The saga of a Malaysian Chinese girl who underwent two heart transplants including one from a Muslim boy, has broken a taboo on organ donation and triggered a surge in pledges, reports said Monday.
The ordeal of Tee Hui Yi, 14, who was kept alive with a mechanical heart for more than a year while she waited for a suitable donor, has captured the hearts of many in this multicultural country where racial tensions have been on the rise.
The National Transplant Resource Centre (NTRC) said the case had triggered a flood of donation pledges and enquiries in a remarkable turnaround after years of public education campaigns had made little headway.
Hui Yi's case was like "a tsunami that crushed the wall of resistance," NTRC chief transplant coordinator Dr Lela Yasmin Mansor was quoted as saying by the Star newspaper.
"I used to be disheartened but now, I can tell you I am very encouraged now," she said, as newspapers reported there had been six kidney donations in the last five days alone.
Hui Yi had to lug around a battery weighing nine kilogrammes (20 pounds) to power her mechanical heart while she waited for a transplant. The Muslim boy's heart was rejected but within days she received a second from an anonymous donor.
She is now recovering from last week's double surgery, which received days of front-page coverage in the Malaysian press.
Organ donation has been rare in Malaysia because of cultural and religious concerns among the population, which is dominated by Malay Muslims but also includes sizeable ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.
Islamic authorities last week emphasised that donation was not against the tenets of the religion.
"In Islam, donating one's organs is considered a noble act, and how much more in the month of Ramadan," Department of Islamic development chief Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz said over the weekend.
Ong Ka Ting, leader of the Malaysian Chinese Association, which is a member party of the ruling coalition, described the case as an "incredible Malaysian story" and said it had united all citizens of the country.
"This is the real Malaysia where every act transcends race and religion and reaffirms the fact that all human beings are the same", he said in an open letter.