Vietnam goes all out to try and save British Covid-19 patient

By Le Phuong   May 15, 2020 | 03:39 pm PT
Vietnam goes all out to try and save British Covid-19 patient
A medical staff in protective gear at the HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases, where the sign reads "Quarantine Area," March 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
Vietnam has spent about VND5 billion ($215,000) over the past two months on its most critically ill British patient, a pilot claiming to have no relatives.

The 43-year-old pilot, who works for national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, was taken to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City in March after testing positive for the novel coronavirus. He was lucid then, and told doctors that he had no relatives.

Upon receiving the patient, the hospital reported the admission to the Health Ministry and contacted the British Embassy in Vietnam for notifying his family.

"However, the hospital has not received any contacts from his relatives so far. The embassy has kept in touch via email," said Dr. Nguyen Van Vinh Chau, director of the hospital.

The health ministry decided Tuesday that a lung transplant was the only way to try and save the patient. The estimated cost of a lung transplant is about VND1.5-2 billion ($65,000 to 86,000), and this is addition to the VND4-5 billion ($171,000-215,000) already spent on him. The ministry has assigned the Medical Services Administration to look into legal regulations and seek funding for lung transplants.

So far, 60 people have volunteered as lung donors to save the British pilot, according to the National Coordination Center for Organ Transplantation.

"We are touched by their good intentions, but current regulations don't allow us to transplant lungs donated by most living people," a representative of the center said.

"The legal issue is: who will sign an assent form for the lung transplant," said Doctor Nguyen Thanh Phong. The question remains unanswered.

Under the current regulations in Vietnam, all surgical cases, surgical interventions must be agreed upon by the patient or the patient's representative.

Meanwhile, the British Embassy in Hanoi Friday said its diplomats are in close contact with the hospital. "We are very supportive of the British patient as well as his family," it said.

"Patient 91" was confirmed positive on March 18. His condition worsened quickly despite his young age. Doctors said he suffers from a blood clotting disorder and cytokine storm syndrome, an intense immune response where the immune system releases a lot of cytokines through the bloodstream, which works against the body.

The patient has just 10 percent of his lung capacity left and has been on life support for 39 days now.

His body has also been resistant to all types of domestic coagulant drugs and the health ministry has had to purchase drugs overseas for his treatment.

During the first days at the hospital, the patient could not eat Vietnamese food and drank very little milk. Because he has no relatives, the hospital contacted his employer, Vietnam Airlines, to help get food from elsewhere.

The pilot was the first case of a cluster related to the Buddha Bar & Grill in District 2 – which turned out to be Ho Chi Minh City’s biggest Covid-19 hotspot with 19 cases.

Vietnam’s Covid-19 tally jumped to 314 Saturday morning morning, with one imported case from Russia confirmed positive. Of the patients, 54 are active and there's been no death.

The country has gone through 30 days straight without any cases caused by community transmission.

The pandemic has affected 213 countries and territories, killing more than 308,100 people.

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