Nguyen Duy Hai, 32, has fully recovered after the renowned Chicago-based surgeon, McKay McKinnon, removed his 180-lb tumor on January 5.
Nguyen Duy Hai feels a cold shiver run through his body every time he watches footage of Dr. McKay McKinnon removing his 82-kilogram (180 lb) tumor three months ago in a historic surgery.
He was discharged from FV Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday (April 10) after making a full recovery and a new future hopefully awaits the 32-year-old from Da Lat thanks to some kind doctors and Samaritans.
“I feel like I am flying. For more than five years I had to be in bed,” he told doctors and more than 100 journalists at a press briefing during his discharge.
Hai has a genetic disorder neurofibromatosis type I (NF-1), formerly known as von Recklinghausen disease, and the tumor appeared in his right leg when he was four. It continued to grow and forced him to quit school in sixth grade.
His right leg was amputated 15 years ago with his consent but the tumor came back.
Born to a poor family, Hai struggled to learn mobile phone repair to help his family but had to stop after six months because the tumor became too big.
“I will take a rest for some time and then resume my training,” he said.
On January 5 his tumor was successfully removed by Dr. McKinnon and a staff of 28 doctors, nurses, and technicians in a 12-hour surgery broadcast live by the US-based Morningstar Entertainment.
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The renowned Chicago-based surgeon performed the surgery for free.
The cost of the treatment totaled nearly VND900 million (US$43,400). The Red Cross in Da Lat contributed VND110 million, other donors gave VND142 million, and FV Hospital provided the rest.
Before the surgery McKinnon had said there was only a 50 percent possibility of success, but Hai decided to go ahead because “lying in bed all day was just like I was dead.”
Dr. Phan Van Thai of FV Hospital said Hai’s post-operative care was as critical as the surgery itself because Hai’s wound was large – 25 cm by 35 cm – and required skin grafting, he had lost much blood during the surgery, and he had been undernourished.
“We had to feed him 3,000 kilocalories a day. He was 40 kg after the tumor was removed. Now he is 49 kg.”
Then the physical therapy was expected to be difficult because Hai’s spinal column had been severely bent due to the large tumor.
“However, his patience in doing the exercises which facilitated the recovery surprised us. He had a really strong desire to stand up and walk again,” Thai said.
Another surprise was that Hai’s health indicators were normal in just three months because he was aware of a similar case that took nine months for full recovery, he said.
Hai’s mother, Nguyen Thi Cho Con, 61, said she did not expect a famous surgeon to come all the way from the US to help her son.
“This shows human love abounds just like water of the sea,” she said.
Hai thinks about other disadvantaged people like him.
“I wish Dr. McKinnon could save them like he saved my life.”
FV Hospital’s CEO Dr. Jean-Marcel Guillon said they are looking for a philanthropist who could get a prosthetic leg for Hai so that he could walk without crutches.
Vietweek reported about two more cases of rare tumors in the past week, and Dr. McKinnon has said he can be of help again.
Nguyen Thi Loan, seven, of the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong was transferred to the HCMC Children’s Hospital No. 2 on March 10 for diagnosis and treatment of her abnormally large left leg.
When she was three, her left leg grew rapidly and had many tiny pimples that often bled.
Her mother Nguyen Thi Tam said the girl could only drink milk and eat a little porridge over the past several days. Loan also has a tumor in her buttocks that requires surgery.
Her parents are daily laborers who have struggled to raise Loan and two other children, an 11-year-old son and five-year-old daughter, both in normal condition.
Le Thanh Vu, 26, had giant tumors on his left arm and back for more than 20 years
The other case is that of Le Thanh Vu, 26, of the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang who has giant tumors on his left arm and back.
Vu weighs 50 kg but his mother Mui thinks half of the weight is due to the tumors, including three large ones on the back.
Though he cannot use his left hand, Vu has been eking out a living selling lottery tickets since his father died a few years ago.
Vu said the giant tumors make it really difficult to do simple things like wearing a shirt.
Dr. McKinnon said Vu is already known to doctors at Cho Ray Hospital.
“He suffers from neurofibromatosis and it is possible that I may be able to help him surgically some time.”
As for Loan, McKinnon said she could probably be treated with injections of sclerosing agents such as Bleomycin.
“I have not seen any scans of this patient or learnt about her actual treatment history from her doctors.”