Four years after a life-threating burn injury, Hong Tien still, to this day, mentions these words to her parents. The 12-year-old girl, who suffered burns to 85% of her body, hoped that each day there would be a new chance to have a normal life again so that she could go to school and help her grandmother around the house.
A Daughter Suffers in the Fires of Her Father’s Rage
Early on the morning of April 4, 2015, people in Son Tan market town in the Vong Dong commune of Thoai Son District, An Giang, suddenly heard a child screaming. They witnessed, in the middle of the market, a father, filled with desperation, intentionally burning his own daughter and himself in an attempt to force his wife to return after she left him. A gas cannister on the side of the road was used to cause the incident. Whilst sparing the young girl’s live, she suffered burns to 85% of her body.
The child was called Nguyen Thi Hong Tien. Her parents had divorced and her father suffered with long-term epilepsy. Hong Tien’s childhood would have been as innocent as any other if she had not become a victim of the fire caused by her father.
After the horrific accident, Hong Tien’s face became completely deformed, sagging down to her neck. Her lower lip became stretched to her chin so she was unable to close her mouth, and her neck appeared almost attached to her chest. In addition, the skin and tendons in her elbows have become stuck together, causing regular hand cramps and an inability to stretch those muscles.
Over the past four years, thanks to the help of organizations and benefactors, Hong Tien has undergone surgery to treat her injuries three times. However, her dream of regaining a normal appearance is still far away as the severe burns requires long-term treatment. Furthermore, a few of the previously transplanted skin areas have started to crumble because they are unable to keep up with the growth rate of her body. During those four years, her mother has started a new family, while her father is serving time jail for the incident he caused.
Through this time Hong Tien has experienced many painful surgeries, and without her parents, it has been her grandmother who has supported her and kept her positive.
Recalling the first meeting with Hong Tien in early June, 2019, Ms Tran Truc Quynh, the manager of the Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund, was impressed by the little girl’s stoic attitude: “She is a strong and beautiful girl. She has a ready smile, enjoys taking selfie photos with apps and especially, loves her grandmother so much”.
During visits with the doctors of FV Hospital, Hong Tien talked a lot about her teacher, friends and cousins near her home. She felt that her traumatic incident took away her identity but the support everyone gives her has helped her through this loss. Hong Tien still shares good memories of her parents, as well as her grandmother, who over the past four years has taken care of her. “I love my grandmother very much. My biggest dream is that someday I will be beautiful again so I can support her.”
Helping Her Reach Her Dream
After numerous examinations and consultations, Dr Lam Hoai Phuong, Maxillofacial & Dental Department and Dr Truong Hoang Vinh Khiem, Bone and Joint Centre, from FV Hospital shared, “First of all, Tien needs to undergo orthopaedic surgery to restore some basic motor functions including the ability to stretch her arms, the ability to manoeuvre her neck area more flexibly, and in addition, forming the area of her chin and lips to improve her aesthetic appearance, and chewing and speaking functions”.
All the treatment costs, including medical examination, surgery, and hospitalisation, plus the travel and accommodation expenses of Hong Tien and her grandmother are fully covered by the Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund.
On June 20, 2019, as soon as the treatment regimen was completed, the doctors coordinated to perform an operation on her left arm, neck, lips and chin. The surgery lasted for 5 hours and was completed successfully. Sharing feelings after the surgery, Dr Phuong and Dr Khiem both remarked that the incisions had good signs of recovery while Hong Tien’s motion had improved as effectively as expected. During the 4-week postoperative period, she was constantly monitored and her wounds were regularly dressed and cared for by doctors at FV. Currently, Hong Tien has been discharged from the hospital to prepare for her new school year. However, she still has to visit the hospital for a few more follow-up visits according to the doctors’ instructions. At the same time, she will practice rehabilitation exercises at FV’s Department of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation. It is expected that Hong Tien will continue her treatment, undergoing surgery on her arm, after her body fully recovers.
“Looking for enough skin for transplantation is the biggest challenge in Hong Tien’s surgery. All of her surgeries need a skin graft while her slim body almost has no intact skin after the previous surgeries”, shared Dr Phuong. Prior to Hong Tien, the Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund has given support for a number of burn cases who suffered burns and deformities to hands or feet. They all had successful orthopaedic operations. “Hong Tien is the most severe case because she suffered burns all over her body, leaving many serious lasting conditions to her face, head and neck,” said Tran Truc Quynh – the Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund ‘s Manager.
Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund, which was jointly founded by FV Hospital and Thanh Nien Newspaper, officially began operations in 2006. Its mission is to change the futures of disadvantaged children under sixteen years old who have been born with congenital deformities, developed serious problems as the result of disease or after suffering an accident. These include; accident sequelae, congenital abnormalities, cleft lip – cleft palate, neurological diseases, vascular malformation, haemangiomas, and diseases to the eyes or heart.