Thursday, December 3 2020


Vietnamese doctor on the frontline against COVID-19

Update: October, 26/2020 - 19:08


Dr Nguyễn Trung Cấp, deputy director of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, checks a critically-ill patient. — VNA/VNS Photo

Tạ Nguyên

HÀ NỘI — Dr Nguyễn Trung Cấp and his colleagues at the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hà Nội shaved their heads during their long stay at the hospital fighting COVID-19.

“At that time, we had to stay for many days in quarantine. Everyone's hair was long and we did not know how to get a neat haircut. So we told each other to shave, which was a fast and simple way.

“We asked someone from outside to send us a trimmer and we helped each other,” Dr Cấp, who was head of the Emergency Department, said.

The National Hospital for Tropical Diseases is the biggest hospital for infectious diseases in the north and treated hundreds of COVID-19 patients.

When the pandemic reached its peak in Việt Nam, doctors and nurses at the hospital, who are the frontline medical staff, had to work day and night to save the most critical patients.

In October, when the number of COVID-19 patients decreased, Dr Cấp was still busy with administering treatment, hoping to improve their conditions.

Also this month, Dr Nguyễn Trung Cấp, who has just been promoted to deputy director of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, was the only medical worker to be honoured among ten outstanding citizens of Hà Nội on the capital city’s 1,010th birthday.

In an interview with Tin Tức (News), he spoke about the award.

“In the fight against COVID-19, medical staff were excellent in every role. They have made great sacrifices. I am just one of them and feel lucky representing them to receive the award.

“As an infectious disease doctor, my daily task is to treat patients, handle serious and complex cases, and I am also involves in pandemic prevention. Like other colleagues, we [doctors at the hospital] always try to complete our tasks and this time we are lucky to be recognised,” he said.

Dr Nguyễn Trung Cấp shaved his head because he had no time for himself while in the quarantine area working day and night treating COVID-19 patients. — Photo courtesy of the doctor

Since early this year when the pandemic broke out in Việt Nam, no matter the number of cases, Dr Cấp and his colleagues have not had any time to relax.

Although Việt Nam has recorded no community infections for more than two months, doctors and nurses are still working hard to treat patients returning from overseas.

“The biggest difficulty is to cope with a new disease like COVID-19, especially when we admitted the first patients. At the early stages of COVID-19 in Việt Nam, there was not much understanding of the disease around the world, only some experiences from Wuhan (China), because it had not spread to Europe at that point,” he said.

Even in Wuhan at that time, there was not much experience in treatment. The documents are Chinese, making it quite difficult for us to learn and do research. We had to develop COVID-19 treatment plans based on an understanding of similar viruses like MERS-CoV, SARS 2008, influenza. However, the treatment methods were not always successful, requiring us to supervise patients’ symptoms and map out proper treatment, he said.

“Our biggest challenge is to change treatment therapy. In some cases if we apply treatment of influenza and SARS 2008, patients might have to undergo endotracheal intubation and receive Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO). In fact, after checking up patients’ conditions, I saw that patients did not need invasive respiratory aid.”

“It was such a brave decision. The therapy does not follow instructions in the books but when it was applied on a specific person, it was the right therapy.”

During the fight against COVID-19, Dr Cấp and his colleagues were assigned an important task they had never done before: preventing infection on a specially-arranged flight repatriating 219 Vietnamese citizens from Equatorial Guinea in July. About 100 of them were already confirmed with SARS-CoV-2 before repatriation.

The concentration of virus in an enclosed environment on the airplane challenged the doctors. As all available protective equipment did not meet the safety requirements, Dr Cấp had to upgrade and invent new equipment from what was available.

“Upon knowing that all passengers, doctors and crew members were healthy and there was no infection on the flight, we were very satisfied. Our efforts made it successful.”

Calm in all situations

Dr Nguyễn Trung Cấp impresses others with a serious, responsible and calm working manner.

When the first medical worker in Việt Nam was confirmed with COVID-19 in March, Dr Cấp received many calls asking about his health status and that of other doctors.

He replied: “Doctors and nurses are all fine. We are doing our best to treat the patients.”

The reply was short and bold, calming down the concerns from outside.

“Among COVID-19 infection cases all around the world, there are many medical staff. Facing the deadly virus, we know we are at a high risk and always do our best to comply with prevention regulations and improve protective measures to ensure safety for ourselves and others,” he said.

The doctor kept calm when critical patients died.

“Depression was our common feeling then. But I told myself instead of being depressed like everyone else, I had to encourage my colleagues to continue to work together to treat other surviving patients.

“My role at that time was to make everyone confident, to see that the patients could be successfully treated, even those with severe underlying conditions.”

“Each job has its own joy. When we have success in our work, that is our happiness. My happiness is to see patients recover. Small joys like that build up day by day, making me forget stress and fatigue. I even got used to the pressure so I no longer felt stressed.

“For me, having a little time for family, or just having a sleep is satisfying.” — VNS


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