Gift of life

China com­mem­o­rates for­eign or­gan donors

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Zhang Dan and Fan Lingzhi

There have been 10 for­eign or­gan donors in China so far, ac­cord­ing to the China Or­gan Trans­plan­ta­tion De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion

Their trust and sup­port re­flects world’s recog­ni­tion of China’s or­gan do­na­tion and trans­plants pro­gram

Peter Han­cock turned on the light in the bed­room of his son, Phillip An­drew Han­cock. There stood a gui­tar at the cor­ner of the room. Un­for­tu­nately, there will be no mu­sic from its owner.

In a pic­ture on the wall, Phillip is hold­ing a panda with smile.

The 27-year-old Aus­tralian fell ill and died in the city of Chongqing on May 9. He do­nated his liver, kid­neys and corneas, sav­ing five Chi­nese lives and be­com­ing the first for­eign or­gan donor in the city.

He is one of the 10 for­eign or­gan donors across the coun­try so far, ac­cord­ing to the China Or­gan Trans­plan­ta­tion De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion, which is re­spon­si­ble for ap­proach­ing the rel­a­tives of po­ten­tial donors and con­struct­ing a trans­par­ent and eth­i­cal or­gan dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem. The 10 donors came from the US, Bri­tain, Aus­tralia, Japan, Philip­pines, France and Greece.

Though China has one of the low­est rates of or­gan do­na­tion in the world, the num­ber of do­na­tion has in­creased to 19,380 by Septem­ber 9, with 54,956 or­gans do­nated, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial web­site of the China Or­gan Do­na­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tive Cen­ter.

“The great be­hav­ior of for­eign or­gan donors re­flects the world’s high recog­ni­tion of China’s or­gan do­na­tion and trans­plants,” Huang Jiefu, head of the China’s Na­tional Hu­man Or­gan Do­na­tion and Trans­plant Com­mit­tee, told the Global Times.

Do­na­tion wish

Phillip had lived in China for four years as an English teacher at South­west Univer­sity. He was in­ter­ested in Chi­nese cul­ture when he was in Aus­tralia and al­ways hoped he could be­come a teacher in China, his par­ents told the Global Times.

How­ever, the young man fell ill from di­a­betes-re­lated com­pli­ca­tions un­ex­pect­edly this May.

When the fam­ily flew to Chongqing, they saw him ly­ing on the bed in the hos­pi­tal liv­ing on life sup­port.

“It’s sort of hard to ac­cept that when we were there, even though he was still breath­ing and still warm, he was gone,” Peter Han­cock told the Global Times while his wife Penny was tear­ing up. “It’s hard to ac­cept that he wasn’t go­ing to sur­vive. And we had to ask the doc­tor many times, are they re­ally sure.”

Af­ter do­ing tests in dif­fer­ent hos­pi­tals, doc­tors at the First Af­fil­i­ated Hos­pi­tal of Chongqing Med­i­cal Univer­sity told the fam­ily ev­i­dence showed Phillip had lost brain func­tion. Even if he was on life sup­port, his or­gans would not have sur­vived more than nine or 10 days.

“Phil al­ways said if some­how he got into that sit­u­a­tion, where he wasn’t go­ing to sur­vive, he would like to do­nate his or­gans if he pos­si­bly could,” the father said.

In order to re­spect the wishes of Phillip, the fam­ily de­cided to do­nate his or­gans to save oth­ers.

The father re­ceived a voice record­ing from one of the or­gan re­cip­i­ents in China with the help of the lo­cal Red Cross So­ci­ety, be­cause China’s rules do not al­low them to con­tact each other.

“He told us af­ter the sur- gery was done, they were do­ing well…He was grate­ful for what hap­pened. We just hope they are liv­ing a full life now,” Peter Han­cock said, adding that peo­ple should dis­cuss or­gan do­na­tion with their fam­ily if they are un­healthy.

“If you can save some­body’s life by do­nat­ing, and if you know there is no hope for sur­vival, then why not do it? Be­cause it’s point­less to take them with you,” he added. “We’ve helped five Chi­nese peo­ple to live nor­mal and healthy lives. I know Phil would be happy.”

The Han­cock fam­ily is in­vited back to Chongqing dur­ing next Tomb-Sweep­ing Day. The lo­cal Red Cross so­ci­ety is carv­ing a pic­ture of Phillip on a piece of mar­ble as a me­mo­rial.

Fam­ily strug­gles

As Peter Han­cock said, few peo­ple talk about or­gan do­na­tion when they are alive, es­pe­cially in China.

A tra­di­tional be­lief that re­quires bod­ies to re­main in­tact af­ter death has a per­va­sive in­flu­ence among Chi­nese.

But Wang Hong’s mother has grad­u­ally changed her at­ti­tude to­ward or­gan do­na­tion, af­ter her Bri­tish son-in-law, Mark Ter­ence Os­borne, do­nated his corneas, kid­neys, heart and liver, and saved six Chi­nese peo­ple.

Af­ter over three months to process her hus­band’s sit­u­a­tion, on the day of their en­gage­ment an­niver­sary in June, 2016, Wang Hong de­cided to do­nate her hus­band’s or­gans and signed pa­pers in a hos­pi­tal in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang Prov­ince.

“I had strong sup­port from my hus­band’s daugh­ter and brother in Bri­tain. Mark’s mother had lived

“If you can save some­body’s life by do­nat­ing, and if you know there is no hope for sur­vival, then why not do it? Be­cause it’s point­less to take them with you. We’ve helped five Chi­nese peo­ple to live nor­mal and healthy lives. I know Phil would be happy. ” Peter Han­cock father of Phillip An­drew Han­cock, the first for­eign or­gan donor in South­west China’s Chongqing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity

Han­cock an­other 20 years with the help of a heart do­na­tion,” Wang said with tears in eyes. “The Bri­tish be­lieve they will get to­gether in the heaven one day.”

How­ever, her 70-year-old mother found or­gan do­na­tion hard to ac­cept at first. Her mother felt un­com­fort­able and full of re­gret be­cause she thought her son-in-law was “in­com­plete” as he left this world, Wang said.

“But when she saw news about or­gan donors on tele­vi­sion, she would say, ‘My son-in-law did the same!’ She must feel proud and com­forted some­times now,” Wang added.

In 2017, 5,146 or­gan do­na­tions were made in China. Some 86 per­cent of the or­gans came from do­na­tions and the other 14 per­cent came from liv­ing rela- tives, the China Or­gan Trans­plan­ta­tion De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion said.

Pol­icy re­forms

Liu Yu, a doc­tor spe­cial­iz­ing in or­gan trans­plants, did the surgery for China’s first for­eign or­gan donor, in Bei­jing, in 2014.

Tiana, a seven-month-old baby from the US, choked on a piece of plas­tic while play­ing at home on April 9, 2014. Af­ter at­tempt­ing to res­cue the child with great ef­forts, doc­tors failed.

Griev­ing over their daugh­ter’s death, Tiana’s par­ents of­fered to do­nate her or­gans, in order to help other peo­ple.

Be­fore the trans­plant, Liu went to buy a set of new clothes for Tiana in a shop­ping mall close to the hos­pi­tal. “The child was stay­ing in an in­ten­sive care unit and wore noth­ing. She should leave with dig­nity,” Liu said, re­call­ing his heavy mood dur­ing the af­ter­noon of the surgery.

All ma­chines were set­tled in the op­er­at­ing room. Be­fore the surgery, doc­tors and nurses ob­served a mo­ment of si­lence to show trib­ute to the lit­tle or­gan donor.

Tiana do­nated her liver, kid­neys and corneas on that day and saved three Chi­nese chil­dren.

“What im­pressed me most was her eyes. She seemed to be asleep,” Liu said. “Her mother hugged her and kissed her, try­ing to con­trol her emo­tion.”

In the same year, re­forms of or­gan do­na­tion and trans­plants in China were tak­ing place.

Huang an­nounced in De­cem­ber 2014 that from 2015, or­gan do­na­tions from com­mon peo­ple would be­come the only le­git­i­mate source of or­gan trans­plants.

World recog­ni­tion

Talk­ing about whether there is any dif­fer­ence be­tween do­mes­tic or­gan donors and for­eign or­gan donors, Huang said the process of do­na­tion is ex­actly the same.

“The China Or­gan Trans­plan­ta­tion De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion will send for­mal thank you let­ter to for­eign govern- ments, which is also mean­ing­ful to pro­mote the friend­ship be­tween the peo­ple in the two na­tions,” he noted, adding the progress of China’s or­gan do­na­tion and trans­plants could not have been achieved with­out the law-based gov­er­nance of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC).

In late May, WHO Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Te­dros Ad­hanom Ghe­breye­sus said, “Thank you, China!” in Chi­nese to Huang af­ter an event at the 71st World Health Assem­bly (WHA) in Geneva, which also showed China has earned in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion in the field of or­gan do­na­tion and trans­plants.

Hong Jun­ling, vice chair­man of the foun­da­tion, echoed Huang, say­ing 10 is not a small num­ber con­sid­er­ing the big pic­ture and pro­por­tion of for­eign­ers who suf­fered ac­ci­dents in China. “A drop of wa­ter can re­flect the sun’s glare,” he said, de­pict­ing the be­hav­ior show­ing great love by for­eign or­gan donors.

“China has en­tered a new era for or­gan trans­plants and the coun­try is will­ing to share its ex­pe­ri­ence with the world,” Huang stressed, adding he was grate­ful for the trust and sup­port of for­eign or­gan donors and their fam­i­lies.

“They not only saved Chi­nese pa­tients who suf­fered from or­gan fail­ure, but also brought hope and con­fi­dence to pro­mote friend­ship and peace across coun­tries, and for the world’s cit­i­zens to pur­sue a bet­ter life,” he said.

Photo: VCG

Doc­tors bow to Sherif ElGaz­zar from Greece as a trib­ute be­fore an or­gan do­na­tion surgery in a hos­pi­tal in Guangzhou, cap­i­tal of South China’s Guang­dong Prov­ince, on Au­gust 23, 2018.

Wang Hong holds the hand of her hus­band Mark Ter­ence Os­borne and says good­bye be­fore the or­gan do­na­tion surgery at a lo­cal ho­pi­tal in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhe­jiang Prov­ince, on June 29, 2016.

Phillip An­drew Han­cock holds a panda as a vol­un­teer at the Chengdu Re­search Base of Giant Panda Breed­ing, in South­west China’s Sichuan Prov­ince, in Septem­ber 2017.

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