FV Doctors perform eye surgery for 5-year-old girl with congenital heart disease who is congenitally deaf-mute

“This little girl couldn’t hear or speak, so her eyes were the only connection between her and the world. We couldn’t imagine her pain if she was forced to live in a world completely black and empty, without sound, without colour, without hope, if fate took away those innocent eyes,” says Vu Truong Son, MD, MSc, Deputy Medical Director of FV Hospital, recalling the tense moments of the first consultation.

Five-year-old Le Ngoc Minh Thu, weighing 14 kilograms, was born deaf and with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. She was also at risk of blindness due to detached retinas and cloudy lenses, but recently had her sight restored and made a heart-warming recovery, thanks to the efforts of leading experts from three medical facilities.

FV restores the eyesight of a deaf, mute little girl with heart disease.

Mrs Nhan Thi Kim Thuy, from Dong Nai–Patient Thu’s mother—said that doctors discovered that Thu had congenital heart disease five days after her birth. The family later found that their baby could not hear and so was unable to learn to speak like normal children.

Patient Minh Thu and her mother wait for Thu’s eye examination.

“From the time I was pregnant until giving birth, I was always worried, sad, and cried a lot. I hoped my child would be born healthy. When I heard the doctor say that my child had congenital heart disease, I was devastated,” shares Ms Thuy.

Raising a normal child is already challenging, but for Ms Thuy’s family, having a child with congenital heart disease who is deaf and mute poses even more difficulties. When Thu was three years old, Ms Thuy hoped that her child could undergo heart surgery, but during the last examination before the operation at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, doctors confirmed that both chambers of the child’s heart were thickened, making surgery impossible. They had to wait for Thu to grow up.

Unfortunately, their hardship didn’t end there. A month ago, Ms Thuy noticed that Thu was squinting her eyes and dragging her feet when walking. After taking her daughter for an eye examination, the doctor diagnosed Thu with cataracts and retinal detachment in both eyes. Without timely surgery, Thu was at risk of becoming permanently blind.

“Because of our child’s situation, our family visited various hospitals from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, but every doctor we saw said that our child could not undergo surgery due to her heart condition. At that time, my family and I were devastated, feeling deep sympathy for our child’s fate,” shares Ms Thuy.

Ophthalmologist Dr Jan Dirk Ferwerda affirms that FV has all the necessary equipment to perform surgery for little Thư. 

Fortunately, during a visit to the European Eye Centre, patient Thu was examined by Dr Jan Dirk Ferwerda, a leading expert in ophthalmology from the Netherlands. He decided to refer Ms Thuy to FV hospital because he believed that only FV would have the necessary equipment and staff to perform the surgery.

Ms Thuy shared that when the family was invited to participate in the consultation at FV, they felt both happy and worried. She worried because doctors had shared the potential complications that her child might face during the surgery; she was concerned about high treatment costs. However, the family decided to place their trust in FV’s doctors and hoped they could restore light to their child’s life.

After four inter-hospital consultations, the decision was difficult due to the high level of risk posed by the surgery.

Vu Truong Son, MD, MSc, Deputy Medical Director at FV Hospital, said that patient Thu’s case was unique, not only due to the complexity of the treatment but also because of her urgent, challenging circumstances. “Without surgery, there was a risk of permanent blindness. With surgery, we had to accept a risk of death due to her congenital heart disease during anaesthesia. However, we were determined to treat Thu, so we conducted multiple consultations to ensure all eventualities were thoroughly planned for,” shares Dr Vu Truong Son. Hopes for this surgery were not only pinned on saving patient Thu’s eyes but also to keep her family going until the day her heart can be fully healed.

Due to the very difficult nature of the surgery on a child with congenital heart enlargement, FV organised four inter-hospital consultations over the course of one week. All risks and plans to deal with dangerous situations were carefully calculated. Leading experts from many departments at FV and Children’s Hospital 1 were invited to participate in the consultations.

The biggest challenge for the treatment team was the anaesthesia and intensive care process. Patient Thu was severely underweight and had a congenital heart condition, which posed a significant risk of hypotension during the surgery.

“The surgery on a child with complex congenital heart disease has many complications. Therefore, to ensure the safety of the child, we invited two leading experts in anaesthesia and intensive care related to heart surgery from Children’s Hospital 1 to discuss intervention options, and preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative preparations. Everything had to be in place to ensure the best support possible for the patient,” said Dr Ly Quoc Thinh, Specialist Level II, Head of Anaesthesiology & ICU Department, FV Hospital.

Four hours of tension for the family and the surgical team.

FV Hospital assembled an extensive team to perform the surgery. Dr Ferwerda conducted the surgery, while Dr Ly Quoc Thinh collaborated with Ha Van Luong, Specialist Level I from the Anaesthesiology & ICU Department at Children’s Hospital 1, to provide anaesthesia. Additionally, Ho Minh Tuan, MD, MSc, Head of Cardiology, and Dr Nguyen Thi Tran Chau, Specialist Level II, Head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Department, Children’s Hospital 1, worked alongside the anaesthesiology team to promptly handle any complications during surgery.

Doctors raced against time to perform the surgery for patient Thu.

The entire medical team operated with the utmost caution and urgency, racing against time. Dr Thinh explains that during the surgery, Thu experienced episodes of low blood pressure and irregular heartbeats. The doctors had to administer medication three times to stabilise her blood pressure and restore her heart rate to within a safe range.

Finally, after a tense four hours, the surgery was a success. Thu was taken off the ventilator and could breathe on her own in the recovery room. She continued to receive close monitoring in the intensive care unit. A day later, when her condition had stabilised, she was transferred to a regular ward, alleviating any remaining concerns shared by doctors.

 Patient Thu is examined by FV’s doctors after her surgery.

“On that evening, I was restless throughout the surgery, sometimes crying, sometimes praying. Each passing hour was filled with tension. When I heard that the surgery was a great success and that Thu was breathing by herself, I burst into tears,” says Ms Thuy.

“It brought me great joy that she could see well one week after the operation. FV Hospital and their partner doctors have given my child the ability to continue to live her life and the strength to fight her heart disease.”

Considering Thu’s difficult circumstances, The Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund provided financial support for her treatment.

The recovery of patient Thu’s eyesight was a tremendous feat accomplished through the dedicated efforts of an expert team comprising various specialties at FV Hospital and their collaboration with leading experts from other centres. “FV maintains strong cooperation with top external experts, ensuring that patients who come to FV receive consultations and care from the best specialists,” says Dr Vu Truong Son.

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