Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — The cornea donated by 7-year-old girl Nguyễn Hải An were transplanted to two people – a 73-year-old woman and a 42-year-old man – on February 26, 2018, four days after the young girl’s death.
An, the second-youngest person to donate a cornea in the country so far, agreed with her mother Nguyễn Trần Thùy Dương to donate her cornea before she died of a brain tumor. Her mother wanted to continue to see her daughter’s eyes in the coming years.
Dương, 33 years old, from Hà Nội’s Nam Từ Liêm District, on Monday afternoon received two special guests.
“I didn’t expect the man who received An’s cornea to phone me. The two receivers were discharged from the hospital in the afternoon and they want to visit my house to burn incense sticks for An,” Dương said.
“After the phone call, I burst into tear. I have mixed feelings, becoming both excited and anxious,” Dương said, adding that she was afraid that she was not “brave” enough to meet the receivers.
Before their visit, Dương said that she went to National Hospital of Ophthalmology to find her daughter’ eyes again but she could not meet the cornea receivers because the hospital kept relevant information a secret.
The two cornea receivers arrived at Dương’s house on Monday afternoon. Seeing an old woman wearing glasses walk unsteadily outside, Dương rushed to hold her arm and led her to the house.
Then, they went to the altar on which there is a portrait of little girl An.
While Dương was burning incense sticks, she was also talking to An: “ My dear, these are uncle and grandmother. They come to visit you.”
The old woman and the middle-aged man stood before the altar. The woman said that they were very grateful to An for helping them to see light again.
The 73-year-old woman has cornea scarring and had been unable to see since she was 60 years old.
In the last 12 years, her grandchildren were born and growing up but she could not see them, just touch or hear them.
“After the cornea transplant, especially when the doctor removed the bandage on right eye, I can see my children who look much older. I also can see my grandchildren for the first time,” the woman said.
“I’m lucky to receive An’s cornea. When I die, I want to donate the cornea, too,” she said.
Another cornea receiver – the 42-year-old man born with a cataract – said that he had heard about the cornea donation of a 7-year-old girl.
He also said that he was very happy when his doctor informed that he would be one of two people who get An’s cornea.
“It’s like I was born for second time,” he said, adding that he would take care of the eye carefully and was willing to donate it after death.
Dương, who is also a doctor, checked the eyes of the two special guests, asking them to take medicines on time and strictly follow doctors’ advice.
More organ donors
Việt Nam’s organ transplant center has seen a sharp surge in the number of people registering to donate organs after An’s inspiring story.
Two weeks after An’s cornea donation, the National Coordinating Center for Human Organ Transplantation in Hà Nội and HCM City received more than 420 registrations to donate organs, making the total number of registrations since the beginning of this year up to more than 600. Hundreds of people called the centre’s phone numbers or sent emails asking for organ donation consultation.
Vice head of the centre Nguyễn Hoàng Phúc said that there was a “sudden surge” in the number of registers.
He said that the centre was established in 2013. As of last year, it had received the registration of 11, 835 donors.
Phúc said that there were reasons for the modest number of donors. Among the reasons is the thought that sick people, especially people with cancer, were not qualified to donate organs.
Phúc said that cancer patients could donate cornea after their deaths. In Việt Nam, some cancer patients have done so and their corneas adapted well to transplant recipients.
According to the National Hospital of Ophthalmology, about 1,000 patients are on a list of people waiting for cornea transplant. On average, 300 people are added to the list yearly while just 200 people have the chance to get a cornea transplant each year.
Hạnh Phúc, host of Chuyển động 24h (Moving 24h) Programme on Việt Nam Television (VTV) is one of the donors inspired by little girl An.
He registered to donate his cornea after he dies, Lao động ( The Labour) newspaper reported.
Phúc said that he was strongly inspired by the life and brave action of An.
He added that he wanted to help change the ideas about death which made people hesitate to donate their organs.
“People believe that if some one died without part of their body, they would be disabled in the after-death world, but no evidence has proved it so far,” Phúc said.
Phúc said that the law of Cause and Effect in Buddhism states that people will get what they give.
“So, let’s do good things for others,” Phúc said.
On February 27, the National Coordinating Center for Human Organ Transplantation in Hà Nội received Võ Thanh Hải from the Việt Nam Academy of Military Technology and his wife Trần Thị Thanh Huyền who came to register to donate their organs after death.
They had both decided to register to donate organs after reading about An’s cornea donation.
According to the organ transplant centre, communication activities that call for and encourage people to donate organs face a major difficulty as donors don’t want their names to be public.
Families of donors even have to suffer notoriety that they “sell” organs for money.
Meanwhile, the demand for donated organs is very high in Việt Nam. There are about 6,000 people nationwide who need a kidney transplant. Some 3,000 blind people with cornea-related diseases need cornea replacement.
As of last year, over 11,000 people had registered to donate their organs after death or when they are brain dead. This compares to zero donors in 2013. However, this is still a limited number, given the population of more than 90 million. — VNS