US surgeon pulls off incredible feat

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New lease on life - a Vietnamese man with a 198-lb tumor, a woman with tumors all over the body and another with several covering half her face look forward to bright futures


Doctor McKay McKinnon (L) visited Nguyen Duy Hai, 32, on January 8, three days after his 82-kilogram tumor was successfully removed by the Chicago-based surgeon. McKinnon conducted two more surgeries for two other Vietnamese women with rare tumors on January 6 and 7

Chicago-based renowned plastic surgeon McKay McKinnon believes that recurrence is not a possibility after successfully removing on January 5 an 82-kg (198-lb) tumor that was slowly but surely killing a 32-year-old Vietnamese man.

"Of course it was a very difficult procedure but it went according to plan and I do not think there is a significant risk of recurrence," he said Tuesday (January 10).

"The main reason is that the surgery was radical and removed the origin of the tumor. This was the key to success," he said.

McKinnon successfully removed the giant tumor from Nguyen Duy Hai a native of Lam Dong Province's Da Lat Town in the Central Highlands during a 12-hour surgery with a team of 60 doctors, nurses and medical technicians at FV Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.

The hospital said at a press briefing the following day that it was a "groundbreaking" surgery that began at 8:55 a.m. and ended at 9:03 p.m. Hai received seven liters of blood transfusion during the surgery.

Notably, doctors had told Hai and his family that the chance for successful surgery was just 50 percent and they agreed to go ahead, with a fatalistic patient telling his mother, "If I die, that is my fate."

"I did visit Hai on January 8 and he was doing very well. He has much recovery to go yet but all is well and he is in good hands," McKinnon told Vietweek via email after returning to Chicago.

McKinnon, who conducted the surgery for free, said he would be willing to help again should there be any recurrence, which was "most unlikely."

"If he did have recurrence, I am available for consultation and possibly more surgery," said the surgeon, who has been hailed as a "fairy" and one having "supernatural power" on many forums for his kindness and talent.

Hai, who is recovering well at the FV Hospital, said doctor McKinnon was like his "second father" who'd given him a new life.

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"I will be grateful to him my whole life for doing the operation to help me," he told the media on January 7. Vietnamese doctors had earlier scheduled and cancelled a surgery saying it would put his life at risk.

Dr. Jean-Marcel Guillon, FV Hospital's general director, said he was impressed by the success of the "landmark" surgery and the medical care given.

Hai regained consciousness at around 2 p.m. on January 6, around 17 hours after the surgery. The device to assist breathing was removed six hours later when he could speak and "asked to meet his mother in good mental condition," the hospital said in a statement.

On the following day, he could eat a little. His temperature and bleeding reduced while his respiratory and circulation systems were in good condition.

Hai's younger brother, Nguyen Duy Sang, told Vietweek on Tuesday that he could eat porridge and drink milk.

"It was an amazing surgery. I am so happy that he is recovering well and faster than doctors had expected," said the construction worker from Lam Dong, who has been staying at the hospital with his mother Nguyen Thi Cho Con.

"The hospital has offered him the best care. We are allowed to visit him a few times a day for only a couple of minutes but we just want to be around to follow his condition," he said.

According to the FV Hospital, the total cost of Hai's surgery is about VND420 million (US$20,000). However the hospital only took VND252 million, of which VND110 million was donated by Da Lat Town Red Cross Agency and the rest by other Samaritans.

The tumor began to grow on Hai's right leg in 1984, when he was four years old. In 1997, with the leg weighing 25 kilograms, he agreed with local doctors that the limb be amputated at the hip.

The tumor appeared again in 2001 and grew to gigantic proportions, apparently weighing 90 kgs or so before the latest surgery. It was diagnosed as a human genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis type 1 formerly known as von Recklinghausen disease.

Three surgeries in a row

McKinnon's surgery on Hai grabbed headlines in both local and international newspapers over the past week.

But the surgeon was not done. In the following two days, he conducted two more surgeries on women suffering from abnormal tumors.

On January 6, McKinnon and doctors at the HCMC's Cho Ray Hospital successfully removed facial tumors from 22-year-old Kieu Thi My Dung of Lam Dong Province after a seven-hour surgery.

Dung had begun developing small tumors on her eyelids when she was three months old. The tumors grew quickly and covered nearly half of her face.

 

On January 7, McKinnon and Cho Ray doctors conducted a surgery on 35-year-old Thach Thi Sa Ly of the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang. Ly had bubble-like lumps densely covering her body and face.

According to Dr. Le Hanh, head of Cho Ray's Plastic Surgery Department, during the six-hour surgery, doctors primarily removed the tumors that were critically affecting Ly's physical functions, threatening her life, before treating the lumps on her face and used skin from her thighs to cover her face.

Cho Ray Hospital doctors will conduct more surgeries to remove the remaining tumors, he said.

As of Wednesday, Dung and Ly were being monitored at the hospital's intensive care unit and Hanh said they are recovering well with no sign of infection.

McKinnon said Dung and Ly "are doing very well in the immediate post-operative period." He added that his surgery of three cases on three continuous days was normal for him.

"The surgeries were long and difficult but this is by no means some kind of record. I will be in Honduras next month and probably perform five surgeries each day for five days. Not exceptional," he said.

McKinnon said he was "delighted" to work with the teams at FV and Cho Ray hospitals.

"These hospitals are capable of doing this kind of complex work and are open to solving new problems that are unfamiliar to most Asian hospitals. I would be happy to work with them in the future," he said.

According to Le Minh Hien, head of the Cho Ray hospital's Social Medical Unit that raises funds for charity treatment, they were still raising donations to cover hospital fees for Dung and Sa Ly.

To contribute, call Cho Ray Hospital (+84) 83 855 2486 or Hien directly at (+84) 90 979 0704.

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