A two-year-old girl nicknamed “Little Hope” last week became the youngest organ donor in China, saving three people’s lives.
Little Hope was born with cerebral palsy caused by hypoxic-ischemic encephelopathy, or lack of oxygen. Well-wishers from around China gave her the nickname, but after she turned 18 months old, her situation worsened, and she died. Her parents decided to donate her organs after her death, and doctors deemed her two kidneys and liver suitable for transplanting. Her organs were donated to a 33-year-old suffering from uremia — or chronic renal failure — and two children, including a seven-month-old baby girl with congenital biliary atresia, a digestive condition. The organs, though from a small child, will continue growing.
China has the world’s second-most transplants, behind the United States. But where in the U.S. the ratio of patients to donors is five to one, in China it’s 150 to one. The U.S. suffers from a big shortage of organ donors. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 114,000 candidates are waiting for organs, and about 18 people die each day before they can receive a suitable organ. Imagine the comparable shortage of organ donors in China.
Those numbers were a major reason why Little Hope’s parents donated her organs. “I hope her organ can help others, can renew the life of others’,” her mother, Xiaofei Wang, told a China Central Television reporter. “Even though I can’t see her anymore, but I feel she still lives somewhere in the world.”
Prisoners of hope
In China, most donated organs come from prisoners on death row. The lack of organ donors has lead to a black market in selling organs. So this year, the Chinese government began encouraging citizens to donate their organs upon death. A well-organized organ donation system is expected to be set up soon to replace the current one.
According to Health and Human Services, a single donor can save up to eight lives. Organ donations from children are becoming more common — just this week, parents of a five-year-old boy in Japan gave permission for his organs to be donated. Japan’s Little Hope, by the way, is the youngest donor ever in that country. In India in 2010, a four-day-old baby’s heart valves and eyes were donated to a needy patient. And in the U.S. and Canada, newborns were first used as organ donors starting in the 1980s.