A Chinese University student who was on the verge of dying from heart failure just weeks ago is finally improving. Following an organ transplant and nearly a dozen operations, Ma Cheuk-long, 20, is getting better. On Sunday, Queen Mary Hospital heart surgeon Dr Timmy Au Wing-kuk revealed that Ma had successfully been taken off a support machine.
Ma, a music-loving second year anthropology student, contracted myocarditis in May, a virus that weakens and inflames the heart muscles.
Though still requiring the assistance of a breathing machine, Au said Ma could “understand commands and cooperate well” with instructions from medical staff and was “more and more awake” by the hour.
“He has been stable with good blood pressure and a steady heart rate. All vital signs are also satisfactory,” Au said. “Although I cannot guarantee he will be 100 per cent safe and well from now ... his condition in the past 48 hours has been tremendously impressive and encouraging.”
Au said Ma had received a total of eight major heart operations since he was first admitted to Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei in April.
After being diagnosed with myocarditis, Ma was put on an artificial heart and lung machine but his condition continued to deteriorate. He was transferred to Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam five days later, but showed no signs of recovery and was facing terminal heart failure.
With a new heart the only way to ensure his survival – he had then been surviving on a feeding tube and mechanical pump for more than a month – his family and girlfriend made a tearful citywide plea for an organ donation.
He was placed on the city’s transplant list but with the clock ticking, doctors warned that if he had a stroke or developed an infection, he would have been unsuitable for a transplant. Doctors finally secured a heart from a recently deceased 50-year-old female patient at the hospital on June 19.
Au described the beginning of his patient’s slow road to recovery as a “great triumph” for Ma, his family, the hospital’s transplant team and medical staff.
On behalf of Ma’s family and the heart transplant team, Au expressed his sincere thanks and gratitude to the media for helping with the appeal and making the transplant happen. Responding to inquiries, Ma’s father told reporters that his son remained in a high-risk situation but hoped he would make a speedy recovery.
Au’s doctors believe he will be fit enough to be transferred to a normal hospital ward after two weeks.