True brotherhood alive

spore life donor-TongMingMing

Mr Tong Ming Ming, 34, was on a tea break during reservist training in early March 2013 when an SMS and a Facebook post by his secondary school friend Regina Lim caught his eye.

She wrote that a mutual friend’s colleague was likely to die within days if he did not receive a liver transplant. The family was urgently looking for a living donor who, among other things, had to weigh 80kg or more. Could anyone please help?

Mr Tong, a big, burly cabby and former police officer, messaged his old friend immediately to find out more. Mr Tong shared his journey of giving in an interview by RazorTV:

I’m a taxi driver. I used to be a police officer for 10 years. I decided to drive a taxi because I needed the free time. I need to juggle between earning a decent income and also to do my volunteer work.

So what I do, when I have the time, is to pick and send amputees to Tan Tock Seng Hospital. I would send and pick retirees to and from church, and I also organise meet-ups, as I mentor a group of boys who are ex-probationers. When I cover my (taxi) rental and my petrol, I would go and do my volunteer work. I got to know the amputees from Chinatown when they play mahjong. The retirees are also from Chinatown, Lavender and Jalan Minyak who live in the one-room rental flats. The kids, they are my boys from Gracehaven Children’s Home and also the Singapore Boys’ Hostel. As and when they need me to ferry them, I will go, regardless of distance. Usually, I don’t collect a fare from them.

I was doing my reservist, and I saw this post on Facebook. Somebody needed an urgent liver transplant, and I don’t even know that somebody. Later, I found out it was a friend’s friend’s friend. Quite complicated. But somehow, I felt a prompting in my heart that I needed to respond to this call for donation, this appeal for donation.

I think it’s not easy for the family, especially when it’s declared that he has only 7 days left (to live). So there was this prompting, this heavy burden on me that I needed to respond, even though it is a stranger.

When I went for the briefing thing by the surgeons, they told me the risk that I had to take out 70 per cent of my liver, (and) my gall bladder will be removed. That means I cannot store bile juice. Bile is needed to digest fats, so post-op, I will somehow put on weight, because the gall bladder is removed. And then, there’s a 1 per cent mortality rate. That means one person out a hundred will die on the operating table. There are also side effects with medication. Some people will become bald – botak, and then, some people will also have diabetes and high blood pressure.

‘I wanted to help someone’

But I went with the peace of God. But I had to bring my mum down, because I needed to next-of-kin’s consent to this. My mum was ok, she knows that since young, I wanted to help someone. I told when I was very young, if I died, to donate all my organs. So she knows that I had to do this. So I got the full support from my mum.

It was very tiring for my mum. She had to be grilled by the interviewers, because according to the ethics committee, according to the HOTA – the Human Organ Transplant Act – there shouldn’t be any money involved in this. So they were very careful in the selection process, that I’m not selling my liver for profit.

There wasn’t any fear, because 1 per cent is not very high. To me, I needed to do what was more important, to save a life, and not be so concerned about the side effects and the mortality rate.

The operation itself was on Friday. Mine was about 9 hours. They had to open me up, take out my liver and then, while I’m being stitched back, operate on Mr Toh (the liver recipient), so it was side-by-side.  The whole operation lasted about 20 hours.

After that, post-op, I became good friends with Mr Toh. I was invited to his home a few times, and then we became quite close. I think naturally, because a part of me is in him. He started sharing about his family, and coincidentally, before the operation, I found out – my mum found out – that my mum and his dad – they used to stay in the same kampung. So it’s a very small world.

And for Mr Toh, it was very urgent. He needed a transplant in 7 days, if not, he will be gone. I came from a broken family, so I can imagine a 3-year-old boy (Mr Toh’s son) growing up without his dad. Maybe that was what prompted me to respond to this.

Since secondary school days, my form teacher – Miss Yap – she was very active in volunteer work. So she will bring us to children’s homes, to old folks’ homes. That’s where I learnt about helping others.

I came from a very broken family. My dad, because of his own problems, we had to sell 2 flats to help him settle his problems. I don’t want other people to go through what I went through. I know I cannot help a lot of people, I cannot help the entire world, but if I can just help one, make a difference in one, to me, that’s enough.

A lot of people think I had a good job in police force, why did I leave to become a social worker, to become a volunteer? I think the priorities are different in my life. It’s not about getting cash and cars and everything. I think it’s beyond that. There’s a purpose in all our lives

Video: http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/singapore/story/cabby-donates-liver-stranger-after-reading-facebook-appeal-20130811

Source: The Straits Times; http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/cabby-donates-liver-stranger-after-reading-facebook-appeal?page=0%2C0

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