He glanced at me while smiling cheekily. His mouth revealing his short front teeth. An active boy. If one does not know his history, he looks like any other toddler. From his cheerful appearance, there was no hint of pain and suffering he went through the previous year.
It was last year during the Hari Raya holidays that I visited Patrick and his family. Just 2 weeks away before his appointment for a liver transplant in China. When I first met him, his eyes were unnaturally yellowish and his belly was protruding. He looked sickly. My sister who is usually chatty by nature was quiet as she dropped me at their house, she didn’t know what to say to Patrick’s parents.
Patrick seemed cautious when he saw me. Someone whom he had not met. His mother, Cordelia, informed me, he viewed strangers with suspicion as they might be doctors and poke him with needles. After assessing for more than an hour, he decided I was not a threat. He became friendlier and brought his toys to me.
He was constantly scratching and asking his mother for “Oil”. Cordelia had bought a bottle of oil for itchiness, hoping that it would offer Patrick some relief from his ordeal. Sometimes he would look uncomfortable, gets agitated and cry loudly. I remember him screaming in pain when he accidentally bumped his stomach on the edge of the couch. It must have been difficult for the toddler to understand what was going on with his body.
My second trip to see Patrick was about 7 months after the operation.
He was having lunch, Cordelia, had just fed him. I took out a pink-coloured box; he was looking at it curiously. I gave him the box and said, “cookies”.
He looked at the box. “Hua” he uttered. Meaning flower in mandarin. I didn’t notice the flower pattern on the box until he pointed it out.
“Clever boy,” I said to him.
Holding the box, his fingers moved to the side of the box. He had a puzzled look.
“Do you want a cookie?” I asked.
He looked at me and handed over the box. I pushed at the “open here” located at the middle of the box and out came individually wrapped cookies, I tore a foil packet and gave the round object inside to him. He grabbed it and ate quietly. After finishing the last crumb, he pointed at a wrapper. He wanted another one!
I looked at him, “Are you sure? You just had lunch.”
He replied, “Cookie”.
And he ate another one.
Patrick enjoying his food
In contrast, during my first trip, he hardly ate. He had a feeding tube through his nose. He could only drink liquid and lick at solid food. I remember Cordelia was concern about his weight. The liver transplant from father to son could not be done if Patrick did not meet the required minimum weight as set by the hospital.
After the operation, Cordelia sent via WhatsApp a photo of his previous liver. The liver had uneven bumps and looked swollen with black marks on it. Even with no medical knowledge, one can see that his former liver was badly damaged. Thank God they did the operation on time. He may not have survived if the surgery was further delayed.
Patrick's former liver
Overall, I am happy to see the changes and improvement in Patrick. Even though he is still underweight, he looks like a normal active toddler now.
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