Touching story of dying 7-year-old inspires organ donors in Vietnam

By Nam Phuong   February 27, 2018 | 09:14 pm PT
Touching story of dying 7-year-old inspires organ donors in Vietnam
Nguyen Hai An (L) and her mother in a photo provided by the family. An gave away her cornea after dying of brain tumor in Hanoi last week.
The little girl agreed to donate her cornea before she died of a brain tumor last week.

Vietnam’s organ transplant center has seen a sudden surge in the number of people registering to be organ donors thanks to the sad but inspirational story of a dying seven-year-old girl.

The National Coordinating Center for Human Organ Transplantation in Hanoi said it had registered around 20 people on Monday and Tuesday, 10 times more than on normal days.

It has also received nearly 100 emails and numerous phone calls since the weekend.

It appears people have been motivated by seven-year-old Nguyen Hai An from Hanoi, who agreed to donate her cornea before she died of a brain tumor on February 22.

An, who dreamed of becoming a vet or an animal trainer, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor last September and her condition degenerated rapidly.

Her mother said she had discussed the idea with her daughter, who agreed to donate her organs after her death. However, Vietnamese laws only allow hospitals to take the cornea from people under 18 years old.

An’s story has received widespread media coverage, including reports that her selfless act has given sight to two Vietnamese adults for the first time in many years.

Officials at the Hanoi transplant center believe the publicity, which has earned the girl nicknames such as “angel”, “hero” and even “god”, has countered the taboo about organ transplants in Vietnam.

Many people in Vietnam strongly believe they need all their body parts for the afterlife, and families of donors have also been caught up in rumors about selling organs for money.

A manager at the center said that when a family donates a member’s organs, "it's simply love".

The families want to help and keep their relative alive in a different body, the official said.

In Vietnam, people can register to donate their organs at the center in Hanoi at the Viet-Duc Friendship Hospital, and at Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.

Both hospitals usually spend more time calling for donors rather than actually receiving them.

Figures from the health ministry show that Vietnamese doctors have only performed around 1,500 organ transplants since 1992. That left more than 16,000 patients suffering from heart, kidney, liver and lung diseases and more than 6,000 blind people awaiting donations.

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