Nguyen Mau Duc walks briskly between the bikes in the parking lot of Hue Central Hospital and lifts several to rearrange them.

It is a strenuous task, but he does the job quickly, efficiently, with minimum fuss.

While rearranging bikes for hours every day is no mean feat for anyone, what Duc does is truly remarkable. No one watching him work can say that he is working with another person's heart.

Duc was the first patient to receive a heart transplant done by Vietnamese doctors at the hospital in March 2011.

"It was four years ago and now I am good. I can work 10 hours a day and seven days a week. I can walk comfortably with something like 50kg in my hands. I feel much stronger than other watchmen working here."

Duc, 31, does indeed look fit and trim, weighing 68kg for a height of 165cm.

This is a far cry from when he was confined to his hospital bed for more than 14 months as he awaited a heart transplant, the "magic" that brought him back to life.

Born to a poor family in Phu Hoi ward, Hue city, Duc grew up as healthy as others around him until one day, he fainted and had to be hospitalised.

"What the doctors said shocked me. They said I need to replace my heart. I thought: This is it. I will definitely die.

"Waiting in the hospital for nearly a year and a half was sheer hell. The doctors there encouraged me a lot, but it was my little family that kept me going. I had to live for my wife and my two-year-old daughter.

"Then I woke up from the darkness and felt really good with the heart given by a man who'd been in a vegetative state for years after an accident."

Vo My Nuong, who married Duc in 2008 in Ho Chi Minh City when both of them were working in a shoemaking workshop, said she'd never felt as desperate as she did when she learnt of his situation.

Duc began to work five months after the surgery.

"I felt strong and could not stand the fact that no one took care for my wife and my daughter. So I began working at a carpenter's workshop, ignoring doctors' advice to do no manual work.

"Food for my wife and daughter. That was all I thought of then. I did anything I could do to get some money."

Duc later worked on a construction site and bike-washing shop, where he found it was easy to catch a cold and flu. Then he tried something harder, working as porter for a department store for almost a year until a doctor who saw him informed Bui Duc Phu, the hospital's Director.

Tran Quoc Anh, who worked with Duc for a month on a photography project, said Duc dedicated to his work as a porter. "He worked hard as if he'd had no heart transplant. Look at him, he is very strong, brisk."

Seven months ago, Director Phu, who was also the chief surgeon for Duc's transplant, gave him a job at the hospital, taking care of the parking lot designated for doctors and staff.-VNA