Forking out 3 years of income 'well worth it'

SINGAPORE - Mr Nguyen Huu Phuoc, 55, spent three years' income from his bakery to pay for his medical treatment in Singapore last month, but it is well worth the money, he said.

He is part of a growing group of Vietnamese patients coming here for serious treatment - making Vietnam the fourth-biggest market for foreign patients.

The native of Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam was diagnosed with kidney problems two years ago.

Doctors there could not stop the deterioration of his kidney function, and towards the end of last year, told him he was approaching total kidney failure.

He had two choices - go on dialysis for the rest of his life, or get a kidney transplant.

"I decided immediately to have a transplant," he said through a translator.

But Mr Nguyen's only brother has died and his only child, a son, is just 19 years old. In Singapore, living organ donors must be at least 21 years old.

He was lucky that his business partner of 15 years was not only compatible, but willing to give up a kidney for his long-time friend.

He decided immediately to come to Singapore for the transplant.

He had heard of the high transplant success rate from a customer of his, who came here for medical treatment.

His 30-year-old bakery brings him over $2,000 a month. He is frugal and has some savings, most of it now spent on the treatment here.

Mr Nguyen said: "It's very expensive here, about 10 times what I would have had to pay in Vietnam.

"But I am confident of a good outcome, and that gives me peace of mind."

The high price - estimated at around $100,000 - includes the cost of airfare for his English- speaking niece who accompanied him, and for his donor, as well as post-operation accommodation, since he needed several follow-up checks within the month.

He had his operation at Mount Elizabeth Hospital on Jan 15. His partner, 46, recovered quickly and returned to take care of the bakery.

Mr Nguyen said that he was impressed with the service from the first day he stepped into the hospital.

"It was more than I expected. The nurse comes to the ward every day, the doctor spent time talking and explaining things to me," he said, adding: "I will strongly recommend coming to Singapore for treatment if any of my family members or friends are seriously ill."

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