British Covid-19 patient moves out of two-month coma

By Le Nga, Chi Le   May 27, 2020 | 06:52 pm PT
British Covid-19 patient moves out of two-month coma
Doctors at Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, February 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
Vietnam's most critically ill Covid-19 patient regained consciousness Wednesday after doctors reduced his sedation doses.

"Patient 91," a 43-year-old Vietnam Airlines pilot in Ho Chi Minh City, has started having cough responses, could move the tips of his fingers, make basic communication and follow doctors' simple instructions, said Doctor Nguyen Tri Thuc, director of Cho Ray Hospital.

Thuc said this development happened two days after doctors stopped using muscle relaxants on him and gradually reduced his sedation dosage. His thoracic diaphragm and limbs, however, remained weak or paralyzed.

Doctors also stopped dialysis again after having restored the treatment for 24 hours.

The patient's condition is still severely critical, but his awareness, blood oxygen level and kidney functions have improved compared to two days earlier, the doctor said.

According to a treatment sub-committee set up by the Health Ministry, X-ray images of the patient’s lungs Wednesday afternoon showed small improvement, and doctors have reduced the blood flow through the ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) system from 4.5 liters per minute last Friday to 4 liters per minute.

ECMO is a technique that pumps blood out of the body and to a heart-lung machine that removes carbon dioxide and sends oxygen-filled blood back.

While the patient's lung functions have shown improvements, these are still not enough, Thuc said. He would still have to undergo treatment for his lung infection with the goal of gradually reducing his reliance on the ECMO system.

The patient is scheduled to have a third chest CT scan Thursday afternoon for an evaluation of his lung recovery.

The health ministry sub-committee, Cho Ray Hospital's doctors and experts from major hospitals across the country would hold an online consultation Friday to agree on the next treatment plan for the patient, a pilot employed by Vietnam Airlines at the time he was confirmed infected.

Earlier, the patient had suffered from the cytokine storm syndrome, which happened when his immune system overreacted to the novel coronavirus attacking the body, releasing too many cytokines, damaging his organs.

The Vietnam Airlines pilot was the first case in the cluster of infections in HCMC associated with the Buddha Bar & Grill, a major outbreak site in the southern metropolis. A few days after he was diagnosed, 18 others were also found infected.

After 65 days of treatment at the HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases, he tested Covid-19 negative seven consecutive times and was declared free of the novel coronavirus. He was transferred last Friday to the Cho Ray Hospital, where his treatment continues.

Vietnam has confirmed 327 Covid-19 cases so far. It discharged six more patients on Tuesday, bringing the number of active cases down to 49.

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