British COVID-19 patient: Miraculous days fighting for life
20:10 | 23/05/2020
VGP – British COVID-19 patient had received 65-day treatment at the Ho Chi Minh City for Tropical Diseases where front line doctors made utmost efforts to save his life before being transferred to Cho Ray Hospital for possible lung transplant.

He was confirmed having the virus and admitted to the hospital on March 18, four days after visiting the Buddha Bar which subsequently emerged as a COVID-19 cluster in Viet Nam’s biggest economic locomotive.

In early days of treatment, he was in good health and led a normal life like many other COVID-19 patients. However, he refused to eat Vietnamese food and even drink milk supplied by the hospital.

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Pham Thi Tuyen, head nurse of the Infectious Disease Department  under the HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases said the patient also refused to cooperate with doctors when they took his samples for testing.

Huynh Kim Hue, who has been working a patient caretaker for more than 30 years, said he still felt hot even when he stayed in the isolation and negative pressure room.

“Though he was irritable in early treatment days, we still took care of him in the best manner and satisfied all his requirements,” Hue added.

As he gradually became more open to cooperate with medical workers, his health conditions began to get worse and the doctors had to use oxygen therapy. Since then he lay up in hospital bed and doctors had to move him to special care unit.

Hard struggle to save his life

He weights 100 kg and 1.83 meters tall with body mass index (BMI) of 30.1 at time of admission, making him highly risky of being infected with the virus.

During treatment time, his immune system excessively reacted to the virus, creating cytokine storms that attacked his body, especially lungs, according to doctor Nguyen Thanh Phong, Head of the Infectious Disease Department at the HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

He also had blood coagulation disorders which clog veins and lead to multi-organ damage and got heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) syndrome as doctors put him on ECMO, Phong said.

There were no specific protocols anywhere around the world by that time, so doctors faced numerous difficulties, said Phong, adding that a group of top doctors with various backgrounds from the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and the Cho Ray Hospital was set up to monitor the patient’s health conditions.

These doctors discussed his health regardless of the time of day or night to bring out key decisions to maintain his life.

When the patient started to be resistant to heparin, the front line doctors had to find other kind of made-in-Germany anticoagulant that had not been used in Viet Nam.

It took about 10 days to import such kind of anticoagulant, thus, the doctors had to temporarily prescribe Xarelto to prevent formation of blood clots. In the first seven days, his health conditions were stable but blood coagulation disorders appeared since the following day. Luckily, the doctors finally got the made-in-Germany anticoagulant and the patient’s health was getting better.

The British patient has been put on ECMO for the last 46 days in the isolation and negative pressure room and the doctors had to stay awake almost 24 hours a day to deal with any possible abnormal situation.

His lungs were solidified. A CT scan on May 12 showed fibrosis had scarred both lungs, and they were only working at around 10% capacity, meaning he couldn't be taken off the life support machine.

Luckily, he was gradually getting better with 30% of his lungs and other respiratory indicators improved before being moved to the Cho Ray Hospital.

In addition, he has been tested negative for the virus for the last six consecutive times. “When we transfer him to the Cho Ray Hospital, we ensure that he has been fully recovered from the virus,” said Phong, adding that the 65-day battle to save the British man is miraculous as we has done everything.

Certainly, the coming days would not be easy but for sure Vietnamese doctors will spare no effort to save his life./.

By Thuy Dung

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