Heart Surgery for Kids
February - May 2018
This year we paid for heart surgery for eight children, bringing our total to 45, plus four for whom we shared the cost with Lotus Humanitarian Aid Foundation. We work with VinaCapital Foundation, a U.S. charity based in Saigon that makes all the arrangements for us, including getting additional funding, usually from national health insurance, sometimes from provincial societies to help poor people needing medical care, sometimes from other charities. If we bring them a child and $1,200 they make all the arrangements, including additional diagnostic testing, in some cases getting the child healthy enough for surgery, arranging the hospitalization and surgery, and follow up care.
Before each trip we call ahead to see if there are any kids in our province, Ben Tre, that need heart surgery but are waiting for funding. If there are, we have the medical records delivered to us as soon as we arrive, and we refer them to VinaCapital Foundation. If there are not, we fund as many kids as we have budgeted for the trip and ask VinaCapital to choose the children. There are about 5,000 on their waiting list.
This year we visited Tam Duc Heart Hospital in Saigon, where many of our kids have surgery. One and a half year old Tuong Vi was still in ICU, two and a half weeks after surgery. Following surgery on March 31 she had heart failure and then lung infection. Since then her recovery has gone well and her surgeon, Dr. Hoa, said she might go home in a few days.
Tam Duc Heart Hospital
We also met eight month old Khoa, who was there with his mom for a follow up exam.
Khoa and happy mom with Dr. Hoa
Children (& parents) play area
Mr. Sang, head nurse; Marv; Miss Thuy, hospital director; Mr. Thanh, VinaCapital
Here are the reports on each child, written by VinaCapital Foundation staff.
December 2016/March 2017
We paid for heart surgeries for seven kids, bringing our total to 37, plus 4 for whom we shared the cost with Lotus Humanitarian Aid Foundation. Our oldest this time was fifteen years old, our oldest child so far, and our youngest less than a year. There were good outcomes for all seven.
VinaCapital Foundation, A U.S. charity based in Saigon, makes all the arrangements for us, including getting additional funding, usually from national health insurance, sometimes from provincial societies to help poor people needing medical care, sometimes from other charities. If we bring them a child and $1,200 (up 20% from previous years) they get it done, including additional diagnostic testing, in some cases getting the child healthy enough for surgery, arranging the hospitalization and surgery, and follow up care.
This year we did not find any local kids with heart disease, so we asked VinaCapital to choose the children for us – there are about 5,000 on their waiting list.
Here are the reports for each child prepared by VinaCapital.
December 2015/March 2016
We paid for heart surgeries for five kids, bringing our total to 34. Our oldest this time was eight years old; our youngest less than a year. There were good outcomes for all five.
When identifying our “heart babies,” we first look for local kids. Sometimes they show up at our house, brought by a parent or a teacher. Sometimes someone approaches us while we are distributing rice, or spinners, or dedicating a house. After the local kids, we ask for referrals from the Ben Tre Provincial Society to Help the Sick, the Disabled, and Orphans. We obtain whatever medical records are available and take them and $1,000 per child to VinaCapital Foundation, our partner in Saigon. They arrange additional funding, usually from national insurance program and from provincial social organizations, arrange the surgery and after care for the children, and send us progress reports.
Tran Quoc Anh
Age 7, Anh was diagnosed with ventricular septal defect. He had surgery on April 29 and was discharged a few days later.
VinaCapital Foundation Report
Le Thi Bich Tuyen
Age 1, Tuyen was diagnosed with ventricular septal defect. She had open heart surgery on April 17.
VinaCapital Foundation Report
Huynh Phuoc Thinh
Age 7, Thinh was diagnosed with Ebstein’s anomaly of tricuspid valve. He had open heart surgery on April 7 and was discharged on April 15.
VinaCapital Foundation Report
Phan Bao Lam
Almost 1, Lam was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot. Like most kids with this diagnosis, he will need a second surgery.
VinaCapital Foundation Report
Phan Ba Phuoc
Age 5, was diagnosed with Pulmonary Atresia Type III. He had open heart surgery on March 28 and was discharged April 5.
VinaCapital Foundation Report
November 2014/February 2015
We arranged heart surgery for five children, bringing our total to 29. We give $1,000 to VinaCapital Foundation, our local partner in Saigon, and they arrange the hospitalization, surgery and follow up care. When we identify a local child with heart disease, we bring them the child as well. If we don’t have any local kids, we give them the $1,000 and ask them to choose their most urgent case. There are still over 5,000 kids identified with heart disease who are on their waiting list. This year we had three local kids and two from Da Nang. The three from Ben Tre province were referred to us by the Ben Tre Provincial Association to Help the Sick, the Disabled, and Orphans. The two from Da Nang were chosen by VinaCapital Foundation based on urgency. None of these families could pay for heart surgery without help. Most of them can barely meet their most basic needs.
Nguyen Dinh Chi
Chi, 10 months old, was diagnosed soon after birth with Tetralogy of Fallot, a combination of four anatomical defects. Without treatment, 34% of these kids die before age 1, 51% before age 3, and 76% before age 10. More often than not a second surgery is required. Chi was successfully operated on January 30th, 2015 at the Ho Chi Minh City Heart Institute.
VinaCapital Foundation Report
Tran Bui Ngoc Gia Han
Six year old Gia Han was diagnosed with Atrial Septal Defect and Patent Ductus Arteriosis soon after birth, but didn’t come to the attention of those who might arrange help for her until recently. She was admitted to Pediatric Hospital #2 in Saigon on January 22nd, 2015, and operated on January 26th.
VinaCapital Foundation Report
In January, 2015 Ngoc Quynh had additional diagnostic testing including angiography at Tam Duc Heart Hospital in Saigon. Unfortunately, the doctors decided that her heart disease was too advanced for successful surgery, and she was sent home for home care only. As usual, we had given $1,000 to VinaCapital Foundation to arrange surgery for this child. The testing cost $518, and we advised VinaCapital to combine the remaining $482 with funds from other donors and to arrange surgery for their next urgent case. A report on that child will be posted when we receive it.
VinaCapital Foundation Report
Nguyen Minh Hieu
Minh Hieu, barely one year old, was diagnosed with pulmonary stenosis and had his first heart surgery shortly after he was born. Since then he has been hospitalized many times. He was admitted to Da Nang General Hospital on November 26th, 2014, two days after his first birthday. He needed two weeks of hospital care to get him in condition for surgery, and was successfully operated on December 10th and sent home on December 15th.
VinaCapital Foundation Report
Mai Quynh Mai
Mai, born July 13, 2014, is our youngest heart baby this year. She was born with ventricular septal defect and pulmonary hypertension. She was admitted to Da Nang General Hospital in early December, 2014, was operated after about two weeks getting her strong enough for surgery, and sent home with a good prognosis after a two week recovery in hospital.
VinaCapital Foundation Report
November 2013/February 2014
We have now provided life saving heart surgery for 24 children. Our arrangement with VinaCapital Foundation, now in its third year, has worked out very well. We give them $1,000 and they get the balance of the funds from social service organizations and, if available, from health insurance. They arrange the hospitalization, surgery and follow up care of the children, and report the details to us. Additionally, they have outreach programs throughout the country to find children with heart disease that might otherwise not be identified.
Because we have been doing this for nine years the program is pretty well known locally, and when we are in Vietnam it is not unusual for parents, sometimes a teacher, to show up at our house with a child with heart disease and to ask for help. This year there were none. When we asked for referrals from district and provincial officials who have knowledge of this, again there were none. This was great news to us. For the first time, no children in our area were waiting for heart surgery. However, this is not the case in the whole country. VinaCapital Foundation alone has over 5,000 children on their waiting list. We gave them $3,000 and asked them to arrange surgery for three of their most urgent cases.
Nguyen Ngoc Thao Nguyen
Nguyen, age 2, was born with ventricular septal defect. She was first assessed for heart disease and diagnosed in June, 2013, but there was no money available for surgery. By late 2013 her health had deteriorated to such a point that she needed to be hospitalized, and she was admitted to Da Nang General Hospital on December 2, 2013. After we provided funding, surgery was done on January 15 and she was discharged in good condition on January 23. Click here for full report.
Nguyen Hao Uy
Uy, age 1, was diagnosed with ventricular septal defect in January, 2014, and the doctors recommended surgery without delay. He was admitted to Tam Duc Heart Hospital in Saigon on February 19 for surgery on February 20. Our last report was a few days after surgery. He was still in hospital and doing well. Click here for full report.
Tran Quoc Tu
Tu, only 5 months old, has been very sick since birth. He was diagnosed with pulmonary atresia, double outlet right ventricle and patent ductus arteriosis. A December, 2013 assesment resulted in an urgent recommendation for surgery. He lives in Binh Dinh province, in the center of the country, but because of his complicated diagnoses was sent to Saigon for treatment. He was admitted to Ho Chi Minh City Heart Institute on December 30, 2013 and had surgery on January 18. He had a longer hospital recovery than most of our kids, and was sent home with a good outlook on February 10. Click here for full report.
Our cost for heart surgery for three children: $3,000
November 2012/February 2013
Nguyen Thi My Phuong
My Phuong, six years old, was our first “long distance” heart baby. In July, 2012, while we were in Santa Fe, we received a call from Miss Lan, one of our volunteer helpers in Vietnam, to introduce us to My Phuong and to let us know that she had been diagnosed with Atrial Septal Defect and needed heart surgery. We contacted VinaCapital Foundation, our partner in Saigon, sent them $1000, and asked them to arrange surgery, which was done at Tam Duc Heart Hospital on August 10th. We met My Phuong in December. She was back in school, playing in the school yard with the other kids, healthy and happy. Click here for the full report.
My Phuong before surgery
My Phuong two days after surgery
My Phuong four week after surgery
My Phuong back in school
My Phuong and her very happy mom
Tran Nguyen Trieu Ngan
We met one and a half year old Trieu Ngan while we were distributing coir spinning machines in the town where she lives. Her mom heard that we would be there and came by to see if we could help. She had been diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, and like all of our heart babies her family could not afford surgery. Forty per cent of children with this diagnosis die by age four without surgery, seventy per cent by age ten. In addition to heart disease, Trieu Ngan has been blind since birth because of cataracts. Surgery was done on December 4th and Ngan went home a week later. As is common with her diagnosis, she will need another surgery, probably in about three years. On a happy note, the doctors report that it may be possible to fix the cataracts and give her vision. We will look into this on our next trip. Click here for full report.
Tong Nguyen Ninh Thuan
After we finished distributing rice in a nearby town, we were approached by a woman, crying, who asked us for money for milk for her grandson. Further questioning revealed that the baby had heart disease and couldn’t suckle because of some problem with his throat. We sent for the baby and mom and they showed up about fifteen minutes later. Ninh Thuan, not quite three months old, only weighed about six pounds. Heart surgery was needed but he was too frail for it. We arranged a follow up exam at Pediatric Hospital #2 in Saigon and were advised that they would like him to get up to at least eighteen pounds before surgery. Since then, he has been in and out of hospital a couple times. At his last exam, April 22nd, his weight was up to about thirteen pounds and the doctors said he could wait at home until he gained another five pounds. We left $1,000 with VinaCapital Foundation for the surgery, and gave the family $70 to take the baby to Saigon for an exam and $20 for milk. We’ll get a report out after surgery – stay tuned.
Update July 18, 2013. Good News. After a seven month wait to get Ninh Thuan strong enough for surgery and his weight up to 18 pounds, he has been successfully operated at Tam Duc Heart Hospital in Saigon. He was admitted to hospital June 25, surgery was June 28, and eleven days later he was sent home. Our partner VinaCapital Foundation will arrange follow up exams and we will visit the family on our next trip to check out their situation. Click here to see the full report for more details.
Our cost for heart surgery for three children: $3,090
December 2011/February 2012
Big news for our heart surgery for kids program.
VinaCapital Foundation is a U.S. public charity based in Saigon. Their primary mission is to pay for heart surgery for Vietnamese children that can’t afford it. Because we do similar work, we stopped in to visit them and find out what they’re up to, and we really liked what we saw. Like us, they have no overhead. All their overhead is paid by VinaCapital, an investment firm. We met most of their staff and all of them are committed to their work. They have excellent relationships with the hospitals and surgeons who do pediatric heart surgery throughout the country. They pay for the surgeries from three sources: contributions, the national health insurance program (some kids have it, some don’t), and the provincial societies to help poor and disabled patients. If a contributor gives them $1,000, they will get the balance from the other sources and arrange for one child to be operated. We decided to give them a try and referred two year old Manh Quan to them. With our new partnership with VinaCapital Foundation our cost for surgery has been reduced from $3,000 to $1,000, and we can now either help more kids with heart surgery or use the money for our other projects.
Early in December Quan’s grandmother brought him to our house to ask if we could help with heart surgery. He had been diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot in May, 2010, but the family could not afford surgery. We agreed to a further assessment and then to pay for surgery if indicated. Shortly after that we connected with VinaCapital Foundation and decided to refer Quan to them. See the full report below. Extra good news in this case is that Tetralogy of Fallot usually requires two surgeries, but the surgeon reported that in this case a second surgery won’t be needed.
Phung Tien Thanh
We had referred a 13 year old girl to VinaCapital Foundation and they had paid for two evaluations at Tam Duc Heart Hospital in Saigon. Although she had initially been diagnosed with heart disease, it turned out that she had a less serious problem. Since we didn’t have any other direct referrals and wanted to pay for one more heart surgery we asked VinaCapital Foundation to proceed with the most urgent case on their list, and that was Thanh, only four months old at the time. He had been admitted to Childrens Hospital Number 1 in Saigon about a month before as an emergency and they were trying to get him healthy enough for surgery. After surgery he was in ICU for about two weeks and then discharged on February 27th.
Mai Minh Chau
Miss Yen, who we have been using for heart referrals up to now, asked us to help with Chau. She had been able to raise enough money for the surgery but was short the amount needed for blood and some pre-surgical testing. We gave her $286. Additionally, since we all have the same objective, we introduced her to the staff at VinaCapital to see if they wanted to work together.
Our cost for two heart surgeries helping with a third one: $2,286.
November 2010/February 2011
We paid for heart surgery for two children.
Danh Hua Ky Phuong, a one and a half year old girl with ventricular and atrial septal defects, was referred to us by Miss Yen, our heart surgery coordinator. Phuong's dad, 27, is a trash picker who earns about $2.00 per day. Her mom, 25, stays home to take of her. Surgery was on December 9th, and although she spent a little longer than usual in hospital due to infection, she is now home with happy parents.
Dinh Viet Phap, now four and a half years old, is an old hand at heart surgery. He has Tetralogy of Fallot, a condition that usually requires two surgeries. We first met him in December, 2009 and paid for his first surgery. Second surgery was January, 2011, and he is now doing well.
Our cost for life saving surgery, including hospital costs: $3,000 per child.
Han, her father and teacher
Han after surgery
We had planned to pay for heart surgery for one child on this trip, and had agreed on a child referred to us by Miss Yen, our heart surgery coordinator. Late one afternoon eight year old Han showed up at our house with her dad and teacher. She had been diagnosed with ventricular septal defect some years ago, but there was no money for surgery. We agreed to help her and sent her to Saigon for evaluation by Dr. Phan, our surgeon. We next saw her on the way to hospital in mid December. Surgery was successful and she was back home by the end of the year.
Our cost for life saving surgery and 10 – 12 days in hospital: $3000 per child.
Dinh Viet Phap, a three and a half year old boy from Hau Giang province in the Mekong Delta, was referred to us by Miss Yen. He was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot two years ago but surgery was deferred as Dr. Phan wanted to wait until until Phap weighed more than 10 kilos. Surgery in December was successful, but like most kids with this diagnosis he will need another surgery, probably in about four years.
Ngoc with his Mom
Ngoc was admitted to hospital with diagnosis of ventricular septal defect on February 4, surgery was on February 6, he was out of ICU on February 10, and he was sent home with two very happy parents on February 18.
Our heart baby for this trip was Duong Than Ngoc, a one year old boy from Kontum province. He is our first child from the Central Highlands.
We paid for heart surgery for two children ($3000 each) and shared the cost of a third child ($500).
Thach Thanh Thao, a four year old ethnic Khmer (Cambodian) boy from Soc Trang Province, and Vo Vu Phat, a nine year old boy from Hau Giang province, were both diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot. 40% of children with this diagnosis die by age four, 70% by age ten, and only 5% make it past age 40. A second surgery is often required.
Phat with Yen
Thao was a little slower to recover after surgery than Phat, spending extra time in ICU, but both went home with less than two weeks in hospital.
In July we received an urgent request from John Ward of Lotus Humanitarian Aid Foundation. Lotus is an NGO in central Vietnam doing similar work to The Vietnam Project. He was writing about Nguyen Thi Tam, a 16 year old girl in Ha Tinh province. Tam needed heart surgery but the family was unable to pay and Lotus did not have enough in their heart surgery fund to pay for the whole surgery. John asked us for $500 and we agreed.
Tam was diagnosed in 2002 with atrial septal defect, mitral stenosis, tricuspid regurgitation and pulmonary arterial ypertension. The family could only afford to pay for medicine when urgently needed, and her condition was deteriorating. She was too sick to go to school. Surgery was done in Hue General Hospital on August 19 with a good outcome. Paying for her surgery was a collaborative effort of Lotus, The Vietnam Project, Canada Humanitarian Organization, the Office of Genetic Counseling and Disabled Children in Hue, and three individual contributors. Tam’s family has expressed their heartfelt gratitude to all who helped save their daughter’s life.
Tam at home before surgery
Tam with her mom after surgery
December 2007/January 2008
Update: Xuan Trang, our heart kid from March, 2007, has been adopted by a French family and is now living in France.
We paid for heart surgery for two children on this trip, both with ventricular septal defect. Although their diagnosis was not as serious as some of our other children, both of them had some post surgical difficulties.
Ahn Thu with her mom after surgery
Quang with Miss Yen after surgery
Chung Thi Anh Thu is a two year old girl from Soc Trang. Following surgery on January 5th she spent two days in ICU and then went to a regular room. About a week later she was back in ICU for two more days with a fever. She then had a good recovery and is doing well at home.
We met Ngo Duy Quang, a six month old boy, in an orphanage in Vung Tau where he had been abandoned. He had a skin infection and they were trying to clear it up before surgery. It was not clearing up at the orphanage, where it is common, so he was put in the hospital to get it cleared up. Surgery was January 5th and his recovery was even more difficult than Anh Thu’s. He spent three days in ICU and then went to a regular room. A few days later he developed chest congestion and difficulty breathing and went back to ICU. His weight had gone from seven kilos down to four kilos. He slowly recovered and was returned to the orphanage on January 25th. A woman from France is now completing documents to adopt him and it is expected that he will go to France with his new family in May.
Quang at the orphanage before surgery
Janie visits Xuan Trang in hospital after surgery.
There is mixed news this time about our “heart kids.” First, here’s the good news. Born August 18th, 2005, Xuan Trang was only 19 months old when she had surgery in March. She lives in an orphanage in Vung Tau as her parents abandoned her when they found out that she had heart disease. She was diagnosed with ventricular septal defect, atrial septal defect, tricuspid regurgitation and pulmonary arterial hypertension. Board members Janie, Phuong and Marv visited her in hospital about a week after her surgery. She was doing very well and was released a few days later.
On a more distressing note, we were unable to help Minh Luan, the eight year old boy we met last year. By the time we arrived in Vietnam, Dr. Phan had determined that Luan’s condition, (APSO Type IV) was so bad that his chances for survival after surgery were not good. Luan’s family, especially his mom, persisted and Dr. Phan agreed to reconsider. We paid $400 for an angiogram to give Dr. Phan the additional information he needed, but unfortunately his conclusion was that Luan was unlikely to survive the surgery.
Thanh Nhi with her mother before surgery
Our “heart kid” for this trip is four year old Huynh Thi Thanh Nhi. Her dad is 25 and her mom is 23. They make a living catching fish and shrimp in a small river next to their house and selling them at market. Their average monthly income is about twenty five dollars.
When Thanh Nhi was about six months old, they noticed that her finger and toe nails were blue. She was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart disease that includes four specific anatomic defects. 40% of children with this condition die by age four, 70% by age 10 and 95% by age 40.
Thanh Nhi after successful surgery
Surgery was done in Saigon on August 5th, Thanh Nhi spent a couple of days in ICU, then recovered in hospital for almost two weeks until she was ready to go home. Our cost for this lifesaving surgery: Three thousand dollars.
A note about our surgeon, Dr. Phan.
In the mid-nineties, Dr. Alain Carpentier, a well known French cardiac surgeon, took ten Vietnamese surgeons to France to train them in heart surgery. He then sent French surgeons to Saigon to continue training. Only three of the ten made it as heart surgeons and Dr. Phan was the top student. He is now Chief of Surgery at the Ho Chi Minh Heart Institute and operates a couple of days a week at the private Trieu An Hospital, where he operates on our “heart kids.”
Loc at home with his parents
Loc after surgery
Loc had mitral valve insufficiency. Surgery was done on February 12th at Trieu An Hospital in Saigon. The mitral valve was repaired and a supporting ring was placed in it. The cost of this surgery was $3,600 ($600 for the ring) but they agreed to do it for the $3000 that we had budgeted for it. He has had a good recovery and was discharged home on February 22nd.
Phuong had a chance to visit all three of our heart kids from last year. Minh Thu and Phuong Ly are doing well. Thuy Duong reports that she is chronically weak, but it is not believed directly related to the heart surgery.
Dear friends and supporters of The Vietnam Project,
Last July we were presented with an opportunity and a challenge: provide life-saving heart surgery for children in Vietnam. Phuong and I were approached by a physician that we know in a rural area of Ben Tre province in the Mekong Delta and asked if we could pay for heart surgery for three young girls. Another had already died waiting for surgery. We answered that we didn’t know if we could help or not because money that had been contributed to The Vietnam Project was to be used for other purposes.
Minh Thu with Board member Phuong before surgery
On return to the U.S. we discussed this with the other board members. It was different from what we had done up to this point, but once we were aware of it we couldn’t turn away. Through generous contributions by board members and a few friends, we raised $4,950 specifically for this project.
Minh Thu with her grandmother after surgery
On return to Vietnam in January, 2005, we began researching heart surgery facilities in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The Ho Chi Minh City Heart Institute can do up to six surgeries per day, and does about 1300 1400 each year. There are about 600 scheduled at any time and currently about 7000 on the waiting list. Some patients die waiting for surgery.
Phuong Ly at home before surgery
A four year old private hospital, Trieu An, is somewhat more expensive but urgent cases can be scheduled immediately and all cases can be done fairly quickly. The total cost for open heart surgery, including hospitalization, is $3000.00. Parts such as rings and valves are extra. Dr Phan, who is head of cardiac surgery at both hospitals, was trained in France by world famous heart surgeon Alain Carpentier, who also founded the Heart Institute.
Phuong Ly after surgery
On February 11th and 12th, Minh Thu, age 4, Phuong Ly, age 12 and Thuy Duong, age 14 were operated on. All are now home and doing well. East Meets West Foundation helped us with the funding of these surgeries.
Thuy Duong before surgery
We have decided to add heart surgery for children to our work, and plan to fund surgery for one or more children per year as long as we have adequate funding for our core projects - business start-up assistance, education and vocational training. We welcome your comments and opinions about this addition to our work in Vietnam.