He waits 13 years for second kidney

Despite family objections, Mr Seow Yan Leong (right) went ahead and donated his kidney to his son Peter Seow in 1981.

His story is remarkable because he has had not one but two kidney transplants.

Mr Peter Seow, 57, a book keeper, had his first transplant in 1981 after both his kidneys failed. The donated kidney came from his dad.

When that started to fail in the latter half of 1995, he waited 13 years to have his second transplant, far longer than the typical wait for those on the transplant list.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, the typical wait for a kidney is five to seven years.

This time, the kidney came from a dead donor.

The journey of survival has been a long, tough one for Mr Seow.

In 1981, when Mr Seow's father, Mr Seow Yan Leong, now 80, a provision shop keeper, donated the organ to his eldest son, the move went against the family's wishes.

The younger Mr Seow recalled: "My grandmother was against the idea, but my mother's cousin - who had one kidney removed after injuring his back when young - told my dad he's been living with one kidney for the last 40 years.

"That convinced my dad to go ahead."

But in 1995, the donated kidney started to fail.

Mr Seow needed a second transplant, otherwise, he would need to be on dialysis, said assistant professor Terence Kee, programme director of the renal transplant programme at Singapore General Hospital (SGH). He is also the senior consultant of SGH's renal medicine department.

"However, it is rare for a patient to receive a second transplant due to the lack of donors in Singapore," Prof Kee added.

But Mr Seow, who is married and has a daughter, remained upbeat.

He said: "The estimated maximum lifespan of a transplanted kidney is about eight years.

"My father's kidney lasted 15 years, so the donated organ had already doubled its projected lifespan."

Second time lucky

He said: "I knew priority would be given to those who are closer matches to the donor's blood and tissue types. And you never know when that phone call (alerting the potential recipient that a kidney had been found) would come.

"So you may miss the bus, but I tell myself there's another one that will come."

On Boxing Day in 2008, Mr Seow "missed the bus".

A suitable kidney had been found, but as Mr Seow was number 3 on the list, the organ went to a woman.

So Mr Seow went home and slept.

Two weeks later, in January 2009, his chance arrived.

He was in the office when the call came.

"I told my boss what happened. He immediately said 'Go!' I knew that was it," Mr Seow added.

He received a kidney from a dead donor.

After the operation, Mr Seow remained in hospital for 31days and he put on almost 10kg due to water retention. The donated kidney took 17 days to "wake up".

While waiting for it to function properly, Mr Seow underwent dialysis.

He said: "I wasn't discouraged that the kidney took time to function properly. I just continued as per normal. There's no point stressing myself and the kidney."

Prof Kee said transplanted kidneys from dead donors take some time to recover due to the injury that resulted in the donor's death and time it spent spent in cold storage.

"In most cases, kidneys from deceased donors will take about a week before they start producing urine," he said.

Now that his days of dialysis are over, Mr Seow - a 1985 World Transplant Games runner - makes it a point to eat healthily, go for walks and swim.

He tells potential donors: "If you have any hesitation (about donating), talk to my dad."

Every year, about 750 people are diagnosed with kidney failure, said the SGH website. The Kidney Transplant List has over 400 people.

The median waiting time for a patient to get a kidney from a deceased donor is nine years, a Ministry of Health spokesman said.

kohht@sph.com.sg

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