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Revive from the kidney transplant

TTH.VN - The first kidney transplant in 2001 put Hue Central Hospital on the organ transplant map of Vietnam. To date, the unit has operated on 1,500 cases, which meant it has sparked hope for rebirth for 1,500 people who are on the brink of death.
 A kidney transplant surgery at Hue Central Hospital. Photo: Thuong Hien

Miracles happen

In a small house along the coast of Quang Dien, little girl called Bear hugged her mother and wanted to play together the game ‘taking care of the baby’. Little Bear’s mother brought some dolls, clothes, and dishes to play with her children. Bear chirped: "Mom, I can’t help waiting for you to have a baby so that I can take care of him! I like babies very much”! Ms. N.T.M. (born 1994) smiled and patted her child's head: "Wait until mommy gets better and then I’ll give birth to a baby sibling for you"!

The sound of the wind whispering from the poplar forest mixed with the sound of her children playing made her feel happy inside. Going through a series of struggling days and the burden of illness, for her, the little things in life now become extremely meaningful. In her dream, Ms. M. did not think she would receive a kidney transplant from a brain-dead donor. Saying goodbye to the hospital for dialysis, she can now take care of her children, go to the market, and do housework to help her husband and parents. A normal job for many other women but is the wish of a patient with kidney failure like M.

“I am truly fortunate to have received a compatible kidney donation. After the transplant, I feel healthier, can eat well, sleep well, and have gained 10kg. It's truly a miracle. As my health gradually stabilizes, I will plan for Bear to have a sibling!”

Three years ago, Ms. M. found out she had kidney failure while working as a factory worker in the South. She recalls, "Receiving the news from the doctor I felt like the sky was falling. My husband and I took our 4-year-old daughter back to our hometown, relying on our parents and undergoing dialysis to sustain life. I had dialysis twice a week, then increased to three times a week. My arms were full of needle marks, blood pressure fluctuated, and I was always in a state of exhaustion. That period was truly haunting."

Then came the unexpected for Ms. M. In early June 2022, the family of a 33-year-old male patient undergoing treatment in the Intensive Care Unit of Hue Central Hospital expressed the wish to donate a kidney. On the afternoon of June 5, 2022, with the organ donation, Hue Central Hospital simultaneously performed kidney transplant surgeries for two patients with matching criteria. Ms. M. was one of the fortunate patients to undergo this procedure.

Mr. N.P.H., the representative of the family of the organ donor (currently residing in Hue), for Ms. M. said: "My younger brother was originally a kind mechanic. When he passed away, the family expressed the desire to donate his kidney. The procedures were completed promptly. The two kidney recipients had successful surgeries. Occasionally, when she comes to Hue for a follow-up, M. stops by our house to give an incense and visit the family. We consider her like our new sibling."

Another fortunate young man, not less lucky than Ms. M., is Mr. N.M.Th. (born in 1992) from Quang Nam. At the end of August 2023, while he was at home taking care of his child, having missed dialysis for four days, his urea levels were high, and he felt exhausted. Upon receiving a call from Hue Central Hospital reporting a compatible kidney donation from a brain-dead donor, Mr. Th. forgot about the pain and rushed to the hospital. Arriving in Hue almost at midnight, he was ready for surgery the next day.

After three years of living with chronic kidney failure and not finding a suitable kidney donor, like many other patients, he registered to receive a kidney transplant at the Organ Transplant Center of Hue Central Hospital, nurturing the hope that a miracle would happen. "It all depends on luck. It's like winning the lottery," Mr. Th. metaphorically expressed.

"Waking up after the kidney transplant surgery, surrounded by tubes and machines, everything felt strange, but my body felt light, without any pain. This is a significant turning point in my life. Suddenly, tears welled up in my eyes out of compassion for the donor and their family," recalled Mr. Th. Now, he lives a stable life, running a motorbike business, assisting his wife in taking care of their child.

"Igniting the Flame of Hope"

In the precious archives of Hue Central Hospital, we stumbled upon a photograph capturing the memorable moment of the first kidney transplant on the evening of July 31, 2001. In the photo, the late Prof. Le The Trung (former Director of the Military Medical Academy), Prof. Pham Manh Hung (former Deputy Minister of Health), and Prof. Pham Nhu The (former Director of Hue Central Hospital) sat on the floor of the postoperative room with their tense faces, closely watching the first drops of urine of the patient through the drainage tube.

Recalling this moment, Prof. Pham Manh Hung shared: "Nearly 10 years ago, the late Prof. Le The Trung asked me, as a young scientist's perspective, what should be done to develop the Academy? Without hesitation, I suggested kidney transplantation because it is a challenging technique and represents the pinnacle of medical surgery. Therefore, when Hue Central Hospital implemented the living kidney transplant from a mother to her child, it marked a significant milestone. This made it the third unit to 'register' on the organ transplant map of Vietnam."

Since the first kidney transplant, over the past 22 years, the organ transplant field at Hue Central Hospital has seen remarkable development. The number of kidney transplant cases has reached 1,500, with nearly 200 cases performed in 2023 alone, the highest in history. Kidney transplant techniques have advanced to multiple arteries or veins, as well as autologous kidney transplants. Dr. Tran Thi Cam Tu, Deputy Director of the Organ Transplant Center at Hue Central Hospital, stated: "What is special about the hospital's kidney transplant medical board is the support from relevant authorities. Patients come from all over the country for kidney transplants. The waiting list is still long, while the number of available kidneys is limited, posing a current challenge for the center."

Kidney transplantation is the flagship field of Hue Central Hospital, acting as the locomotive driving the development of various medical specialties that mutually support each other: Nephrology, Immunology, Histopathology, Experimental Surgery, Anesthesia, Intensive Care, Biochemistry. The survival rate after kidney transplantation is nearly 100%. In addition to actively promoting kidney transplant services at Hue Central Hospital, the hospital has transferred and provided technical support for kidney transplantation to other hospitals, including Da Nang Hospital, Nguyen Tri Phuong Hospital (Ho Chi Minh City), and Nghe An Provincial Hospital.

To assess the capabilities and position of an organ transplant center, experts often look at the trio of heart, liver, and kidney transplants. Hue Central Hospital is one of the three largest organ transplant centers in the country, conducting routine, professional organ transplants, with the number of kidney transplant cases ranks among the highest nationwide.

Prof. Dr. Pham Nhu Hiep, the Director of Hue Central Hospital, affirms: "Our aim is to develop Hue Central Hospital into a high-level medical center, a center for training high-quality healthcare professionals, advancing toward meeting the standards of hospitals in the Southeast Asia region and the world. The hospital continues to train a professional, standardized, and qualified healthcare team to serve in the field of organ transplantation. Additionally, the hospital is making efforts to raise awareness in the community about organ donation and is contributing opinions to adjust the Law on Donation, Harvesting, and Transplantation of Human Tissues and Organs. As public awareness increases and legal frameworks become more practical, the pool of available donated organs will hopefully bring hope for many patients having organ failure."

Story: LINH GIANG
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