How did Bridging Hope start?
During the last days of the Viet Nam War, Sr. Sen was separated from her mother, her only living relative. After discovering that her mother had safely fled the country, Sr. Sen also escaped to be reunited with her. Yet, living comfortably in America did not cloud the images of her people suffering the effects of war and poverty. On her first trip back to Viet Nam in 1990, she witnessed children living on the streets, begging for food, and young women forced into prostitution simply to survive. Consequently, she founded Provide-N-Ce, a gift shop and gallery of handicrafts and art from Viet Nam. It was her first effort to raise funds for the sustenance, employment, and education of such women and children. Eventually her desire to help these marginalized people led her to found Bridging Hope, a nonprofit that has enabled her to expand her assistance to the victims of poverty and of diseases like polio and HIV/AIDS.
How does Bridging Hope make a difference?
I want to share with you the on going story of Thanh Bach and her current condition. In one of my prior letters, I referred to a saying that said, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” This idea kept on unfolding as I have involved more deeply in the Bridging Hope’s mission in Việt Nam.
Thanh Bach’s Journey to Good HealthDuring my site visits in May 2018, I had a chance to revisit Thanh Bach, the case of the young girl that has a blood tumor on her left cheek. I want to recap her condition since my last post was in 2016.
Thanh Bach, 9 months old
When I went back to visit during spring of 2013, I noticed the tumor had grown astonishingly. My heart sank! A nudge inside me impelled me to take action.
Thanh Bạch, almost 2 years old
When I got back to the US, I sent Thanh Bạch’s pictures to Bridging Hope’s board members, volunteers, and friends asking for help. I received many suggestions but my attention leaned to a reply of Beverly Williams, a secretary of the International Children’s Surgical Foundation (ICSF). She wrote:
Thank you for contacting us! I have forwarded your message to Dr. Williams who is in Hanoi at this very moment. I wept at the sight of this baby, and knew that if something can be done, Dr. Williams will do it. We are so very grateful that you contacted us. Beverly Williams, ICSF Secretary
Right after, I received Dr. Williams’s email. He wrote:
This is Dr. Geoff Williams with ICSF. I have seen the baby’s photos and this appears to be some kind of a blood vessel tumor. This is not cancer. I do not think the tumor will grow much more. Can you tell me what city in Vietnam the child lives in? I am in Hai Phong Vietnam now, although I have to leave in three days. I will be in Hanoi all of the day on Sunday.
Thanks, Dr. Williams
How happy I was! I phoned Sr. Phúc in Viet Nam asked if she could arrange a trip for Thanh Bach to see him. The plan was to have Ms. Binh, a volunteer in Phan Thiet, to accompany Thanh Bach, her mother, and two siblings to go Saigon and then fly to Ha Noi. Meanwhile, I arranged two friends, Phuong and Ngoc, in Ha Noi to meet them at the Noi Bai Airport. They would take them to the pizza restaurant at the Big C Shopping Mall in the Cau Giay District to meet Dr. Williams. According to his description, he would wear a cowboy hat. The next morning, I received an email from Dr. Williams that said:
I was able to visit the baby. This mass is definitely not cancer, which is good news. The bad news is that I do not think this is the common kind of vessel tumor, the kind that shrinks after age 2. I think it is another kind of vessel tumor, a venous malformation. This is an overgrowth of the veins. I think it has fairly high blood flow at this time, making it dangerous for surgery. Another bit of good news is that the doctors in the children’s hospital in Saigon are treating the baby with a drug that seems to have helped since they started it 2 weeks ago. Therefore, I think the obvious thing to do I simply wait. I asked Binh to take photos every month or so and send them to you and then you can send them on to me. They will be taking the baby back to the hospital for evaluation. There is still the chance the mass will be successfully treated or shrink on its own or stop growing—we just have to give it time to see what happens.
One thing I was planning on telling Binh and the mother is what to do if the surface of the growth starts to bleed. It might get scratched or something. If this happens and starts to bleed, the mother should simply put gauze or toilet paper on the bleeding site and hold pressure, enough pressure to stop the bleeding and then keeping the pressure on and go to the hospital right away. Bleeding is unlikely so I don’t want to scare her—this is just in case.
Spring of 2014, I was in Viet Nam.
Since Dr. Williams was there at the same time, I arranged for Thanh Bach to have another exam with Dr. Williams. I met them in Saigon and together we flew to Ha Noi. After examining her, he again, suggested to continue her treatment at the children hospital in Saigon, and wait until her tumor was ready to operate.
3 1/2 year old Thanh Bạch, 2014
Thanh Bạch, almost 5 years old, 2016
This April, I visited Thanh Bach again. By now she is almost 7 years old. She now has three siblings, her mother re-married and is expecting another baby. I checked on Thanh Bach’s health condition. When asked about Thanh Bach’s surgery, her mother said the hospital kept telling them to wait. Observing their appearance condition – poor and unsophisticated – I wondered why the hospital’s staff told them to wait for the hospital’s staff know they don’t have money to cover the cost of their daughter’s operation. Thanh Bach did attend school but other kids kept poking on her tumor; she has now quit school.
Thanh Bạch, almost 7, 2018
When I returned to Saigon, I shared her situation with Fr. John Toại, director of MaiTam program for I know he has a tight connection with hospitals and physicians. I sent him Thanh Bach’s pictures. He showed them to the doctor. This doctor agreed to take her case and plans to see her soon. Of course, I was very happy! Within a few days, Binh, the volunteer, along with her step-father, took Thanh Bach to Saigon for a check up. The plan now is for her to continue to have a few more treatments to make sure the tumor would shrink down a little more. Her surgery date is planned for June 20th this year.
Read reflections on the 2011 Viet Nam trip by Sue Artone-Fricke, OSF Click here
Read about our recent trip to Viet Nam!
See a slideshow of photos from our trip below!
Click on the image to open a full page view of the slideshow.
Viet Nam Trip Oct. 2010 – Copyright
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