A married British couple have returned to Vietnam three years after they recovered from Covid-19 to thank medical workers who saved them.
Dixong John Garth and his wife, Shan Coralie Barker, came to the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi on Wednesday.
Barker brought along a book she wrote.
Titled “A diverse Nurse, thanks Vietnam,” the book is about Barker and her husband’s trip to Vietnam three years ago, how they contracted Covid-19, and how they were saved.
They arrived then in Hanoi on March 2, 2020 on Vietnam Airlines flight VN54.
The couple were touring the northern province of Quang Ninh when they were taken to a quarantine camp on March 6. They both tested positive for Covid-19 later and were transferred to the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi for treatment on March 13.
As an elderly patient suffering from blood cancer for 10 years, the process of treating Garth, who was then 74, was not easy.
On March 22, he needed respiratory support and was given an oxygen mask. On March 27, he was put on a ventilator, and was moved to intensive care.
Ten days later, doctors at the hospital and leading experts on resuscitation in Vietnam got together and kept a close eye on his condition, along with other critical Covid-19 patients at the hospital.
They had made many adjustments to the treatment regimen to find what suited him best.
On April 5, Garth started to show signs of recovery, not needing the ventilator, and was able to do with just respiratory support. Three days later, he was able to breathe on his own.
On April 13, his samples tested negative for the fourth time and he was deemed fully recovered.
His wife, Shan Coralie Barker, who was 67 then, was discharged on April 2. She stayed at the hospital for the mandated 14-day health monitoring period, waiting for her husband.
After Garth’s discharge on April 13, 2020, the couple flew back home that night on a flight arranged by the British government for their citizens.
It is not until now that they had a chance to return to Vietnam.
“This is the first time we can clearly watch the faces of medical workers because back then, everybody was covered in protective suits and yet they had always done the best they could to save us,” said Garth.
Barker, a nurse herself, recalled that she was “shocked” when learning that both she and her husband had been infected and always thought they would die in Vietnam.
“Vietnamese doctors are amazing. They had saved me. If I had not been here, I might have died [because of Covid-19].”
“Today feels like a sweet dream,” she said.
Nurse Vu Thi Thuy Nhinh, who directly took care of Barker back in those days, got a nice surprise when receiving a photo of her taken by Barker during the treatment period.
In the photo, Nhinh was wearing a protective suit, looking at the isolated patient from the outside.
The nurse said it was the first time she took care of Covid-19 patients.
As not many people had knowledge of the disease, she and her colleagues were placed under a lot of pressure.
At the same time, her English was not good and she had to struggle to make sure the patients understood her guidance.
“But I was aware that the patients were in panic as they contracted a strange disease abroad. They had no one by their side so I assumed they must be scared and lonely,” she said.
Nurse Vu Thi Thuy Nhinh (L) and Dixong John Garth at the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, March 8, 2023. Photo by the hospital
Doctor Dong Phu Khiem, who treated the two patients, said the visit of the British couple after three years is a “huge source of motivation for us.”
For their trip to Vietnam this time, the couple will resume the plan they could not make three years ago, including visiting Sa Pa Town and Ha Long Bay in northern Vietnam.
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