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Exclusive: UK pilot, symbol of Vietnam's pandemic success, returns home

Do you remember Vietnam’s most seriously ill COVID-19 patient, a British pilot who at one point seemed close to death? He finally left hospital earlier this morning, and he is currently on his way home back to the UK after a dramatic recovery that attracted national attention.

The case of Stephen Cameron, as we at Urban Kapital reported earlier in May, shedded light on the skillful and notorious 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 victims. Little expense had been saved to try to save the life of the 43-year-old man, identified in medical terms as “Patient 91”. And now, after more than 2 months of treatments and weighty medical procedures, Vietnam can proudly say that the battle to save the pilot’s life has been successfully won.

The British pilot being treated in Vietnam. Image credit WTVB

“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.

The 43-year-old Scot, who arrived in the Southeast Asian country from Britain in early March, was hospitalised three days after his first flight for Vietnam Airlines, following a visit to a bar in Ho Chi Minh City that became linked to a severe cluster of coronavirus cases.

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.

Initially, medical officials declared that Cameron 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.

Patient 91: Vietnam saved the British pilot and kept a clean Covid-19 sheet. Image credit CHO RAY HOSPITAL via BBC News

But under round-the clock care, Cameron suddenly improved. By June he no longer required a lung transplant and was taken off life support.

Vietnam spent over $200,000 to treat him and save his life.

Eventually, Vietnamese doctors will accompany Cameron on the special flight back to Britain, state media announced today.

“As soon as I get fit, I’m coming back,” said Cameron. “I’m still a pilot - my license has lapsed, that’s all.”

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