For most of the first two years of her life, Tran Bao Thy never smiled or played with other children. Thy was born with a birth defect that prevented her body from passing solids, suffering pain and embarrassment when going to the bathroom.
“When she ate she could not digest her food and she felt very uncomfortable,” recalls Thy’s mother Nguyen Thi Thui Hien. “She could not play with other children. She cried a lot and was very sad.”
Like many children suffering from congenital birth defects in rural Vietnam, Thy faced a bleak future before her plight came to the attention of Ho Chi Minh City-based charity Children of Vietnam (www.children-of-vietnam.org).
Formed in 2006 in partnership between a leading Vietnamese media group and FV Hospital in District 7, Children of Vietnam has already helped 131 children undergo life-changing surgery — in some cases, without the charity’s support the children would have died.
When Thy’s plight became obvious, Hien was forced to give up her job in Vung Tau to provide full-time care, leaving father Tran Van Trung as the sole earner. Their extended family pulled together enough money to fund treatment in a hospital close to home, but it could not ease her condition.
After being selected for the Children of Vietnam charity programme, visiting French surgeon Dr Godefroy De Miscault performed two operations to create a temporary anal passage for Thy and her condition began to improve immediately. During the next year she gained 4kg in weight and became mobile.
“Now after her surgery she can play and she can run and jump. Before it was too painful for her,” smiles Hien. “We are so grateful.”
Hien is now back working. A kindergarten teacher, she can take Thy with her each day and continue to help her with restroom visits until her next operation in March 2013. That surgery, already scheduled and funded by the charity, means a permanent solution, allowing Thy to live the life of a normal child and progress into adulthood.
For Nguyen Van Tho and Tran Thi Lien, the challenge of finding medical support was doubly hard — they had twins Tan Loc and Phat Loc, both with the same serious colonic condition making it hard to pass stools and causing significant malnutrition. Today, after surgery from Dr De Miscault, they, too, are as active as normal children their age.
The cost of surgery for children like Thy, Phat Loc and Tan Loc is high, explains fund director Le Phi Phung: in the twins’ case, about VND36 million each, in Thy’s VND51 million with another operation yet to come.
Other children helped by the programme suffer from conditions including cleft palates, misshapen hands, serious hernias or crippling bone deformations. Even though FV halves the fees for the cases, surgery can cost from VND42 million to VND210 million.
Phung says the charity raises money from generous expats, corporate support and fundraising events. There is a facility for people to choose a child in need to sponsor, or to donate to the general pool.
Children of Vietnam will hold a fundraising event at the Sheraton Hotel on Jun 2. Passionate Kiss at Moulin Rouge is a dinner/cabaret limited to 300 guests, with a cover charge of VND3.15 million a ticket. All the proceeds will go towards helping children like Thy. For bookings, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0908 477993.