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Thousands read blog tale of tragic tot Lam-lam

The Standard  13 December 2006

More than 50,000 people have visited the blog containing the tragic story of a baby girl who survived nine days with a congenital defect.

Ko Lam-lam was diagnosed with a defective diaphragm at 22 weeks.

However, her parents, Patrick Ko Cheen-pang, 29, and Karen Ko, 28, both Anglicans, said there was never a suggestion that she be aborted.

"At the time, doctors said that with surgery her chances of surviving were good, between 40 to 60 percent. We thought that if there was a chance, we had to go for it. It is like rushing for a bus. If there is any chance you are going to catch it, then you have to try," Patrick Ko said.

His wife added: "Of course we were scared, but we thought no matter how much time we had to spare to care for her, or how much money it would cost, we would be willing to provide."

The doctors kept monitoring the infant's heart but by the middle of the seventh month they decided they had to treat the baby as soon as possible.

Karen Ko was rushed to surgery for a caesarian October 7, and Lam-lam, who weighed 1.4 kilograms at birth, was placed in intensive care.

"For the first few days, we were very happy to have the chance to see her, but we were also very scared. She didn't move a lot, just sleeping all the time and she didn't cry. She needed machines to keep her breathing and her heart beating. We were very worried," the couple said.

"We hoped the surgery would help, but after the operation, the doctors told us there was no hope to correct the defect. That was the first time they suggested we take her off the ventilator."

But, after the operation, Lam-lam managed to gain a little strength, opening her eyes, moving her hands and feet and gripping her parents' fingers.

She was more alert, maintaining eye contact, but the Kos feared she might also be in more pain than before. On the eighth day they made the painful decision to take her off life support.

"That day we told her of our decision and she seemed to understand. She was peaceful, she didn't sleep, she kept her eyes open watching us. The last day we arranged for her to see our relatives, brought her toys and dressed her up in a white dress like an angel.

"She was baptized. That was our last present to her so we could meet again in the future."

At first Patrick Ko set up the Web site to inform relatives and friends of the situation and so they would not have to answer painful questions. But as word of the blog got passed on from friends, it appeared in several Chinese blog sites and then onto the newspapers.

There were 50,000 visitors to the site Tuesday, leaving more than 500 messages that have provided support and food for thought for the Kos.

"We started getting messages from people we didn't know. We began to realize that many families have experienced similar situations with a loved one dying at a young age. It showed us that the people of Hong Kong have more empathy than we would have thought," Karen Ko said.

"One person wrote that they had trouble with their child who was always naughty, but after reading about our experience they began to value life and love their children a lot more, thankful for their health and that they were alive. It made us happy that Lam-lam could help other children."

Patrick Ko added: "Some people said they admired us for being strong and full of courage, but we don't see it like that at all. A lot of the decisions were forced upon us. We were just parents trying to do the best we could."

Donald Asprey

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