Poetry in the veins of live blood bank founder

VietNamNet Bridge – Professor. Dr Nguyen Anh Tri, director of the National Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion (NIHBT), is the founder of the live blood bank, one of big blood donors in Viet Nam. He talks with Linh Giang about his work and his wish.

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In the blood: Live blood bank founder, Professor, Dr Nguyen Anh Tri. VNS Photo

Can you tell us why you set up the live blood bank?

Erythrocytes in blood expire within 35 days so it is difficult to have a stable blood source for patients at remote, isolated, border and island regions. In addition, ensuring blood quality in these regions is also very difficult. I have to travel many times to these regions, and always think of ways to bring blood from the main land to these places.

One day I was travelling to Con Dao Island when an idea came from my brain: I had to set up a live blood bank here with blood donors from local people. Very soon after that a bank was set up and many people volunteered to donate blood. I was very happy about that because I had spent more than 10 years to have this valuable idea accomplished.

After Con Dao, we set up a similar bank in the high mountain province of Ha Giang’s Dong Van, Dien Bien, Quang Binh’s Bo Trach, An Giang and many islands such as Phu Quy, Bach Long Vi, Cat Ba and Phu Quoc. I recently travelled to Truong Sa for the same purpose. 

Is technology of stem cells the NIHBT’s key point?

Yes, the stem cell is our leading point which includes banking stem cells, stem cell sources, and the laboratory system of stem cell and stem cell transplantation. We’ve used many stem cell transplants to treat cancer. The success rate is between 65 per cent to 85 per cent. 

In the past, patients faced with blood cancer would generally die but now will be able to marry and have children.

How many patients have been transplanted with the stem cells so far? Can you tell us about the life of your first child patient?

We’ve transplanted more than 260 patients and expect to transplant stem cell on 300 patients by the end of this year. Our first patient successfully transplanted is Nguyen Dinh Nam Truong born in 2003. He faced blood cancer in 2011. His ailment recurred heavily in 2013.

Fortunately, Truong’s brother’s HLA stem cell was suitable to him so the NIHBT decided to transplant it. After 30 days, blood tests returned to normal. His family welcomed him when he returned home. He is now healthy and can go to school as other children.

Can you tell us why you learned medicine?

In 1975, I passed an exam to enroll in pedagogy university, but due to starting the school late I had to return home. The reason was that my family was very poor so I had to get wood from the forest to help my parents. I faced malignant malaria and had to stay in hospital for two months.

I was very sad, particularly when seeing my mother crying so much.

Despite very busy working in the field during the day time, I still studied very hard and slept very little at night. By doing so repeatedly I faced malaria again. In hospital, doctors encouraged me to become a medical worker. 

After recovering, I enrolled in Ha Noi Medical University. I loved my medical career so much. I did not go to my central province of Quang Binh for many Lunar New Year holidays and volunteered to be on duty in hospitals. I have a special capacity to go without much sleep. I can wake up through the night but still be healthy the next day.

What was your main impression of being a medical student? 

During four months practising at the Obstetric Department, I had made 43 deliveries compared to the requirement for three. 

However, a friend advised me to invest in haematology and blood transfusion because the sector has both clinical and laboratories suitable for a researcher. In 1985, I graduated as resident physician and was assigned to the Viet Nam-Soviet Hospital now the Friendship Hospital’s Department of Haematology and Blood Transfusion and acted as director of the NIHBT since 2004.

What do you do apart from your busy schedules?

Apart from writing books on haematology and blood transfusions, and finishing scientific programmes which were being printed in magazines in the country and abroad I also composed songs and poems.

I’ve composed three collections of poems. This year alone, I have written 40 songs. I do this to relax from busy work.

Readers were so surprised at a concert of your own that was held last week in Ha Noi. Could you tell us what inspired you, a busy physician, to compose so many interesting love songs?

The songs were inspired by my poems. I composed them to express my love and thanks to my homeland, parents, relatives, friends and the entire people.


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