Tran Mai Anh’s determination to build a future for disabled children

(VOVworld) - In recent years, the names Mai Anh and Thien Nhan have become familiar to many Vietnamese people. Mai Anh, a courageous and caring woman, has crated a brighter future for Thien Nhan, her adoptive son with disabilities.

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Thien Nhan’s smile full of love of life (Photo:

Seven years ago Vietnam was shocked by a story about Phung Thien Nhan who survived after being abandoned at birth by his teenage mother in a poor, remote mountain area in Quang Nam province. The newborn was mauled by a wild animal that chewed off his right leg and badly savaged his genitals. He was named Thien Nhan, which means “good person”.

Tran Mai Anh, an editor for Vietnam Airline’s Heritage magazine, couldn’t stop thinking about Nhan and determined to find out about his life. She located Nhan at a time when he was still suffering physical pain and lacking medical care because his family was extremely poor. Mai Anh recalls how she “felt pity for Nhan, who is a special boy with a special ability to endure pain. There seems a natural affinity between Nhan and my family. When I first told the story of Nhan to my two sons, both asked me to bring him to our house. Eventually I adopted Nhan as my son.

Mai Anh and her husband, who at that time already had two little boys, decided to adopt Nhan. Mai Anh’s good deed and courage have moved many people and prompted offers of support from across the nation. It has been a long and difficult job for the adoptive parents to help Nhan integrate into the community.

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Thien Nhan in the arms of father Nghinh and mother Mai Anh after the first surgery in the US

Mai Anh says she can’t remember how many hospitals in Vietnam she and her mother have taken Nhan to or how many doctors have been asked to perform medical check-ups on him. Mai Anh has taken Nhan to Thailand, Singapore, Germany, and the US to consult the best doctors about his disability and improve his physical mobility. Not all the trips have had positive results.

Mai Anh's hopes of helping Nhan establish his gender before entering school at age six seemed in vain, until she was introduced to an Italian doctor named Roberto De Castro who had a new, experimental technique for reconstructing children’s genitals. In a 9-hour of operation, Doctor De Castro made Nhan a real boy.

During difficult journey, Mai Anh has received strong support and encouragement from the community. She said “most of the money for Nhan’s treatment has come from the community’s contributions and the donations of thousands of people inside and outside Vietnam. Many of Nhan’s doctors from Italy and the US have come to Vietnam to perform free surgery for other children in the same condition. Community support for Nhan over the years has created great resonance and value.

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In the difficult journey, Mai Anh receives strong support and encouragement from the community (Photo: vov)

Mai Anh and those who have helped her to build Nhan’s future have launched a “Regeneration of Genital Organs for Vietnamese Children” program. In August 2011 the group began to examine and select children with genital deformities across the nation with support from the Da Nang Pediatrics and Maternity Hospital and the Ho Chi Minh City Pediatric Hospital. Mai Anh said that they “have received the records of about 1,000 children with genital deformities that need to be reconstructed. This is the fifth time foreign doctors have come to Vietnam to provide free examinations and surgeries. More than 90 surgeries have been performed and some 300 patients have been treated without charge. The figures are beyond the dreams of those who have disabled children like my Thien Nhan. Such assistance will help many children leave behind the trauma of genital deformity.

Mai Anh’s great sacrifice has touched the hearts of many people including Mai Thao, a reporter for the People’s Police Television Channel, who won a prize at the National Press Contest in 2012 for scripting and directing a documentary called “A brave toddler”. Thao expressed her admire to Mai Anh “who will enthusiastically help any child in the same situation as Thien Nhan. Most such children are born into extremely disadvantaged families. Mai Anh herself has endured numerous hardships to locate doctors who will perform surgeries for these patients without a fee, which is typically huge.

Mai Anh's work and what she has done so far for Thien Nhan and other children with the same condition have inspired the community and moved people across the country to reach out and help children who are in need.