liver and neither my wife nor I could donate, I would wish for someone to come forward to help."

When he told his family why he was making the donation they swung solidly behind him in support although they still worried that something might go wrong.

His wife, Madam Wong Yoke Peng, 44, a housewife, said: "He asked the children, if it was you in need, won't you want others to help? They had no reply."

Their son, 21, has just finished national service while their 18-year-old daughter is studying at a polytechnic.

Mr Chow, who donated 28 per cent of his liver to Phyllis Poh, 10, last Wednesday, left the National University Hospital (NUH) for home yesterday with orders to avoid strenuous activity for up to eight weeks.

But he intends to return to work in a fortnight because "I'm an active person and can't just do nothing".

It's not that his boss wants him back in a hurry. Mr J.C. Lim - "a very good guy", in Mr Chow's words - has been very supportive and sent him a basket of flowers.

Mr Lim told The Straits Times it's good to have a friend like Mr Chow, adding: "I can't do it. He's very brave."

He also noted that the factory colleagues are supportive and happy to hear that Mr Chow is doing well after the operation.

Phyllis' family has been to visit him and to thank him for being so generous. He has also been to the intensive care ward and gave her a victory sign from outside as the little girl is highly susceptible to infection.

She was weak but gave him a feeble wave, said Mr Chow.

"She's my hero," he said. "I nearly cried when I woke up in pain. But her mother said despite the pain, she has not cried at all. And she's just a small kid."

Mr Chow, who is a Buddhist, said his religion teaches that everyone is family so his donation of part of his liver was nothing special.

And although the surgeon had warned that he faced a 10 per cent to 15 per cent risk of complications and a 1 per cent risk of death, it did not faze him. "Once you have decided on an action, you should just stick to it," he said.

He hopes his example will spur others to do the same. He has done his maths and said if only a fraction of the population would step forward, no one needs to die for the lack of a liver.

There were 51 people waiting for a liver transplant at the end of last year.

The National University Centre for Organ Transplantation at NUH will be promoting organ donation with a booth at the NUH (March 24-25), Tan Tock Seng Hospital (March 26) and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (March 27-28).

This story was first published in The Straits Times on March 12, 2014

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