Three years ago, Vietnamese Ty Dieu Tran Chau started experiencing difficulty in breathing. She could not sleep properly at night and tired and pant easily when she climbed the stairs. Visits to the doctor over the three-year period always ended up with the same diagnosis – asthma. She was given medication to relieve her symptoms but they didn’t seem to work.

When her symptoms worsened in July 2006, Tran Chau ended up at Franco Vietnamese Hospital where she was diagnosed with tracheal stenosis, which is the narrowing and hardening of the trachea (commonly known as windpipe). Doctors at the hospital advised Tran Chau to go to Singapore for treatment as the level of expertise in Vietnam at that time was inadequate to treat her condition.

Having worked with National Heart Centre (NHC) Singapore before, and referred many cases successfully to the centre, Franco Vietnamese Hospital recommended Tran Chau to come to NHC for treatment. She was then given a referral letter to see the cardio thoracic surgeon there when she arrived.
Knowing little about Singapore and NHC, Tran Chau researched extensively over the Internet to find out more. As her knowledge about the country and the centre grew, so did her confidence. With the additional persuasion and support given by her mother, Tran Chau decided to take the step towards restoring her health. Arrangements were made with a Global Patient Services Officer at the National Heart Centre. The mother and daughter then took a flight over to Singapore.

Tran Chau underwent a successful tracheal resection and primary anastomosis after some tests done to assess her condition. Tran Chau stayed in the ward for 11 days before being discharged. She expressed her gratitude towards the doctors and nurses at NHC.

“I felt that I made the right choice by coming to National Heart Centre for treatment. I only have one word to describe the doctors, nurses and the level of service I received – ‘perfect’. After the operation, I only felt fatigue but as for pain, I did not feel any. That’s how good the skills of the NHC doctors. Back in Vietnam, I have never encountered such excellent medical care before.”

In addition, Tran Chau wanted to commend the cardio thoracic surgery intensive care unit nurses whom she described as very professional, friendly and caring, “They were very nice to me, and even gave me a small neck pillow to take home when I was discharged. They said I will feel more comfortable using it on the plane.”

Tran Chau’s mother added, “We will tell the people in Vietnam about the high standard of healthcare facilities and medical treatments in Singapore. A lot of people in Vietnam are not well-informed on treatment options. My daughter wants to help the people in Vietnam who do not know about the types of medical treatments offered overseas. She wants to tell them about the National Heart Centre .”

The National Heart Centre Singapore, a member of Singapore Health Services, is the national referral centre for cardiovascular disease in Singapore. It provides comprehensive preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative cardiac services to local and overseas patients. The Centre also specialises in managing patients who are at a higher risk for future cardiovascular disease due to the presence of multiple cardiac risk factors or a history of known cardiovascular disease.

Dr Lim Chong Hee is a Senior Cardiothoracic Surgeon at the National Heart Centre of Singapore. Dr Lim subspecialises in Adult Cardiac Surgery, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery, Heart Transplant and Mechanical Heart Device Implantation.

What Is Tracheal Stenosis?
Tracheal stenosis is the narrowing and hardening of the trachea. A relatively uncommon problem, it frequently has a subtle onset, and the early signs and symptoms may be disregarded or mistaken for a variety of other disorders.

Shortness of breath on exertion, which may progress to dyspnea at rest, a brassy cough, recurrent pneumonitis, wheezing, stridor, and cyanosis may all be a part of the clinical presentation.

Because many of these symptoms, especially dyspnea on exertion and wheezing, can be easily attributed to other respiratory disorders such as chronic bronchitis and asthma, the patient’s past medical history becomes particularly important. Only awareness of the possibility that tracheal stenosis might exist will lead to its early recognition and diagnosis.

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