Judging by the number of people who come on virtually every flight from Pakistan to the UK for medical treatment, it is obvious that most of us think that the UK or the US is ‘the place’ to go to if something’s wrong with the way one is feeling. I mean, there are not too many people who would think of going, for example, to Hungary for medical treatment, perhaps for no better reason than that most Pakistanis would know so little about Hungary, whereas the old colonial connection has ensured that the aura around England is the ultimate in all forms of scientific and medical advancement. But consider this story from Hungary. It concerns a young man by the name of Szabolcs Kollinger, from the village of Tahitotfalu near Budapest in Hungary, who has Tetra-amelia syndrome. People who have this grave disorder are born without limbs or legs or a very shortened form of limbs, usually just stumps. Szabolcs, who is now 22, was born in a hospital in a village in Hungary not far from the capital, Budapest. When his mother saw his deformity, she left the hospital without him as she felt that she would not be able to carry the burden of bringing up a limbless child.
The Hungarian state looked after him for the first three years or so, and then a private magazine tried to arrange an adoption for him by giving ads. One of the people who answered the ad was a woman who herself suffered from the same handicap. She was 48 at the time and had children of her own, but she took Szabolcs in and she is now the person he calls ‘Mum’. She has no legs but does have one arm. She made a living by selling newspapers and although others had applied to adopt Szabolcs, it was this lady whose application was approved. Today, Szabolcs feels that she was the perfect mum for him.
Over time, Szabolcs learnt to do a lot of things on his own. He went to a school for disabled children and learned to write with the help of his mouth and now can swim, play table tennis, eat his own food and wear his own clothes. He is also a keen blogger.
One day while surfing the net, he read an article about a Leeds-based company, Be-Bionic, which produces bionic arms. The arms cost around £35,000 each, but the National Health Insurance Trust of Hungary has agreed to cover 80 per cent of the costs, leaving Szabolcs with a £7,000 per arm that he has to come up with himself. In Hungary, that is a lot of money. He has been offered the full amount from a number of health bodies, but has refused the money, instead starting an online funding campaign to pay for the prostheses. A few days ago, he had only £1000 to go to reach his target. He has said that the first thing he will do when he gets his ‘bionic arm’ will be to hug his mother – not the one who gave him birth, but the one who adopted him. The arm will be fitted by surgeons in Hungary.
Most stories about medical miracles have one aspect to them which is unmistakable – the endeavour of the human spirit that enables some of us never to shy away from adversity and to fight on in even the most bleak of situations, trying to salvage something positive from them.
One such very touching story happened here in the UK and had made all the headlines till the media, fickle and forever hunting the next story, moved on to something else although nothing could be half as noble and moving as this.
This is the story of little Teddy Houlston, whose life on earth was for just a hundred minutes. The story goes back almost two years when Teddy’s mother, Jess found that she was expecting twins. They were both boys but there was a problem with one of them. He had anencephaly, which means that the skull does not develop properly, therefore, a part of the brain is totally missing. Many such children in the womb are not born alive and the few who are, seldom make it to beyond a few hours or a couple of days at most. At first Teddy’s parents could not believe that it was happening to them and took a second, third and fourth medical opinion all of which came back with the same shattering news. The child could not possible survive beyond, say, a couple of hours at most.
So the parents thought that they would try and make Teddy’s life memorable and worthwhile in the short time he had and they came up with the idea that the child would donate his kidneys, so that even though he would not live himself, he might be able to help someone else live.
At first the medics dismissed the idea outright. There was no precedence of a child so young donating any organ and the doctors were not even sure if the donated kidneys could be used. There was also the question that taking an organ for donation from a living person is against the law and since Teddy was going to die so young, the organs may be affected by the time he was brought to a place where the kidneys could be removed after he died.
But the parents persisted. They did not know much about medicine, but they were adamant that their son’s life, short as it was going to be, should be meaningful.
In the end, they had their way, less perhaps because the doctors were medically convinced that it would work and more because they wanted to honour the wishes of the parents who must have been going through emotional hell. A transplant team was arranged to stand by Teddy’s birth so that they could take the organ immediately he passed away. The team was arranged after taking the best doctors from three different hospitals.
Teddy was born with the deformity that was diagnosed. He opened his eyes briefly and is said to give his parents a tired smile. A hundred minutes later, he passed away.
The medical team present got to work immediately and took out the kidney, measuring barely 3.8 centimetres. This was then transplanted into a male adult – and it worked. A year on, the man who received Teddy’s kidney is alive and well. He is said to have written a huge thank you note to Teddy’s parents but has not met them yet. The parents feel it may be a bit too early for that but that one day, in due course of time, it may happen. Meanwhile, the other twin, named Noah, is the very picture of health and recently celebrated his first birthday.
The nation was overflowing in its admiration for Teddy’s parents with many saying that they felt proud to be British. Their action has meant that over the past year since Teddy passed away, some 3000 people have signed on to the organ donor register.
Teddy, of course, became the youngest organ donor anywhere in the world.
Teddy’s father was repeatedly referred to as Jess’ partner, which means that they were perhaps not married. In fact, she has another child by another ‘partner’, who is three now, so that ‘partnership’ could not have lasted very long. Yet, in the very different set of values that make up the British moral code, this was neither here nor there and nobody even raised the issue. The praise and admiration that Jess, Teddy and Teddy’s father, Matt have won from everywhere has been unequivocal and anybody even suggesting that Jess and Matt’s actions should be qualified by their marital status would be dismissed as a moral ogre.
This is not in support or praise or criticism of any moral system. It is just to point out that moral systems other than those based on conventional religious beliefs do exist.•