When a mother-to-be had a traffic accident that traumatised her fetus, the baby was born preterm weighing just 1.2 kilos. The new-born’s difficult start in life was just the beginning of a long journey fraught with adversity… This is the story of six-year-old Nguyen Thi Ngoc Anh, who lives in Buon Me Thuot City in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak. She is one of the children to receive free-of-charge consultation and treatment provided by FV Hospital (FVH) supported by Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund. Her case really shows the difference between the meanings of “early”, “late” and “just in time”.
Adversity at birth
After the traffic accident that led to her preterm birth, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Anh weighed only 1.2 kilos. When assessing her vital signs and her weak, wrinkled, feeble and pale body, doctors said she was unlikely to pull through. Her mother cried her heart out in despair. In the hope of being close to the ill-fated child in her first and likely last days of life, her grandmother Ms. Tran Thi Hoang asked doctors to send the baby home so that she could tend to her.
Living in the hope that where there is life, there is hope, she took advantage of everything she had, such as electric lights and an blanket, to keep the new-born warm in the chilly Central Highlands climate. The most difficult task was feeding little Ngoc Anh.
Because of her premature birth, Ngoc Anh had no instinctive sucking reflexes which would enable her to drink breast milk. Her grandmother had to be extremely careful and diligent to ensure milk entered her tiny mouth. Her grandmother’s great efforts and patience bore fruit: Ngoc Anh’s tiny body became a little pinker and healthier-looking, and her eyes looked brighter. But, when Ngoc Anh was seven months old, her grandmother realised that her head was becoming progressively larger than those of her peers and her forehead was bulging. In a panic, she rushed the baby to a hospital for a checkup. She was deeply distraught and collapsed when a doctor told that the baby had been diagnosed with hydrocephalus and had a high risk of remaining in a vegetative state her whole life as result or complication of her preterm birth. Ngoc Anh’s grandmother had devoted all of her energy to bringing up the little girl, and this prognosis was a great weight upon her shoulders. And, due to the family’s financial difficulties, Ngoc Anh’s parents had left the family home to seek work, leaving grandmother and baby at home alone. However, Ngoc Anh’s grandmother never gave up hope. The baby continued to grow, first reaching one year and then three years of age in the loving arms of her grandmother, although she could not move around as easily as her peers. Ngoc Anh’s head became progressively more enlarged and oversized in comparison to her body, and her face became more distorted with bulging eyes and upward-slanting eyebrows.
And then, a miracle happened
Due to the weight of her head, she could not try to take her first steps or learn to speak until she was four years old. When she was five years old, her grandmother took her to a specialist school for mentally disabled children in the locality. Ngoc Anh’s teachers loved her very much because she always sang songs, wanted to have fun and was always well behaved and polite. But Ngoc Anh often tripped and fell, she was absent-minded, and she could not hold a pen by herself.
At that time, her head was twice the size it should have been. Her family had to borrow money to take her to several specialist paediatric hospitals in the city for regular checkups; however, her family could not afford her treatment. The hope that Ngoc Anh would grow up seemed to gradually grow dimmer, as everyone knew that if she was not treated and her cerebrospinal fluid was not drained, the malicious disease would take her life. When Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund (jointly established by FV Hospital and Thanh Nien Daily Newspaper) learned of her case, it seemed they might be too late. But, FVH’s doctors did not give up hope and her treatment began in October 2012.
The operation to drain her cerebrospinal fluid already showed positive results and little Ngoc Anh has recovered well. Now, she is able to speak clearly, fluently and coherently, and can learn children’s songs by heart. She can hold a pen and is active and plays with her friends. Her skin is rosier than before. Neurological surgeon Dr. Huynh Hong Chau from FVH’s Department of General Practices led Ngoc Anh’s consultations and surgery. Seeing her smiling and innocently playing with her friends, and hugging and kissing her grandmother, Dr. Chau cannot hide or repress his emotion, saying: “This really is a miracle!” Everyone who was directly involved in her case at FVH felt exactly the same way and are very happy to share the joy of witnessing her recovery.
For most of us, it may seem like Ngoc Anh has had a late start in life as she is only beginning to learn life’s early lessons while her peers have already entered the first grade. However, it is clear that a whole new world is opening to her after receiving support from Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund and FVH doctors. Ngoc Anh’s case is a wonderful reminder that it’s never too late to share the miracles of love.
The mission of Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund, jointly established by FV Hospital (FVH) and Thanh Nien Daily Newspaper in June 2006, is to offer financial support and treatment for impoverished children with congenital deformities or complications from other diseases or from accidents that can be corrected or cured by surgery. To date, Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund has facilitated surgeries for 104 young patients, each of which has cost from VND 24 million to VND 300 million. The fund plans to provide treatment for another 100 patients in 2013. You can contact Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund at the following address:
Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund, 06 Nguyen Luong Bang St., Dist. 7, HCMC
Tel: (08) 54 11 3333 (ext: 1067) or mobile phone numbers 0977 475 159 and 0903 035 030
Fax: (08) 54 11 3334