Life changing surgery for Chien

Seven-year-old Chien has travelled from Vietnam to St John of God Berwick Hospital for surgery which will change his life. 

28 Nov 2019

Chien and Ton28 November 2019

St John of God Berwick Hospital Orthopaedic Surgeon Professor Ton Tran regularly visits his homeland of Vietnam to perform surgery for children in need.

During his visits he meets many children who are suffering from a variety of illnesses and genetic disorders and disabilities.

With a lack of resources and without the financial means for medical assistance, these children often face a life of hardship.

Earlier this year Prof Tran was connected with a seven-year-old boy named Chien who was in need of surgical assistance.

Chien's parents are not present in his life and he lives with his grandmother in a remote northern Vietnamese village around 8 hours drive from the nearest city.

During the school term he lives with his teachers, hundreds of kilometres from home. Weighing just 12kg, his school friends carry him around on their backs to assist him in getting around.

Indoors, Chien uses incredible upper body strength to scoot around at floor level, using his arms to lift, manouvre and move his body. 

Life for Chien is a stark contrast to the lives lived by most Australian children. 

Prof Tran says he meet a lot of children who need help.

"It's very sad because many of them suffer from genetic disorders which cannot be cured or fixed. Meeting Chien was different. I knew I could fix his problem with just one operation," Prof Tran said.

Chien in villageBorn with a condition known as club feet, Chien has never walked.

For a child born in Australia, this condition would be self corrected with the use of orthotics from birth and never require surgical intervention.

For Chien the absence of medical treatment from a young age has meant that his deformity has become worse as he has grown with his right foot now completely inverted.

Prof Tran knew that he could change the life of the young boy.

"I returned to Australia and went to see Lisa (Norman), I told her about Chien and that I was prepared to operate on him here in Australia but I needed a hospital. I told her that once I showed her a photo of Chien, she would never say no," he said.

Prof Tran was right, it was a proposition that St John of God Berwick Hospital CEO Lisa Norman could not say no to.

"We have played a small role in an incredible chain of people and organisations who have advocated for Chien and worked incredibly hard to bring him to Australia. I'm so pleased we can support Ton and enable Chien's surgery to take place. It really will change his life," Lisa said.

The Children First Foundation have enabled Chien, his carer Vy and her 16 year old son Duc, who is also wheel chair bound with Cerebral Palsy, to travel to Australia.

They collaborate with exceptional Australian surgeons like Prof Tran and hospitals who partner to change the lives of disadvantaged children who cannot have surgery in their home countries.

Their Retreat in Kilmore serves as a home away from home and is a haven for children before and after their surgery.

On Friday 29 November 2019 Chien travelled from Kilmore to St John of God Berwick Hospital where he was admitted and cared for by specialist orthopaedic nurses.

On Saturday Prof Tran undertook an eight hour surgery with the support of his Assistant Mr Luke Bonato, Paediatrician Dr Antoine Pinto, Anaesthetist Dr Ash Das and hospital nurses where he rearranged the bones in Chien's feet and corrected a hip dysplasia.

Chein has recovered at the hospital for a number of days and when he is well enough will return to Kilmore where his rehabilitation will commence. 

As part of his rehabilitation Chien will need some orthotic devices to support his legs and feet while he builds muscle and learns to walk.

The hospital is running a fundraiser from the ground floor concierge desk to assist in the cost of these orthotics.

"Chien is very cheeky. He's very bright and inquisitive," explained Lisa.

"Once he is able to walk and gain independence, he will have his whole life and ahead of him."

This spark for life was clear during a check up at the hospital earlier in the week where Chien could be seen flying down the corridors with joy in his child-size wheelchair.

He was fascinated by the elevator doors and enjoyed pressing the buttons taking in all the wonders of a world that is so very different to his. 

"I expect Chien to be home in Vietnam before Christmas and within 6-12 months he should be walking," Prof Tran said.

We look forward to keeping you updated with Chien's progress. 

You may be interested in