We take pride in our transparent operations and our direct relationship with amputees in Vietnam. Our team is constantly inspired by the strength and positivity of every individual. We hope these stories inspire you as well.
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Nguyen Van Ha, 58.
For Nguyen Van Ha, 58, as with so many Vietnamese of his generation, war has been an inescapable, looming shadow. Born during the Vietnam War, Ha would later serve as a soldier in the Cambodian-Vietnamese War and to this day carries the tragic memory of that service everywhere. During a march at nightfall in 1983, Ha stepped on a landmine, the detonation of which tore off his right leg. Decades later, Ha would be one of Penta’s first patients.
Shortly after he was discharged from the Vietnamese military due to his injury, Ha moved to Saigon, where he has lived with his family for over 30 years.
For several decades, Ha was forced to use an old, heavy wooden prosthesis that was ill-suited to the wet conditions present during the long rainy season in Vietnam. It was particularly inconvenient for work, causing him great trouble moving around for his job as a security guard at a Buddhist pagoda. Ha often had to drag the limb, a repeated motion that caused both back pain and damage to the prosthesis. His lack of mobility also prevented him from fulfilling his lifelong desire to travel and see the world.
When Penta began working in Vietnam, Ha was one of the first patients referred to us. Through our work with a local orthopedic hospital, he was fitted with a waterproof lower-limb device that was half the weight of his previous prosthesis. “It’s lighter and better than the old device,” Ha said. “It doesn’t hurt. [It] is light, so it doesn’t interfere with my [back] problems.” He also praised its durability and stability. With the new device, Ha can climb the stairs of the pagoda and has resumed his job with vigor.
During our last summer visit, Ha delighted our team with stories about his travels around Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Since being fitted, Ha has visited Indonesia, Malaysia, and Ha Long Bay in northern Vietnam. We were most surprised and thrilled to hear that while on a scenic boat tour of the bay, Ha even jumped into the sea, fully clothed and with his waterproof leg, to save a young girl who had fallen overboard!
As a veteran who has lived most of his life with a lower-limb amputation, Ha said he never thought he would ever be able to travel, let alone save someone from drowning, but with his new, trusty, lightweight prosthesis, he is living life to its fullest.
Son Vu, 20.
By all standards, Son leads an incredibly active life. At just 20, he already owns a coffee store, where he spends his mornings serving coffee to his customers. After that, he walks for more than 10 miles to different coffee shops and sings for charity. In his spare time, he break-dances with his girlfriend. His daily routine is made all the more impressive by the fact that Son Vu has only recently adjusted to his prosthetic knee joints.
Son lost his leg in the same manner as tens of thousands of others in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. He was sitting in the passenger seat of his friend’s motorbike when it crashed into another vehicle on the road. Upon regaining consciousness, Son Vu learned that his left leg had been amputated above the knee. With his whole family gathered around him in the hospital, he remembers stifling his cries to keep himself and others strong and positive.
However, things began to change when Son’s doctor recommended him to Penta’s program. Soon after, he was fitted with a used but extremely high-quality titanium knee joint. After months of rehabilitation and relentless practice, Son began to walk again, ride his motorbike unassisted, and eventually, work on his own. He now runs a successful business and loves to share his story as an empowering message to others. He participates in Penta’s educational programs for high school students and serves as a spokesperson for addressing the social stigma against limb disability in Vietnam.
Nguyen Thi Men, 29.
Moving around the clinic with her newly-fitted lightweight prosthetic leg, Men declared that she could truly walk, comfortably and unassisted, for the first time in 16 years.
“I was in the hospital for a long period of time, for several years,” she said. She then received a free prosthesis from the Red Cross, but she did not have enough muscle strength to lift the device and move properly. Getting a more advanced prosthesis was out of the question due to her financial constraints, so Men went about without one.
Through her friends in the amputee community, Men learned about Penta and reached out to our team. We referred her to one of our partner clinics in Saigon, where she was fitted with a below-the-knee set that we had provided to them. Like many of the amputees we work with, Men is amazed at the lightness and sturdiness of the titanium and carbon fiber parts compared to her old wooden leg. She can now walk around more easily and comfortably, and she says that the device has raised her quality of life both at work and at home. As Men and her husband are street vendors, mobility is key to their profession. Her new prosthetic device has allowed her to navigate the streets on which she works and the bustling markets in which she shops with renewed ease.
Nguyen Thang, 18.
On the day of his 17th birthday, Thang was hit from behind by a motorbike that swerved onto the sidewalk. By the time he reached a hospital, the doctor informed Thang’s parents that he the window to save his limb had passed and that he would have to receive a below-the-knee amputation. Thang spent his birthday and the following month in the hospital.
For the next year, Thang relied on friends and family to recover from the accident. Unable to move around as he could not afford a prosthetic limb, Thang was missing school, and after a year, he became eager to return to education and pursue a profession. Driven to not allow his disability to constrain him, Thang began to seek out new options for prosthetic care, eventually becoming one of Penta’s first patients.
With his new below-the-knee device, Thang has returned to school and also has found a passion for hairdressing. After regular classes every day, Thang attends hairdressing classes at a local disability center. “The leg helps me to move around easily. Now I can ride my motorbike to my hairdresser school. I can have a job and take care of myself,” Thang said, adding that he hopes to open a barbershop in the future, an option that is now possible because of his newfound mobility.
Hung Van Hoe, 59.
Hung lives with his wife and two children in Saigon, where they run a tailor shop out of their home. He makes two to three dollars per day and uses this money to take care of himself and his family. He lost his limb in 2016 and it took him a year to undergo the rehabilitation process and begin to regain mobility. His new above-the-knee prosthetic device, which was provided by Penta, allows him to smoothly maneuver around the tailoring machinery, and complete his work with the efficiency he had before his accident.
Now able to walk on his new device, Hung says he hopes to his aid his family in their weekly charity work. His two children participate in charity programs for the homeless and bring food, which Hung’s wife cooks, to shelters around the city.
Diem was on a road trip to purchase merchandise for her vending business when her motorbike was caught in the middle of a horrific collision that would alter the course of her life.
In a country with more than 45 million registered motorbikes (and a population of 92 million), Diem’s story is unfortunately far too common. Motorbikes offer cheap transportation but little protection during collisions. Traffic accidents, particularly ones involving motorcycles, kill or injure tens of thousands of people across the country every year, particularly on the bustling streets of Saigon. These accidents are the leading cause of limb amputation in Vietnam.
Luckily, Diem, at the time only 25 years old, was brought to a hospital within the hour and received an above-the-knee amputation on her right leg. That was twelve years ago. Since then, she has received her prosthetic care from Le Nam Clinic, a local clinic that works closely with Penta.
However, due to the great financial burden of the prosthetic care, made worse by the lack of sufficient healthcare insurance and her inability to return to vending to make money, Diem has struggled to find decent quality prosthetic devices even with the support of her prosthetist. She attests that none of her previous devices fit comfortably and that her stump would become irritated whenever she had to walk long distances.
When Le Nam began working with Penta, Diem was finally able to receive a light, comfortable, and durable limb at an affordable cost. “I feel really comfortable with this new prosthesis compared to the previous ones I had,” she enthused. “It is a great and positive impact on my life.”
The impact, she notes, is both physical and psychological.
Diem now spends most of her time at home, but not idly. With her newfound comfort and mobility, she has made her business much closer to herself for convenience, opening a little shop from home that sells various goods.
Loc has a stable job and a tight-knit family, but his new prosthetic device has given him something he had missed for the last eight years: the ability to walk and exercise without pain.
Loc was run over by a public bus when he was 17 and after a lengthy rehabilitation process, he received a low-quality wooden device. “I tripped a lot and it hurts when I walked,” he said.
After high school, Loc trained for two years at a university in Saigon to become a photoshop expert and now works the night-shift at a photoshop service company. He enjoys his job and the stability, but his health declined over the past several years due to the sedentary nature of his work.
Eventually, Loc was able to find a much more comfortable device through a clinic that worked with Penta. With this new device, Loc is now able to walk and exercise when he is not at work, some days for up to 8 hours. Additionally, his new device has allowed him more comfort in other areas. “I am also more confident when I hold conversations in public,” he said.
Despite how his accident changed his life, Loc has been able to form a close group of friends in the amputee community. They regularly meet up and exchange tips on using their prosthetic devices. While amputees still carry a stigma in Vietnam and often find themselves treated as pariahs, Loc has been able to open new doors socially through his disability.
Tran Manh Cuong, 22.
For 10 years, Tran Manh Cuong strived to lead a typical adolescent life, living with his parents and sister, hanging out with friends, and going to school, all without a left leg or a prosthetic device to replace it.
Tran, now 24, got into a car accident on his way to take an exam at school and underwent an above-the-knee amputation on his left leg when he was just 12. It took a year for his wound to heal, but for the next nine years, he was unable to find a prosthesis to help him walk again due to financial constraints and because his family lives in a province far from any major cities.
Despite all of this, Tran remembers skipping very few days of school and said his teachers allowed him to take his exams at home. Sitting in bed and recovering from the surgery, Tran passed with flying colors.
His determination to stay in school despite the physical and mental challenges of limb disability has seen Tran excel academically. He is now a college student at a university in Ho Chi Minh City, where he studies government management. He heard about Penta through the amputee community and has been fitted with a state-of-the-art knee joint and carbon fiber foot through Penta’s used device collection program. He has also received a cosmetic covering that has given him renewed confidence in social settings. “With my new leg, I go to school and perform daily tasks just like a normal person,” he said. “I’m more confident too.”