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British pilot no longer needs lung transplant

By Le Nga   June 17, 2020 | 03:30 am PT
A lung transplant considered for Vietnam's most critically ill Covid-19 patient, a British pilot, is no longer necessary following a slow recovery.

Luong Ngoc Khue, head of the Ministry of Health's department of diagnosis and treatment, said Wednesday the 43-year-old man in HCMC, who beat Covid-19 after two months but remains under treatment due to lung infection, is now recovering well and can breathe on his own.

He's fully conscious and capable of coherent verbal communication, Khue said.

His limb muscle strength and respiratory functions have returned. His infection has also cleared up, Khue said.

"At this stage, a lung transplant is no longer necessary," he said.

In May, the health ministry considered a lung transplant for the British pilot as his condition at the time was much more severe. Computed tomography scan results showed that fibrosis had solidified most of his lungs, and he constantly relied on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) to stay alive.

But as his condition progressed, his lungs slowly got better. He was finally taken off ventilators last week, and has breathed on his own since.

When Khue expressed his wish the patient could soon return to the U.K., he quickly responded by saying his hometown was in Scotland.

"It showed his reflexes and neurological recovery are at normal levels. No one would have thought he was in a coma for two months," said Khue.

The patient, a pilot with Vietnam Airlines, has been using a phone for an entire week, getting in touch with friends in several countries. Before Khue left, the patient also showed him a scarf with the word "Motherwell" woven on it. The scarf was a gift from his friends in Scotland, who sent it to Cho Ray Hospital last week, where he’s being treated. It was to be received by "Patient 91."

"The name ‘Patient 91’ is now known by the whole world," said Khue.

The British pilot holds out a scarf with the word Motherwell on it in HCMCs Cho Ray Hospital, June 16, 2020. Photo courtesy of the Cho Ray Hospital.

The British pilot patient holds out a scarf with the word "Motherwell" on it at HCMC's Cho Ray Hospital, June 16, 2020. Photo courtesy of the Cho Ray Hospital.

"Motherwell" is the name of a football team back in his hometown, said the patient. Those words also served as a thank-you to the many Vietnamese medical workers who had saved his life.

The patient said he had no family member left, but that he would endeavor to recover soon.

While doctors said he could go home, the most important thing for him at the moment is to continue physical therapy and prevent any infection.

He has now been in treatment for three months, the longest period for any Covid-19 patient in Vietnam.

The country has recorded 335 Covid-19 cases so far, with only ten active infections left and no deaths. It has gone over two months without community transmission.

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