This report by journalist Truong Quang Hiep was published on Quang Tri Online on August 12, 2023. The following English translation is by Ngo Xuan Hien at Project RENEW.
At an age when he was eager to discover his life, 18-year-old Ho Van Vu in Gia Gia Village of Huong Hiep Commune, Dakrong District lost his left leg in a traffic accident. His dream of a bright tomorrow was shattered. Fortunately, on the darkest days of his life, Vu was not alone. He had received support and tender care from many people, particularly from staff and technicians of Project RENEW’s Prosthetics and Orthotics mobile clinic.
A pain at age 18
Ho Van Vu was born into a poor family. Leading a life full of worries has made Vu learn how to make ends meet since he was small. Completing the 11th grade, while his friends enjoyed their summer vacation, the 18-year-old Van Kieu boy had to go out to find work.
Vu was hoping to earn enough money to afford his school fees in the new academic year to ease his parents’ burden. Vu was determined to follow his course when an unexpected traffic accident shattered his plan.
Riding with his uncle to work, their motorcycle crashed into a truck. Its wheel run over the Van Kieu boy’s left leg. Amid his terrible pains, Vu overheard doctors say: “He will hardly survive unless his left leg is amputated.”
Until now, Ho Van Vu still remembers his painful, helpless feelings after awakening from the surgery. Looking down at the bed end and seeing a space under his thigh, Vu almost cried. Sitting next to Vu’s treatment bed, his parents were too confused to comfort their son’s pains. They kept silent when Vu asked: “Now what do I have to do?”, “Is my life unhelpful, Mom and Dad?”
The post-trauma days went by heavily with Vu. Leaving the hospital for home, Vu couldn’t resist the pain inside his heart. Knowing Vu had had a serious accident, many neighbors came to comfort but the Van Kieu boy didn’t want to meet anybody. Vu was afraid of sympathy, sharing eyes though he was aware that everybody cared about him.
Since the accident, Vu’s life was around the four walls of his house. Vu lost his notion of time. Every time someone talked about schooling, Vu’s eyes became watery. Everybody thus avoided touching his pain.
Light up a hope
Vu’s heavy life passed by until early April 2023. While sitting inside his shabby house, looking at his peers going to school, a commune cadre came to inform Vu that a disability support project was going to the commune to help disabled persons. In the middle of their talk, Vu let his thoughts wander away. He felt he had no more hope.
Everything changed when Vu received a phone call from Mr. Dang Quang Toan, Project RENEW’s Victim Assistance Program Manager. Talking with Mr. Toan, Vu got to know that there were many people who had the same circumstances as him. It was important that they stood up after their tragic incidents.
Hope was lightened up in Vu when he met in person Mr. Toan and the P&O team. Everybody was enthusiastic to consult his case. However, after being examined, it was found that the P&O team couldn’t make a prosthesis for Vu because the bone in his stump needed surgery. Only by doing that could Vu wear his new artificial limb without feeling pain.
Vu’s relatives almost gave up hope when they were told about that announcement. Having known what Vu had experienced, Vu’s parents and brothers doubted that Vu wouldn’t be strong enough mentally and physically to return to the hospital. They decided not to give advice to him. Unexpectedly, it was Vu who talked about that surgery. “I once lost the hope to live. Now, I cannot lose it again,” Vu said determinedly.
A few days later, with support from the P&O Program, Vu and his relatives traveled to Da Nang Rehabilitation Hospital where physicians administered advanced interventions so that Vu could have an artificial limb. The day he saw his son stand on his artificial limb, Vu’s father Mr. Ho Van Thanh cried. He called home to let his wife know the good news. Ms. Ho Thi Xa was moved. Showing his gratitude to Project RENEW and the P&O team for their support, Vu promised that he would practice using the new limb so that he could return to school soon.
Leaving no one behind
Talking about the story of Ho Van Vu, Mr. Dang Quang Toan, Project RENEW’s Victim Assistance/Disability Support Program Manager, couldn’t hide his emotions.
For many years working on the project, Mr. Toan and his colleagues have met with and helped many people with disabilities. Toan couldn’t stop thinking about the Van Kieu boy who worked on his summer vacation to earn money for his new school year.
It was the reason for Toan to call and comfort Vu. Before doing that, he promised himself that no matter how difficult it would be he had to try to change the boy’s way of thinking.
According to Toan, Project RENEW’s P&O program was launched in March 2003 and it is now funded by Irish Aid through Irish Embassy in Vietnam.
For two decades, the P&O program has conducted examinations and provisions of prostheses and assistive devices for many disabled people and war survivors in Quang Tri Province.
“Local cadres helped us a lot by informing people with disabilities locations where the P&O mobile clinic would come to work,” Toan said. “Upon each of the locations, the team technicians will measure their stumps, do casting and assign a type of device. Disabled persons will be allowed to try their limbs and receive the final ones after final modifications.”
Since its launching, the P&O mobile clinic has supported nearly 3,000 amputees with different assistive devices such as above-knee limbs, under-knee limbs, prostheses, braces, wheelchairs, and tricycles.
In addition to community-based rehabilitation, Project RENEW helps disabled persons to be fitted with prostheses at the Quang Tri Provincial General Hospital’s Orthopedic Workshop with a total of 227 devices thus far.
To fulfill their tasks during the past years, the P&O program staff and technicians have overcome many challenges. The thing that encourages them to keep their determination is to see many lives revive from tragic sufferings.
It is why Vu’s story is often recalled among the staffers with so much love.
Through the story of Vu and many others, the team feels that they will need to try better on a hardworking but meaningful trip. Therein, no one is left behind.
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