They have won lots of international acclaim for their containment of the virus and also one of the only countries with a reasonable population and number of cases that have had no deaths that are attributed to Covid-19. However, they are struggling at the moment to prevent their very first serious case that is looking a bit grim at the moment.
The case involved a British national who is a pilot for Vietnam Airways. According to the governments tracking of his whereabouts it is thought that he came in contact with the virus in a pub in Ho Chi Minh City around the middle of March. His situation has deteriorated since then but the medical staff were optomistic in believing that they could save him. They have already spent an estimated $200,000 on his case and there is talk about an upcoming lung transplant that could add another $80,000 to the total.
This might not seem like a lot to people who live in North America or even Europe, but that is just because medical costs are inflated in the west - dramatically. This of course is just my opinion from over a decade of not living in the West but it does appear to the be the case. That is another topic altogether though.
He has been on life support for nearly 40 days at this point and according to hospital officials he has only 10 percent of his lung functionality remaining. They have determined that they believe the only way to save his life is to undergo a lung transplant... and this is where the story becomes even more amazing.
More than 60 Vietnamese nationals have vounteered to donate a lung to the man, including a 71 year old Army veteran. The Vietnamese people and the government are quite proud of this show of support, but it isn't that simple.
The pilot is quite young at 43 years of age, which is surprising. However it was also pointed out that he suffers from a number of other conditions including an immune system disorder called "cytokine storm syndrome." I had to look that one up but apparently it is a disorder where the immune system releases something into the bloodstream that actually works against the body.
His body has been resistant to all the drugs they have used to assist in dealing with his rare immune system disorder. The ones available locally were quickly ruled out and the hospital has been relying on imported drugs - what these drugs actually are was not published. I'm curious if it is that hydroxychloroquine drug that has caused so much controversy in America and the media is just being very cautious to publish what they are dealing with.
Another issue that they are facing is the fact that by his own admission the pilot has "no family" and therefore there is no one to sign the obligatory forms authorizing the lung transplant. In Vietnam no type of surgery or transplant can be performed without the permission of a family member, so it will be interesting to see how this ends up getting handled.
It would be a real shame if this man were to die and also a shame if Vietnam were to lose their perfect record in dealing with the virus - which is something that they are rightfully very proud of.
For me personally, it was very touching to see the outpouring of support especially in the case of the people who volunteered to donate a lung to the man in order to save his life. After living in Asia for as many years as I have, us expats occasionally feel as though it is an "us vs. them" situation... i guess this proves that notion totally wrong and I feel a bit bad for ever having thought it.
We will probably know in the next few days what ends up happening with the pilot. At the moment the lung transplant is planned, but how and from whom hasn't been revealed to the public. Here's to hoping that the country that I now call home and the patient himself, can make it through this with success.