Virus-free U.K. pilot, symbol of Vietnam’s pandemic success, to return home


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 program 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.

The 43-year-old Scot, who arrived in the Southeast Asian country from Britain in early March, was hospitalized 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 cluster of coronavirus cases.

Cameron’s illness and the highly publicized efforts of Vietnam’s doctors to save him became a symbol in Vietnam of the country’s successful fight against the virus.

Lung capacity was at just 10%

At one point, medical officials said Cameron, initially identified only as “Patient 91,” had just 10 per cent of his lung capacity and was in critical condition.

By early April, Cameron was on a ventilator and life support machine at Ho Chi Minh City’s Hospital of Tropical Diseases. In May, medical officials were saying that he urgently needed a lung transplant.

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 US 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 licence has lapsed, that’s all.”

Read more at CBC.ca