Liver transplant 'hurt a lot' but MP Charles Chong now in good spirits, says son

SINGAPORE - When it became clear that Punggol East MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Charles Chong needed a liver transplant, he took the news better than his family members.

"He didn't seem to let it bother him much - at least not that we could see," his younger son Glenn told The Straits Times on Wednesday (Dec 21).

"But I know my mother and paternal grandmother were very worried," he added.

Glenn, 30, a regional programme manager at the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung think-tank, had donated part of his liver to his father.

Both he and his older brother, Marc, 32, volunteered to do so, but Glenn was the better match.

The older Mr Chong, 63, was diagnosed with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis three years ago.

Over time, the condition - an inflammation of the liver caused by a build-up of fat - could lead to liver cirrhosis, where the liver is permanently damaged.

After finding several small lesions on Mr Charles Chong's liver, doctors advised him in October that a liver transplant would be best for the long term.

On Dec 1, both father and son underwent surgery at the National University Hospital.

"To be honest, it hurt a lot for both of us in the immediate aftermath of the surgery," said Glenn.

But, he added, his father's signature optimism came through again.

"What sticks out was how good-humoured my dad was throughout the whole episode; how he never let the thought of his condition, or what it might eventually entail, get in the way of him doing what he loved," he said.

"He continued to be a wonderful son, husband, father and grandfather. Contributing to the community is also very important to him. His branch and grassroots volunteers are like a second family to him."

They were both discharged two weeks later, on Dec 14.

The older Mr Chong is on eight weeks of medical leave, and is now at home far more than before.

Quipped Glenn: "It's a bit of a change for both him and my mum! He seems to be in pretty good spirits now."

He said that while his father loves meeting people, he is unable to do so now as he is taking immunosuppressants.

"He's dying to get back to his old schedule though," Glenn said.

On Tuesday, Mr Charles Chong said doctors will have to give him the all-clear before he can return to his MP duties full time.

But the family's priority for now is to see him recover fully. They have opted for a quiet family dinner at home this Christmas.

Said Glenn: "These sorts of events have a way of making you focus on life and family, and less on material things."

This article was first published on Dec 21, 2016.
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