SINGAPORE CITY: SakthibalanBalathandautham, an Indian-origin senior sales executive in Singapore, has received the “The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2021” award for donating a part of his liver to a one-year old girl he had never met before, a media report said on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old, who received the award from President HalimahYacob on Wednesday, donated 23 per cent of his liver to baby Rheya on September 30, 2020, responding to a plea on social media in July 2020 by a young Indian couple looking for a liver donor for their one-year-old child, The Straits Times newspaper reported.
Mr Balathandautham’s generous gesture has given a new lease of life to Rheya, who was diagnosed with biliary atresia a few weeks after her birth in 2019.
The rare disease causes bile ducts in the liver to be inflamed, blocking bile flow to the gallbladder. The condition can eventually lead to liver failure.
After a successful recovery by both donor and recipient, Mr Balathandautham forged a strong bond with the toddler and her family.
He is now an advocate for organ donation, encouraging more people to step up and help patients in need, the report said.
On why he had stepped forward, Mr Balathandautham said, “I thought to myself: There’s a girl out there, who is very young, who is looking for a living liver donor. I felt this was an opportunity for me to step up and do something bigger.”
Mr Balathandautham was awarded a trophy and 20,000 Singaporean dollars in cash as the The Straits Times Singaporean of Year 2021 award.
In her opening address at the award ceremony, President Halimah noted that the finalists reminded Singaporeans of what it means to serve a greater purpose.
She said, “The ST Singaporean of the Year finalists challenge us to think and act beyond our ordinary capabilities. They make us feel uncomfortable to continue living in our comfort zones occupied with ourselves but to exceed even our own expectations.”
“In the current pandemic, when our everyday lives can appear rather gloomy and mundane, they lift our spirits and show that nothing can stand in the way of humanity.”
“We were all inspired by Balathandautham’s act of courage, generosity and desire to put his own health and well-being on the line to make a difference to the lives of others. He is indeed a worthy winner of this award,” said Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of SPH Media Trust’s English/Malay/Tamil Media group and editor of Straits Times.
Edmund Koh, president of UBS Asia-Pacific, said, “Our Singaporean of the Year 2021, SakthibalanBalathandautham, showed us an extraordinary act of selflessness and generosity in stepping forward to donate an organ to save a stranger.”
Organised by The Straits Times and presented by UBS Singapore, the Singaporean of the Year award is given each year to a Singaporean individual or group that has made an impact in society.
This could be through achievements that have put Singapore on the world stage, or for improving the lives of others in the community, or showing resilience in the face of adversity.
The award is now in its seventh year.