Tuesday 5 June 2012

Follow up to Chinese Medicine post

This is a follow up from The Perils of Traditional Chinese Medicine post about a two-year-old boy with liver disease whose parents chose TCM treatment for him instead of surgical treatment based on modern medical diagnoses.

The news story mentions that the father is most likely to be a compatible donor for his son (i.e. good for a partial liver transplant). However, the father is reluctant to temporarily put himself 'out of commission' because he appears to be the only breadwinner in the family, who has to look after his parents as well as his own family. The father believes he can only 'sacrifice' himself after 20 years has passed. He is quoted as saying:
"If I can find [a donor], I can look after [my son] for 20 years. By that time, when [my boy] needs a liver transplant again, I will give him my liver without hesitation."


Liver toddler takes turn for the worse (SCMP; paywall)
Lo Wei and Sally Wang
May 16, 2012   

The mainland toddler with liver disease who made headline news last winter when his parents sought help in Hong Kong, and for whom city residents donated nearly HK$120,000, is in critical condition.
Two-year-old Li Liuxuan, who was born with a blocked bile duct, was admitted to Guangzhou Children's Hospital last Thursday because of internal bleeding.

His parents, from rural Henan , are falling behind on medical bills and fear their son will be forced out of the hospital and die for lack of urgent treatment.

Hongkongers had donated HK$119,870 to help pay for a HK$1 million liver transplant after learning of the toddler's plight when his desperate parents sought care in the city in October. But father Li Xianfeng and his wife later decided against the surgery and turned to traditional Chinese remedies instead.

The donations are still sitting in the fund set up to help the family.

But on Thursday Liuxuan was taken in with a swollen abdomen due to his hardened liver, and doctors say this is the source of the bleeding. The boy is unable to eat or drink.

Wen Zhe, Liuxuan's doctor, said the toddler managed to survive several grave moments on Friday and Saturday. "But he remains in critical condition, and eventually will need a liver transplant," Wen said.

Since Thursday, the boy's father has racked up 9,000 yuan (HK$11,000) in credit card debt for his son's medical fees, and expects the total bill to reach 30,000 yuan.

"We have no money to pay now," said Li, who stopped working as a freelance construction worker in Henan to take care of his son. "Doctors say they will stop the medication. We're afraid they may drive us out of the hospital and that our son will die." Professor Lo Chung-mau, director of Queen Mary Hospital Liver Transplant Centre whom the Lis consulted last year, said donors and fund managers would have to approve the use of the donated funds for Liuxuan's latest medical bill.

Li Xianfeng said he was still apprehensive about letting his son undergo surgery, particularly after Liuxuan's failed bile duct operation at a Guangzhou hospital when he was three months old.

Li is also worried that any surgery done in Hong Kong would require the family to quickly return to the city for future treatment - which may be difficult. If Liuxuan has a transplant in Hong Kong, his father is also the most likely donor of a liver.

"It is not that I don't want to do this [operation] for my son," the father said. "But I have to make a careful decision because of the consequences for the family; I am the only person that can support the family. Who can bring my son to see the doctor and take care of my parents if I fall ill?"

Last year - after being refused treatment by many doctors and hospitals in six mainland provinces - the Li family came to Hong Kong. Guangzhou Children's Hospital helped put them in touch with Lo, who told them that a transplant was the only way to save Liuxuan's life.

The boy was at the time in stable condition, but Lo warned that fatal complications could occur anytime.

The liver transplant would cost HK$1 million because Liuxuan is not a resident in Hong Kong, where the family found much aid after the story was reported in the South China Morning Post.

But after a week in Hong Kong, the family returned home and consulted a Guangzhou doctor specialising in traditional medicine, saying surgery was a "last resort". The boy was treated with crocus flowers, but the parents quickly ran out of money to pay for the herbs.

Li now hopes to find a liver donor either in Hong Kong or Shanghai. "If I can find [a donor], I can look after [my son] for 20 years. By that time, when [my boy] needs a liver transplant again, I will give him my liver without hesitation," he said.

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