Singapore

After 10-year wait, new kidney gives blind woman new lease of life

Miss Tan Xing En celebrated her 23rd birthday earlier this month, having already received the gift she had long been waiting for - a kidney.

Miss Tan, who is also blind, suffers from kidney failure and had been on dialysis since she was 13. She had been waiting for a kidney donor for 10 years and was on standby for a potential kidney match three times previously.

Those did not pan out until Oct 11, when she finally received a kidney from a donor who died in an accident.

She told The Straits Times: "I am grateful it (the kidney) finally came. I am relieved I don't have to go for dialysis any more, which I find draining."

Her long wait underscores the scarcity of kidney donations here.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said while the number of patients on the wait list has almost halved from 563 in 2007 to 276 as of December last year, the wait has remained relatively constant at nine years in the past decade, largely due to the small number of donors whose organs became available after their deaths.

There were an average of 35 kidney transplants from dead donors a year in the past decade, compared with an average of 34 from living donors a year.

While the number of kidney donations has not shown any steady increase in the past decade, even after amendments to the Human Organ Transplant Act to enlarge the donor pool, the number of people diagnosed with end-stage renal disease is growing.

Last year, 6,700 people were diagnosed with the disease, almost 30 per cent more than the 5,200 in 2012. They have to undergo dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive.

The MOH spokesman said this number is expected to rise given Singapore's ageing population and the numbers suffering from diabetes.

Miss Tan's parents and two older brothers were not suitable donors.

For patients like her, a kidney transplant is a new lease of life, said Professor Yap Hui Kim, head of paediatric nephrology at the National University Hospital, where Miss Tan had her transplant.

Miss Tan was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when she was around three. It causes a gradual loss of vision.

She said: "I am grateful for everyone and everything that I have and that I am still alive."

MEDICAL & HEALTH