Hong Kong toddler with rare heart condition and cancer dies

Mark Cheung Ho-yan suffered from aortic narrowing and stage four neuroblastoma.
PHOTO: Facebook

A 21-month-old child who had been struggling to overcome a rare heart condition and cancer has died in Hong Kong.

Mark Cheung Ho-yan died at 3am on Monday in the arms of his father Dr Cheung Chun-kit at Hong Kong Children's Hospital after his situation deteriorated. The death was confirmed on Tuesday by a spokesman for the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Alumni Charity Foundation.

The boy had suffered from both aortic narrowing and stage-four neuroblastoma, a common cancer in children. The rare heart disease required surgery.

To treat his cancer, Mark needed immunotherapy to raise his chance of survival from 20 to 50 per cent. But the cost of the therapy, not covered by any government subsidy, would have been as high as HK$2 million (S$345,000).

 The cost of the treatment was too great for the Cheung family. Dr Cheung's other son is autistic and his wife had left her job to take care of the two children.

CUHK's medical school, of which Dr Cheung is an alumnus, made a fundraising appeal on November 22 to help Mark.

A day later, the Li Ka Shing Foundation, founded by and named after Hong Kong's richest man, injected an extra HK$2 million into a new medical assistance programme named Love Can Help, which was set up to subsidise patients ineligible for government subsidy programmes.

The endowment allowed the medical assistance programme's subsidy items related to children's cancer to be initiated ahead of schedule so Mark and other children suffering from similar conditions could benefit as soon as possible.

Mark Cheung with his father Dr Cheung Chun-kit. Photo: Facebook

 ​​​​​​​The public donations the appeal garnered will be used to help other children in need, a spokesman from the foundation said.

"Due to the sufficient funds we had received, we were also able to help six other children with similar cases in Ho-yan's ward, as well as two other children from Queen Mary Hospital," he said. "All eight children are being transferred to Hong Kong Children's Hospital."

Professor Li Chi-kong from the university's department of paediatrics said about 10 cases of neuroblastoma are recorded in Hong Kong every year, with 60 to 70 per cent of them already at stage four when detected.

Li, whose speciality is paediatric oncology, said stage four was the most advanced stage, when cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. The cause of the illness remains unknown.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post