This is the heartwarming story of a 4-year-old boy, Minh Sang, and his mother, Ly Huong, from Vietnam. Minh Sang had heart surgery in February 2021 at Vietnam National Children’s Hospital, our partner hospital in Hanoi. Every day, Minh Sang, who loves his ukulele and Legos, is doing better. After two months away from school due to surgery, he was very excited to see his teacher again and meet new friends in the classroom. Coincidentally, his mom, Ly, learned about Children’s HeartLink’s work in Vietnam first as our interpreter during a training visit to Hanoi of our medical volunteers from the University of California San Francisco. Returning to the hospital as a parent of a child with heart disease, Ly saw the value of training a cardiac team in a different light. We are very thankful that Ly shares the story of her young son to show how advanced medical care can give a family hope and save a child’s life.
Minh Sang and his favorite instrument, a ukulele. He enjoys its sounds and is good at repeating them.
Ly: I had amazing pregnancy months, being happy and excited to welcome my baby to this world. On the second day of delivery, things collapsed when I was informed that my baby was born with congenital heart disease. I kept asking the doctors to explain to me again and again, but not much information was perceived as it was a shock for me as a first-time mother. However, no matter how terrible it was, I will never forget two things that day. (1) What the doctor who did the examination of Minh Sang told me, “Ly, I was able to contact one of the best doctors I know who can follow up with your son’s heart condition at National Children’s Hospital. The clinicians and cardiac health care staff there are the ones I believe can treat your son the best. WORK with them and TRUST them – that’s what you need to do for your son at this moment.” Amongst all the chaos I went through at that time, those words did lead me through the tunnel. (2) How warm and tight my husband held me saying that it will be ok, we will go through it together, strongly and nicely.
To be honest, I was not able to thoroughly realize the importance of clinicians being well-trained when I was supporting a training visit of Children’s HeartLink. Now, as a parent of a child treated at National Children’s Hospital, I really appreciate and value every single effort of the clinicians, and how their cardiac program helps make each day of my son’s life better and better. It’s the collaborative effort of a big supporting circle. Minh Sang had two surgeries. The first one was done when he was 4 months, and it was a bumpy recovery due to the wound infection. It was exhausting and lots of tears worrying about Minh Sang. With daily care and constant check-ups, Minh Sang gradually got better. Dr. Truong, who did both surgeries, recreated my son’s first 4-year childhood with more energy and confidence to play, grow up and enjoy life.
Minh Sang is fascinated with hospital monitors and machines
For his second and most recent surgery, my son was hospitalized for three weeks in the surgical post-op department. It was a surprise for me to see all the changes at the hospital in regard to the improved facilities, professionalism, and nursing care. I think it played an important role to shorten the period of hospitalization for the patient. The investment into those changes by the hospitals and their donors is extremely helpful for the patients. I really appreciate the way in which the doctors and the nurses communicated and educated us—me as a patient’s parent and my son as a patient. He was cared for and talked with respect, love, and attention to recovery progress, sometimes with a sense of encouragement and humor to make things much less stressed. I am amazed at how much it improves between the first and second surgeries. It comes from the big efforts of the hospital itself, but we cannot deny the efforts coming from the partnership National Children’s Hospital has with Children’s HeartLink.
My son’s surgery was done during the pandemic, and we faced a lot of restrictions. In particular, there was only one family member allowed to stay and take care of the patient. As far as I know, all the regulations went along with the directive from the Ministry of Health to all hospitals to reduce the risk of COVID-19 cases. It was a big task for the hospital staff because they had to spend more time checking the visitors’ health declarations. (an official form that declares the health status of a person) In addition to all the COVID-19 protocols, the risks of infection added additional stress and took a toll on our mental health. While taking care of my son at the hospital, I was always advised to follow the highest level of safety precautions: wearing masks and handwashing. I felt like due to COVID, patients and visitors have taken the safety precautions more seriously than normal, which helps a lot to reduce the risks of infection not only for COVID but also for other complications after surgery.
Minh Sang tracing his hand. One month after surgery
My little Minh Sang has been progressing each day, taking medication as prescribed, and has monthly check-ups with his doctor. All the little changes are carefully watched out and followed up by the National Children’s Hospital team. Minh Sang returned to his school and got to know two new friends in his class. He was excited to come back to class and run fast to hold his teacher’s hand on the first day after two months off due to surgery. Minh Sang loves exploring things around him. He can spend hours playing with his electric fan toys, ukulele, Legos and daddy. Minh Sang wants to be a construction engineer like his daddy when he grows up, so they have many projects and ideas to share through Legos.
It has been a journey for us filled with lots of love, warmth, encouragement, sharing and support. In some ways, Children’s HeartLink and its program has not only improved the healthcare quality for my son before, during and after surgery. It was experienced by us through the amazing work of the doctors and nurses at National Children’s Hospital, particularly, the Children’s Heart Center. I am pleased to share as I love and truly appreciate what Children’s HeartLink and National Children’s Hospital have been working on to improve the life quality of many children with congenital heart disease. It means a lot.
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Children’s HeartLink saves children’s lives by transforming pediatric heart care in underserved parts of the world. Founded in 1969, we currently support 18 partner hospitals in Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam. Through our partnerships, we serve more than 170,000 children per year.
Vietnam National Children’s Hospital in Hanoi has the largest cardiac program in the country. Medical volunteers from the University of California San Francisco are trainers and mentors for its cardiac team since 2017. Together, they developed a plan to serve more children and provide more advanced care.