Phạm Thị Thuý Hằng, 42, of HCM City helps her visually impaired daughter study. — VNS Photo Phạm An
HCM CITY — Phạm Thị Thuý Hằng of HCM City was once so tormented about her life that she considered jumping off her house balcony and killing herself and her daughter.
But after being startled by the young girl's crying, she realised that her daughter would have a difficult life without her if she died and her daughter, who was blind, survived.
At that moment of insight, Hằng decided to return to university for a second degree, all with the aim of helping her daughter live a fulfilling life.
Sixteen years ago, after graduating from the biology faculty at the University of Education, Hằng took a job as a teacher at a secondary school in the city.
That same year, her daughter Hoa was born prematurely with respiratory and cardiovascular complications. She was taken to the hospital many times, and a month later, her health improved.
But doctors told the mother that the girl had stage-5 severe retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), in which the retina is completely detached, and that it could not be cured.
Hằng and her husband, who were convinced there was a solution, sold their house and went abroad to seek treatment. After many surgeries, however, one doctor just shook his head and told the parents that nothing more could be done.
"I just hugged my daughter tightly. She cried in fear when I loosened by grip. I quit my job and stayed home to take care of her,” Hằng, 42, said.
That is when Hằng took Hoa to the balcony and thought about killing herself.
“I thought that if I committed suicide, what would happen if Hoa was still alive? If I die, I will be serene, but my daughter’s life will be worse, so I can’t leave her,” she said.
Phạm Thị Thuý Hằng, 42, of HCM City returned to university for a second degree in special education to help her daughter and others like her have a fulfilling life. — VNS Photo Phạm An
Instead of giving up, Hằng began learning more about the visually impaired and how they move, eat, learn, play and read Braille.
Hằng learned even more after her daughter was accepted at the Nguyễn Đình Chiểu School for the Visually Impaired in HCM City.
She attended an early intervention class in which teachers instruct parents how to take care of and educate their children.
The more Hằng learned, the more she saw that being visually impaired or blind was not the end of life.
“Students at the school can study and play with others. Many of them join the music club, performing in lots of different places.”
Thanh, a teacher at the schoo, is married and has children, she noted.
“I was relieved. I believed that my daughter could be independent, take care of herself and control her life. She was no longer afraid to sit alone,” Hằng said.
Determined to help her daughter further her education, Hằng returned to the University of Education and after graduating from the Faculty of Special Education, she became a teacher at the Nguyễn Đình Chiểu School for the Visually Impaired.
Hằng has always tried to attend the lectures offered by visiting international professors.
“I was lucky that I could learn to teach my child how to move, how to put on clothes, and to eat by herself,” Hằng said. “Hoa progressed every day. The scars and red patches, which were caused by hitting a chair or other objects, faded gradually. She also learned how to play on a toy piano.”
After a teacher at the school discovered that Hoa had a musical gift, he asked her to join the music club and she learned how to sing and play piano.
Hằng cried when she saw her daughter perform confidently on stage for the first time when she was seven years old.
“I asked Thanh to show me how to write musical notes in Braille, and I returned to find the music teacher helping Hoa,” she said.
“Sometimes Hoa did not understand what the teacher said, so I stood behind her and tried to remember all the notes to translate to Braille for her. Hoa learned quickly and when the teacher finished the song, she was able to play the song just as he had done.”
Over the years that she has devoted herself to helping her daughter, Hằng has never stopped learning.
Hoa is still studying at the Nguyễn Đình Chiểu School, but is also attending 10th grade in the District 10 Continuing Education Center in an effort to integrate with other students.
Several times a month, Hoa, now 16, is invited to play piano and sing at a tea room, restaurant or coffee shop in the city or other provinces.
"I want to show others that they should not give up if their children are unhappy or have disabilities. Children in my class at the school and all other classes here have the chance to study, play and live their lives,” Hằng said.
“Students at Nguyễn Đình Chiểu School can do everything, even cook and shop. Children are not disabled. It is the prejudice that makes them truly ‘disabled’.” — VNS