A British pilot who spent more than two months on life support in Vietnam after contracting Covid-19 was on his way home on Saturday, astounding doctors who gave him just a 10 per cent chance of survival.
Stephen Cameron, 42, was the sickest patient Vietnamese medics have had to treat during the coronavirus outbreak, which has recorded no official deaths following a fast and aggressive response to the pandemic.
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 per cent.
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 due to fly back to the UK within hours.
“I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of the Vietnamese people, the dedication and professionalism of the doctors and nurses ... the odds say that I shouldn’t be here so I can only thank everybody here for what they’ve done,” Cameron said as he left Cho Ray Hospital.
“I go home with a happy heart because I’m going home but a sad one because I’m leaving so many people here that I’ve made friends with.”
Tran Thanh Linh, deputy head of ICU at Cho Ray Hospital, said “huge effort and energy” had gone into saving Cameron, who was given the country’s best equipment and whose case had captured the attention of everyone from doctors to government officials.
Just a few weeks after arriving in Vietnam in early February for a new role with the national carrier, Cameron spent an evening at the popular “Buddha Bar” in Ho Chi Minh City.
He tested positive days later, on March 18, for Covid-19.
Known as Patient 91, Cameron became the focus of huge media attention as the country’s top medical minds met to brainstorm treatment options.
The news that he would need a lung transplant was met with 59 donation offers, according to the health ministry.
But after waking from a coma at the end of May, there were small signs of improvement – a thumbs-up sign for an attentive doctor, a trip on to the balcony to catch some sunshine and a video of him holding a Motherwell Football Club scarf aloft.
Every step towards recovery made headlines.
Finally on Saturday – as State media said his treatment bill had reached at least $150,000 – he was well enough to catch a special repatriation flight to London, accompanied by three doctors.
His return home comes as Vietnam celebrated 85 days with no community transmission of the novel coronavirus.
The country has just 370 virus confirmed cases and zero deaths, but its borders remain largely shut. More than 10,000 people are currently in mandatory quarantine.