Sunday, June 29, 2008

Surgery for 2

A couple of Blue Dragon boys have spent the weekend in hospital...

Many people are familiar with the story of Quan, a terrific kid who has had to live with a neurofibroma growing on his face. Quan's father is a xe om (motorbike taxi rider) and his mother sells fruit in a market - so this is a fairly poor family who could never afford the complicated surgery to restore their son's face to normal.

In March last year, with the fantastic help of Operation Smile Australia, we took Quan from Hanoi to Brisbane, where he underwent some very complicated surgery that removed almost all of the cancerous cells that made his face swell and grow.

Quan has been fine since then, but last week he started to experience pain in one of his legs, where he also has a (much smaller) cancerous growth. This one, too, is benign, but it's never caused pain before. Quan's mother took him to a local hospital, which carried out a series of tests, and booked Quan in for surgery on Monday June 30.

This operation should be fine - but let's keep those fingers crossed to be sure.

And anyone who read our June newsletter will know about 14 year old Tung from Bac Ninh province. Tung was severely burned in a fire at age 2, leaving much of his body significantly scarred. Both of his hands needed extensive surgery, but Tung's family has never had the money to get the operations done. Their local Women's Union raised money from the community to pay for one hand to be 'fixed', although one of his fingers has curled up again. So Tung has needed operations on 6 fingers, but just hasn't been able to find the way...

Until now! We wrote about this in our newsletter, and instantly had several people respond with pledges or offers to help. We called Tung's parents, and the next day Tung and his father turned up at our office so that they could go see a doctor with Giang, one of our social workers.

The doctor was very positive; if the family agreed, Tung could check in to a room right away and start surgery in the morning! (Those of us from western countries with 6-month waits to get ANYTHING done in a hospital are wondering how it could be so quick!!)

But Tung and his father had to think about what this means: 3 weeks of operations... pain... more trips to the city in coming months...

For Tung, this was a very easy decision. He wanted to check in immediately. He wants his hands to look like everybody else's, and his fingers to work properly!

After some quick discussions among the family, it was agreed, and Tung went back to the hospital. He's now had one finger repaired, and so far so good.

I've spent a lot of time in hospitals in the past 8 years, and fortunately none of it has been for me. I truly admire people who can stay positive through their pain; and when it comes to kids, I am astounded by their resilience and determination.

Both Quan and Tung have also been in hospitals a lot - too much - but unlike me, they've been there because of their own suffering. Let's hope for a happy ending for these kids.

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