Fisherman Le Quang Minh from the central Vietnamese province of Binh Dinh has experienced the challenges doctors faced to save him on islands in the Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) journalists at his home in Hoai Hai Commune of Hoai Nhon District last month and recalled what he had been through four months before.
Despite nearly recovering, Minh can now only speak in a low voice and do light work.
Heading for the open sea on a fishing boat for around ten days, Minh said he began feeling pain in his upper jaw, but “any fisherman tries his best at open sea to work because an early return costs hundreds of millions of dong for fuel and fishing chances of other crew members.” (VND100 million = US$4,650)
After another 15 days, he had a high fever and struggled to breathe, eat, and drink since his jaw and neck were swollen.
His face was swollen too and he could not stand the situation.
The boat had to collect its fishing nets and speed toward Truong Sa Lon Island, where medical facilities are the most modern and the staff is on permanent duty.
After taking X-rays and some tests, Minh was diagnosed with an abscess at his right jaw corner.
Minh was recovering well five days after a small operation to remove pus, but suddenly it became hard for him to breathe again.
An ultrasound revealed that Minh had pus at the pleura in both lungs, but the facilities and medicines at the hospital on the island could not make it possible to conduct an operation to remove it.
Pus covered both of his lungs and spilled over his rib cage and abdomen and doctors had to race against time to maintain his breathing, which could halt any time without manual intervention by medical staff members since his lungs could not work on their own.
Late one night, the situation worsened as even a respirator could not help.
After diagnosing Minh through data sent by satellites, doctors at the 175 Army Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City asked to take the patient to the mainland.
A helicopter was assigned to leave for Truong Sa Lon that night but it could not fly because of heavy rain and strong winds.
Manual interventions were made throughout the night to maintain his breathing rate.
“Doctors on Truong Sa Lon intervened not only with medical knowledge but also with devotion.
“Some held the hands of the patient, others massaged his belly and kept on encouraging him so that Minh wouldn’t give it up,” said Doctor Vu Son Giang from the 175 hospital.
The following morning, the patient was taken by air to the 175 hospital, where 1.7 liters of pus was sucked out of his body. Dr. Giang said he had never seen a patient survive a similar case.
Le Quang Minh with a big scar on his neck after an operation in Truong Sa months ago. Photo: Tuoi Tre Medicine as precious as gold
Medicine is always a luxury among what is sent from the mainland to the islands in Truong Sa.
During transport at sea, each parcel of medicines is watched over by a soldier who uses their body to prevent any impact on the substance brought about by high waves and winds in the open sea.
“It is miserable for our soldiers to protect medicine during transport. It is harder than transporting gold on the mainland,” said Major Dang Ngoc Nam, head of An Bang Island in Truong Sa.
Witnessing the way Captain Le Hai Nam, head of the An Bang clinic, cares for medicine helps one understand how valuable it is to them.
He wipes each drop of water on the medicine covered with a tight face and slowly opens the cover. He only smiles when he sees the medicine is intact.
“On islands, the lives of patients are directly proportional to the amount of medicine available,” Nam said.
Medicine is kept in different ways on the islands of An Bang, Da Lat, Thuyen Chai, or Truong Sa Lon due to different weather conditions. It can be kept in holes dug under the ground, or stored under numerous layers of covers in closed rooms.
Most users of the medicine in the open sea are fishermen, not soldiers, who strictly follow physical exercise regimes and rarely fall sick.
In Truong Sa now, army soldiers and officials are not really ‘isolated’ from their families as before thanks to mobile network coverage from operator Viettel. So, they can chat with their families every day.
However, they have not been able to go home to visit the mainland, said Captain Nguyen Van Nhiem on Da Tay Island. Nhiem said he and other officials and soldiers have been far from them for three or more years.
Captain Nguyen Van Nhiem (L) and his brother-in-law on Da Tay Island in Truong Sa. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Đăng ký: VietNam News