Brain-dead organ donor saves six people’s lives

VietNamNet Bridge – Cao Thị Ngan lost a son, but gained six other children to call her mother.

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Cao Thi Ngan (right) and Tran Thi Hau, an organ recipient, like mother and daughter. — Photo

She had to deal with her intense grief and the Vietnamese tradition of burying the dead intact when took the decision to donate her brain-dead son’s organs to people needing organs to survive.

Since the decision was taken, Ngan has longed to the people who received her son’s organs, to make sure that they are healthy and feeling that her son is still alive.

Her dream was realised last Thursday, the first anniversary of her son’s death, at her home in Ha Noi’s Quoc Oai District.

There was a lot of crying, hugging and holding hands as the organ recipients and their families had lunch together, reminiscing about the circumstances that brought them together.

They all called Ngan “mother,” saying they considered her as the one who’d given birth to them.

“My son died but his death was not meaningless. He has saved the lives of many people. It was on this day last year that his funeral was held. The Military Hospital 103 gave him the honour of a martyr’s funeral,” she told the Suc khoe va Doi song (Health and Life) newspaper.

Ngan said she would never forget the fateful morning of July 27, when Ha Noi was hit by a tropical storm and she received a call from a relative telling her that her son, Trinh Dinh Vang, had broken his arms after falling from a second floor balcony.

At that time, she was working as a domestic help for a family in Ha Noi. She tried to call another son, Vang’s elder brother. Afraid that she would not endure the shock, he told her: “Vang is OK. He has just had his arms broken.” He asked her to go home, telling her it was not necessary for her to visit Vang at Military Hospital 103.

Her heart burning with the feeling that her son’s life was in danger, Ngan caught a bus to the hospital immediately. Seeing her son lying motionless on the bed with a crack on his head, she found it difficult to breathe as doctors told her that he was brain dead.

A doctor had then invited Ngan and her other two sons to his room. After expressing his sympathy for the family’s loss, he told her that many people suffering from liver and kidney failure needed transplants. Ngan and her sons refused.

Ngan was in misery, waiting for a miracle to bring her son back to her, for him to tell her that he loved her, as he often did. But it did not happen, and she had to face the reality that he would never wake up again. She remembered what the doctor had told her: “If Vang’s organs were donated, parts of his body would still live on in others.”

She also saw many people standing silently in the corridor, near her son’s room, with anxious looks on their faces. No one talked to her, but their eyes seemed to be pleading for something. Then she knew that they were relatives of persons suffering organ failure, facing the prospect of losing the patients without transplant.

As a mother, her heart was in pain and she felt that those people would have the same feeling. Later that night, Ngan signed a letter agreeing to donate her son’s heart, liver, kidney and cornea.

It was a very brave decision. Many people in Viet Nam refuse to give consent for donating their relatives’ organs, since there is a strong belief that people must be “intact” when they are buried.

“It was a hard choice. No mother wants organs to be removed from their children’s bodies. However, I accepted, as I knew that my decision would help save the lives of six other people and bring happiness to their relatives,” she said.

Thanks to Ngan’s decision, four transplant surgeries were carried out that night. All the organ recipients have recovered very well and their health is getting better.

The person who received her son’s heart was Nguyen Nam Tien, 38, of Quang Binh Province. He was diagnosed with non-compaction cardiomyopathy, a rare disease which causes breath difficulty and he constantly need emergency treatment. Doctors had predicted that he had just months to live without a heart transplant.

After the transplant, Tien has returned to his work as a soldier with Viet Nam Coast Guard Region II.

The two kidney recipients are Tran Thi Hau, 48, from Lang Son Province and Vu Xuan Cuong, 51, from Son La Province. Both of them suffered from chronic kidney failure and had to have dialysis for a long time before they underwent the transplant surgery.

“Having suffered the disease since 2008, my life seemed attached to the dialysis machine,” Hau said.

“”Now, I feel the freedom.  I no longer have to stay at home all day and carry a few liters of fluid [for dialysis filter] around me. To have a stable health like today, I am grateful to mother Ngan,” she said.

Inspired by Ngan’s action, Hau has also registered to donate her organs after her death.


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