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Son offers part of liver to save sick DH mom, but - too late

12 January 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Marlyn first went abroad when her son Edmar was just a year old

If things worked according to plan, 51-year-old Filipina domestic worker Marlyn Figuracion could still be alive today.

That’s because her 26-year-old son, Edmar, who works with her in the same household in Hong Kong, had volunteered to donate part of his liver to try and save his mother from a life-threatening ailment.

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But Edmar’s loving offer to repay his mother for all her sacrifices was in vain as Marlyn succumbed to autoimmune hepatitis on Jan 7 at Queen Mary Hospital.

Both mother and son worked as domestic helpers for a local couple and their three young sons in Pokfulam. Marlyn had been with the family for the past 12 years of her 25-year-stay in Hong Kong.

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Edmar said his mother’s illness was unexpected because she looked healthy and never complained about health problems.

Two years ago, Marlyn requested her employers to hire her son after her daughter, the older of two children, went home after four years of working for the same household.

Marlyn never complained about being sick before, says her grieving son

The Figuracions come from a farming family in Santa Cruz, Ilocos Sur and, like many in rural Philippines, the able-bodied members work abroad mostly as domestic helpers to seek economic uplift for their families.

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To the mother, bringing her son to Hong Kong was her way of making up for her absence since he was barely a year old. “She pampered me as if I was still a little boy when I just arrived here,” Edmar said.

Perhaps, the son realized later, his mother wanted a family member to be around in times of need.

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That moment came on Dec 1 when Edmar noticed his mother’s jaundiced eyes, making him suspect she had some serious health problem. He said she had not been sick before.

Edmar advised her to see a doctor, but his mother reportedly insisted she was fine.

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Then on Saturday night, Dec 5, Marlyn started vomiting and looked very sick, said Edmar. He noted on a calendar that his mother’s skin color had also turned yellow.

On their day off the next day, he took her mother to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wanchai for a checkup. Doctors there must have realized something was seriously wrong and began a series of tests.

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Before the day ended, Marlyn was diagnosed with acute hepatitis and was confined in the hospital. A week later, they told her she had autoimmune hepatitis, a disease in which her own immune system was attacking and destroying her liver.

The doctors told Edmar they would try and treat his mother, but if her condition did not improve, they would transfer her to Queen Mary Hospital for a liver transplant.


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Marlyn was moved on Jan 2 to Queen Mary, where doctors determined she was in dire need of a liver transplant.

Edmar said he was told that his mother could wait for a brain-dead donor, but that could take between one to two months. The alternative was to do a transplant from a living donor. Doctors told him that if he donated, the risk he faced during the procedure was just 0.5%.

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When he got home that night, Edmar decided to donate part of his liver to save his mother. In his mind, this was probably the reason he came to Hong Kong, to try and save his mother who had worked for more than two decades to bring comfort to their family.

Edmar called up his own family in Ilocos Sur, then told the doctors at Queen Mary the next morning about his decision.

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On Jan. 4, Edmar submitted himself to a series of tests including a Covid-19 test to prepare him for the transplant. Everything went well and he was confirmed as a match for his mother.

But at noon on Wednesday, Jan 6, Marlyn suddenly fell into a coma so the doctors called off the transplant and sent Edmar home. At 6am the next day, they called him to say, “Come back, your mom is not OK.” 

Edmar returned to Queen Mary and went straight to his mother’s ICU bedside after the doctors allowed him time to be with her. At 10:15am, the heartbeat monitor flattened and the beep lengthened. The doctors and nurses came and told him Marlyn was gone.

The deceased’s remains are now in the Queen Mary mortuary but will be at Po Fook Memorial Hall in Taiwai this Sunday, 9am to 2pm, for public viewing.

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