British couple thanks Vietnam for saving their lives

By Thuy Quynh   March 9, 2023 | 07:14 am PT
British couple thanks Vietnam for saving their lives
Shan Coralie Barker (L) and her husband Dixong John Garth (R) meet with medical workers who saved them from Covid-19 at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, March 8, 2023. Photo by the Ministry of Health
A married British couple has returned to Vietnam three years after they recovered from Covid-19 in Hanoi to thank the medical workers that saved them.

Dixong John Garth and his wife, Shan Coralie Barker, visited the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi on Wednesday.

Barker brought along a book she wrote.

Titled "A Diverse Nurse, Thanks Vietnam," the book is about Barker and her husband's trip to Vietnam three years ago, how they contracted Covid-19, and how they were saved.

Three years ago, the couple was at the Hanoi hospital under very different circumstances.

They arrived in Hanoi March 2, 2020.

The couple was touring the northern province of Quang Ninh when they were taken to a quarantine camp on March 6. They both then tested positive for Covid-19 and were transferred to the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases for treatment on March 13.

Garth was then a 74-year-old patient suffering from 10 years of blood cancer, treating him was not easy.

On March 22, he needed respiratory support and was given an oxygen mask. On March 27, he was put on a ventilator and moved to intensive care.

Ten days later, doctors at the hospital and Vietnam’s leading resuscitation experts got together and kept a close eye on his condition, along with other critical Covid-19 patients at the hospital.

They made many adjustments to the treatment regimen to find what suited him best.

By April 5, Garth was off the ventilator and on his way to recovery. After three days of only minor respiratory support, he was able to fully breathe on his own.

On April 13, he tested negative for the fourth time and was deemed fully recovered.

His wife, Shan Coralie Barker, who was 67 then, was discharged on April 2.

After Garth’s discharge on April 13, the couple flew back home that night on a flight arranged for British citizens by their government.

And they have not had the chance to return to Vietnam until now.

"This is the first time we can clearly see the faces of medical workers because back then, everybody was covered in protective suits. They always did the best they could to save us," said Garth.

Barker, a nurse herself, recalled that she was "shocked" when learning that both she and her husband had been infected. She thought they would die in Vietnam.

"Vietnamese doctors are amazing. They had saved me. If I had not been here, I might have died," she said.

"Today feels like a sweet dream."

Nurse Vu Thi Thuy Nhinh, who was Barker's main caretaker at the Hanoi hospital, got a pleasant surprise when Barker gave her a photograph of herself that Barker had taken during her treatment in the capital.

In the photo, Nhinh is wearing a protective suit and observing her isolated patient.

The nurse said it was the first time she had to take care of a Covid-19 patient.

As the disease was new and not yet fully understood, Nhinh and her colleagues were placed under intense pressure.

At the same time, Nhinh's English was not good and she struggled to make sure foreign patients understood her guidance.

"But I was not scared because I was aware that the patients were in panic as they had contracted a strange disease while they were on a vacation abroad. They had no one by their side, so I assumed they must be scared and lonely," she said.

Dixong John Garth and nurse Vu Thi Thuy Nhinh at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases, March 8, 2023.  Photo by the hospital

Nurse Vu Thi Thuy Nhinh (L) and Dixong John Garth at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, March 8, 2023. Photo by the hospital

Doctor Dong Phu Khiem, who treated the two patients, said Barker and Garth's visit after three years was a "huge source of motivation for us."

He said patients admitted to the Resuscitation Department, like Garth, are all in life-threatening conditions and anyone who comes out alive feels like they have been given a second chance at life.

After their Hanoi visit, the couple will complete the journey they had only just begun three years ago, including trips to Sa Pa Town and Ha Long Bay.

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