A Leading Expert in Organ Transplant in Vietnam

With two outfits in two different colors- green of the army and white of the medical worker, Associate Prof., Dr., Major General Hoang Manh An is also the People’s Doctor and Director of the Military Hospital 103.  He always has two spirits in him- the bravery of an army officer in a green uniform and the kind heart of a medical doctor in a white blouse. Speaking of this respected medical doctor we cannot help recalling the stories associated with the historic case of an organ transplant.

Vietnam’s organ transplant ability was recognised after the first successful kidney transplant over a decade ago. Yet, on March 1, 2014, Vietnam witnessed a new event of historic significance, which was when the first multi-organ (kidney-pancreas) transplant was successfully carried out, marking a new step of development of Vietnam’s ability to transplant organs.

It is because of this, that we wanted to meet the “commander” of this historic surgery case in order to hear and understand the difficulties of the person who had created such a new step of development in Vietnam’s organ transplant field.

Dr. Hoang Manh An told us the organ transplantee was Senior-Lieutenant Pham Thai Huyen, who had worked at the Military Command in Son La Province and suffered from serious diabetes with kidney failure of the second degree, thus making him unable to control his glycaemia and frequently fainted. He was, therefore, admitted into the hospital for treatment.

Confronted with such a serious case, Dr. Hoang Manh An joined talented specialists of Military Hospital 103 in working out three options for this important surgery case. One was to invite specialists from Japan and Belgium to Vietnam for the organ transplant immediately after the donated organs were available. The second was to cooperate with first-rank organ transplant centres nationwide for the operation. Last was to perform the organ transplant with a contingent of medical doctors and assistant doctors from Military Hospital 103.

People’s Doctor Hoang Manh An, Director of Military Hospital 103,
is a leading expert in organ transplant in Vietnam. Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

Major General Hoang Manh An chairs a regular meeting at Military Hospital 103. Photo: File

Major General Hoang Manh An at a blood donation festival. Photo: File

Dr. Hoang Manh An gives medical treatment to the ethnic people groups
in Muong Va Commune, Sop Cop District, Son La Province. Photo: File

Donated organs in Vietnam are not always available so when organs were fortunately donated from a traffic accident victim, Dr. Hoang Manh An made a bold decision to conduct the operation with the contingent of medical doctors and assistant doctors of Military Hospital 103. Actually, he had no other choice because he knew that the donated kidney and pancreas would become unusable waiting for foreign specialists. He was fully aware of the difficulties and risks if the organ transplants were carried out without foreign specialists.

When making the decision he faced two situations. If the transplant was successful, the patient would live, if not, he would be regularly sent to hospitals for chronic kidney failure treatment and could die at any time. “Knowing this, we conducted the operation with an extremely high resolve of not 100% but 120%,” confided Dr. An.

Perhaps, with his high sense of responsibility as well as his strong belief that the patient could return to a normal life, Dr. An and his surgery team of 150 physicians and assistant doctors of Military Hospital 103 successfully concluded the historic surgery after 13 hours.

Yet, three days after the operation, the patient’s health deteriorated with negative developments such as urgent pancreas inflation, pancreas enzyme hypercrinia, fluid-filled abdominal membrance and pleura cavities. Therefore, a large medical team was put on regular duty at the patient’s bed-side and consultations were held almost daily. Dr. An recalled, “For three months after the operation, doctors took turns for round the clock duty by the patient’s bedside to closely watch for any change in the patient’s condition hoping that all the efforts in the organ transplant would not become meaningless”.

Dr. Hoang Manh An performs a kidney transplant at Military Hospital 103. Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

The first case of heart transplant in Vietnam is implemented at Military Hospital 103. Photo: File

Dr. Hoang Manh An calls on a patient after transplant surgery. Photo: File

Although Dr. Hoang Manh An is always busy, he still spare time following closely patients at the hospital. Photo: File

Listening to Dr. An recalling the surgery process, we thought of it as a battle with Hoang Manh An as the commander with other physicians and assistant doctors as army officers and combatants fighting on the medical front to get the patient back. As a result, the operation proceeded in an extremely strict and disciplinary manner with the army’s style and discipline.

At last, after their tireless efforts, this first multi-organ transplant was successful, bringing pride not only to the contingent of medical workers of Military Hospital 103 but also to the entire health service of Vietnam. It was a pride full of humanitarian values brought about by no one else but Dr. Hoang Manh An.

Earlier in 2010, he successfully performed the first heart transplant in Vietnam, which created an important landmark in the constant development of Vietnam’s organ transplant field.

Though he wears two different dress for two different positions as an army officer and a physician, Dr. Hoang Manh An, who is also the People’s Doctor, has left deep imprints in the hearts of his colleagues and patients.

Story: Thao Vy – Photos: Trinh Van Bo & files