“How is mom?” was the first thing 22-year-old Diệp Hữu Lộc asked his father when he regained consciousness after a major operation to transplant his liver into his mother’s body, the first of its kind performed on adults in southern Việt Nam.
His face was beaming with pride for helping prolong his mother’s life.
After 13 hours of surgery, the first adult liver transplant in southern region ended in success at Hồ Chí Minh City’s Chợ Rẫy Hospital on October 12.
The recipient was 53-year-old Cung Thị Kim Đính from the Central Highlands province of Dak Nông, who had suffered from liver failure since 2010, and the donor was Lộc, her youngest son, who is a senior in information technology at the Hồ Chí Minh City (HCMC) Foreign Language and Informatics University.
Lộc’s father, Diệp Bảo Hà, 53, was hugely relieved to learn that the most critical, dangerous phase of his wife and son’s ordeal was finally over.
According to Chợ Rẫy hospital, at 6:30 pm on Oct 13, the tube from Lộc’s stomach was removed, while his mother recovered and her liver began to function, though she was still on a respiratory machine.
Đính needs further care for around two weeks, while her son will continue to be closely monitored in the isolation room for 7-10 days and will be discharged in around a month.
After 6-8 weeks, Lộc will have a regenerated liver that will be 60-80 percent of his original liver, according to Chợ Rẫy doctors.
Generally speaking, a liver donation won’t affect the donor’s health afterwards; yet there exists the chance of complications due to inflammation, they noted.
Acting on their wish, a door was opened between the mother’s and her son’s rooms so that they could see each other recuperating.
One interesting thing is that the recipient has three spleens, including two subsidiary ones, while a normal person has only one.
Doctors from Chợ Rẫy hospital said that this is a rare condition, with the ratio being 1/100,000.
A dedicated son
According to Lộc’s father, he is a quiet, introverted, independent young man.
Diệp Hữu Lộc’s (1st, right) 4-member family
Right before Lộc was taken into the isolation room to get ready for the operation, Diệp Thị Phương Ngọc, Lộc’s older sister, asked him in a whisper if he was afraid of being in great pain.
Lộc nodded but said:
“Don’t worry, sis.
My love for mom will get me through this ordeal.”
Ngọc commented that Lộc, though still young, is indeed the family’s second man who always takes good care of his mother and sister.
According to Ngọc, her mother, Đính, suffered months of torment before finally reaching the decision to undergo this momentous operation and receive the liver from her son.
“I haven’t given you two anything.
Also, I don’t know how many more years I can live, so I really don’t have the heart to take away a part of your body,”
Đính sadly said to her son.
Despite several consultations with her doctor and much encouragement and consensus from her family, Đính once came to see her doctor on her own to say she wouldn’t go through with the operation.
Đính was diagnosed with liver disease 13 years ago.
Her illness degenerated and she had to be hospitalized several times as Lộc began his first year at university.
Concerned that his mother was too frail to wait for her turn for checkups, whenever he learned that she was coming to HCMC Lộc would go to Chợ Rẫy hospital at 4:00 in the morning to get the early order number so that his mother wouldn’t have to wait.
Đức Nhạc, one of Lộc’s university classmates, recalled that Lộc often confided to him about his family, particularly his mother’s illness, and he had also told some of his classmates about the operation prior to hospitalization.
“After much careful consideration, I have no reason to procrastinate,”
Nhạc quoted Lộc as saying.
“Faced with life and death, one has to try the last option.
If not, they’ll feel full of remorse later on, and can’t undo it,”
Lộc calmly told his friends.
“I think everyone in Lộc’s shoes is supposed to act like him.
It’s a child’s filial duty towards his/her parents,” said Lộc’s class monitor, Nguyễn Thành Luân.
“However, not a few people nowadays behave improperly or harshly towards their aging parents, or even maltreat them.”
“So Lộc’s act is truly admirable and praiseworthy.
This good deed comes from his passionate love for his mother, his willingness to share agony with her and his dogged determination to save her life,”
Nguyễn Ngọc Bảo, Lộc’s form teacher during his three high school years, said that Lộc is the emotional type.
“Judging by the way he takes care of his seriously ill mother, we all know that he’s a very devoted son,”
Meanwhile, Trương Công Thi, a neighbor of Lộc’s family, noted that Lộc’s personality has been shaped by his exemplary parents.
Lộc’s father is an official of the Dak Mil commune’s Bureau of Education and his wife is principal of a kindergarten school.
They have set a shining example for their two children with their respectable lifestyles.
“So I think it’s no surprise that Lộc decided to donate his liver to his mother,”
According to Nguyễn Thị Nhung, a local seamstress who has known Lộc’s family for years, Lộc is a modest, plain, loving young man.
“When he was back home from school, he always helped his mother with household chores and often took her out for a change,”
The first of its kind in southern Việt Nam
This is the first time Vietnamese doctors have conducted a liver transplant surgery on adults in the southern region of Việt Nam.
The first adult liver transplant operation in Southern Việt Nam
According to Vietnamnet newswire, Vietnamese doctors have so far conducted 17
They did most of the work, while also receiving assistance from their South Korean counterparts from ASAN Medical Center.
According to Vietnamnet newswire, Vietnamese doctors have so far conducted 17 liver transplant operations on children.
After this first transplant, which was performed thanks to a healthy donor, a liver transplant operation involving a brain-dead donor is to be conducted, Chợ Rẫy doctors said.
Liver transplantation helps save the lives of many patients with serious liver diseases, even cancer, they added.
The cost of each transplant operation is more than VND1 billion (US$48,000), which will be funded by the Health Ministry and Chợ Rẫy Hospital.
This cost in Singapore and other countries is 2-4 times higher.
“Liver transplantation on adults is not so technically challenging, but the major difficulties include the exorbitant cost and a serious shortage of liver donation,”
Dân Trí quoted Dr. Nguyễn Tiến Quyết, director of Việt Đức hospital, which has performed several liver transplants on children, as saying.
In addition, within the first 30 days after the operation, patients have to take drugs which cost up to $US 40,000 in total, Quyết added.
Patients will also have to pay $US 7,000-8,000 each year for the next few years.
Quyếtt added that in the world approximately 60% of adult liver recipients have their life prolonged by more than five years after the operation, with some even living up to another 20 years.