A son who thought of others to the very end

By Melissa Darlyne Chow, The New Straits Times, July 14, 2007

GEORGE TOWN, Penang (Malaysia) -- He was a good son. He loved his sister. He picked up litter in the streets. He loved helping people in need. This is Yew Shot Foon's tribute to her son whose life was cut short last year.

But what Yew's son did before his death was noble and would make any parent proud.

When he was diagnosed with brain tumour, Teoh Chit Hwa decided to give his organs to those who needed transplants.

Two years later, on May 11 last year, his parents honoured his wish after he was declared brain dead at the Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital in Kubang Kerian, Kelantan.

His lungs and corneas were found to be unsuitable, but his heart went to a patient from Perak, his liver to one from Johor, a kidney to a patient from Kelantan and the other to a patient from Sarawak.

His gifts of life did not end there. Doctors carefully removed pieces of skin to be kept at the National Tissue Bank at the USM Hospital, for grafts in burn treatment.

Pieces of bone were also taken, for grafts to be used in patients who suffer bone loss from cancer, accidents and illness.

According to a report, Teoh's organs probably helped up to 35 people.

Yew, 57, said her son's generosity did not surprise her at all.

"We were very supportive. Also, we wanted to respect his wishes before he died," she said.

What the Teohs did was a rare act.

In 2005, of more than 39,000 deaths in government hospitals, only seven resulted in organ donations, according to the latest data.

That year, there were 13 donors - roughly just over one donation for every two million Malaysians whose deaths meant more than 40 others could continue to live.

In Britain, the rate averages more than 10 per million patients, while in the United States and France, it averages more than 20. In 2004, Spain saw almost 34 donations per million patients.

The idea that Teoh continues to live through all these people, has made his mother happy.

"I could not have asked for a better son. He was such a good boy," she said.

Even when doctors broke the news about his brain tumour, Teoh was calm.

"He continued like everything was normal. He did not let his condition get in the way of him living a normal life," she said.

Teoh has continued to do good even after his death, inspiring his mother and his sister, Teoh Wan Cheen, to pledge their organs, too.

"I am glad he is still helping other people even though he is no longer around," said Yew.

"We are very proud of him as he adhered to Buddha's teachings."

NSTP and PwC are looking to honour other Malaysians who have gone beyond the
call of duty and performed outstanding acts of public service. Nominations
are open till July 16. For more information, click here.