Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI – At 100 years, Nguyễn Thị Khoa had lived a full life, but it was a distraught family who rushed her to the Đắk Lắk General Hospital two weeks ago.
Her heart had stopped beating after suffering a myocardial infarction, or a heart attack.
A group of doctors at the hospital’s Department of Cardiovascular Emergencies and Intervention lost time in sending Khoa into the operation room.
After a three-hour surgery, her family burst into tears of happiness. The grand old lady was alive and doing well.
Khoa is one of 80 patients who have been brought back from the brink by cardiologist Nguyễn Văn Điền and his students, four post-graduates in medicine, in the Central Highlands province of Đắk Lắk.
All of them moved from their hometown in central Thừa Thiên-Huế province to provide free cardiac treatment for patients in the Central Highlands.
“My heart had stopped beating when I was rushed to the hospital. No words can describe my happiness and gratitude to the doctors,” said Nguyễn Hữu Công, another patient saved by Dr. Điền.
“The doctors not only have outstanding professional skills, they are also very considerate to their patients, ensuring good food and sleep. I have never felt so cared for like this in a hospital,” Công said.
Call of duty
Dr. Đòan Hữu Long, Director of the Đắk Lắk Health Department, said that he’d shared with Điền the hardships experienced by Central Highlands hospitals. They lacked skilled cardiologists and had to travel far to access facilities that provided cardiovascular treatment. Many patients died as they were being taken to such facilities, he said.
Moved by the plight of heart patients in the highlands, Điền decided to leave the Huế Medical and Pharmacy University, where he was a department chief, and headed for Đắk Lắk with four of his students.
Early this August, they established the Department of Cardiovascular Emergencies and Intervention at the provincial General Hospital. Điền had refused invitations and handsome benefits offered by many other hospitals to travel to the mountainous region.
Điền, already well known for his compassion and dignity, was born in the central province of Thừa Thiên-Huế. He lost his father soon after birth, and was sent by his mother to learn at a pagoda when he was four.
The Buddhist philosophy that he imbibed in his early years made him sympathise greatly with those in disadvantaged circumstances.
After finishing his bachelors and master degrees in Việt Nam, he went to China for three years to specialise in cardiac intervention. On his return, he joined the Huế University of Medicine and Pharmacy and began an illustrious career.
On his arrival, he found that state-of-the-art medical equipment had been provided to the hospital via Official Development Assistance from Japan, but had never been used because no one knew how to.
Điền and his students were as excited as kids as they opened the sealed boxes. They knew that the modern equipment would enable them to provide the kind of care hitherto available only at major hospitals in major Vietnamese cities.
Thus far, the Health Ministry has permitted the hospital to implement more than 50 procedures deployed in the major hospitals for treating heart patients.
Điền has also persuaded sponsors to assist poor patients with 30 stents, each of which costs more than VNĐ50 million (US$2,300).
He still remembers the days when the five doctors stayed together in a narrow room through whole days and nights, setting up the machines, ready to welcome any patient.
“Seeing patients rush to us, we felt more motivated to work, not bothering about time or fatigue,” he said.
“There were many patients who insisted that they be moved to another hospital because they did not know about the treatment we could provide.
“Since they were at risk of losing their lives while moving to other hospitals, I had to keep them here.”
Passing the passion
Điền was not just a pioneer in leaving his hometown for new lands. He took the extraordinary step of remaining a normal staff and promoting his students as department heads so that his work would be continued by them.
Doctor Bùi Trường Phong, director of the Đắk Lắk General Hospital, said that with a monthly income of just VNĐ3million ($133), Điền and his students had to stay at the hospital to reduce expenses and provide better care to their patients.
When there were emergencies, the doctors worked until 2-3 am despite having worked the whole day, Phong said.
“The hospital and local residents got really lucky when the team of doctors left their city and decided to come here,” he said.
Doctor Thiện Ái, who heads the Department of Cardiovascular Emergencies and Intervention, said that during the four years his teacher had stayed with him and his colleagues in Huế, he was always happy to learn professional skills from his mentor. He said Điền had passed on his passion and knowledge to the younger generation without concealing anything.
Điền said: “We feel happy with every passing day because we can save many more people. We only need equipment and trust from patients to try out best. That makes us very happy.”
“My mother is 85 years old and used to my absences.
“She’s told me to do as much good as I can. She says that the more good I do, the healthier she feels.” — VNS