More needs to be done to create awareness

(in the news ::: The Star, Letters section, May 7th, 1999)

I refer to the article “High Cost of Staying Alive for Kidney Patients” (The Star, March 8). No doubt that dialysis treatment costs a lot and for most of the kidney patients, dialysis is the only way to extend their lives.

As National Kidney Foundation (NKF) medical director Dr Lee Wan Tin said in the article: “They have no choice, if they don’t go for a dialysis or if they don’t get a transplant, they will die.”

How many of us really care for these people? That article has figured out the cost of staying alive for kidney patients. These people do have a choice. They either go for dialysis or transplant. Most of then will go for dialysis and yet not have enough money to survive.

Modern medical technology has proven effective in extending the lives of heart, kidney, lungs and leukaemia patients through transplants.

However, with only 0.17% per million population per year of organ donors in Malaysia, compared with 6.79% in Singapore and 27%in Spain (as in the year 1995), how many people actually get to fulfill their wish for a transplant?

Research has proven that more than 65% live up to 10 years (for patients aged under 40) with kidney transplants.

Yet, the chance of survive for these people vanishes because of our attitude towards organ donation.

The Government has centralised organ donation with the establishment of the National Transplant Resource Centre.

It has also printed a uniform organ donation form for distribution in hospitals to register organ donors in a more systematic way.

On the other hand, many societies, associations and non-governmental organisations have pledged their support in organ donation.

However, I feel more can be done in creating awareness and getting more people to donate their organs.

For example, at the Organ and Blood Donation Campaign held four months ago by the Interact Club of SMK St. Anthony, Teluk Intan, most people said they had not heard of organ donation.

Most of the visitors praised our effort in promoting organ donation and in helping them sign up.

In this campaign, we downloaded information from the Internet and displayed it through computers for public view.
We obtained a lot of information from the United States, Canada and many other countries through search engines but we just could not locate any Malaysian sites concerning organ donation. (Maybe there is one but we could not locate it.)

With the development of information technology in our country, I feel pledging organs should go online.

By going through the Internet, Malaysians can pledge their organs whenever they decide to do so.

A pledge form could be misplaced or lost and the idea of donating organs may just be forgotten.

Next, I feel organ donation can be in a form of education in schools.

Realising how difficult it is for organ failure patients to survive, students may want to pledge their organs.

In fact, 75% of organ donors in the campaign held were students.

Schools often organise study tours to places around the country. Why not, for a change, visit the National Kidney Foundation to gain some knowledge about organ donation, or visit the nearest blood bank to experience blood donation or maybe to a dialysis centre to see the sufferings of kidney patients.

Unlike blood donation, organ donation has yet to receive much public attention.

Compared to a decade ago, people are now more willing to donate blood and in some towns, the blood banks receive visits from blood donors everyday.

Organising the Organ and Blood Donation Campaign has proven that my pledge to donate my organs is correct.

It gives me joy knowing I can help people even after my death.

It has also brought me closer to people specialised in this field like Dr. Lee and Razali from the Blood Bank of Hospital Daerah Teluk Intan and not forgetting, Ramayee from the IJN whom I spoke to on the phone.

I would like to thank all of them who have helped me in successfully organising the campaign.

I want also to thank the committee members who spent sleepless nights searching for information and preparing the computer systems.

To all those who pledged their organs, thank you and may all of you be well and happy always.

CHEW HOONG LING
Teluk Intan
(via e-mail)

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