British pilot, symbol of Vietnam's pandemic COVID-19 success, to return home
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Vietnam’s most seriously ill COVID-19 patient, a British pilot who at one point seemed close to death, left hospital on Saturday on his way home after a dramatic recovery that attracted national attention.
The case of Stephen Cameron, a pilot for national carrier Vietnam Airlines, became a sensation in Vietnam, where a combination of targeted testing and an aggressive quarantine programme has kept its coronavirus tally to an impressively low 370 cases, and zero deaths.
“The odds say that I shouldn’t be here, so I can only thank everybody here for what they’ve done,” Cameron said, leaving hospital in a wheelchair and flanked by doctors holding flowers.
Little more than six weeks ago, they warned that Cameron would need a double transplant for his lungs, which were only functioning at around 10%.
But after nearly four months in hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City, including 10 weeks on a ventilator, the Vietnam Airlines pilot from Motherwell, Scotland, was discharged on Saturday and was due to fly back to the UK within hours. Cameron’s illness and the highly publicised efforts of Vietnam’s doctors to save him became a symbol in Vietnam of the country’s successful fight against the virus.
At one point, medical officials said Cameron, initially identified only as “Patient 91”, had just 10% of his lung capacity and was in critical condition.
With the vast majority of Vietnam’s COVID-19 patients already recovered, the news of a potential first death prompted a national outpouring of support, with dozens of people coming forward as potential lung donors.
State doctors turned the volunteers down, saying donated lungs should come from brain-dead donors.
But under round-the clock care, Cameron improved. By June he no longer required a lung transplant and was taken off life support.
Vietnam spent over $200,000 treating him. Vietnamese doctors will accompany Cameron on the special flight back to Britain, state media said.
“As soon as I get fit, I’m coming back,” said Cameron. “I’m still a pilot - my license has lapsed, that’s all.”