S'pore woman wants to donate part of her liver to a stranger

PHOTO: S'pore woman wants to donate part of her liver to a stranger

"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

A poet named John Donne wrote this hundreds of years ago.

Regina Lee, 26, may not know him or this piece of writing, but it explains why she wants to donate part of her liver to a stranger.

She first heard of Ang Yong Hong, 52, about a week ago when she read a Lianhe Wanbao report about an appeal for donors. The link to the report was posted on a WhatsApp group chat by a friend.

As her grasp of the Chinese language is weak, she got a friend to translate the report for her.

Doctors have told Mr Ang that he has little time left unless he gets a liver transplant.

Until he became too ill, he worked two jobs - as a cook at a vegetarian stall and a taxi driver - to support his wife and two children.

The Lianhe Wanbao report included an appeal for anyone with the blood type B or O.

"My blood type is B and I am also at the right age to donate organs. It must be fate," said the nursing lecturer.

"Right away, I decided that I want to save him, if I can."

So why help someone she doesn't know? It's because she understands the pain of losing a loved one, she said.

When she was 19, she saw an eight-year-old boy die from his wounds.

He had been involved in a school-bus accident, and she was then serving her nursing internship at the hospital where he had been taken.

Said Miss Lee, visibly upset: "Oh, I still remember the cries of the parents at the hospital. It's very chilling."

The death reminded her that "life was precious" and made her think about her mother, who has bone cancer.

"She's had it since I was two. I'm thankful that she hasn't had a relapse, but I realise that even the slightest chance of losing a family member can be unbearable," she said.

She contacted Mr Ang's wife, Maggie Fong, to tell her that she wanted to help.

Said Miss Lee: "She was very appreciative of my offer. She thanked me again and again."

Miss Lee stressed that although she has the right blood type and is at the optimum age, she still has to undergo several matching tests before the donation can proceed.

"I think we all don't want to be too optimistic yet, because ultimately I might not be the right person."

When The New Paper contacted Madam Fong, the 44-year-old said her family members were holding back their expectations as she understood that a complete match was not common.

She said in Mandarin: "We've asked everyone we know, from friends to relatives, but there have been no matches so far. Everyone is very worried; we can't lose him."

Apart from Miss Lee, two others have contacted the Ang family to offer part of their livers. All three have started to go for tests to see if they are a match.

But the family are still "desperately looking" for more suitable donors.

"We've been praying and praying for people to come forward," said a distraught Madam Fong.

The Ang family have not met any of the potential donors face to face, and Miss Lee intends to keep it that way.

When her family discovered she had volunteered to go for the tests, they were unhappy that she did not consult them.

"When my mum found out about my decision in the papers (Miss Lee was featured in a Shin Min Daily News report last week), she said she would forbid me from doing it.

"But now my family have realised that I'm doing something good and they are just starting to accept it," she said.

There might be side effects from donating part of her liver and the operation carries certain risks.

But they do not faze her.

"I know it's a complicated procedure, but one step at a time. The first thing is to find out if I'm suitable."

Miss Lee is appealing for more people to step forward as liver donors for Mr Ang.

"If I can't do it, I hope someone else can."

This article by The New Paper was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.