Penang couple to get to hear late daughter's heartbeat again thanks to organ recipient

Penang couple to get to hear late daughter's heartbeat again thanks to organ recipient
Photos of Carmen Mark, from the time she was born until her passing, still adorn every corner of the family home in Taman Hutchings here, reminding Mark Kok Wah, 46, and his wife Ariess Tan, 43, of their daughter. Photo: New Straits Times
Published: 1:38 PM, September 13, 2017
Updated: 5:10 PM, September 13, 2017

GEORGE TOWN — Two years have passed since their only child's death, yet not a day goes by in the Mark household without thoughts of her in their mind.

Photos of Carmen Mark, from the time she was born until her passing, still adorn every corner of the family home in Taman Hutchings here, reminding Mr Mark Kok Wah, 46, and his wife Mdm Ariess Tan, 43, of their daughter.

The 18-year-old had her bright future snatched away from her just three months after moving to Singapore, due to an arterial rupture in her brain. At the time, Carmen was studying to become a nurse at Nanyang Polytechnic. She had even obtained a full scholarship to pursue her studies.

The decision to donate his daughter's organs did not come easy for Mr Mark.

Carmen was declared brain dead after being hospitalised in Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore for 25 days.

His decision was fiercely objected by family members, who were praying for a miracle to happen.

"At that time, a close doctor friend had told me that 'Allah lebih sayangkan Carmen' (God loves Carmen more). I knew then that there was nothing else we could do for my little girl,” Mr Mark told the New Straits Times at his home last night (Sept 12).

“It was then that I decided to donate her organs. I have not regretted the decision I made on that fateful day back in July 2015. Today, Carmen lives on in eight different people”.  

Mr Mark and Mdm Tan spoke fondly of their daughter, and showed the NST her bedroom and personal belongings, which were kept as they were when she was alive.

Even her light green flat pump shoes were still neatly arranged at the entrance to the house.

"Every night, I would go up to the attic to cry there while my wife would do so down here. Our baby girl's death affected the both of us very badly," he said, wiping away tears.

Mr Mark said since Carmen's death, he had harboured hopes of hearing his daughter's heart beat again.

In June, he posted on Facebook about how he would even cycle 14,000 miles just to hear his daughter's heartbeat.

What he didn't know was that the recipient of Carmen's heart, Ms Serene Lee, had been following him on Facebook.

Ms Lee, 37, had been doing so since August 2015, days after Carmen died.

The mother of three got to know about Mr Mark and Mdm Tan after reading about Carmen's death in The Straits Times.

Mr Mark said that on Aug 4, the recipient of his daughter's heart sent him a private message on Facebook, saying she was willing to meet him. She also sent him her contact number.

"I called her up that very night but her phone was off. The following day, when I managed to reach her, we were both crying over the phone,” he said. "I told her it would be better for us to calm down before we talked further”.

Since then, Mr Mark, his wife and Ms Lee created a WhatsApp chat group.

"It was just like the good old days when we had a special chat group with our Carmen. Now, our daughter is a 37-year-old," he said.

Ms Lee will be visiting Penang and staying with the couple from Friday (Sept 15) until Sunday (Sept 17).

The couple is anxiously awaiting to hear their daughter's heart beat again, and as Mr Mark said, to cry their eyes and hearts out.

He also shared that Ms Lee had almost given up hope after failing to find a suitable heart donor.

Ms Lee had suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy, an illness of the heart muscle, and depended on a mechanical pump that ran on external batteries to keep her heart pumping properly.

"A week before getting Carmen's heart, she had actually asked to be removed from the waiting list, but as she was heading the patient support group at the National Heart Centre in Singapore, the other volunteers had advised her against pulling out”, said Mr Kok.

"It is good to know that Carmen's heart had given her a new lease of life and valuable time with her family."

On Saturday, the couple will bring Ms Lee to the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah bridge, where Carmen's ashes were scattered.

Mr Mark said Ms Lee had agreed to join him in his personal quest to encourage more people to donate their organs to save lives.

He added that in this part of the world, organ donation is still a taboo subject matter.

"Just like how our Carmen had saved lives, we hope that we will be able to inspire others to also do the same,” said Mr Mark.

He hopes to set up the Carmen Mark Foundation soon to financially assist those who shared Carmen's fate and film a documentary about his family's story to share the gift of life with others.

Ms Lee had told The Straits Times in a recent interview that she would treasure Carmen's heart and live life to the fullest. NEW STRAITS TIMES.