Given a month to live, 11-year-old Tan Yong Hong is fighting another relapse of leukaemia at the National University Hospital (NUH).
His sister, Tan Hooi Ling, created an online fund-raising campaign on the Give.Asia site earlier this month to help her family foot expected hospital fees of $300,000, including a down payment of $50,000.
“My brother, Yong Hong, is 11 years old this year. He has never gotten a chance to attend school, not because he cannot afford to, but because he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) since he was 6 years old. As a result, he has had to spend most of these 5 years in the hospital,” wrote Hooi Ling on the campaign’s page.
“Both my parents have been sleeping at the ward due to shortage of funds and I am still in school, staying at the dormitory,”
As of 12.30pm on May 5, more than $358,000 had been raised and the campaign no longer accepted donations.
In an update message on the same day, Ms Tan thanked donors for their generosity and kindness.
“We have raised enough for my brother’s treatment, and Give.Asia will remit the funds over to NUH directly, and we will close the campaign today,” she wrote, adding that she would provide periodic updates on her brother’s condition.
Most of his life in the hospital
Yong Hong suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a cancer that causes the bone marrow to make too many white blood cells.
The Malaysian boy, the youngest of four children, has spent much of his young life in the hospital having been diagnosed with the disease when he was six years old.
Speaking to Shin Min Daily News, the boy’s father, Mr Chen Guozhong, recalled finding his son with bruises on his legs and a high fever that would not subside.
After chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant done in Malaysian hospitals, Yong Hong suffered relapses.
Doctors told his family he had a month to live and recommended seeking treatment elsewhere, as the newest treatment was not available in the country.
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A ray of hope
The family from Selangor rushed to Singapore to seek a special treatment called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. It involves using the body’s own immune cells to recognise and attack malignant cells.
But this potentially life-saving treatment comes at no small cost. Mr Chen, 48, told the Chinese-language newspaper that he had even considered selling their house.
When contacted, an NUH spokesman confirmed that the patient was currently seeking treatment at the hospital.
“We have been in touch with the family to provide them with the necessary medical assistance,” the spokesman told The Straits Times.
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.
Photo: Shin Min Daily News