Vietnam's first liver transplant patient dies 16 years later

By Thuy An   November 29, 2020 | 08:35 pm GMT+7
Nguyen Thi Diep, 25, passed away Sunday morning, 16 years after becoming Vietnam’s first patient to undergo a liver transplant.

Diep had been experiencing weight loss and fatigue caused by cirrhosis for months as she underwent treatment at Hanoi’s Military Hospital 103 and waited for another liver transplant.

But she could not hold on, said Nguyen Quoc Phong, 48, Diep's father, who had donated a part of his own liver to save her life 16 years ago.

He said his daughter’s health had worsened in last 12 months, falling sick frequently. Her belly swelled up and she had become anorexic. After she was diagnosed with cirrhosis, she needed to have plasma injections and blood filtration daily.

Doctors were considering a second liver transplant, but her health was not good enough for such a surgery and she had been placed on the waiting list.

DIep (L) and her father after the operation in 2004. Photo courtesy of family.

Diep and her father after the historic operation in 2004 that was the nation’s first liver transplant. Photo courtesy of her family.

Diep, born in the northern province of Nam Dinh, had her life-saving liver transplant in 2004, when she was nine years old. She was born with congenital biliary atresia, a condition in which a child is born with one or more bile ducts abnormally narrow or blocked. At three, she underwent a surgery to bypass the bile ducts and prevent damage to her liver.

However, by the time she was nine, her condition worsened and she had to give up her schooling to be hospitalized in Hanoi to prepare for a liver transplant. The donor was her father, who insisted on letting his daughter undergo the risky operation despite the doubts of many members of his low-income family.

Doctors at the Military Hospital 103 prepared five years for the first liver transplant surgery in the country. Many experts were sent abroad to learn different aspects of liver transplant, including immunology and hematology.

The operation was done under the leadership of Doctor Le The Trung with colleagues from Saigon's Cho Ray Hospital and Hue Central Hospital in attendance.

"The liver portion from the father's body fits the child's body, it looks good," Trung had said after the life-saving operation. Diep’s condition improved dramatically two months later.

In 2018, she was recruited to work at Military Hospital 103 in the medicines classification department. She took anti-rejection medicines and had her health checked periodically.

"This is the liver transplant patient having the longest life after the surgery in Vietnam," said Doctor Bui Van Manh, head of the intensive care unit at Military Hospital 103. He added that the transplanted liver has limited longevity.

Doctor said Diep remained optimistic while waiting for the second liver transplant and encouraged many people in similar predicaments. She was member of a social group of more than 300 transplant patients at Military Hospital 103 who exchanged information and encouraged each other in their struggles.

Diep has passed away but her meaningful life will be an inspiration for others, doctors said.

 
 
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