'Because I love her': Man who donated kidney to wife

This week, The New Paper reported on a stranger's gift of life to six-year-old Bryan Liu. The story has reminded this woman of her own husband's gift of his kidney to her.

Housewife Annie Liau Cheok Huey, 52, had her transplant in November 2009.

Born with just one kidney, she was diagnosed with renal failure in 2005 and underwent dialysis at the National Kidney Foundation (NKF).

Throughout the course of her treatment, she declined numerous offers from her husband, Mr Teo Eng Hong, 54, to donate one of his kidneys to her.

It was only four years later in 2009, when her condition deteriorated further that she finally relented.

Today, Madam Liau can lead "as normal a life as I possibly can", thanks to her husband of 16 years.

"But I still refrain from eating my favourite fruit - durian," she said, adding that the restriction was according to medical advice.

When asked why he donated his kidney to his wife, Mr Teo answered simply: "Because I love her." The couple have no children.

Like the surgery on little Bryan - who is the youngest recipient of a kidney from a living altruistic donor - Madam Liau and Mr Teo's surgery was also a first.

It was the first live donor kidney transplant to be performed after the Human Organ Transplant Act (Hota) was amended to allow kidney donors to be reimbursed.

So Mr Teo, a storekeeper, became the first patient to be compensated.

The change to Hota - passed in March 2009 to allow living donors to be reimbursed for expenses related to the transplant - took effect that November.

Aimed at increasing the number of available organs from live donors, the law now allows them to claim for expenses such as the cost of health checks, laboratory tests, surgery, hospitalisation and follow-ups, as well as loss of income as a result of the donation.

The money came from the NKF, which set up a $10-million Kidney Live Donor Support Fund to back the change to Hota.

Singaporeans and permanent residents who are kidney donors can apply for reimbursement, which is capped at $5,000, from the fund.

They have to be referred by their physicians or by restructured hospitals and must meet the foundation's means test criteria.

Fifteen people have benefited from the fund since it was set up, said an NKF spokesman. Every year, more than 1,000 people here lose the use of their kidneys and need to go on regular dialysis.

The best treatment option for them is a kidney transplant from a living donor, as the average waiting time for a kidney from a dead donor is nine years - much longer than many patients can wait.

More than a third of those on dialysis die within the first year, reported a Straits Times article in May.

It was because of love that Mr Teo gave up his kidney to his wife.

And it's also because of love that he now leads "a simple life".

He has to watch what he eats, avoiding deep-fried food and strenuous activities such as intensive exercises.

Lots of water

He said: "I try to stay away from fatty meats and oily food. I drink lots of plain water to make sure my kidney and I remain healthy.

"I was advised not to lift heavy objects, so at work, I usually get colleagues to help me with the heavy stuff."

Mr Teo added that in place of more strenuous exercises, he now takes walks with his wife every Sunday.

But despite the changes to his lifestyle, Mr Teo added that he has never regretted donating his kidney.

He said: "I still act like a normal guy and lead a normal life. The only time I admit I have only one kidney is when I fall sick and have to see a doctor."

On the news of the altruistic donor reported in TNP yesterday, Madam Liau said: "Many people perhaps have the intention of donating their kidneys, but not the bravery to carry it out.

"Here is a total stranger with no blood ties to the boy, yet he came forward to save a young life.

"I understand he is a young man himself, yet he is so magnanimous... Thinking about his deed makes me feel like crying."

juditht@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in  The New Paper  .

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