Heart donation and transplant within 24 hours

As Bui Thanh P., a male patient suffering from end-stage heart failure, woke up on the morning of 13th May, he would not have imagined that he was about to receive a new heart transplant from a total stranger from over 1,000KM away.

On the evening of that same day, a woman in Hanoi died in a road accident. Medical staff rushed against time to match her heart to Bui Thanh P., and quickly flew it to Saigon for a heart transplant to save his life.

With the help of aviation authorities, traffic police, and medical staff in both cities, his heart transplant was successfully completed at Saigon’s Cho Ray Hospital on 14th May, less than 24 hours since the time of donation in Hanoi.

The recipient had suffered from heart failure for 8 years

On 16th June, Cho Ray Hospital, where the heart transplant took place, officially released information about this special surgery.

According to VOV, 47-year-old Bui Thanh P had been suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy for 8 years and had been at a critical stage of his illness at the time of the transplant.

Vietnam heart transplant
Bui Thanh P. (on the right) and his wife (on the left)
Image credit: Công an Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

Adding to the pressure of being sick was the financial burden falling on his family, who aren’t well to do. P. had worked as a bricklayer while his wife is a construction worker. He used to be hospitalized regularly because he always had trouble breathing.

As his health continued to deteriorate and his finances drained, fortune finally smiled on him the day he became eligible for the heart donation.

The heart was transported from Hanoi to Saigon by air

On 13th May, a woman of the same age as Bui Thanh P. passed away in a road accident in Hanoi and became a heart donor on the same day at Viet Duc Hospital. Once the cardiac index of the donor was confirmed to be a match with that of the recipient, the heart was immediately flown to Cho Ray Hospital in Saigon for his transplant.

heart transplant
Image credit: Công an Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

Safeguarding and transporting a living heart is not easy, especially when the life of the one waiting for it was hanging by a thread.

With the assistance of relevant authorities and medical workers in both cities, a heart transplant finally took place 6 hours after the heart was first taken from the deceased donor in Hanoi. After 3 hours of surgery, the healthy heart started beating in Bui Thanh P.’s chest.

It was a race against time

According to Dr Tran Quyet Tien from Cho Ray Hospital, the surgery was a race against time that couldn’t have been won without the tremendous support from authorities in both Saigon and Hanoi.

The donor and recipient also had a blood type mismatch, which is a concern during heart transplant surgeries. The doctor also added, “The recipient’s blood is type A, while the donor’s is type O. Even though a difference in blood type does not go against the transplant principles, we were under a lot of stress. This is the first time we performed a heart transplant between people of different blood types.”

Vietnam heart transplant
Image credit: Công an Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

According to Cho Ray Hospital, the total cost of the surgery amounted to VND500,000,000 (~USD21,491), out of which VND200,000,000(~USD8,596) was paid by medical insurance while the rest was covered by Cho Ray Hospital and generous donors.

Over a month after the heart donation and transplant, Bui Thanh P.’s heart has been functioning well and he is slowly getting back on his feet.

Vietnam heart transplant
Bui Thanh P. (left) with his wife and doctor
Image credit: Công an Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

Heart donation and transplant saved a patient’s life

Even though Vietnam’s medical facilities are not all equipped with the most modern technologies or healthcare services, this doesn’t get in the way of our skilled and dedicated doctors when it comes to saving lives at all costs.

We also highly appreciate the noble gesture of the family of the deceased donor, who made the difficult decision to save a stranger’s life with their loved one’s heart.

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Cover image adapted from: Công an Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

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