|With her bare hands, Tran Thi Hang surpassed all the challenges life has thrown her. — Photo tuoitre.vn
by Phung Nguyen
THAI BINH (VNS) — Tran Thi Hang took a deep breath, and swung her arm. Her hand was holding a knife that she had sterilised over a flame. Crack! She could feel the heat from the knife on her finger bone and she nearly fainted from the pain. One of her fingers fell on the floor.
Quickly, Hang took a handful of lime and covered the wound. People said this would make it heal. Hang suffered from a disease that made her fingers swollen and painful. Having no money to go to a doctor, she chose to cut them off one by one.
When she decided to cut off the last finger, with no other fingers left to hold the knife, Hang had to tie the knife to her arm with a rope to do so. But despite all the pain, it was just part of the suffering she had throughout her life.
A few years earlier, Hang worked for the Ministry of Finance in Ha Noi in 1972 when her shelter was hit by a US bomber. Injured and too weak to continue working, she had to return to her husband's hometown in Bac Ninh.
In 1975, she gave birth to a son, Tu Anh, but shortly after, her husband left her for another woman. Hang then went back to her hometown in Thai Binh Province without any money, identity papers or health insurance because her husband's family burned them all.
Hang used five banana trees to make a tent by a pond near her sister's house.At night when it rained, Hang covered her son with her body, trying to keep him dry while she was wet.
When storms came, Hang dared not sleep. Many times, the wind blew the tent away, leaving her and her son dripping wet.
She used her bare hands to dig up mud to make a bank around the pond so she could raise fish and grow water-morning-glory to earn a living.
Suffering from pain, imbedded dirt, and winter coldness, her fingers began to swell. And Hang did what she thought was her only choice at that time.
Seeing her fingers gone, villagers started to whisper that Hang was a leper. They avoided her and Tu Anh, fearing that her disease was contagious.
She was forced to go to a local clinic by local militia, where the doctor diagnosed her as suffering from inflammation and obstruction of peripheral arteries, but not leprosy. However, the villagers still kept away from her.
She wrote a letter to her mother, asking her to take care of her son and went to the village river to commit suicide. A fisherman rescued her and gave her some money, and told her to live.
Hang took her son to Nam Dinh Province, where she sold vegetables at a market for a living. She and her son slept on the street. In winter, they covered themselves with bags.
When Tu Anh was six, Hang saved enough to send him to school. But one morning she woke up and found herself unable to speak or move. For more than three years, she stayed in bed and was cared for by her son, who went to school in daytime, and sold fried peanuts at night.
After three years, Hang suddenly recovered and was able to get up again. She returned to Thai Binh and starting raising pigs on a small plot of land she bought with her savings.
At nights, her son would tie her hands to the handle of a bicycle and they would fetch soil from a nearby river to fill the pond in their garden. Then she decided that she had to build a house for her son.
Hang made mud bricks with her bare hands. She doesn't remember how many thousands of bricks she had made, but she remembers the pain.
"When working with the clay, my hands were always rubbed by small stones and gosh, you can't describe the pain. It went to the bone," she said. But Hang saved quite a bit from making bricks.
It was a joyful day for Hang in 1993 when Tu Anh was accepted at the National Economics University. Yet life still had challenges for her.
When Tu Anh was in the second year at college, he had to drop out because of brain hypoxia. For more than nine months, Hang took her son to many hospitals for treatment. All of her savings were gone and her house was taken.
But she didn't give up. As her son recovered, she went to Quang Ninh Province to start again. She earned enough to pay her debts and got her house back.
Tu Anh also opened his own company and had some initial success. From their savings, mother and son were able to build a bigger villa on the land that witnessed all of their hardships - to the surprise of her neighbours.
"I want to keep it as a reminder of all the challenges that my son and I surpassed," she said. — VNS