H. is getting better every day. — Photo Kenh 14
by Minh Nhân
HÀ NỘI — Lê Tuyết H. was patient number 19. She caught the disease from her niece who had flown back to Việt Nam from the UK in March.
What followed for the 64-year-old woman was a catalogue of life-threatening illnesses including falling into a coma and three heart attacks.
But H. wasn’t ready to go, and although she is still being treated in hospital in Hà Nội, her condition has improved greatly.
She has also officially recovered from the virus, after testing negative for COVID-19 on three occasions.
“I was really afraid because I didn’t know why my body had become like that,” H. said.
“I only knew about my situation after I woke up from the coma and the doctors explained that this disease is really horrible.
“At first, I don’t know much about COVID-19. I am just a housewife so I stay at home most days and didn’t understand this disease.”
The woman, who lives in HCM City, had visited the capital during Tết (Lunar New Year).
It was during her visit to see other members of her family she came into close contact with patient 17, her niece.
Her relative had made headlines after becoming the first person to test positive in what was known as the ‘second phase’ of infections following 22 days without any reported cases in the country.
The 26-year-old flew back to Việt Nam on March 2 but it appears had not fully declared her medical history.
Earlier she had visited France and Italy, where at the time the virus was spiralling out of control and was the hardest hit region in the whole of Europe.
After learning she had the disease, H. was tested the following day and her results also came back positive for coronavirus at Hà Nội’s National Hospital of Tropical Diseases.
“I never thought I would get this virus,” H. added.
Most patients make a full recovery within two weeks, but not H. She began to develop severe complications a week into treatment before slipping into a coma.
She was having trouble breathing and showing signs of acute respiratory distress syndrome, so she was moved to intensive care.
On April 8, a month after contracting coronavirus, she suffered three cardiac arrests. Doctors battled to save her life and eventually, on the 47th attempt at resuscitation, her heart began to beat once more.
Dr Mạc Duy Hưng of ICU of National Hospital of Tropical Diseases said: “When the patient moved to ICU, she had acute respiratory distress syndrome, so we had to use a ventilator and carry out extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
“Then she suffered the cardiac arrests, all the doctors tried their best to save her.
“When her heart stopped, we thought the worst. Then it pumped again and we felt very lucky, but still couldn’t rest. At 1am none of the doctors on that shift could sleep.”
H.'s son and caregivers help her in a physical therapy session. — Photo Kenh 14
Although H. has tested negative for coronavirus for three times and can meet her sons, she is still weak and can’t walk on her own. But she is very happy that she overcame a life or death situation.
Her oldest son, Lưu Ngọc, said he and his brother travelled from HCM City to Hà Nội a week after their mother tested positive.
But because of her condition, they were not allowed to see her.
“When we weren’t allowed to visit my mother, every day I talked to the doctors about my mother’s condition,” said Ngọc.
“Because my mother has been in bed for so long, her limbs had not moved much so her muscles became weaker.
“She will need to exercise to improve her health. Today is the third day my mother has undergone physical therapy.
As for his mother, after her traumatic ordeal, she is grateful to be alive today to tell her story.
Although COVID-19 has been shown to affect people of all ages, the elderly and those with underlining medical conditions, like H., are especially vulnerable to the virus.
“Sometimes, my relatives and friends call to encourage me. God blessed me so I am alive. I am so grateful for the doctors’ efforts to save me,” H. told Tổ Quốc newspaper.
“Even though I've tested negative for the virus, I am too weak to go home.”
After cheating death many times, H. is confident that she can make a full recovery and be reunited with her family soon.
“I believe I have enough energy to get well and get on my feet by myself. I have recovered 70 per cent, and even though my heart, lungs and kidneys have been affected by the virus”. — VNS