|Lê Minh Hiển gives a gift to a poor little girl in Chợ Rẫy Hospital. — Photo hiec.org.vn|
HCM CITY — Lê Minh Hiển, head of Community Service Office in HCM City’s Chợ Rẫy Hospital, wakes up early every weekend and goes to nearby provinces to give free screenings to poor and underprivileged children.
Hiển has spent a decade giving free surgery to more than 10,000 poor patients, including many children with congenital heart defects and cleft palate, using donation money which has now reached VNĐ80 billion (US$3.4 million).
He said after dozens of his trips to provinces, including Bến Tre, Trà Vinh and Hậu Giang, the thing that haunted him most was the eyes of children born in poverty and disease, he was quoted by the Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper as saying.
“The ill children were born while their parents struggle to make a living,” he said, adding that some parents did not even have enough rice to feed their babies..
Hiển said he once found a 12-year-old-girl with congenital heart defect in the Mekong Delta province of Tiền Giang during one of his trips. She was in the sixth grade but looked like a fourth-grade student. Her father left when she was an infant, leaving her mother as the sole breadwinner of the household.
After Hiển screened her in March, 2017, he told her to go to the Chợ Rẫy Hospital for surgery.
The little girl immediately burst into tears and said her mother could not afford the fee.
“I reassured her to not worry because the surgery is free thanks to kind-hearted people,” he said.
And the girl agreed.
Another case Hiển could not forget was a two-year-old boy from the southern province of Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu that was hospitalised in critical condition with a traumatic brain injury in 2007. His mother suffered from a mental disorder while his father did not have a steady job; earning his daily incomes as a manual labourer, so the couple could not afford the medical fee.
“At that time, I thought I would save the boy at any cost, I had to urgently find a donation,” he said.
Hiển shared the story of the boy to a group of kind-hearted people and finally found a donor.
The story happened 11 years ago, now the child is a healthy teenager and is still in frequent contact with Hiển.
Nguyễn Thị Thu, of the coastal province of Khánh Hoà in south central Việt Nam, said she took her three-year-old daughter to the hospital to treat her heart disease.
When she knew the medical fees could set her back as much as VNĐ90 million (US$3,850), she thought of borrowing the money on the black market because she and her husband did not have a regular job.
“But fortunately, the office considered my family’s situation and decided to grant free surgery for my daughter,” she said.
Devoted to the poor
Working at the community service office of the hospital, Hiển spends his weekdays handling medical records of poor and underprivileged people who are applying to receive financial support from donors.
Hiển said the office received about 15 dossiers a day.
There were a lot of impoverished patients and there were just as many heartbreaking stories, he said.
“If I can not find donors for them, they might descend into a critical state. I’m always determined that I will never allow such situation to happen,” he said.
About 20 benevolent people have worked with the hospital for years to help poor patients.
Hiển said regular donors included a female monk of a pagoda in HCM City’s Hóc Môn District and a woman living in HCM City’s Tân Phú District.
The office has 30 members. For years, they have launched various activities to support poor patients, such as organising a programme to give free haircuts and washes to patients every two months, providing 4,500 free meals for relatives of patients in the hospital daily and setting up counselling groups to instruct relatives of patients in the emergency department.
Nguyễn Thị Thạch, 59, of the southern province of Tây Ninh, said she felt very relaxed when she received a free haircut and hair wash.
Hiển said he felt he was lucky because he was doing the job. He could help the poor and underprivileged people, especially children.
“Seeing the smile on the lips of the children is a source of motivation for me to continue this endless journey to help those less fortunate around the country,” Hiển said. — VNS