Lifeline for Singaporean boy, 3, as stranger donates liver
For three long years, Mr V. Senthilkumar had been anxiously searching for someone to save his son's life.
His son, Supash, had been suffering from biliary atresia, a form of chronic liver disease, since his birth in 2011.
Most children with his condition do not live beyond their third birthday, so the search became critical last year.
On Tuesday night, Mr Senthilkumar, 44, a warehouse assistant, received the most encouraging news so far - that his son underwent a smooth liver transplant operation at the National University Hospital (NUH).
"I was so happy and relieved when the doctors came out of the operating theatre and told me the operation went smoothly," he said.
But his son remains in the intensive care unit (ICU), as the few days after the operation are the most critical because there is a chance that his body could reject the liver, he said.
"Right now, we are just thinking positive and praying hard. I believe my son will be fine and get healthy quickly," he said.
In November, The New Paper published Mr Senthilkumar's appeal to save his son's life.
Since 2012, Mr Senthilkumar has been actively searching for a donor. But neither he nor his 20 family members, including his wife and Supash's older sister, yielded a positive match.
Since our first report, Mr Senthilkumar has received more than 150 calls, messages and e-mails from people who came forward to offer to donate their livers.
On Dec 22, Mr Senthilkumar received the first piece of good news for his son - that a suitable liver donor had been found and approved by the National Transplant Ethics Committee.
"My wife and I had a meeting with the liver transplant coordinator that day and she ushered me and my wife into a room. Then she flashed a thumbs up and I knew a donor had been found.
"At that moment, I wanted to jump up and down, cry and hug my wife. But I remembered we were in a hospital, so I had to control myself," he said.
The next month included visits to NUH for check-ups ahead of the 12-hour operation, which was eventually scheduled for last Tuesday at about 10am, he said.
"Those 12 hours were a long, nervous wait. My wife did not say anything throughout. She just kept to herself and prayed.
"It helped that the hospital sent me text messages from time to time, updating us on the status of the different phases of the operation," he said.
The operation ended at about 10.30pm.
"After the operation, we thought the surgeons would tell us something like it was a success.
"But they just said it went smoothly and that Supash still needs to be closely monitored for as long as 10 days, as this is a critical period for him. It was not like what you see in the movies."
Mr Senthilkumar and his wife, Madam Supashini, 33, are staying in a room at NUH as their son remains in ICU.
His daughter, Sushmitha, who is eight, is being looked after by her grandmother at their home in Bukit Batok.
Said Mr Senthilkumar: "Since the operation, the doctors have told us that he is making progress, although it is slow. But we are taking it one day at a time."
He added that he still does not know the identity of the donor, who he understands is also still recovering from the operation.
"I really wish to meet the donor and thank him or her in person. Although merely saying 'thank you for saving my son' cannot express the amount of gratitude and indebtedness I have.
"I also want to thank everyone who offered to donate their livers and those who offered to help in any way," he said.
When asked if this was the happiest moment of his life, Mr Senthilkumar said: "I want to reserve that for the day when I walk out of the hospital with my son who is discharged and healthy."
I really wish to meet the donor and thank him or her in person.
- Mr V. Senthilkumar, who still does not know the identity of the donor
WHAT IS BILIARY ATRESIA?
Biliary atresia is a life-threatening condition in infants in which the bile ducts, which carry bile from the liver to the gall bladder, do not work properly.
With biliary atresia, bile becomes trapped, building up and damaging the liver.
Without treatment, the liver eventually fails and the infant needs a liver transplant to survive.
Supash's doctor, Associate Professor Marion Aw, a senior consultant at National University Hospital's division of paediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition, told TNP earlier that the boy's condition is serious.
Most children with this condition have a 90 per cent chance of dying by their second or third birthday, Prof Aw added.
HOW TO BE AN ORGAN DONOR?
Potential donors must be healthy with no illness and history of medication, said Professor K.K. Madhavan, the co-director of the National University Centre for Organ Transplantation.
They need to be of the same blood group or of a compatible blood group with the recipient, and have to undergo tests such as blood tests, X-rays and CT scans to assess their suitability.
Those found to be suitable will be further assessed by a National Transplant Ethics Committee, which will decide if a transplant can take place.