A newborn child found abandoned in a plastic bag in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong is now thriving, thanks to the love and care of the Buddhist nun who has taken her in and given her a shot at life.
Trieu Hoai An was found by a local farmer on March 29 in a plastic bag hanging from a tree in a coffee plantation in the province’s Duc Trong. When the farmer found her she was sunburned and covered in wounds, insect bites, and maggots.
Though he had little hope for her survival, the farmer rushed Hoai An to a local medical center where doctors said she was four to five days old.
She was also diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a brain condition caused by the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. Fewer than one in 10,000 children are born with the condition.
Doctors estimated Hoai An wouldn’t make it past her first birthday.
The Venerable Minh Tai, the abbess of the Hue Quang monastery in Duc Trong known for mothering 12 orphans decided to adopt the abandoned child and name her Hoai An, which means “peaceful forever” in Vietnamese.
“I could barely sleep; It was so hard to decide whether I should adopt her,” Minh Tai told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
The abbess explained in an interview with Channel News Asia that “when I first saw her, my heart ached when I thought about the pain and suffering she must have endured, and tears started flowing from my eyes.”
Love creates miracles
Minh Tai made it her mission to save Hoai An, but it was no easy task.
Hospitals throughout Vietnam told her they couldn’t treat the baby’s condition.
Unwilling to give up, the abbess began raising funders with her disciple Thien Ngo and Lu Bach Phung, a 28-year-old American-Vietnamese.
By April they had raised VND500 million (US$21,500) and brought the baby to Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital for treatment.
However, VND500 million was barely drop in the ocean given Hoai An’s extremely rare disease.
After just a few days in Singapore, the money had all be used and Minh Tai and Phung had to reach out to charity organizations for help.
“As word began to spread on social media, people started calling us up and the donations began pouring in,” said The Venerable Minh Tai.
With the aid of charity organizations and individuals alike, Hoai An’s health began to steadily improve after just ten days of treatment from neurosurgeon doctor Tang Kok Kee.
Dr. Tang cleaned An’s wound and drained her head of excess fluid, alleviating pressure in her skull and giving her much needed comfort.
The surgery, the first of its kind to be treated at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, typically requires about eight weeks for the incision to be fully healed.
However, against all the odds, the little baby recovered in just three weeks and was cleared by doctors to return to Vietnam.
“She is sleeping better, crying louder and has more of an appetite,” Minh Tai told The Straits Times, adding that since the surgery the baby girl has gained about 700g in weight and her physical responses have improved.
On June 18, Mount Elizabeth Hospital’s Facebook page announced that baby Hoai An was going home.
“After months of care and recovery, baby Trieu Hoai An’s principal surgeon, Dr Tang Kok Kee, says her wounds have healed and she is now doing fine enough for discharge,” the Facebook post reads.
The hospital staff also collected well-wishes dedicated to Hoai An from the public and presented them to the baby and The Venerable Minh Tai “as a small parting gift as they make their way back to Vietnam.”
People hope that Hoai An will be healthy and live up to the nickname “Hoa sen da” (succulent plant) given to her by Minh Tai.