A family battles the odds
KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — This is the story about a young man and his family. This is also the story about an average young Malaysian couple who are educated and have dreams, but face a bleak future. This could well be a story about you.
Where they live is a leafy, mixed middle-class neighbourhood. During the day, it heaves with cars and motorcycles, fighting for space to drive through, to park.
At night, it is still busy, but some calm has arrived. Families and young hipsters throng the many eateries – Rasta being one of them. It is a neighbourhood to bring up a young family. People are relatively friendly, and it is safe.
The couple in this story is typically Malaysian, and together with their children they make an attractive family. He is tall and fair, while she is pretty and dusky. Their sons are like any other young boys – lively, alert and cute.
The couple, like many others, also face similar situations like trying to save, in spite of escalating living expenses. Figuring out the children’s school fees in advance because “… everything is so expensive!” They have also cut down on travel and other treats that they once enjoyed prior to their sons’ arrival. Their home is also very simple. It’s almost empty, save for the beds and a few chairs scattered about the apartment.
However, a serious health issue has thrown their lives upside down. Rizal Razak suffers from kidney failure and has to undergo dialysis three times a week. He is unable to work full-time, and takes odd jobs to pay for his medical expenses, which is about RM4,000 a month.
Dialysis is estimated to be from RM80 to RM280 per session, depending on where you go. Government hospitals provide dialysis but the queue is long. Idora Baharuddin works part-time from home but is not able to focus on the work properly, as she cares for her sons and husband. They do not have a helper.
At 34 years of age, Rizal has a future ahead of him. He does not want to die young, and wants to see his family grow. It is a selfish reason, which is why he and Idora have to raise RM200,000 plus for a kidney transplant surgery in China.
Why isn’t he considering surgery in Malaysia?
One, only a close blood relative, i.e. a brother, sister, parent or child is deemed to be a suitable donor. Due to inherited genes, siblings have higher compatibility in their blood and tissue type; whilst parents and children have at least half of the compatibility.
It is essential that the donor and the recipient have compatible blood and tissue type for transplant surgery to be carried out. However, genders are not taken into account.
The prospective donor must be an adult (over 18 years of age), in good health and free from a high-risk lifestyle. Individuals below the age limit will require parental or guardian consent to be a donor. (Source)
None of Rizal’s immediate family are a blood match.
Two, he may opt for a cadaveric transplant (of which organs are farmed from individuals who have died from accidents, or donated upon their deaths), but the wait is long. There are also matters like how both donor and recipient must be compatible in terms of blood type, tissue and crossmatching, (s in order to prevent organ rejection, to consider.
Three, his wife is now undergoing a series of tests to see if she can donate her kidney, and if all goes well, the surgery will take place in a government hospital. However, there is the chance of his body rejecting the transplant, and he could well end up back to square one, looking for that elusive kidney which will change his life.
They are hoping that the third option is viable, though they are meeting with opposition from their families. Their sons need a fully functioning mother. If both parents become more ill post-surgery, how will their sons survive?
Hence, the need to raise funds for the possible transplant in China. The procedure sounds straightforward: He becomes a patient at a hospital in China, and they source for a transplant match. Once everything is settled, he undergoes surgery, and is under observation for a few weeks. He will also be quarantined.
When doctors see that he is fit to be discharged, he goes back to Malaysia and will be on life-long medication. The latter will cost him RM4,000 a month. Because he has decided to go private, it would be difficult for him to get cheaper medication from government hospitals.
Should his body reject the “Chinese” kidney, it will be taken out of him, and he stays in hospital for the next few weeks, while the doctors source for another kidney.
Kidney transplant would seem to be a matter of luck.
Reserves have been depleted. They have exhausted avenues for funding, and family can only help so much. Still, why should the public support a middle-class young couple? Surely they have access to funds somehow?
“True, we may not be from a lower income group but it doesn’t mean that money is raining down on our heads,” Idora said.
Realising that it would not be easy to solicit funds from the public, Idora, Rizal and their cousins created a Kidney4Daddy Facebook page. In one of the status updates, Idora wrote, “We are just a young middle class couple with three young kids to raise. We are not in the lower income group that'd you normally perceive as unfortunate nor we are in the higher class group that we can be financially independent when it comes to huge medical bills. We are just blessed with great family and friends.”
And great family and friends they have. In the one month they set up the page, they have earned about RM4,000 from the sale of cookies, cloth bags, pre-loved clothes and accessories. Friends have pledged money and support, and some have even come from overseas.
Cousins are baking cookies, and making tee-shirts. Idora is also targeting the legion of crafts markets cropping up everywhere in the city. It’s an enterprise that should be encouraged and emulated by many. It’s also respectable, because they are not begging for donations.
It’s not been easy: such a public cry for help is embarrassing to some of the older relatives. The couple also realise that not everyone will support them, simply because they’re young, middle-class and educated.
“I don’t know where this will lead us. But if my husband survives, and we have some money left from this, I’d like to set up something to create awareness about the disease. A support group for people by people who have to live through this,” Idora said.
“But this can happen to anyone. And don’t think just because they look or are middle-class, it means that they have the financial means.”
Kidney4Daddy's contact information:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Kidney4Daddy.
Email: [email protected]