KUALA LUMPUR - Hemala Kumar's encounter with a blind man at the age of 14 had a life-changing effect.
Her father, R. Kumar, 51 (above, left), recounted how Hemala told her family of her wish to donate her eyes to help someone else see in 1998.
"She said, I'm not going to need them when I'm gone. Why not give it away to someone else'," said Kumar, who is a bus company supervisor.
Hemala went on to study nursing.
However, she died of breathing difficulties on March 31, 2008 before she could graduate.
"My wife reminded me of our daughter's wish to have her organs donated.
"I hesitated as I felt I was giving up a part of my girl but we decided to respect her wishes," he said.
Kumar donated his daughter's eyes, four heart valves, kidneys and leg bone marrow.
"We are not sure how many lives were saved as doctors told us her bone marrow would be used to help hundreds of patients," said Kumar.
He called on more Malaysians to emulate his daughter as there are over 15,000 people waiting for organs in Malaysia.
"If she could do it, so can all of us. My wife and I have already signed up as organ donors. We did it on Hemala's birthday," Kumar said after sharing his story during the launch of the National Organ Donation Awareness Week at the National Heart Institute yesterday.
According to the National Transplant Resource Centre, there are now 205,478 pledged donors in the country.
"However, this is only 0.73 per cent of the population," said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said the ministry was looking into several methods to increase organ donation awareness.
"We are discussing the idea of an opt in, opt out' system for organ donation where people must choose whether they would or would not like to be a donor," said Liow.
He added that several countries like Singapore and Spain practise this system.
He also launched an online registration system to facilitate organ donation pledges at www.agiftoflife.gov.my.