Dr. Nguyen Van Vinh Chau, Director of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, decided along with the nation’s Health Ministry this past Tuesday to perform a lung transplant on a critically ill British COVID-19 patient. A Computed tomography scan revealed fibrosis had solidified both lungs of the 43-year old male, leaving only 10% functional. The Vietnamese team believed death was imminent if nothing was done. The patient had been on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for 38 days. This machine pumps blood out of the body and to a heart-lung machine that removes carbon dioxide and sends oxygen-filled blood back. The patient is a Vietnam Airlines pilot.
Preparation for the Procedure
Experts from a Vietnamese professional council of medical experts has assigned the HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases to prepare the patient and sanitize him for this critical operation. Once he is clear of SARS-CoV-2, the patient will be transferred to the Cho Ray Hospital for transplant preparation. In the meantime, the Ministry of Health seeks a donor while the tropical disease hospital covers the costs of the British patient’s hospital stay although it is not clear how the transplant will be paid for. The patient’s family members have been contacted but no other details were available.
Known as “Patient 91,” he was confirmed with COVID-19 on March 18. Despite his relatively young age, the patient’s condition worsened as doctors in Vietnam report he has a blood clotting disorder and cytokine storm syndrome—the intense immune response where the immune system releases too many cytokines through the bloodstream which makes the body work against itself. The pilot was the first case of a cluster related to the Buddha Bar and Grill in District 2, which turned out to be HCMC’s biggest COVID-19 hotspot with 19 cases.
History of Transplants in Vietnam
As reported in VN Express International, the first lung transplant in Vietnam occurred in 2017 when a team of Hanoi and Japanese doctors performed the operation at Hanoi’s 103 Military Hospital. The procedure saved the life of a boy afflicted with lung fibrosis.
Apparently China has performed this same transplant three times with COVID-19 patients who have all recovered, according to the Global Times in China.
Pandemic in Vietnam All But Gone
As no new coronavirus cases were reported yesterday morning, the country only has 312 cases and no deaths. The country of 95.5 million has gone 27 days without an infection caused by community transmission. Although Vietnam is a one-party state (hence data could be questioned), many in the public health community are confident the country has done an incredible job of avoiding the wrath of SARS-CoV-2 in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps the U.S. should send a team over there and do some fact finding as to exactly what this nation’s health operation