A British COVID-19 patient is to receive a lung transplant in Vietnam after doctors found that only 10 percent of his lungs remain functional. Two Vietnamese people have already volunteered to donate after hearing about his plight, but doctors say they will first consider donors with cessation of brain activity.
A 43-year-old pilot with Vietnam Airlines, the man is also known as Patient 91 – the first in a line of 19 cases related to Saigon’s largest COVID-19 hotspot, Buddha Bar in District 2. Confirmed positive on 18 March, the British patient has failed to recover in spite of his age. According to his doctors, he suffers from a blood clotting disorder as well as a systemic inflammatory response syndrome, and has been on a life-support machine for over a month now. Known as extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), the machine pumps blood out of the patient, removes carbon dioxide and pumps freshly oxygenated blood back into the body.
With tomography scans now showing that the patient’s lungs have given in to fibrosis and offer no real hope for recovery, a team of Health Ministry experts have concluded that a lung transplant is the only way to save the man’s life. According to Nguyen Van Vinh Chau, Director of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, the patient needs to be confirmed clear of COVID-19 and can then be readied for the surgery – while the search for a compatible donor continues.
In a moving act of heroic charity, two Vietnamese citizens – a 70-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman have offered to donate their own lungs to save the man, a complete stranger to both of them. A war veteran from Dak Nong Province, the man phoned the National Coordinating Centre for Human Organ Transplantation twice to register but was rejected on account of his age. As for the woman, she stressed that she did not know the pilot but felt obliged to share the love and help she had received throughout her life.
Living donors are reportedly taken into consideration as the last resort, with doctors first seeking a donor with cessation of brain activity. Similar transplants have been performed for three COVID-19 patients in China, with all three patients recovering successfully from their surgeries.
To date, there have been no coronavirus-related deaths in Vietnam.