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Blessed to Give and to be Given

~ Interview with Dr Chow Ka-foon,
Former President of the Hong KongSociety of Transplantation and
Honorary President of the Hong Kong Transplant Sports Association
By Amy Fung
        “Do you know what the longest waiting period for organ transplant in Hong Kong is? It’s 28 years. He is a renal patient and is still on the waiting list. To a certain extent, though, he is lucky enough. When it comes to heart or liver transplant, the patient can hardly wait for eight months,” said Dr Chow Ka-foon (fifth from the right, front row, below photo), Consultant of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH). She took part in the first kidney transplant operation of QEH in 1991. Since then, she has been concerned about the development of organ transplantation in Hong Kong. She stated that, when organ donors receive high praise from the public for their good deeds, we should also acknowledge the pressure on the donor families after they give out their beloved’s organs. Hence, Dr Chow is keen on organising activity for both organ recipients and donor families in recent years. This opportunity allows the donor families not only to connect themsevles with each other who have gone through the same hardship, but also to share the happiness of the recovered patients. From the smiles of the organ recipients, the donor families can realise that they are also blessed by lighting up people’s lives through the donation, thereby encouraging more people to support organ donation. “The word of the donor families could be more convincing than the organ recipients’ to promote organ donation,” said Dr Chow with a smile.
        Recalling the time when she first participated in the work of organ transplant in the early 90s, Dr Chow said the waiting list requirement for transplantation was very strict due to a scarce number of organ donors. For example, the renal patients must be married, aged below 50, and financially stable as the family breadwinner then. As equality becomes more popular nowadays, all patients under the age of 70 are qualified for kidney transplant irrespective of their marital and financial status. Regarding this, the promotion of organ donation has become more important to resolve the demand-supply imbalance of donated organs.
Leave a living will, leave with no regrets
        “Chinese people generally respect the last wish of their family members. If donors have told their families about their wish to donate organs after death, their families will mostly follow suit. The problem is, however, most family members do not communicate with one another very often so the donor’s wish is not well indicated in the family. As a result, the bereaved families may refuse to donate their beloved’s organs to avoid any bad feeling in future,” Dr Chow explained. She also suggested that the government should provide post-transplant care and support for the donor families to reduce their pressure in the aftermath.
        Dr Chow said some donor families claim that they receive moans and groans from the dead in the dreams after donating their organs. Some are criticised by the other family members: “Why did you donate my son’s body without asking me?” The miraculous recovery of the famous Taiwanese news broadcaster Ms Tanya Liu after being wrongly declared brain death in 2002 is another case in point. Dr Chow said this rumor has frightened a man for almost ten years as he was afraid he had made the wrong decision of donating the organs of his wife who was also declared brain death. Not until the last gathering held by Dr Chow when he was reassured by the attending medical practitioners could he be relieved. Obviously, the sorrow and pain the donor families confront after losing their beloved ones are by no means negligible.
Help start a new chapter of life through leisure activities
        Through the network of the QEH Renal Support Group and the Hong Kong Society of Transplantation, Dr Chow has thrown herself in organising leisure activities, like BBQ party and picnic, for organ recipients, donor families and medical practitioners in recent years. It is hoped that the donor families can realise they did help make a difference in people’s lives by seeing the recovered patients’ happy faces in the gathering. Dr Chow said, “Last year, about 180 people joined the BBQ party in Lantau Island, including a three-generation donor family. The grandfather said in tears that it was his happiest day in the past three years. It made him forget all the sorrows.”
        Dr Chow added that organ transplant does make a great change in the patients’ lives as it stops them from endless waiting and, more importantly, gives them a new life to live. “Having a new life, people would be either more willing to help the others, or eager to enjoy the best of life,” Dr Chow said. In 2008, she joined hands with other doctors to establish a non-profit making organisation - Hong Kong Organ Transplant Sports Association. The association aims at encouraging transplant recipients to take part in sports activities, and to lead a more active and positive life after transplantation. “Once there was a boy at the age of 16 or 17. After the transplant operation, he refused to put off his clothes publicly in order not to expose his scar to the others. After attending transplant games overseas, however, he found that everyone had scars, some of which were even much uglier than his. He then became happy again,” she laughed. She hopes that more people can respond to the promotion of organ donation, sharing their love and blessing with people in need.

2011-05-08   更新
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