Children of vietnam


Nguyễn Thị Kim Anh Nguyễn Hoài Phương Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Ánh Trần Nhuận Điền Nguyễn Đức Tân
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Nguyễn Thị Kim Anh


Save a hand, change a life

Bui Ngoc Mai Thao was born with just four digits on her right hand. Her thumb is just a small knob, so Mai Thao is unable to handle any items with her right hand

In order to help Mai Thao regain the use of her hand, the doctors at FVH’s Hand Surgery Department performed surgery to give her a functioning opposable thumb.

The first time she held her little newborn daughter, Ms. Nguyen Thi Bich Loan, who lives in from Buon Ma Thuot City, smiled happily at the sight of that lovely little face covered with tiny peach fuzz. However, that initial happiness faded quickly when she opened the cloth enveloping the baby and found that her daughter’s right hand only had four normal fingers and a small knob in the place of her thumb. In despair, Ms. Bich Loan burst into tears.

Cứu một bàn tay đổi thay một số phận, Sức khỏe đời sống,

Thảo and her mother


Thao continued to grow into a healthy and happy child with round, shining eyes. However, since her daughter’s birth, Ms. Loan continued to worry about Thao’s future and her quality of life with a malformed hand. When seeing her little baby trying to handle spoons, bowls, glasses and toys but always dropping them, Ms. Loan’s only desire was for the miracle that would give her daughter a normal hand.

One day, Mai Thao returned home from kindergarten with a sullen face. She asked her mother in tears, “Mommy, why is my hand not like my friends’?” Those words were like a knife cutting her sorrowful mother’s heart. The thing that Ms. Loan had worried about most had finally happened. Thao had grown up and realised that her hand was malformed. Her friends made fun of her for being different, and Thao became shy and less willing to play with them as before.

When she reached five years old, Thao began to learn the alphabet. Although Ms. Loan tried to help Thao use her left hand to write with, her efforts went unrewarded. The little girl was only able to draw scribble-like lines. Thao shared her wish to become a teacher with her mother, but this dream seemed unlikely to come true. Ms. Loan and her husband worried about their little daughter’s future constantly. After learning of Thao’s situation, the Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund, jointly founded by FV Hospital and Thanh Nien Newspaper, covered the cost of a surgery to restore Thao’s hand function. Thao’s surgery was performed by FVH’s doctors in June 2011.

Cứu một bàn tay đổi thay một số phận, Sức khỏe đời sống,

Thao is happy with her friends (the forth girl on left)


At FV Hospital, hand surgery specialist Vu Hoang Lien, PhD, examined Thao and developed a surgery plan to recover the functions of her hand. Dr. Lien said, “A hand without a functional thumb is a huge disability because the patient cannot handle any items. Thao’s hand malformation would have had a big effect on her life then and in the future. Therefore, we decided to perform a pollicisation to create a new thumb by surgically migrating the index finger to the position of the thumb to allow her to manipulate objects. This procedure would also improve the aesthetic of her hand.” Pollicisation is a surgery in which a thumb is created from an existing finger, usually the index finger. Pollicisation is a complex surgery and Thao’s case was also the first surgery of its kind to be performed in Vietnam. Surgeons had to follow several steps: first, they had to shorten the index finger. Then they had to rotate and place the finger in the position of the thumb, before relocating the finger tendons in their new position.

“During the pollicisation, we decided to cut some skin to create skin sheets to cover the cleft between thumb and index finger, and separate the nerves, arteries and veins and tendons of the index finger,” continued Dr. Lien. “Cutting the metacarpal bone of the index finger was another extremely important step. Then we placed Thao’s new thumb in the correct position, attached tendons in their new positions and rotated the skin sheets. Each step needs to be performed extremely accurately. The biggest difficulty is how to locate the thumb in an opposable position to permit dexterity and handling of objects and gain the necessary margin of a usual thumb.”

After the surgery, Thao’s hand was bandaged for two months while it healed. The following month, her hand had recovered well and her new thumb was healthy, ruddy and flexible. In her most recent follow-up examination at FVH, Mai Thao could handle a pencil to draw and write letters, as well as handle a glass of water with the new thumb and the middle finger of her right hand. Looking at Thao handling the pencil to draw, playing with toys or tying sneakers skilfully, nobody would believe she had been born with a malformed hand.

When the new 2012 school year started, Thao was happy to wear her new uniform with white shirt and blue trousers and eager to enter the first grade with her friends at Nguyen Trai Primary School in Dak Lak Province. Thao’s teacher said, “Thao is a smart pupil. She is diligent when practising her writing and studies very hard. She is also very sociable with her friends. When first teaching this class at the beginning of the new school year, I had no idea that Thao’s right hand had only four fingers. However, after knowing that and seeing her writing, I greatly admire her patience.”

Every morning, when Ms. Loan takes her little girl to school and sees her playing and having fun with her friends in the school yard, Ms. Loan thinks: “Now everything is good. FVH’s doctors have changed my daughter’s life. With her new thumb, my daughter can eat, drink and write normally like other children. That is my family’s greatest happiness.”


From 19th to 30th November 2012, Doctor Stéphane Guero, a French hand surgeon, will work at FV Hospital’s Hand Surgery Department. Dr. Stéphane Guero not only performs surgeries to treat congenital hand deformities in children, such as syndactyly, polydactyly, ectrodactyly, brachydactyly and tumours in the palm, but also performs hand reconstructive surgeries for adult patients.

During this working trip to Vietnam, Dr. Stéphane Guero, together with hand surgery specialists at FVH’s Hand Surgery Department such as Dr. Vu Hoang Lien and Dr. Nguyen Xuan Anh, will cooperate with the Children of Vietnam Charitable Fund in a surgery programme for children with congenital hand malformations. Approximately 30 patients will be treated free of charge under this programme. Please contact the Hand Surgery Department, FV Hospital, via (08) 5411 3333 (ext. 1227) for more details.