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Vietnamese surgeon refuses offer to work overseas to contribute to homeland

Saturday, February 16, 2019, 21:34 GMT+7
Vietnamese surgeon refuses offer to work overseas to contribute to homeland
An up-close portrait of orthopedist Nguyen The Hoang. Photo: Viet Dung / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen The Hoang, an acclaimed orthopedist whose practical skills and academic knowledge have earned him two teaching offers from a prestigious German university, chooses to devote his talents to Vietnamese patients.

Hoang is now vice medical director of 108 Military Central Hospital, a renowned medical facility in Hanoi known for successfully conducting orthopedic surgeries that had never been attempted in Vietnam.

Saying ‘no’ to no cases

Tran Duc Lam, a resident of the northern city of Hai Phong, thought he had lost any chances of living a normal life after a traffic accident at age seven.

Though countless hospital admissions were able to save Lam’s vital organs, doctors were unable to heal his several injured legs.

But thanks to the intervention of Hoang, Lam could say goodbye to the painful past, and enjoy the bliss of having an endearing family of his own.

Over the course of ten years from the 1991 accident, Lam visited several hospitals and was examined by a handful of foreign specialists he hoped could fix his legs, but each consultation yielded the same opinion: amputation.

Lam decided to undergo a surgery with Hoang in 2001, hoping the last ditch effort would help save his legs.  

Determined not to just save the patient, but to give him a chance at life, Hoang and his colleagues came up with an interesting medical theory of “circular renewal” – an approach aimed to resuscitating blood vessels into functionality.

The operation was a huge success, and after ten years of pain, Lam could finally walk again. This year marked the 18th anniversary of the ‘new legs’ Hoang had gifted Lam.

Nguyen Manh Hung’s legs post-surgery is seen in this photo provided by the hospital.
Nguyen Manh Hung’s legs post-surgery is seen in this photo provided by the hospital.

In another remarkable case, Nguyen Manh Hung was born in the northern province of Nam Dinh with legs to small and weak to carry his weight.  He spent the first part of his life solely dependent on his arms for mobility.

Despite his circumstances, Hung still made his schools honor roll and went on to find employment. 

But even with his success, his desire to walk on his own feet still followed him, especially after he and his father were caught in a traffic accident which worsened his situation.

Fortunately, Hoang was the surgeon asked to handle the situation.

“The case was assigned to me and all doctors I consulted with gave the nod for amputation,” he recalled.

“Never before have I seen a more severe case of malformation.”

But even so, Hoang refused to throw in the towel. “There had to be a chance I could do something, no matter how slim,” he affirmed.

However, he was only allowed to operate on one leg since many feared a full-scale surgery would result in failure.

As a veteran orthopedist, Hoang and his crew began drafting a medical prognosis right away and planned out a sound approach on how to not only attend to the immediate threat, but also to balance out the tendons so that the patient would later be able to undergo physiotherapy.

The operation was carried out in 2018, going on for five hours straight and was considered a success.

Obviously, Hung’s family was overjoyed – not only their son was aptly treated, but his birth defects seemed to have vanished into thin air.

For the first time in his life, Hung’s wish to walk didn’t seem so far-fetched.

After a week had passed from the first surgery, Hoang decided to operate on the other leg.

But this one proved more challenge as there was a 20cm difference in length between the two.

Undeterred, Hoang utilized the most cutting-edge equipment alongside modern surgical science to both treat the malformation, and perform limb-lengthening in one go.

At the moment, Hung’s condition should allow him to eventually walk normally after therapy.

According to Hoang, he should be able walk in about six months.

The severely deformed, root-like legs of Nguyen Manh Hung pre-surgery is seen in this photo provided by the hospital.
The severely deformed, root-like legs of Nguyen Manh Hung pre-surgery is seen in this photo provided by the hospital.

Opportunity declined in favor of the needy

When the young Nguyen The Hoang witnessed firsthand the pain stemming from lost limbs of Vietnamese war invalids the idea to become an orthopedist seemed natural.

The notion was further ingrained within his mindset the moment Hoang was transferred to work at 108 Military Central Hospital.

Under the influences and teachings of his predecessors, Hoang came to realize that being an orthopedist is not to simply cut off patients’ limbs, but to give them a chance at a normal life.

As evident by the cases of Lam and Hung, Hoang not only helped his patients turn over a new leaf, but also contributed to society.

It was also those cases that compelled him to stay in Vietnam.

In 2006, Hoang was offered the opportunity to further his knowledge in Germany. In 2008, after completing a research project with flying colors, he was awarded the academic rank of Professor.

A year later, he was extended an invitation to remain in Germany to continue his research and lectures.

But Hoang politely declined in favor of going back to his country to continue providing treatment.

Hoang is seen during a surgical operation at 108 Military Central Hospital. Photo: Viet Dung / Tuoi Tre
Hoang is seen during a surgical operation at 108 Military Central Hospital. Photo: Viet Dung / Tuoi Tre

In 2013, once again he received an offer to become a lecturing professor at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, a prominent university in Germany, after getting bestowed the Humboldt Award for distinguished research project, particularly the theory of “circular renewal” he applied on patient Lam’s case back in Vietnam.

But Hoang declined the offer again, saying he just wants to remain in Vietnam to provide help and relief to many more anguishing patients.

“Besides, my parents are no longer at their peak now, and my friends are all here,” Hoang expressed.

Though the path ahead will not be any less arduous than it already is now, there is no telling Hoang will back down anytime soon – as long as he can help, can contribute to his fatherland, he will press on.

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Lan Anh - Duy Khoi


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