Despite her painful, constant struggle with brittle bone disease, Nguyen Thuy Trang, from An Giang Province in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, has found the light of her life through handicrafts and has, for the past decade, even reached out to those who are even struggling more than she does.
Weighing just 20kg and less than 70cm tall, Trang has cherished dreams that tower above her stature.
Trang was born with brittle bone disease, or Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a disorder that results in fragile bones that break easily.
Brittle bone disease can range from mild to severe.
Most cases are mild, resulting in few bone fractures.
However, the severe forms of the disease can cause hearing loss, heart failure, spinal cord problems, and permanent deformities, according to Healthline.
The debilitating condition has resulted in her extremely small stature, movement difficulty, and frequent fractures.
Still, the illness did not knock Trang down but made her stronger.
Rather than letting her disorder get in the way, the girl is pushing steadily toward her goals of staying financially independent and helping lift the spirits and relieve the difficulties of those around her.
The 21-year-old, residing in Hoi An Commune, Cho Moi District, now runs a Facebook Page, Vuon Nha Moc (Wooden Garden), where she sells her exquisite handmade paper blossoms.
Trang’s products have been popular with customers from around the country not only for the exquisite craftsmanship but also for her positive energy and the message she spreads.
Enduring the unendurable
People can easily recognize Trang by the bright smile that she always wears despite her difficulty moving around and myopia.
The young woman shared she weighed only around two kilograms at birth and has been tormented since by brittle bone disease, which causes increased bone fractures, some fractures only a few months apart.
|Nguyen Thuy Trang is seen during one volunteering trip in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta in this photo supplied by the girl.|
Trang said though she could not tell how many fractures she has been through, the agony it has inflicted is fresh on her mind.
“All a fracture sometimes needs is just a light cough or sneeze,” Trang said.
“As I grew up, I felt low-spirited from time to time,” she admitted, adding she was depressed about how different she is from others around and how happy her peers were going to school and frolicking to their hearts’ content.
Unable to attend school, the young girl insisted she received education in an alternative form.
Her parents invited tutors to teach her how to read and write at home, allowing her to see the world through books and social media and take her first steps toward a brighter future.
“Denied a higher education, I’m still able to forge my own path and learn to become a useful person through knowledge from the books I read,” Trang said excitedly, pointing to a small bookshelf stacked with literature and history books in her home.
Fragile as she may look, Trang learned to take care of herself and tries to do simple daily activities without assistance.
As a grown-up, she taught herself how to keep her brittle bones from breaking too often, scissor paper into shapes, and design photography concepts.
Trang is not alone on her life path.
Instrumental to her progress is 67-year-old Nguyen Thi Xuan, who she adorably calls Aunt Hai.
Aunt Hai has always been by Trang’s side since her birth, as Trang’s own mother trusted her newborn to the woman during the girl's early years following her difficult delivery.
“I consider her my second mother. She has a say in all my big decisions,” Trang shared.
Tiny yet mighty
Crafting paper flowers and other decorative items allows Trang to make a living with her own creativity and improve her sense of self-worth.
Her artistic pursuit was inspired by her fascination with plants and dream of owning a lush garden.
Unable to tend to a physical garden due to poor mobility, she thought of building a garden of paper blossoms around three years ago.
The girl taught herself the craft through YouTube tutorials and social media and purchased materials and tools online.
It took Trang a while to become adept at crafting paper into delicate flowers.
With her feeble hands, she kept trying and failing.
“It was really tough, my hands got numb after holding the scissors for a while,” Trang recounted.
“It was frustrating when a whole day’s hard work churned out shoddy items.”
Undaunted, Trang practiced hard to improve her skills in different phases including paper cutting, shaping, gluing, and coloring.
Her persistence has born fruit: she has become such a pro at the craft that she can now make a simple pot within a few days.
She came to showcase the items which she took pride in on her personal page.
It was then that she received her first order for a lovely sunflower bouquet which she offered for around one dollar.
“I’m really into sunflowers. No matter how bad the situation is, the blossoms constantly seek sunlight which represents good things in life,” Trang said.
Trang’s crafted items have been well-received by customers.
Pham Thi Van Nhi, one of Trang’s patrons, who hails from Tra Vinh, another province in the Mekong Delta, said she can feel the delicacy and detail put into the pieces the moment she picks them.
“Trang’s pieces are a lifelike replica of real flowers, which proves a challenge even to able-bodied people. I really admire her strong will,” Nhi remarked.
|A brilliant-looking bouquet of sunflowers and daisies skillfully crafted by Nguyen Thuy Trang, residing in An Giang Province, southern Vietnam is seen in this photo supplied by the girl.|
Hundreds of items crafted with Trang’s feeble hands have made it to customers from around the country.
The day your correspondent came to visit Trang, she expressed regrets that she could not show her entire prized collection of paper flowers, as most of the items had sold out on Vietnamese Teachers’ Day – November 20.
“Orders just kept flooding in, I even couldn’t keep supply on a par with demand on the occasion,” she said.
Despite constant fatigue and numbness in the hands and legs after long hours of work, the go-getter is perfectly content with her choice.
There is a message from Trang that can inspire and spread positive energy to the physically challenged community.
“From my own experience, I want my peers to stay motivated. They shouldn’t have an inferiority complex or consider themselves useless. It’s just that they haven’t found the job that fits them,” she said.
“Instead of pondering over why me or having unrealistic dreams, just focus on what lies within our capacity.”
Despite all the adversities she faces, for the past 11 years, Trang has been unwaveringly involved in charity and community work.
The leader of a charity group called Thau hieu de yeu thuong (Empathize in Order to Love), she and other members have organized many trips to hand out gifts to the needy throughout An Giang Province and neighboring localities for more than one decade.
Trang fell and broke her bones during a volunteering trip to Tra Vinh Province, but that could not stop her moving on with the good deeds.
“I prepare the list of gift recipients and the presents myself. I profoundly empathize with what they have been through and find myself more blessed than many,” she said.