Patient of Vietnam's breakthrough heart transplant calls his life 'magic'

Thanh Nien News

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Tran Mau Duc, 30, with his children who he could only take care of thanks to a donated heart he received in 2011. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre Tran Mau Duc, 30, with his children who he could only take care of thanks to a donated heart he received in 2011. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre


When Tran Mau Duc elbowed through a huge crowd to get into a rock concert seven years ago, he didn't know that it would be a killer show. 
He cheered so hard for the band. He sang along with other fans, who, just like him, were in their early twenties. 
Then his heart stopped. 
Doctors at the Hue Central Hospital found he suffered from a very severe case of dilated cardiomyopathy, causing his heart unable to pump enough blood to his body, Tuoi Tre reported.
The young man, who had never got sick in his teenagers, went in and out the hospital countless of times for three years, to no avail.
Doctors said he needed a new heart. They put him on a waiting list. 
Living in a country with a severely short supply of donated organs, the patients on this list called it the death-row list, because on average one of them would die every few days.
“Those were the most terrible days of my life, because I had to see many die in the wait,” Duc said.
He said there was one patient who was prepped for a transplant, but the donor’s family backed out at last minute.
“That patient was so depressed he died not long after that.”
Duc, now 30, said there was time he and his family were ready for a goodbye. 
That was 2011. His first daughter just turned two and his doctors had told him that he could only live for three more months if they could not find him a donor. 
“I told my wife to find another love and not to stay a widow.”
Then one night in March, when Duc was staying in the hospital, with his wife by his bed, a doctor came in and told him they had a match. 
Even though the chance of survival was slim, Duc and his wife agreed to the immediate surgery. 
Recalling that night, he said he did not know he would be able to see his family ever again. 
He did not know either that he would make it into Vietnamese medical history, as the patient of the country's second heart transplant, and the first completely performed by local doctors without any foreign assistance. 
Dr. Bui Duc Phu led a medical staff of nearly 100 people at the hospital in the five-hour surgery. 
Duc gained consciousness and was able to talk seven hours later.
“Since the transplant, I’ve been almost as healthy as a normal person. I luckily received a strong heart,” he said. 
"If this is not magic, tell me what is?”

Tran Mau Duc with his wife and children at their house in Hue. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
'Great blessing'
Ho Thi Bon, his mother, said him living is a “great blessing” as “no one thought he would live.”
He is receiving monthly check at the hospital and taking anti-rejection drugs every day.
Health insurance and the hospital cover his medical cost of more than VND10 million a month.
Duc said he recently found the tomb of his donor and has been visiting it often.
“I live again thanks to the kindness of a stranger, and to the love of good doctors. So I have to live a good life to pay them back.”
Duc said after recovering from the procedure, he worked as a porter carrying heavy loads every day at a dairy shop. 
His doctor told him that the highly physical task would threaten his life, so they asked him to come and work for the hospital as a valet. 
These days he watches over the parking lot at Hue Central Hospital and keeps motorbikes in straight lines.
Duc has gained some weight, and a lot more spirit since the days he could hardly breath in the hospital ICU four years ago.
He is making nearly VND4 million (US$187) a month.

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