Meet the Children of the SPC Orphanage

Tuy Hoa Travel Blog

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Chuckles getting a massage

Luong aka "Chuckles"  is a 2.5 year old girl who weighs 21 pounds.  She has Cerebral Palsy.  She can move her arms and legs and head, but not in clear intentional motions.  Her left arm curls into her body and her left hand hangs limp at the wrist.  She generally uses that hand to hit her chest or her mouth or to suck on her forearm.  Her left leg will lift up and slam down on things, like she's stomping her foot.  The right side of her body is less active.  Her right shoulder is sensitive at times and I've been told has been dislocated before.  I've massaged her whole body and not found her sensitive to touch in that area at all, or any areas.  The bottom of her feet are ticklish, and she loves the sides of her spines and the back of her neck being pressed.

Luong "Chuckles"
 

Chuckles is nicknamed that for the obvious reasons. She has a gorgeous face and a matching personality.  She's got a light spirit and if she's not chuckling you know somethings wrong.  She was the main motivating force behind "the list" which got a doctor to pay a visit.  A few days last week she went without chuckling.  Mainly she whinged at being touched, moved, fed.  It was hard to tell the source of her discomfort.  The dr. said she had a temp. of 101 and a sore throat.  Norma paid for her to be on some meds and she's been smiling since.  (maybe the doctor wasn't good for nothing). 

Hoa is Chuckles' bed mate.  They've laid side by side to each other on a plank of wood there whole time at the orphanage (hard to say how long that is) but it's long enough for both of them to have formed flat heads.

Chuckles sitting upright in a wheelchair
  The pictures don't even show how flat these heads really are.  Imagine a piece of wood.  Before the volunteers arrived in this town I don't think these children ever left there beds.  They get fed there, changed there, bathed there.  Now we come in and get them stretching, get there body parts moving with some physio.  We sit them up in wheelchairs to give there body some time in a different position (wheelchairs donated by prior vollies).  We give them massages and cuddles and talk to them.  The orphanage mothers have taken note of this and have started to look at the children as actual children.  I've seen them stroking and hugging them and ocassinally we come in and they're already sitting up in chairs.  Even though times can be hard here I need to remind myself that the shere presence of us vollies has already made a difference in someone's life.
Chuckles and Hoa in there bed
 

Hoa is 2 years old and shorter than Chuckles but stalkier weighing the same amt. as Chuckles.  I swore she had a lung infection from the way she's being fed.  But it's hard to say.  Her breathing is very raspy as if something is gurgling in her lungs, but it could just be a constricted pipe with flem.  She is a very gassy child and is constantly projectil vomiting up her food.  The doctor says the breathing sound and the vomiting is normal.  She's got CP as well and is on the same meds as Chuckles for epileptic fits.  Unfortunately her fits don't seem to be tamed by these meds and she's had them up to 3 times in one hour before.  They're scary as hell for me and I can only imagine how torturesome it must be for her.

Baby Thu a month ago
  Her lungs close up, she starts to turn red and her eyes bulge, she quickly Willy Wonka's into purples then blues.  Her body shakes and goes even more ridgid than it is normally.  The poor thing must think she's never going to breathe again, and some day I suppose there's a chance that she may not.  The doctor doesn't suggest anything for her.  When pressed on the subject he says bring her to the hospital for oxygen if the fit is bad...that's not an option for sooo many different reasons, sigh.

Side note: both Hoa and Chuckles are girls whose hair as been buzz cut short to make life easier.  I don't blame the mother's in the least for this, the children are always vomitting and messing themselves, and they get sweaty and dirty.

Baby Thu Today
  Short hair is the more practical hairstyle.  Unfortunately the way they're cut makes them look like boys and takes away from their beauty and sweetness at first glance.

Baby Thu is a 4 month old 15 pound baby, and most of that weight is in her head.  Water weight.  Retained there and not filtering through the body as it's supposed to.  It's called Hydrocephillis and I don't know much about it.  She's been to see a specialist once and had it drained.  She's going again in October.  But apparently there's very little brain mass there.  The hope is that she won't live much longer but the child in the pictures with the larger head has made it to over a year old.  Unfortunately that's what baby Thu has in her future.

Baby Thu's future
  The head has already grown noticeably bigger since my first arrival a month ago, perhaps that's not as obvious through the pictures.

Thy "Tumor baby" is our Michelin baby.  She's a rolly polly furry faced frowny child.  Noone here has ever once see her smile. Ever.  Sometimes she seems happy, but she doesn't show it through her face.  Her eyebrows are always furrowed and she has dark hair covering her forehead and side burns making her look more ominous than a 6 month old need be.  She weighs 15 pounds as well.  (all these weights come from the dr. that day, I didn't see them all getting weighed, even though my interpreter insists they did so who really knows where these numbers are coming from).  This child has a growth on her left arm.

Tumor Baby
  It started out as a red pimple and has evolved into tons or red dots which make up a massive tumor.  It's got a couple open oozing wounds which need to be cleaned and bandaged by the nurse daily.  Thy screams bloody murder when this is happening and I don't blame her.  The gauze they use is threaded and sticks to the mucus of the wound, when it's replaced, although they use water, some of the scab is pulled off of the wound.  Doesn't seem to be getting much of a chance to heal over.  The doctor says its fine, although he refused to look at it.  Arrgh.  She's had some of it surgically removed during a doctors visit to Saigon a  couple months ago and she'll go with baby Thu in October for another specialist check up.
Tai
  She's got red pimples on her face that don't seem to want to go away.  We're concerned they're the beginning of more "tumors".

Tai 14 year old boy with CP, hydrocephillis, weight and actual age not necessary according to the doctor - wouldn't want to go to the trouble of lifting him out of his bed, Tai has the same flat head as Chuckles and Hoa. 

Thuong 17 year old girl whose physically fit, aside from the need for some serious dental work, but mentally she's not all there.  She assists the mothers with the care of the babies, and seems to do more than they do at times.  She's always folding laundry, changing a baby, taking out the trash, getting water, making food.  I rarely see her being the child that mentally she is.

Thuong
  She could fool you into believing she's capable of watching the children, except for the occasional reminder.  Like she refuses to wear a bra, even though her breasts are enormous, she says they're uncomfortable and always takes it off. You can't get her to give you a thumbs up, the wires are crossed upstairs and whenever she goes for her thumb she comes out with her pointer finger.  Or here's the real kicker, the other day she took a shit in the hallway. 

Tro is a 25 pound 6 year old boy.  He's a mess that poor child.

Khang and Bao are twin boys age 9 months weighing 15 pounds.  They're healthy, happy beautiful children and as such they are doted on by the mom's.

Bao (one of the twins)
  Apparently they're being adopted and taken to Sweden.  The only country on the world that still has contracts with Vietnam to process adoptions is Sweden.  All the other nations seem to find Vietnam too corrupt to deal with.  America just this year decided not to renew it's contract.  I will not be bringing any children home with me.

Thu is the 5 year old who learned to smile.  She shares the twins future, Stockholm.  For this reason she's confined to the walls of the orphanage.  The walls of 1 floor, 3 rooms.  1 tv, 5 channels.   1 bed, 3 sleepy children. 4 mothers, 11 needy children.  The walls of white, the rooms of no color.  This little girl doesn't know what to color or draw.

Thu smiling
  I bring in markers and she uses the black one to draw scribbly lines in a row, I can only assume she's copying what a book would look like.  She doesn't color at the level of other kinde students.  She doesn't speak at there level either.  She doesn't have the physical skills they do.  She can't hop on one foot, she can barely hop on two.  She can't speak english. She can't share and be social with other children, (the nurses son comes in sometimes).   This little girl doesn't know that within the next month, from what i'm told, she'll be living in a different world.  Where people have pale skin and light hair.  There eyes aren't dark like she's use to and there voices aren't shrill.  There language is different and they won't understand hers.
Tan "Dennis the Menace"
  They're taller and heavier than the adults she's seen before and they don't share the same physical charachteristics either.  They eat different food and they travel in different cars.  This little girl doesn't know what's going to hit her.  And it's gonna be a long fight to allow her to be prepared.  Who will take on this fight?  Will she make it to Sweden?  She can't even make it down the road to have lunch with us!  But don't blame the weather on that one folks.  This time the manager says it's because she's happy at the orphanage now.  If she goes outside she'll see what she's missing and be sad.  Hahahaha...all I can do is laugh.

Tan "Dennis the Menace"  He's the class clown and the county rebel.  Don't turn on your back on this little guy or he'll have made his grand escape.  He's a little terror and he's going to be an absolute heart breaker.

lisa says:
gosh.. my heart goes out to each of these children. i'm sure you are a huge source of comfort and love in their lives. thank you for sharing :]
Posted on: Sep 23, 2008
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Chuckles getting a massage
Chuckles getting a massage
Luong Chuckles
Luong "Chuckles"
Chuckles sitting upright in a whee…
Chuckles sitting upright in a whe…
Chuckles and Hoa in there bed
Chuckles and Hoa in there bed
Baby Thu a month ago
Baby Thu a month ago
Baby Thu Today
Baby Thu Today
Baby Thus future
Baby Thu's future
Tumor Baby
Tumor Baby
Tai
Tai
Thuong
Thuong
Bao (one of the twins)
Bao (one of the twins)
Thu smiling
Thu smiling
Tan Dennis the Menace
Tan "Dennis the Menace"
Baby Thu today
Baby Thu today
Baby Thus future
Baby Thu's future
Tai
Tai
Khang
Khang
Hoa
Hoa
getting the bandage off
getting the bandage off
cleaning with hydrogine peroxide, …
cleaning with hydrogine peroxide,…
Tuy Hoa
photo by: MarnieElder