Quang Ngai,Vietnam – Rob Williams, ReSurge supporter and volunteer
Me is a man of small stature, but large character. He is also an amazing father. He was born with a cleft palate and lip. An oddity in his village, his parents struggled for him to gain acceptance. At age 8 he was sent to live in Hong Kong because his family didn't have enough food to care for him. While living in a refugee camp, a western medical organization performed reconstructive surgery on him. He missed his mother and a few years later he returned home. All the people of his village rejoiced at his new appearance. His mother, Tuoc, couldn't believe the miracle the doctors had performed on her son.
Me's son, Nhat, was born during a violent storm – thus his nickname "Bao," meaning storm. He is lucky to be alive. During a routine ultrasound, the doctor discovered that he would also be born with a cleft palate and lip. His mother was devastated and wanted to have an abortion, but Me and Tuoc said no. They moved the family to the countryside to live until the baby was born. Bao was delivered, but his mother never visited him, and after a few days she left the hospital and abandoned the family.
A single father in Vietnam is not easily able to raise a baby. The hospital was going to send Bao to an orphanage, but Tuoc agreed to raise the baby along with Me. The hospital officials doubted their ability to properly raise the child, but she defiantly said, "I raised my son. He is a good man. I can do it!"
Six months later, they traveled here to Quang Ngai by bus from outside of Saigon to seek treatment for Bao from the ReSurge team. Me told us he was destined to be here with ReSurge. He had tried to get help from another medical team but was unsuccessful. Me, Tuoc and Bao made the journey without a place to stay or any guarantee that a surgery could be performed. Out of 200 potential patients, just over 60 were accepted for surgery, including Bao. The family is sleeping in the hallway at the hospital. The travel is a huge financial hardship for them, but they say they will worry about the money later. "We have to care for Bao," they say.
Me feels a lot of sadness and guilt about Bao. No one ever told him it wasn't his fault or that his son was just like all the other children. Everyone in their extended family is very happy that Bao is getting help. We encouraged them not be angry at the mother – that she is missing out. They thanked us and ReSurge. When asked if they'd thought about what he'd look like after surgery, they were too emotional to speak.
On surgery day, Me and Tuoc were too nervous to eat. They huddled around the pre-op examinations with great concern. Dr. Pirko Maguina performed the two-hour surgery, while Me and Tuoc anxiously waited outside with many other families. Progress updates were greeted with hugs, tears and thank yous. After a successful surgery but prior to the family being allowed to be with the baby, I showed them a picture of their new Bao. Me laid his head on my chest and wept. The throng of families then engulfed us trying to get a glimpse of the "magic" these surgeons performed.