by Lan Lan
Nguyen Thi Huan from the northern province of Quang Ninh was forced to move to Ha Noi because of problems with her husband's kidney. Since 2005, he has undergone dialysis blood cleansing three times a week at Huu Nghi Hospital.
Huan said she and her husband could not have made it if it weren't for the other patients and their families in the hospital. "We set up a club for patients' relatives to exchange views on how to take care of our loved ones and help each other, particularly patients with no relatives to care for them.
"Before joining the club, I knew almost nothing about kidney dialysis and how patients had to be on a daily diet," she said. "Club members taught me how to take care of my husband and how to encourage him to overcome such a debilitating ailment." Huan said that the combination of treatment and support from patients had led to a big improvement in her husband's health.
Another patient's wife, Hoang Thi Dinh from Ha Noi, said her family was very impressed with the help from club members. They shared their experiences with Dinh, whose husband suffered from brain trauma and could not remember anything.
"When my husband was in hospital, the doctors told us that they could not treat him and said it would be better to take him home. Then one member of the club brought me some special Chinese traditional herbs and told me how to grind the medicine and administer it to my husband.
"My husband, who had lost consciousness, recovered the next day and his health is improving every day," said Dinh, adding that her husband could have died if he hadn't received such effective help.
Then there is patient Nguyen Van Manh, 65, from northern Thai Nguyen Province who has been in and out of Huu Nghi Hospital's Haematology Department for 18 years. He said he is still alive today thanks to the medical workers plus the encouragement of other patients' families.
"Through years of visiting the hospital, I've met many patients and their relatives. They're a great help in such ways as buying me meals or giving me books as I love to read," said Manh.
He said that last year, when his family could not afford to pay the VND5 million bill for hospital fees, another patient loaned him the money. "I told him that he might have to wait for a long time to get the money back, but he said it didn't matter," said Manh. However, Manh's family is saving money and hopes to repay the loan by the end of the year.
Apart from the support of fellow patients and their families, Manh said patients in the Haematology Department were lucky because they were taken care of by kind-hearted doctors and nurses. "They are always considerate and ready to help without a complaint," he said.
Nguyen Thuy Hien, from another northern province, Cao Bang, was at Bach Mai Hospital for a month recovering from an ear operation. Hien said she quickly recovered thanks to Dr Nguyen Thi Hoa, her staff – and the help of her hospital mates.
"They helped me wash my clothes, bought me meals and provided other necessities because I was so weak after the operation. And they were always ready to lend me their mobile phones to call my family," said Hien, adding that she would never forget the relative of one of her fellow patients who would come to her bed regularly to inquire about her health, her circumstances and her needs. "I still think about them, my close Ha Noi hospital friends and I miss them very much," said Hien.
She said she became closer to many of the other patients than she had become with many of her neighbours in her hometown. "After one month at Bach Mai Hospital, she had good relations with all 12 other patients in her room and their relatives. We all wrote down our telephone numbers and addresses to keep in touch after," said Hien.
There's an old English proverb that says: "Heaven helps those who help themselves." The Vietnamese equivalent goes something like this: "Relying on God or Buddha is not as effective as relying on yourself" (Cau Troi Cau Phat khong bang cau chinh minh).
Observing the way patients in overcrowded Vietnamese hospitals really help each other throws fresh light on these profound old sayings. Without this love and respect for each other, many would go hungry or find it impossible to pay for special medicines.
While both God and Buddha would both be happy at the kindness patients show to each other, maybe it's time for the health ministry to start trying to squeeze more funds from Government for hospital equipment, beds and special medicines. Health, after all, is wealth. — VNS