Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — When doctors in Cần Thơ City diagnosed Phạm Thanh Nhựt with a heart defect shortly after his birth, his parents had no idea where to seek help.
The family, which had no home or assets, was living with Nhựt’s grandmother in the Mekong Delta province of Kiên Giang, surviving on unskilled manual work and an unstable income.
A year later, they heard about the Sponsoring Association for Poor Patients in Cần Thơ City, which was able to find local donors who were willing to pay for the operation to repair the wall between the left and right ventricles of Nhựt’s heart.
However, to his parents’ dismay, doctors at the HCM City University Medical Centre, where the operation took place, revealed that more operations would be necessary as the boy grew up.
Often suffering from sluggishness or exhaustion, Nhựt bravely underwent a second surgery when he was eight years old.
That surgery was paid for by VinaCapital Foundation’s Heartbeat programme, a partner of the Sponsoring Association for Poor Patients in HCM City.
Despite scars on his chest and less than perfect health, Nhựt, now 10 years old, maintained a radiant disposition, and had a final and highly successful operation two years later, also paid for by the Heartbeat programme.
In another life-threatening case, a 10-day-old infant, Nguyễn Thiên Mạnh, from an impoverished family in HCM City, was also provided free emergency heart surgery. The VNĐ200 million (US$8,500) operation was paid for by five donors contacted by the Sponsoring Association for Poor Patients in HCM City.
Record of success
For the past 25 years, the Heart Operations for Poor Children Programme of the Sponsoring Association for Poor Patients in HCM City has helped children like Mạnh and Nhựt, raising more than VNĐ410 billion ($17.6 million) to fund heart surgeries for 8,150 children with congenital heart disease across the country.
Though other non-profit associations with the same name exist in the country, such as the Sponsoring Association for Poor Patients in Cần Thơ, the groups are not affiliated and operate independently.
After the HCM City association was founded in 1994, groups around the country adopted the name and modelled their programmes after the HCM City group.
Nguyễn Hoàng Định, head of the department of cardiovascular surgery at the HCM City University Medical Centre, who has partnered with the HCM City association’s heart operation programme for 12 years, said that without its assistance, many children “would have never been diagnosed or treated”.
Under the programme, more than 8,000 life-saving heart operations for the most financially disadvantaged children across the country have been provided, according to Định.
Every year, an average of 12,000 children in Việt Nam are born with congenital heart defects, with more than half of them receiving surgery paid for wholly or partially by contributions from humanitarian programmes, he said.
Even though Định has a tight schedule of teaching, research and medical treatment, he always sets aside time for free diagnosis and treatment for poor children with heart disease.
Rad Kivette, CEO of the VinaCapital Foundation, said the HCM City association was the foundation’s first partner.
“A third of all our 7,000 surgeries have been in cooperation with the association. It’s a wonderful group of dedicated people who love children and create solid partnerships to ensure that little lives are given a healing touch every day,” Kivette said.
With the success of the 8,000th heart surgery, the Vietnam Book of Records (VietKings) awarded a Việt Nam Record to the HCM City association for providing the largest number of free heart surgeries for poor children with congenital heart disease in the country.
People with disabilities
Besides finding donors for free heart surgeries, the Sponsoring Association for Poor Patients in HCM City carries out various humanitarian programmes and activities to support poor patients and people with disabilities in the city and throughout the country.
More than 38,300 children with cleft lip or cleft palate have received free operations under the HCM City association’s For the Children’s Smile programme over the past 25 years.
In addition, the association’s Bring Sight to the Poor Blind Patients programme has helped provide eye operations for 572,000 children and adults across the country and in Laos and Cambodia.
The first Eye Bank in the southern region, established in 2012, is also part of the association’s programme to assist poor blind people. As many as 32 poor people suffering from cornea-related blindness have received cornea transplants.
And under the group’s Wheelchair programme, around 50,000 wheelchairs have been presented to people with disabilities in the country, while more than 152,000 health insurance cards have been given to the poor.
Trần Thành Long, chairman of the Sponsoring Association for Poor Patients in HCM City, said that in the past 25 years, it had mobilised more than VNĐ2.5 trillion ($107 million) to support millions of poor patients and people with disabilities.
He said that people from all walks of life, including volunteer doctors, retirees, students, enterprises and workers, had contributed their time, skills and funds to programmes for the poor. — VNS