ECONOMYNEXT – A near three month struggle by doctors in Vietnam to save a UK pilot working for the national airline has passed a key milestone with the the patient regaining partial lung function and being taken off an external blood oxygenation machine.
Vietnam has so far maintained a zero deaths from Coronavirus, with critically ill and aged patients with complications being pulled from the brink of death with the help of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) when ventilators no longer work.
The UK pilot or Patient 91, was on ECMO machine and sedated for 57 days and his lung function dropped to 10 percent, and doctors were preparing to transplant lung, when he began to show improvement.
“This is an extraordinary effort, because we had at times been pessimistic,” Luong Ngoc Khue, a senior doctor in a committee treating Coronavirus patients was quoted as saying by Suckhoe Doisong, a news portal linked to Vietnam’s health ministry.
“But today patient made eye contact and smiled encouraging physicians, specialists to keep trying, devote energy to treat patients in the best way we can.”
The patient had regained 58 percent lung function, a stronger cough reflex, could follow doctor’s orders and was showing improved upper limb muscle strength, the report said.
The pilot is being treated by a committee of top doctors after he was shifted to Cho Ray hospital in Saigon to treat worsening complications from the Tropical Diseases hospital where he fought off Coronavirus.
The patient developed a gamut of complications including blood coagulation, multiple organ damage as well as infections which have been documented by Western researchers in different patients in the last few week in the US and elsewhere.
The health ministry report said kidney function was also improving, and diaphragm was more active on June 05.
Doctors were preparing for a lung transplant when his lungs started to improve. His condition is still serious and doctors are still prepared for in necessary, the report said.
The pilot has no parents and Vietnam authorities had hunted down his closest relative in the UK to get permission for a lung transplant.
Patient 91 was under sedation for several weeks when he was on ECMO therapy.
In most countries, patients die when lungs of Coronavirus patients are too damaged to respond to ventilators, but Vietnam has kept several patients alive with external blood oxygenation long enough to fight off the virus while stabilizing vitals.
Vietnam assembled a team of top specialists in resuscitation, cardiothoracic, infectious, respiratory, and surgery to treat the UK pilot.
After being disconnected from the ECMO machine, the patient was put under continuous pressure ventilation.
Vietnam had perfected the treatment protocol progressing from giving oxygen, CPAP, ventilators and finally ECMO to keep patients alive and maintain a zero death record.
After regaining consciousness last week he had cried when he saw nurses and doctors tending to him, though he could not speak to them, Vietnam’s TouiTre newspaper reported.
Following aggressive physiotherapy he was regaining the function of hands.
Vietnam had treated around 160 foreigners at various hospitals.
The British Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City had written to the head of the People’s Committee, several district chiefs, the Centres of Disease Control, several hospitals in the South and doctors for treating UK nationals.
“Finally I would like to extend by sincere thanks to Ho Chi Minh City Hospital for Tropical Diseases and Cho Ray Hospital who had taken such excellent care of Mr Stephen Cameron (known as Patient 91),” the Consul General wrote in a letter published on TouiTre online.
“The have worked tirelessly and spared no efforts in helping him during the time he had been critically ill in hospital.
“We could not have asked for better treatment. Once again by sincere and personal thanks to all involved in his case.”
Vietnam is probably the most successful country in the world in battling Coronavirus with 328 confirmed cases, 328 recovered, 21 being treated and no deaths according to Health Ministry data.
All the new cases are from abroad from returning Vietnamese.
Vietnam has tightened border patrols along Cambodia after unofficial returnees were found to be infected. (Colombo/June05/2020)