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Limbless Vietnamese girl aspires to become doctor

Tuesday, February 19, 2019, 16:00 GMT+7
Limbless Vietnamese girl aspires to become doctor
Tran Thi Hieu Thao writes in a notebook at her grandparents’ house in Soc Trang Province, southern Vietnam. Photo: Khac Tam / Tuoi Tre

A Vietnamese girl born with abnormally short arms and legs is leading a life admired by her family as she shows kind acts and a good academic performance.

Tran Thi Hieu Thao, nine years old, suffers a condition known as congenital amputation although no fetal deformities were detected in ultrasound, according to her maternal grandmother, Tran Thi Cho.

The main part of her name, Hieu Thao, is construed as filial affection and gratitude – a major quality expected of children in the traditional Vietnamese cultural value system.

Tran Thi Hieu Thao supports a glass of water on her short arm at her grandparents’ house in Soc Trang Province, southern Vietnam. Photo: Khac Tam / Tuoi Tre
Tran Thi Hieu Thao holds a glass of water with her short arm at her grandparents’ house in Soc Trang Province, southern Vietnam. Photo: Khac Tam / Tuoi Tre

Thao’s father died in a road accident before she turned one.

She has lived up to her name, considered a girl of thoughtfulness in her hometown on a river islet in the southern province of Soc Trang.

“Thao’s lovely and kind. She rarely snivels and doesn’t refuse to eat any food we give her,” her maternal grandfather, Tran Van Nho, said.

“She always gives us delicious food she receives from others.”

The child is now a third grader who can write quite beautifully – a result after days of practice with a pencil held between one of her short arms and her chin.

Tran Thi Hieu Thao’s handwriting. Photo: Khac Tam / Tuoi Tre
Tran Thi Hieu Thao’s handwriting. Photo: Khac Tam / Tuoi Tre

The same way is applied to a mobile phone, as Thao ‘types’ and touches the screen with her lips.

She was one of the students who joined a district-level handwriting competition and won a high award there, according to local education department leader Nguyen Thanh Phong.

“She made over a hundred attempts before she could use the phone with her lips,” the grandfather said.

“During the first few days, she sustained a bleeding injury that prevented her from eating. But she didn’t give up.

“It’s a determined and painstaking effort of hers.”

The grandmother takes her to school two kilometers away on weekdays along a road crossing a sugarcane field.

When the girl knew that the grandmother had been injured while working in a field, she cried and asked the woman to be taken to hospital, the grandmother recalled.

The child took care of the senior in the infirmary by crawling on the floor to bring water to her and using her short arms to massage and wipe sweat from the woman.

The girl crawled to doctors and told them to replace a bag almost running out of intravenous fluid for her grandmother.

Thao wishes to be a doctor when she grows up.

“I’ll try to study well and finish my education. I’ll become a doctor so that I can treat my grandma,” she said.

“When she’s healthy, she can live with me for a long time.”

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