Why Your Health Checkup at CMI Might Save a Child’s Life

Blogs - Vietnam: Oct. 11, 2017

Little Dang was born in 2016 to a young couple of the Stieng ethnic minority living in Binh Phuoc. As soon as he was born, doctors knew something was wrong; soon after, Dang was diagnosed with a common arterial trunk, a rare and fatal congenital heart malformation.

Out of pocket, Dang’s operation would cost US$11,120—far more money than his two farmer parents could afford to pay. With the help of the Heart to Heart fund, health insurance and the Alain Carpentier foundation, the surgeons at the Heart Institute were able to perform the operation, saving Dang’s life.

Dang’s story is one of thousands in Vietnam.

Reports from the Cardiovascular Department of the HCMC Pediatrics Hospital show that around 9,200 infants are born every year in Vietnam with a form a heart disease, and more than 3,000 of these are classified as life-threatening. With life-saving operations costing upwards of US$2,000, these conditions change the lives not only of the afflicted child, but the child’s family as well.

Identifying the Need

The alarming amount of life-threatening cases of heart disease impacting the lives of children across the nation was something that famed heart surgeon Alain Carpentier recognised immediately when he visited Vietnam in 1987, and so the Heart Institute was born. Officially opened in 1992 by Professor Carpentier and Dr. Duong Quang Trung, it was never just about saving lives—they wanted to build a foundation for a better future.

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An essential part of the plan was also to train Vietnamese cardiatric surgeons. Twelve Vietnamese doctors were hand-picked by Professor Carpentier and sent to France to train at the Hospital Broussais in Paris. When they came back to Vietnam, they hit the ground running.

Since 1992, surgeons at the Heart Institute have operated on 22,500 hearts, giving preference to children with severe cases.

Help From All Directions

Often, the surgery itself is the easy part. It’s finding the funding that’s more difficult. As Mayte Pernas, the Senior Operations Manager at the Centre Medical International (CMI), said, “The rate of these diseases is still the same over the years, and the only thing that has changed is that people now have more income to pay for the operations.” While this might be true in the country’s larger cities, there’s still no end to poverty in Vietnam’s rural countryside.

The median price for heart surgery is around US$2,000, and for many households in Vietnam, this is an annual salary several times over. However, just as pressing: “If you don’t operate on them, they die.”

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While a family of farmers might not have the money to pay for the operation, when a baby is born with a heart issue, time is of the essence.

To grow up with a normal life, children must undergo surgery two to four weeks after birth.

To help fund the Heart Institute, CMI, a comprehensive medical clinic serving the general public in Ho Chi Minh City, was created with the chief aim of helping fund the operations at the Heart Institute. If you go to CMI for a checkup or even the most ordinary medical treatment, the profits from your bill are sent straight to the Heart Institute, where they will help save the life of a child in need.

The financial help from CMI, in connection with the Alain Carpentier Fund and a specially created social department, has created a unique system designed to give help to as many children as possible. Some 4,300 children have been saved so far across the country—around 200 children a year.

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Providing top-tier medical treatment to some of the world’s most underprivileged civilians never gets easier, but thanks to Alain Carpentier’s world-class team, each year has seen a little more improvement. In 2017, for example, Pernas describes the Institute’s latest acquisitions: two high-tech operating tables designed specifically for children’s bodies. Completely remote controlled, these tables shift to allow surgeons to work at beneficial angles, resulting in even greater success and ease.

As the Heart Institute grows, so the rate of infant deaths drops in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City’s Pediatric Association announced that 10 years ago the rate of heart disease-related infant death was between 10 and 30 percent, while today it has dropped to one to two percent. Even so, the need for intervention has stayed the same. And this is at the heart of the Heart Institute.

Image source: CMI

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