At the time of writing, more than 660,000 people have died around the world from COVID-19. New cases are surfacing every day while scientists and medical professionals battle to understand this deadly virus.
Our news channels and social media platforms are flooded with bad news from around the globe, so today we’re bringing you something a little more positive. This is the story of the British pilot who defied all the odds and survived a near-fatal brush with COVID-19.
Global Media Frenzy
Stephen Cameron from Scotland found himself at the center of a global media frenzy when he became Vietnam’s 91st COVID-19 patient. The 42-year-old pilot, who works for Vietnam Airlines, arrived in Vietnam in early February after landing a new role with the national carrier. He later spent an evening at a popular bar in Ho Chi Minh City in the south of the country and tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-March along with several other patrons of that bar.
Stephen’s condition soon deteriorated, and he spent more than two months on life support in a Ho Chi Minh City hospital. For 68 days, Stephen was on a ventilator, which is thought to be a longer stretch than any patient in his home nation. Local doctors said that he was the sickest patient they’d had to treat during the country’s first coronavirus outbreak.
His condition was so serious, in fact, that his lungs were non-functional and up to 90% damaged. Doctors were so concerned for Stephen’s survival that they actually considered giving him a lung transplant in their efforts to save his life.
Thumbs-up for Doctors
Stephen miraculously woke from a coma in late-May and started showing small signs of improvement. He managed a thumbs up for a doctor and a short trip to a balcony for his first dose of sunshine in months.
After four months of hospitalization, Stephen was discharged in early-July and was flown to London almost immediately on a special repatriation flight accompanied by three doctors. Vietnamese media reported Stephen’s medical bill as being $150,000 in total, which demonstrates the commitment that the country’s health service made to keep him alive against all the odds.
Stephen has been reported as saying “I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of the Vietnamese people, the dedication and professionalism of the doctors and nurses." He also noted that his chances of survival might have been lower in any other country in the world, due to the fact that Vietnam has reported zero deaths since the outbreak began.
Tran Thanh Linh, the deputy head of ICU at the hospital that treated Stephen, said “huge effort and energy” had gone into saving his life. The country’s best equipment was made available and the Vietnamese public showed incredible selflessness with almost 60 donation offers surfacing when news spread that Stephen might have needed a lung transplant.
Mandatory Face Masks
At the time of writing, Vietnam is experiencing a second wave of community transmission and the country’s total cases now stand at 459 with 369 recovered. Comparatively, the US has now reported 4.51 million cases and 153,000 deaths.
One clear difference between the two nations’ responses to COVID-19 is the weaning of face masks. Masks are routinely worn in many Asian countries, and the Vietnamese government chose to make them mandatory in public places at the very beginning of the outbreak.
Wearing a face mask has been proven by various studies to help stop transmission and until a vaccine is found, it remains one of the best ways for us to protect our communities from COVID-19.