VietNamNet Bridge – An abandoned boy, whose his right leg and genitals were taken by wild animals, is about to return to a normal life. That miracle is made by his adoptive mother Mai Anh.
Phung Thien Nhan was born on July 15, 2006. His mother was just 17 years old and had no desire to be burdened with the child. Instead she covered the newly born infant under a pile of papaya leaves and bamboo and left him to fate.
Somewhere on the side of a hill in Tam Thach commune, Nui Thanh district in Quang Nam province he laid for three days until a group of locals came across him. Tragically, he had been mauled by an animal, probably a dog, and lost most of his right leg, testicles and penis. When he was rushed to a nearby hospital, doctors had no choice but to amputate his leg at the hip. The fact that he survived is however nothing short of miraculous. It was there that he was named Thien Nhan (Good person) by visiting Buddhist monks.
The doctors did their best to stabilize Thien Nhan but the hospital couldn't afford to keep him. Nui Thanh district's police launched an investigation to discover who had abandoned this baby.
Eventually the mother's family was tracked down - at this stage the young mother had taken off. Her parents lived in abject poverty and could barely afford to feed the child let alone provide adequate medical care or finance his rehabilitation. Yet astonishingly, the local authorities decided to return Thien Nhan to his birth mother's family.
Word of Thien Nhan's tumultuous first few days in the world had got out and the story was even covered by national papers. After the story faded from most people's minds, one journalist from Hanoi, Tran Mai Anh couldn't stop wondering what had befallen the child, especially now that he had returned to the very family that had abandoned him.
Eventually Mai Anh decided she would try to find him and in December 2007 with the help of her friends she tracked him down in his family hut in Tam Thach. To say his condition was a cause for alarm is a massive understatement. He was completely neglected, dirty, anemic and suffering from diarrhea.
Mai Anh took it upon herself to take Thien Nhan to a medical center where he could get urgent treatment. Then in March this year she made arrangements to adopt him and brought him back to live with her and her husband, Phung Quang Nghinh, and their two sons in Hanoi.
"He escaped by a hair's breadth and now he has the right to live like many other children," says Mai Anh.
But of course considering the extent of Thien Nhan's injuries Mai Anh knew he would require more extensive treatment.
Thanks to the ceaseless efforts of his adoptive mother, Tran Mai Anh, and her friends as well as the kind sponsorship of others, Thien Nhan travelled to the US in August 2008 where he underwent surgery to help begin reconstructing his genitals.
The urethral dilation surgery was performed on August 21 by doctors at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Centre in New Hampshire. Dr. Herz, the urologist who performed the procedure, reported that everything went well and on August 23 when Thien Nhan woke up he also seemed quite pleased with himself. “He is enjoying peeing and wants to show me all the time!” said Mai Anh.
Previously, Thien Nhan could not feel when he wanted to urinate, but “now he knows when he has to go to the toilet. It is a turning point in his life”.
Thien Nhan has become a “real man”
Mai Anh, her first son and Thien Nhan
A nine-hour surgery in Italy in late January 2011 has helped Thien Nhan have a full penis. “This is an operation of destiny for Thien Nhan,” said Mai Anh.
Mai Anh had brought the boy to many big hospitals in Thailand, Singapore, etc. but leading doctors there said they could not recreate a penis for Thien Nhan because it was utopian, which the world had never done before. They advised Mai Anh to turn Thien Nhan into a girl.
But Mai Anh did not agree. She said: “God created him as a man and let him live when nobody thought that he could be alive. Let’s obey God’s arrangement!”
After the first trip to New Hampshire, Chicago and Los Angles (USA) in late 2008 to make the artificial leg and genitals. In late 2009, Mai Anh brought Thien Nhan to Texas hospital, one of the most modern pediatric hospitals in the US, to seek the opportunity to create the penis for Thien Nhan. However, American doctors said that they could recreate the penis for the boy when he is 14-15 years old.
Mai Anh didn’t give up hope. She told her mother, who brought Thien Nhan to Texas with her: “Everyone said it is impossible to help him become a normal man and it is utopian but I still believe that I can help him”.
Mai Anh strongly believed that Thien Nhan would become a normal man and she tried her best to turn that belief into reality. Her dream has come true.
In Italy, Dr. Roberto De Castro from Bologna Hospital publicized a great medical work: recreating penises for patients in cases similar to that of Thien Nhan.
However, that dream didn’t come to Mai Anh by chance. During the time Thien Nhan was operated in New Hampshire in late 2008, Mai Anh attended a workshop which had the participation of leading medical experts. Mai Anh directly presented the case of Thien Nhan and answered the questions of medical experts.
Being touched by a child of fate and admiring the great mother, American experts agreed to supervise the process to create the penis for Thien Nhan.
When Dr. Roberto De Castro announced his work, American doctors informed Mai Anh and introduced her to the Italian doctor. Mai Anh and Greig Craft, Director of the Asian Injury Prevention (AIP), godfather of Thien Nhan, sought to bring Thien Nhan to Italy to see doctor Roberto De Castro.
Doctor Roberto De Castro and Blogana hospital agreed to perform the operation for Thien Nhan at half of the official cost and arrange the surgery as soon as possible.
Thought the medical cost is reduced by a half, it was still huge to Mai Anh’s family but she was not discouraged. Thanks to the assistance of hundreds of people, the mother and her child went to Italy.
January 29 2011 could be seen as Thien Nhan’s day of regeneration because Italian doctors successfully recreated his penis in a nine-hour surgery.
In the operation room, the brave boy held his mother hand and said: “Mum, don’t be worried. I’m not in pain. I will not cry”.
“Seeing him in the operation with many injuries, I’ve never felt pity like this. I felt regret because just because of my aspirations my son had to experience such pain,” Mai Anh said.
Dr. Roberto De Castro directly visited the child and changed dressings for him daily. Speaking to the media after the operation, he said he was moved by the situation and the braveness of the 4-year-old boy, whose fate is so painful and strange.
At 7 am, February 12, Thien Nhan returned to Vietnam on a Vietnam Airlines flight. The airline arranged the best free seats for Mai Anh and Thien Nhan.
However, the treatment process will be very long and miserable.
In June 2012, the boy will have to return to the Bologna Hospital for the second operation to complete his penis. Italian doctors will also perfect his artificial leg.
The third and the last operation will take place when Thien Nhan is 14-15, but afterwards the future will be his for the taking.
“I wish that when Thien Nhan grows up, he can help unfortunate children like him, to pay his debt of life,” Mai Anh said.
Thien Nhan still needs all the help he can get. If you would like to find out how you can get involved or would like to make a contribution to help pay for his medical care, rehabilitation and education, check out his blog at www.help-thien-nhan.blogspot.com. On this regularly updated blog you can also keep up to date with this brave little boy’s day-to-day progress.