Covid-19 patient returns from the dead in Hanoi

By Chi Le   May 12, 2020 | 08:52 pm GMT+7
Covid-19 patient returns from the dead in Hanoi
Le Tuyet Hang, 64, is escorted by her son to bask in the sun at Hanoi's National Hospital of Tropical Diseases, May 11, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Chi Le.
Hang knew she had nothing to fear from the coronavirus, although she’d heard that it had killed people overseas. She was deadly wrong.

Supported by two nurses, Le Tuyet Hang, 64, slowly got out of the bed and stepped carefully and slowly across the hospital floor. They were her first steps in two months – after she was admitted to Hanoi’s National Hospital of Tropical Diseases as a Covid-19 patient on March 7.

Even when she was diagnosed with virus, Hang wasn’t unduly worried. She expected to be discharged after a few days. Instead, Hang, Vietnam's 19th coronavirus patient, has undergone the longest treatment of all 288 patients recorded so far in the country, and is still one of its most critical cases.

In the beginning, Hang felt just fine. She remembered eating a bow of vermicelli for breakfast on March 14 and telling her son that the meals the hospital cooked were great, and that eating well would help her recover from the disease faster.

She was wrong, again. A week later, while she was simply watching TV, she fell into a coma.

"I don’t even remember when exactly I passed out. One day when I woke up, I was on oxygen and lying in a room full of equipment," Hang said.

She could tell that there was no strength left in her as she tried to muster even the smallest of movements. She felt scared. She had no idea why she’d become so weak when she’d felt so healthy before, or why the disease had progressed so quickly. By her bed, her two sons were constantly asking if she was alright and if she recognized them.

"I never knew that I was in a critical condition. Doctors told me they tried to resuscitate me dozens of times, but it didn’t work. I finally breathed again at the 47th time. They were good doctors," she said.

Le Tuyet Hang, 64, is treated for Covid-19 at Hanois National Hospital of Tropical Diseases, May 11, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Chi Le.

Le Tuyet Hang, 64, receives Covid-19 treatment at Hanoi's National Hospital of Tropical Diseases, May 11, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Chi Le.

Hang was suffering from severe respiratory failure when she was put into the intensive care unit (ICU), said doctor Mac Duy Hung. She could have lost her life at any moment, so doctors and nurses had to stay on duty and do whatever they can to keep her alive, he added.

Her heart suddenly stopped one night on April 7, forcing doctors to defibrillate her and perform other emergency procedures continuously for 40 minutes.

"Luckily they worked. We thought we would not be able to save her, that she would die then," said Hung.

Hang was infected by her 26-year-old niece, Nguyen Hong Nhung, who was confirmed infected with Covid-19 on March 6, four days after she returned to Hanoi from London. Nhung’s case ended Vietnam’s 22-day streak of no new Covid-19 infection at the time.

"I do not blame my niece for what happened," said Hang. Nhung, Hanoi’s first and Vietnam’s 17th Covid-19 patient, did not report her medical status upon arrival in Vietnam, despite having traveled to the U.K., Italy and France before. She is believed to have infected her family’s housemaid and chauffeur as well.

Hang said her niece was young and did not know better. She wanted people to stop criticizing Nhung, she said.

Right now, all Hang wants is to be discharged and return to her family in Saigon’s District 9. She had left them late January and gone to visit Hanoi. Her brothers, sisters, husband and sons are all waiting for her return, she said.

"I’m still too weak now, so I have to try and get better."

She remained positive despite her unexpected close encounter with death: "Thanks to everyone’s efforts, I am still alive and get to continue my unfinished business."

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