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 later served as a soldier in the Cambodian-Vietnamese War and carries the tragic memory of his 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 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 back pain and damage to the prosthesis. His lack of mobility also prevented him from 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 visit in the summer, 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 stores 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 people 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 the 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 and ride his motorbike unassisted, and eventually begin working on his own. He now runs his successful business and loves to share his story as an empowering message. He participates in Penta’s educational programs for high school students and serves as a spokesperson to address 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, again 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 the sufficient muscle strength to lift the device. Getting a more advanced prosthesis was also out of the question, due to her financial constraints. A high quality device can cost up to ten thousand dollars in Vietnam, a cost that is far beyond the reach of most amputees.
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 and fitted her with a below-the-knee set through our used devices collection program. 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 said she can now walk around more easily and comfortably and that the device has raised her quality of life at work and at home. Both she and her husband are street vendors and mobility is key to their profession, while she has also been able to navigate the bustling markets to grocery shop 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 his parents that he had missed the window to save his limb and had 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 and missed a whole year of school. Eager to return to school and look for a profession, Thang began to look for prosthetic care and became one of Penta’s first patients.
With his new below-the-knee device, Thang has returned to school and also 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 hairdresser school so I can have a job and take care of myself,” Thang said, adding that he hopes to open a barbershop in the future.
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 $2-3/day and uses this money to take care of himself. His new above-the-knee prosthetic device allows him to smoothly maneuver the tailoring machinery. He lost his limb last year and is still in the rehabilitation process to regain the ability to walk.
When he does, Hung says he hopes to join his family’s 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, 37 years old.
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, kills and injures tens of thousands of people across the country every year, particularly on the bustling streets of Saigon, and are indeed the leading cause for limb amputation in Vietnam.
Luckily, Diem, then 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 and since then, she has received prosthetic care from LeNam Clinic, a fantastic local clinic that works closely with Penta.
However, due to the great financial burden of such medical care, the lack of sufficient healthcare insurance, and her inability to return to vending, Diem has struggled to find decent quality prosthetic devices despite the support of her prosthetist. As she attests, none of her previous prosthetic devices fitted her perfectly and her stump would flare up whenever she had to walk long distances.
Diem joined the Penta program in the [summer of 2017] and our staff quickly found a suitable high quality replacement from our used devices collection program. “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 as a housewife, but with her newfound comfort and mobility, she has also opened a little shop from home to sell different goods for a living.
Loc has a stable job and a tight knit family, but his new prosthetic device has given him something he was 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 at a university in Saigon for two years 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 has declined over the past several years due to the sedentary nature of the job and
With his device from Penta’s used prosthetic collection program, Loc is able to walk and exercise when he is not at work, for up to 8 hours on some days. “I am also more confident when I hold conversations in public,” he said.
One positive experience that has come out of the accident is the close group of friends Loc has formed in the amputee community. They regularly meet up and exchange tips on using their prosthetic devices.
Tran Manh Cuong, 22.
For 10 years, Tran Manh Cuong has strived to lead a typical adolescent life, living with his parents and sister, hanging out with friends, and going to school, without a left leg or a prosthetic device to replace it.
Tran, now 22, 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 the major cities. Still, 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 and 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.”