Performing heart transplant for patients
A small number of lucky patients
The last Tet holiday was the most memorable for Phan D. Q. (Phu Thuong, Hue City). This year, Q. was able to help her mother with some simple housework. Phan D. Q. was having a lot of dreams and ambitions as a student when he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and end-stage heart failure.
With matching criteria, the young man received a heart transplant in early 2022. The donated heart helps revive a new life. Q. eats well, sleeps well, and especially does not have to suffer the same pain as before.
Monitoring the parameters during organ transplants
Before that, in January 2022, the Vietnam National Coordinating Center of Human Organ Transplantation announced to assign a heart to Hue Central Hospital from a brain-dead organ donor. At this time, the COVID-19 pandemic was still striking. The crew had to drive through the night to Hanoi. The donated heart was transported by air to Da Nang and then to Hue.
In the transportation process of the heart for transplant, Vietnam Airlines always creates favorable conditions for the crew to move promptly. Next was a "battle" of the brain in the operating room. Fortunately, after 3 hours, the transplanted heart had its first beat in Q's chest, marking the 8th successful heart transplant at Hue Central Hospital.
Heart transplant surgeons need experience and health
Q.'s mother, Mrs. Vo T. P. L. said that her son's health has improved. She still has to take her son to regular check-ups. “He has two birthdays. The day I gave birth to him and the day he came back to life after a heart transplant,” she said. Being genuinely grateful to the organ donor who helped her child have a new life, the whole family of Ms. P. L. had a trip to the North to thank the benefactor.
According to an organ transplant expert, a heart transplant is a surgery that the crew always feel worried. There is no same surgery, the surgeons must have experience, health, even nerves of steel.
Heart transplant requires a smooth coordination between every unit of the team
Luckier than many other patients, Mr. T. Q. H. (Phu Vang) has returned to regular work after more than 2 years of the heart transplant. Every month, he has follow-ups and takes immunosuppressant drugs after the transplant.
"Going back to normal life," he enthusiastically worked with colleagues at the company and joined other activities. After visiting the organ donor's family, Mr. H. had new relatives, including a sworn brother in Hanoi who received a liver transplant from the same donor.
"The feeling after the transplant is indescribable. I feel strange closeness and intimacy when visiting the organ donor's family. The brothers and sisters in the family consider me as their family members, often encouraging and visiting me. The group of brothers who received an organ transplant like me often asked, encouraged, and shared our treatment methods and staying healthy after the transplant," said Mr. H.
Phan D.Q. recovered quickly after the heart transplant
Provincial leaders visit and congratulate patients after the organ transplant
The hospital discharge ceremony of the 8th heart transplant patient
The process of transporting donated hearts by air is greatly supported by VN airlines
Giving other people a meaningful source of life
In the long list of patients waiting for an organ transplant, the number of people like Q. and Mr. H. is very small, because it all depends on the source of organ donation. The source of donated organs in Hue mainly comes from the two ends of the country, under the direction of the Vietnam National Coordinating Center of Human Organ Transplantation.
Dr. Tran Thi Cam Tu – Deputy Director of the Center of Human Organ Transplantation, Hue Central Hospital- shared that she knew most of the preoperative and postoperative cases by heart. Dr. Cam Tu said by hearing the name, and she could read out a “file” of information. “With the efforts of meeting, sharing, talking, and understanding all of the cases, those stories emerged inside me without even noticing,” she shared.
The mobilization of tissue and organ donation... has been still arduous. In brain dead cases, when the patient agreed to donate organs, Dr. Cam Tu and her team immediately arranged to discuss with the patient's family within 24 hours. Besides racing against time, they also must skillfully "break" the stereotypes and encourage the family. This is an important step. However, sometimes they returned with an "empty hand" because that medical unit does not guarantee the conditions for safe organ harvesting.
Dr. Tu still remembers a case two years ago, although the patient and parents agreed to donate organs, their grandparents did not agree, so the donation was unsuccessful.
Experience shows that, according to the mindset of people in Central region, organ donation should be promoted and put up first. The call for organ donation must be done bit by bit daily until everyone understands and "absorbs" it gradually.
At the opening ceremony of organ donation in early 2023 at Hue Central Hospital, the program recorded dozens of cases to register. A young student at Hue University shared: “This is a philanthropic activity that brings opportunities to critically ill patients returning to life. Each person only lives once, and it would be nice to leave something meaningful behind.”
At the end of 2022, Mr. Nguyen T. D., 70 years old, and Phan V., 84 years old (both in Hue City) who had been blind for more than 10 years found the light again after 10 years thanks to the cornea of Mrs. Tran Thi A. T. (54 years old) in Buon Ho, Dak Lak.
One week after the surgery, both patients' vision was partially recovered, as they were able to walk on their own, seeing things within a distance of 2-3m.
After seeing everything again, Mr. Nguyen T. D., and Phan V. applied to donate organs after passing away on the day of discharge from the hospital. It was a tribute to the donor patient, showing gratitude for the kindness that gave them a second chance to fully see the light.
One of them said: “What was given away is what stays forever. I also want to leave a meaningful gift to this life.”
From 2001 to 2022, Hue Central Hospital performed 1,311 organ and tissue transplants. In 2022, 178 kidney transplants, 2 heart transplants, and 2 corneal transplants were performed. Prof. Dr. Pham Nhu Hiep, Director of Hue Central Hospital, said that the unit continues to send their staff to study abroad and access the most modern techniques in organ transplantation to serve patients.
According to BS. Tran Thi Cam Tu, in 2023, the Organ Transplantation Center, Hue Central Hospital will focus more on communication and organ donation campaigns to raise people's awareness. Contact with socio-political organizations and mass organizations to change the perception of organ donation. The Center of Human Organ Transplantation, Hue Central Hospital will promote community-based activities, such as integrating those into voluntary blood donation campaigns. They also established a brain-dead organ donation campaign network, including members of departments/centers of the hospital.
As society advances, the concept of organ donation to save lives has become more widely accepted than before. Media and images of successful organ transplants partly affect public awareness. In a conversation with me, Mr. T. Q. H. said that, only in the case of a serious illness could we see the act of donating organs is sacred, showing a humanistic sense. After receiving a heart transplant, he always brought his own story to share with friends and relatives and encouraged them to participate in organ donation.
“If you have a chance, save someone else's life. Donating organs to save lives is to bring blessings to the family, and to leave a meaningful source of life behind. I hope this message will spread,” said Mr. H.
In 2022, Hue Central Hospital performed 178 cases of renal transplants
Story: TUE NINH
Photos: THUONG HIEN