SINGAPORE - Laughter filled the living room as two six-year-olds have a boisterous time with a couple of bouncing balls shining with neon lights.
One of them was little Bryan Liu, the youngest recipient of a kidney donated by an altruistic donor in Singapore. The other was his elder twin sister, Charmaine.
Yes, Bryan is finally back home, after being discharged from the National University Hospital (NUH) last Saturday, and truly loving life.
Said his mother, Madam Serene Ng, 38: "He was so happy running around the house, playing and laughing.
"Small things also make him laugh. Throw a ball also laugh.
"We can see that he's really happy to be home. He looks for his toys and plays with them."
Little Bryan underwent a kidney transplant on July21, receiving a kidney donated by a stranger, Mr Lin Dilun, 27, an events consultant.
Mr Lin had told The New Paper on Sunday (TNPS) in an exclusive interview on Aug 5 that it was logical to donate something he didn't need to someone who needed it.
He had said: "The crucial thing is, if I give it away, can I still survive? If yes, it's no loss to me. It makes perfect sense."
And it has been worth it, knowing that Bryan has bounced back.
On the night he was discharged, Bryan was too excited to go to bed even though it was past 1am.
Madam Ng said: "He couldn't sleep. He asked if he could watch the television. He's trying to push his luck to see what he can do."
It had been six weeks since he was admitted into NUH on July 15 in preparation for the transplant, the transplant itself and then to recover from the operation.
And his mother has noticed some changes in him, in terms of his eating habits and his personality.
She said: "After the surgery, we notice that he's very adventurous when it comes to food, which is surprising.
"Previously, he didn't like fruits at all, but now he eats them. He would take half an hour to finish just half an apple and we had to cut it into smaller pieces.
"Now, he bites it and even eats faster than his sister."
He also didn't like cold things previously.
Said Madam Ng: "Before the transplant, he wasn't an ice cream person. Now, he sees ice cream and he wants to try it."
When previously given a choice of hamburger or nuggets, he would choose nuggets, as "he didn't like to get his hands dirty".
But when he was in the hospital and was served a hamburger for one of his meals, he ate it, said his mother.
Once a "fussy eater", he now "doesn't care, food comes first".
His mother mentioned in jest: "We hear that sometimes, the recipient will 'inherit' some of the donor's character. I hope the donor is a food lover, then at least Bryan will not be choosy with his food."
When told about that, Mr Lin said: "I bet no one told them I'm probably the least picky eater around."
Bryan has also turned "more vocal and inquisitive".
Madam Ng said: "Since he came back, he has been very vocal and he would voice out things that he wants. He's no longer the follower and the observer. He's also more daring."
She is not too sure of the causes for the behavioural changes saying "either he inherited the characteristics from the donor or he feels better and is in a clearer state of mind to think, unlike how he used to be when he was sick".
Added Madam Ng: "Now, he's eager to learn. It really is freedom for him."
When asked whether a kidney recipient would inherit characteristics from a donor, renal physician Akira Wu's answer was a clear "No."
Said Dr Wu, 62: "What the transplanted kidney may carry is (kidney) stone. Otherwise, no donor character is transmitted."
10 types of medicines
Previously, Bryan used to undergo 10 hours of dialysis daily at home, swallow a cocktail of medicines and have growth hormone injections to survive.
Out of the hospital, he will be closely monitored for the next three months. His latest blood test last week showed that everything is normal.
He is now on about 10 types of medicines, mostly immunosuppressants, to ensure that his body does not reject the new kidney.
And for that reason, he cannot return to school until next year.
He had started Primary 1 this year. In the meantime, he will be home schooled, said his mother.
"His immune system is low. If any of his friends are sick, he would catch the illness easily," said Madam Ng.
She said: "The advantage is that they (Bryan and his sister) are in the same class. My girl will bring his homework back."
The other advantage of home schooling is that she can "watch over him". She said: "I can start teaching him how to look after his kidney, such as what he can do when he is back inschool."
His father, Mr Victor Liu, 50, a telco group manager, coaches him in English.
Madam Ng said one of Bryan's challenge is getting into a habit of drinking water. She said that it would take months to develop a habit of drinking water.
He has to drink at least three litres of water a day - about 10 times more the 300ml of water he used to be able to drink when he was on dialysis - to keep his kidney healthy, she said.
She has a one-litre bottle filled with water and he has to drink three bottles each day. She also uses drinking cups with colourful characters to entice him to drink up.
She has had to toilet-train him again.
"He can pee on his own now. But it is a bit harder at night. So he wears a diaper and we wake him up about two to three times to pee.
"He has not been urinating for so long. Sometimes, he can't hold his urine for long, which is normal because his bladder has not been used for so long and is not used to the pressure."
Going forward, she said his ambition is to be a doctor.
She said: "He wants to poke back the doctors who poked him last time. The sky is the limit now. It is up to him what he wants to be, as long as it is legal."
To Bryan, what matters is now.
While pointing to the scars from the transplant on the left side of his lower abdomen, he said: "My donor gave me a kidney - no need to do dialysis.
Little Bryan has his childhood back, finally.
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