Success for two corneal transplants from seven-year-old donor

Tuesday, 2018-02-27 11:11:32
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The corneal transplants were performed successfully on Monday afternoon, February 26.
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NDO – The corneas donated by a seven-year-old girl following her tragic death from cancer were successfully transplanted into two patients suffering from corneal scarring and a congenital corneal cataract on February 26.

Nguyen Hai An, a seven-year-old angel with the intention of donating her corneas after taking her last breath on February 22 fighting against astrocytomas, has stirred the hearts of millions of Vietnamese. Five days after An and her family decided to donate the corneas, her precious gift came to two other patients, a 73-year-old female with corneal scarring who had lived in the dark her whole life and a 42-year-old male patient born with a cataract.

Previously, doctors at the Hanoi-based National Hospital of Ophthalmology consulted and carefully considered many patients suffering from corneal diseases on the waiting list for transplantation. On February 25, they selected four patients and after the necessary tests, the above two patients were fortunate to have the appropriate index to receive a cornea from the little girl.

They are two among more than 1,000 patients waiting for corneal transplants at the hospital to date. According to statistics, up to 300,000 people require a corneal transplant, but only 100-150 people receive a cornea each year due to a national shortage.

Earlier on Thursday, many in An’s house felt deeply touched by the noble deed of the seven-year-old girl who had died of astrocytomas but decided to give her cornea to people who could use it before passing away. In the small house, the 7-year-old gave her last breath in her mother’s arms, after bravely fighting against cancer since September 2017.

A doctor removes a cornea from the seven-year-old child

Nguyen Huu Hoang, Director of the Vietnam National Coordinating Centre for Human Organ Transplantation, recalled the moment he arrived at An’s house to take her corneas as An and her parents had arranged. Hoang and his two colleagues tried to conduct the 30-minute surgery as gently as they could. An’s corneas were later preserved in the Bank of Eyes under the National Hospital of Ophthalmology before being transplanted into the waiting patients.

This was the second surgery Hoang and his colleagues had undertaken to take a cornea from a child "but the surgery still ended with the doctors in tears," he said. They felt deeply touched because An’s parents overcame the normal prejudice that people’s bodies should be complete when they die in order to donate An’s corneas, Hoang said.

Nguyen Hoang Phuc, Deputy Director of the Vietnam National Coordinating Centre for Human Organ Transplantation, said that only in the case of brain dead patients could their organs be donated. The Law on Organ Donation only permits people above 18 years old to donate their organs. "When we received the call from An’s mother wishing to donate her daughter’s organs, we were very moved but the girl was too young to legally donate organs. Therefore, she could only donate her corneas," Phuc said.

He recalled in a choked voice: "We did not hold back the tears when we came to An’s house. She was cradled peacefully in her mother’s arms like an angel. An’s mother, who had worked in the medical sector, was very calm, placing a kiss on An’s forehead before the doctors performed the operation and said "My baby, you are bringing back the light to others in need."

The little girl Nguyen Hai An, who donated her corneas after passing away, has brought back the light for others in need.

“Everyone can live a second life after he or she dies if he or she donates a part of their body to people who need it,” Phuc added.

Not only the doctors but also thousands of other people were filled the same feeling of respect and gratitude when they heard An’s story, including Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien. She sent a condolence wreath to An.

The mother's decision to donate her only child’s corneas is a true example of the most noble human value of giving for others in need even after death. An became the second-youngest person to donate a cornea in the country so far.