Monk at centre of Ren Ci scandal donates kidney

The venerable Ming Yi was once famous for his daredevil stunts on television to raise funds for the charity he founded - Ren Ci Hospital.

But since his September 2010 release - after serving four months on four charges, including granting an unauthorised loan to his personal assistant - he has been keeping his good deeds low-key.

However, last week it was revealed that the 53-year-old had recently donated a kidney to a stranger, only discovering after his operation that the beneficiary was a young woman.

News broke after he applied for leave from Foo Hai Chan Monastery last month for the operation, though he had been preparing for it for 18 months.

At a press conference yesterday, the 53-year-old abbot of the temple in Geylang East said in Mandarin: "I had wanted to keep the donation quiet... but news caught on quickly."

He added that he decided to hold the conference after reporters approached him to ask for an interview when he was recovering in hospital.

Ven Ming Yi said he kept his donation quiet and "did not tell a soul until the green light was given by doctors".

"I did not want anyone to worry for me unnecessarily until I was scheduled to make the donation," he added. "I wanted to keep it low-key because it is personal."

The idea of donating his kidney came after he read in 2013 that there was a shortage of donors, with four people a day contracting kidney disease in Singapore.

After giving it a couple of days' thought, he decided to donate his left kidney.

"Initially, I was afraid that I would be a burden to those around me after the surgery," he told reporters yesterday. "But I went online to research on the procedure and found that I would be able to continue life as usual with one kidney."

He then called Singapore General Hospital and National University Hospital to find out more about the process.

He underwent "countless" medical tests, including on his liver, heart and teeth.

"The process is not as straightforward as finding a right match," he said. "But it's a relief because it shows that doctors do not take such processes lightly."

The process was also a test of his faith, but he never wavered in his determination. He has no plans to donate other organs although he has not opted out of the Human Organ Transplant Act.

Since the surgery on April 27, Ven Ming Yi said he has been "recovering well". He was discharged last Thursday. "I did not know who the beneficiary was... but my doctor said it went to a young woman," he said. "My only request is that the beneficiary can have a second chance at life."

Ven Ming Yi has been travelling to Thailand and Taiwan to give talks on Buddhism. In Singapore, he continues his duties at the monastery and helps the poor. He added: "You can call me Ming Yi, Kah Heng (his secular name), abbot, or even an ex-convict. These labels are meaningless. I don't care.

"I have to continue moving forward and not fret over what is beyond my control."

This article was first published on May 6, 2015.
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