Transplant patient has made it his mission to promote organ donation
Most amateur cyclists ride for enjoyment, but Wang Zhengwei also aims to save lives.
In early June, Wang, 45, spent 16 days riding 1,500 kilometers from Northwest China’s Gansu province to Beijing before competing with other organ transplant patients at the China Transplant Games.
His sportswear and the flags tied to his bike bore huge logos promoting organ donation, to draw attention to the cause that has saved thousands of lives — including his own.
Diagnosed with liver cancer in 2008, Wang received a transplant after waiting in hospital for three months.
“That was a very difficult time,” recalled Wang, who sold his home and fell heavily into debt financing the 500,000-yuan ($73,000) operation.
Six months later, he went back to work, but he has been on medication ever since. Doctors recommended physical exercise to stay healthy, so he tried climbing, jogging and other sports before falling in love with cycling.
“It’s not only good for the body, but enables me to visit different places and meet more people,” he said.
Starting with short rides on streets or at parks near his home, Wang began challenging himself to ride further and faster.
In the past seven years, he has traveled 40,000 km. His longest trip, which took place in Qinghai province last year, lasted 20 days.
At first, Wang loved sharing his story on his travels, but he soon realized that few people knew about organ transplants and donations.
“Raising public awareness is a meaningful thing to do,” he said.
China banned transplants of organs from executed prisoners in January 2015, so voluntary donations have been the only source of organs since then.
While the number of people signing up to be organ donors is growing fast, it is still far from enough. About 300,000 Chinese are on the waiting lists for transplants, but only about 10,000 receive operations each year.
During his journey in June, Wang often stopped to talk and hand out fliers about organ donation.
Not everyone approved. Some suspected he was involved in organ trafficking, while many senior citizens still believe in the Chinese tradition of burying the dead intact.
It is a question of personal ethics whether someone wants to donate their organs after death, said Liu Yuan, organ donation coordinator at Beijing You’an Hospital.
To Wang’s surprise, some patients criticized him for “riding simply to make a name for himself ”, after he began crowdfunding online to support his journey.
However, Wang’s family and friends support him and say they are proud that he chooses