Vietnam plans lung transplant for British COVID-19 patient

Doctors in Vietnam are hoping to perform a lung transplant to save the life of a British pilot and keep him from becoming the Southeast Asian nation's first coronavirus fatality.

The 43-year-old Vietnam Airlines pilot, known because of privacy rules as “Patient 91,” tested positive for the coronavirus in March in Ho Chi Minh City and is being treated there at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

Hospital director Nguyen Van Vinh Chau said the pilot's lungs have been seriously damaged and he is depending on invasive mechanical ventilation.

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“The X-ray scan shows that 90% of his lung is not functional,” Chau was quoted as saying by the newspaper Tuoi Tre.

The hospital is looking for a suitable lung for the transplant. The newspaper said 30 people have volunteered to be donors. However, lung transplants are normally allowed only from brain-dead patients under Vietnamese medical regulations.

“The donors said that they wanted to help save the patient and contribute their share in the country’s efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Nguyen Hoang Phuc, deputy director of the National Center for Coordinating Human Organ Transplants, according to the newspaper.

Vietnamese doctors assisted by colleagues from Japan performed their first successful lung transplant in 2017 on a 7-year-old boy, using parts of lungs donated by his relatives.

The pilot was linked to a cluster of COVID-19 cases at a bar in Ho Chi Minh City which resulted in two dozen infections. The others patients have recovered.

“The patient’s underlying health issue has worsened his condition,” Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said Thursday, without elaborating. “But Vietnam is mobilizing our best experts and doctors to treat the patient."

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Vietnam has 312 confirmed coronavirus cases without any deaths.

For almost the past month there have been no reported cases from local infections. All recent confirmed cases have been among people coming from abroad who have have been put in quarantine facilities upon arrival.