Incomplete dream of the mountain child
Compared to peers, Tran Van Huan looks thin and small dressed in old clothes. The 15-year-old boy wears a cap covering his face, ignoring the surrounding people looking at him. The nylon bag containing his human waste is carefully hidden behind a thick coat. Today, Huan and his mother have come to the Children of Vietnam Fund to get a chance to correct the mistake of nature.
His mother says that he was born without an anus unlike a normal baby. At the time, so that it did not endanger her child’s life her obstetrician at the local hospital undertook emergency surgery for her baby to open a temporary anus for excreting faeces. The doctor advised her to wait and arrange anal surgery for Huan when he got older and had more stable health. However, poverty and limited health literacy in their rural area allowed Huan’s parents to gradually accept the disabled child condition as a matter of fact.
During the first 15 years of his life, Huan never had a chance to return to the hospital to be treated. After his father died early, Huan was cared for by his grandmother. After that, his mother brought him to relocate from Quang Nam to a remote area of Dak Lak province. Unexpectedly, it was the bag that saved his life on that day was the reason that made him alone in childhood.
“I wish I could have been born normal like the others“, the dark-skinned boy says while raising his bright eyes looking up at the sky. In the recent years, Huan lives with the new family of his mother. He grew up thanks to daily meals which have rice filled with salt water mixed with wild greens. Every day, Huan goes to raise the cows, picks tomatoes, and works day-hire on the farms to earn money for his family. At night, he sits by the bed and watches his little sister who in second grade practiced her writing under the light.
Going to school is the dream Huan never thought he could achieve because he was always shunned due to the stench emitting from the bag dangling from his body. In a child’s mind, a 15-year-old was too late to start school. Even if he had a chance to go to school, he thought it would not be fun because his coat would not be thick enough to help protect him from the scorn and the neglect of his classmates.
It is maybe the reason that made it so unbelievable to him when he heard that the doctors of FV Hospital could treat him. He kept asking over and over again: “Do I have a chance to heal? Does it hurt? I’m scared of pain“. His fear and his avoidance of surgery was, unexpectedly, lucky for the doctor. Dr Le Nguyen Yen (Department of Paediatric Urology at FV Hospital) said “the fact that Huan has never had an anal surgery is an opportunity to make the surgery more successful, besides reducing pain for him as well as limit the possibility of complications“.
According to Dr Yen, a baby who is born without an anus needs to undergo anal surgery as early as a few months of age. Therefore, a 15-years-old patient like Huan, needs a more complicated surgical technique, the surgery procedure duration and there would be prolonged recovery time compared to younger patients.
Also during the examination, the doctors discovered that Huan had hypospadias in addition anal defect. Hypospadias is a condition where the position of the urethra is lower than normal, quite far from the foreskin. This additional condition made Huan’s upcoming surgery even more complicated than was expected.
Repairing his natural defects
Within the next two days, Huan would undergo major surgery. “I still don’t know what my dream is. At this time, I just hope my operation will be successful so that my mom could let me return to Quang Nam province to visit my grandmother”, Huan says. He lightly squeezed a Pepsi can in his hand while looking at the sky out of the window. “I miss grandma so much. She told me to try to recover from the illness and then go back to Quang Nam to stay with her forever”.
Pepsi is the drink that Huan likes most at the cafeteria, as well as the daily meals with pork, chicken at the hospital canteen. All of them are his favourite dishes as the mountain boy only sees food like this watching TV at home.
Ms Tran Truc Quynh (Manager of the Children of Vietnam Fund) shares: “Because his body is malnourished and he is so weak, he needs to eat well to ensure full health for the major surgery coming soon”.
In that operation, Huan would not only have anal shaping surgery but also surgery to correct the hypospadias. All costs associated with his treatment are fully supported by the Fund, including hospital fees, medical examination, surgery, post-operative care, travel expenses, the accommodation.
Before Huan, the Fund was to receive a 9-month-old patient named Dinh Duy Khanh suffering from anorectal malformation. However, the baby was very malnourished so the doctor advised delaying treatment until he had gained enough weight and improved his health.
“Huan is the first patient that we have supported to treat this type of condition. I hope that his surgery will be successful so that similar patients could be given treatment”, she adds.
Finally, on 16th January 2021, Huan underwent the life changing surgery that lasted more than 5 hours. Just one day after, Huan was able to get up and practice walking. Dr Yen happily believes that his surgery was more successful than expected. Around Huan’s hospital bed, the nurses enthusiastically instructed him and his mother in how to clean and wash his wounds. For the first time in his life, the little boy Huan felt embarrassed and shy when he saw so many people loving and caring for him.
“All staff in the department are both happy and worried for Huan. They are glad that his surgery has been successful, but also worried that after discharge from hospital he would not be take care the wounds carefully for next two weeks”, shared Ms Doan Thi Thu Thanh (Deputy Head Nurse of Paediatrics & NeonatologyDepartment). “Because 50% of successful surgery depends on post-operative care. We hope that little boy would remember how to clean the wounds at home himself”.
Because the procedure time so stabilise Huan still needs to keep wearing a colostomy bag. With loving, the nurses have donated to buy a new ostomy pouch and a plastic-colostomy bag for him, replacing the nylon bag he previously wore.
After four days in the hospital, those unexpected gifts were able to follow the poor boy back to the remote village in Dak Lak province. In two weeks’ time, Huan will return to FV Hospital to continue his journey to a normal life.
Not all children in the world have been fortunate enough to have a happy childhood, but little by little, each of us can join hands together to repair the natural defects in those unlucky children.