Sunday, 1 July 2018

He ain't heavy, he's my brother - Leroy Solomon Tan.

You know the song, "He ain't heavy, he's my brother?" 

Well, for a friend of mine, lawyer Leroy Solomon Tan, 47, his brothers would add to that lyrics this line: -

"He ain't heavy, he's my brother, and here's my organ."

That's what one of the brothers, Leslie, did. And it was a gift of life to a younger brother they love deeply. 

Such bond and such news only make the world better with music, dance and rejoicing. 

Why songs and dance? Because Leroy's brothers, Leslie (54) and Lionel (52) are part of the renowned local strong chamber group T'ang Quartet. They have been around for 20 years. 

Here's the dance part...

Leroy was diagnosed with diabetic nephropathy in 1998 when he was 26. 

According to Dr Kwek Jia Liang of SGH, "diabetic nephropathy is damage to the kidney arising from diabetes mellitus. It leads to a lose of kidney function. It can result in end-stage kidney disease with complication such as fluid overload, electrolytes imbalances and build-up of metabolic toxins, which can affect the functions of multiple organs such as the heart and brain." 

So much for the science stuff, now comes the heart stuff. And it is about brotherly affection. 

It took the two brothers four years to give of their organ to Leroy because of the many roadblocks along the way. 

The journey met with the first roadblock in 2013 when Leslie discovered a cyst in his liver, so he needed to remove it. And the transplant was called off. 

Next to step up to the plate was Lionel. He was cleared to go and was a suitable match for his younger brother. 

But a day before the surgery, he recalled this: "I was at home packing my bags when I got a call that we had to call off the operation because Leroy had fallen ill."

This second roadblock had derailed the journey for the brothers for a year as it took that long for Leroy to fully recover and regain his immunity strength. 

The third roadblock was the suspension of SGH kidney transplant programme due to the outbreak of hepatitis C infection in 2015. 

By this time, Leslie had proven to be a suitable donor for his brother after much screening. 

Yet, the fourth roadblock was Leroy's high blood pressure. It delayed the procedure once more. 

Leslie said: "It was very frustrating. I went home and locked myself up in my apartment. I didn't want to go out because I didn't want to go out and get the flu and then delay the transplant some more."

Then, last January came and it was an emotional day for the brothers. 
Leslie donated his kidney to his brother, and Lionel said: "I was happy to see that everything worked out...My mum was extremely stressed and worried, but afterwards she was ecstatic." 

It's the dance of joy for such happy ending.

Lesson? One.

You know there's a song by the hollies, "He ain't heavy, he's my brother"?

One part of the song reads: "The road is long/ With many a winding turn/ That leads us to who knows where/ Who knows where."

That's what the three brothers had to go through. The many roadblocks in the arduous journey. 

It reports (by Kimberley Chia) that "the disease took a serious toll on (Leroy's) daily life. He was constantly tired and even threw up occasionally after dialysis sessions." 

Leroy had to scale down his activities "such as volunteering for grassroots activities and travelling." Leroy, mind you, is a dedicated activist. 

It was surely a road with many winding turns and leading to certain uncertainty.

Then, the song goes upbeat with this: "But I'm strong/ Strong enough to carry him/ He ain't heavy, he's my brother."

That's what Leslie and Lionel did, they carried their youngest with the strength of brotherhood. 

It reports that "when the time came for them to step forward as donors, it was something the brothers did without hesitation. In fact, they jumped at the opportunity."

And if you go further with the song, this is one heartwarming part: "So on we go/ His welfare is of my concern/ No burden is he to bear/ We'll get there."

Lionel said: "You don't think about whether it's successful or not. You just go ahead and do it because it's saving someone's life."

And Leslie said: "I found out later that people felt that it was a big deal, but come on...You don't think about these things, right? It's a big deal but not to the donor. I think it's a much bigger deal for the recipient."

Indeed, the song pays tribute to such love for another when it says: "For I know/ He would not encumber me/ He ain't heavy, he's my brother."

Now, the ending of the song is a reminder for all. It reminds us of the yearnings of a jaded heart, tired of the coldness of the world. 

"If I'm laden at all
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another
It's a long, long road
From which..."

That is why the gift of love is the greatest gift of all. 

From mothers to child, husbands to wives, brothers and sisters to one another, friends to friends, and a community bonded by love, our hearts can make a difference one life at a time.

Leroy and his brothers start a chain reaction to set a path for many to be inspired by. It is a powerful statement of affection that goes the distance. 

The reality is, we do not want to make a big deal out of it. It is what we will do for loved ones. It is running in our bloodstream. Some see it as a call of duty, and makes no fuss about it - like Leslie and Lionel. 

But still, it imparts an important lesson for me. It is a lesson of a humane society that is driven by love, care and nurture. 

It may be seen by those who sacrifice much as a seed tossed to the ground that should not attract much fanfare, but it is nevertheless the germination, the growth and the bearing of fruits in these lives that transform society, one soul at a time. 

For I believe that if you want to change the society, you change the culture. If you want to change the culture, you change the script. If you want to change the script, you change the narrative. And if your want to change the narrative, you change yourself. 

Let me end by saying that Leroy is tremendously blessed with the love of his brothers. They may think nothing of it, but it is a love that money cannot hope to purchase because it doesn't have a price. 

It is a gift that is not ruled by the economic law of scarcity. It is not ruled by supply and demand. It is not a zero-sum game, unlike a society whereby one gains disproportionately at the expense of many toiling with no end in sight. 

A society that is run by materialism and greed will never have enough. It will never find contentment. It will always rot in envy, boil over with hatred and torn apart by differences. 

But a society nourished by love and sacrifices is an abundant society. It never lacks because love as a resource never runs out. 

When you start a chain reaction based on love, you light a candle in the dark and you just need one candle to pass the flame to another and another. It is inexhaustible no matter how dark the night. 

And when you have passed the flame to enough candles, the light of love overshadows the darkness of self, greed and envy. 

That's the important lesson I learned from Leroy's narrative, his brother's love and the gift of life. 

In this world, nothing can make you rich without love, and I believe, no one who is not rich by the world's standard can ever claim that he is not truly blessed, wealthy and content beyond words when he or she is surrounded by the unceasing love of family and friends. Cheerz.

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