Saturday, August 30, 2008

Best Wishes

Since we first started to publicize Thien Nhan's fight for a better life in mid-March 2008, we have received hundreds of emails from people around the world, offering encouragement and support.

Casey Jones of Malta, NY sent us the following note after having read about Thien Nhan in the New Hampshire Union Leader:

"I was very touched when I heard about this little boy... Please send my blessings to his parents. My wife and I adopted a young boy from Russia that has special medical needs himself. Although it can be difficult, it is also very rewarding to see them grow. It's probably difficult for people to understand, but I still think that I gained more from adopting Mischa than he did. It's also very disturbing to know that these children probably wouldn'thave survived without being adopted. I just pray that people see the story of Thien Nhan and realize that there are so many children around the world waiting for adoption.

He looks like such a happy boy and can get into all the normal"trouble" that a two year old can. Thank you for all the work that you are doing and I look forward to watching Thien's progress. All I can say is that God has some great things in mind for this precisious little boy. I have made a donation and will continue to tell people about Thien Nhan..."

Generous Hearts

Followers and friends of the Cao Dai, a religious group founded in southern Vietnam in the 1930’s that promotes charitable works, have raised US$2,110 for Thien Nhan. LA residents Hien Cao and Khai rallied their friends who live all over the US and in Vietnam to support Thien Nhan. Many thanks to Khai Tang, Tuan Le & Tran, Huynh Nhut-Anh Jaxon, Doan Tran & Van Bui, Hien Cao & Nhi Hang, Bác Khanh Bui, Que Bui & Sister, Tami Phan, Thao Doan & Duyen Nguyen, Ai-Lien Dang, Ha Pham & Giao Huynh, Nghi Le, John Tran and My Bui, Quyen Bui, Tu Anh Huynh & Duy, Quy, Oanh & Cat Tien, Kevin Tran (son of Danh & Ha), Chau Ma & Binh, Trang Duong, Nhi Peter Vo, Xoa Lam, Hue Tang, Vannic Tang, and Kenny Truong, Ha T. Nguyen, and Huong L. Tran.

Special thanks to Hien Cao and Khai, who met Thien Nhan and his parents for a very enjoyable dinner in LA on Friday night. The only time that 2-year-old Thien Nhan stopped chattering was to eat his fried chicken and French fries!

Friday, August 29, 2008

In Little Saigon

Thien Nhan and his parents arrived in California this afternoon, for a few days' stay in Newport Beach. Mom Mai Anh was thrilled to find that their hosts had stocked the house with lots of their favorite foods from Vietnam. She looks forward to making some home-cooked meals. Tomorrow (Friday) will be a day to sleep in, rest and visit with friends in Little Saigon. Son Micheal Pham and his wife Judy, founders of Seattle-based Kids Without Borders and co-sponsors of Thien Nhan's US trip, will arrive in LA late Friday evening. On Saturday morning, the family will meet reporters at Little Saigon Radio & Television, followed by an interview with Saigon Broadcasting Television, which will be aired on cable throughout the US.

In Boston, Thien Nhan and his parents bid a fond (and temporary) farewell to AIPF's Greig Craft and Na Huong (, who did such an amazing job of organizing Thien Nhan's medical care in Dartmouth and Chicago. Paying all of their own travel expenses, the Hanoi-based Greig and Na Huong accompanied Thien Nhan on every step of this remarkable journey, ensuring the trip's success. Here's a brief exerpt from a letter sent to Greig Craft from English teacher Mr. Tran Tuan Viet, who correctly recognized Greig Craft's invaluable contributions to Thien Nhan's recovery:
..."I really admire the generous actions you did for [Thien Nhan's] adoptive mother Tran Mai Anh, whose heart and mind are noble . . . How many unfortunate newborn babies have been abandoned and what are their fates on earth? Fortunately, there are noble minds, generous hearts, charitable organizations and donors who work to try to relieve pain and bring brightness and hope to these children's world. You are one of them. . . I really admire your humane and generous actions. Good health and happiness!"...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Heading West

Following further consultations, doctors at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago decided that Thien Nhan is too young and small to receive a high-tech prosthetic leg at present. He will spend a few more years practicing with a non-jointed limb and a new frame walker, to aid his balance and muscle-development. By the time he starts school Thien Nhan should receive a prosthetic that will allow him much greater mobility.

With the Chicago appointments wrapped up sooner than anticipated, tomorrow morning the family will fly to L.A., their final destination in the US before heading home. There, they will visit Little Saigon, home to the biggest community of Vietnamese people in the US, and attend some fund-raisers. The family will be staying at the home of Cathy Ha Lam, founder of the nonprofit organization Our One World ( While their journey to the US has exceeded everyone's expectations, Mai Anh, Nghinh and Thien Nhan will be happy to go home and see Thien Nhan's brothers, Big Minh, 8, and Little Minh, 3, who have been very well-behaved, brave little boys during their parents' long absence.

[Photo shows Dr. Theresa Clancy helping Thien Nhan to practice with his new walker]

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Acts of Kindness

On August 26th, Thien Nhan met 10 (yes, 10!) doctors and prosthetic specialists at the Chicago Rehabilitation Center. The excitement and emotion are building in anticipation of Thien Nhan being fitted with a new leg. At this time, Thien Nhan's mom Mai Anh and trip organizer Greig Craft want to thank some of the unsung heroes who have helped to make Thien Nhan's US trip so remarkable.
Thanks to Jennifer Ames, the nurse who put the family up in her home in NH, along with her exceptional 13 year old son Daniel (who TN adopted as a another ‘big brother’) and provided round the clock care. Thanks to ‘Team Thien Nhan’ in Hanover, and to Sue Hammond for her support when the family arrived. And a big cam on to the Vietnamese family who drove 400 miles from Ottawa, Canada, laden with food and gifts, only to spend 1 hour with the family, and to the 8 Vietnamese-Americans who drove up from Massachusetts to meet TN and shower him with more toys and gifts. The outpouring of love from total strangers has been overwhelming. Special thanks to Dr. Joe Rosen, without whose early care and support none of this would have happened.
Arriving at the Logan Hilton airport hotel we were provided gratis rooms, and a special room for our media interviews, complete with snacks and drinks and cookies for TN. Thank you Volande, bellman Nic, Michal Penek, and May Jorem and all the others who welcomed TN – including check in and security staff. And special thanks to General Manager Farooq Rematwala.
We also want to acknowledge Liem Tran (a former ‘boat person') who made all of the arrangements. He and his friend Tom brought cakes and a bag of toys that kept TN well entertained during the interview! And thank you Cody Yiu, editor of the Sampan Newspaper for your thoughtful interview and great questions.
Arriving at United Airlines early Sunday for the flight to Chicago we were confronted with new airline regs regarding overweight bags, ticket change charges, excess bags fees etc. Luckily, the caring supervisor Ms Griffiths realized that this was a ‘special case’ and jumped in to help. Waiving all unanticipated fees (and substantial ones at that) she did everything possible to get us good seats and extra attention. We would never have made the flight without her. Thank you United Airlines and Ms. Griffiths!
There was a momentary scare during the flight when TN complained of stomach pains. Mom and dad rubbed his lower abdomen for several minutes after which TN suddenly let loose with a strong ‘stream’ that showered everyone! With a satisfied smile, he immediately closed his eyes and fell asleep! Thereafter he proudly notified his parents whenever he felt the urge to go. The urethral surgery obviously had its desired result. Well done Dr. Herz and Dr. Deters!
After arriving in Chicago we proceeded to Avis car rental to see what kind of ‘deal’ we could get. Fatefully, the first person we met was manager Patrick who did not even hesitate to set us up with a van large enough to accomodate us and our caravan of baggage (growing by the city due to TN's toys)! He and his staff – including Kim – were great. Patrick thanked us for making his day. Thank you Avis!
We then made a bee-line for Chicago’s Chinatown (having discovered that this is the quickest way to find a Vietnamese restaurant in America)! After an hour-long feast at The Noodle Shop we headed to Worchester House, a Northwestern Memorial Hospital-owned building for patients and their families. At $75 per night, we were expecting a hostel so were flabbergasted to find ourselves next to Lake Shore Drive in the heart of Chicago. Once again, TN's magic infected everyone. Duty manager Karen Smith did all that she could, putting the family in the best room available.
On Monday, Dr. Dudley Childress, one of the world’s preeminent researchers in prosthetics, came to personally welcome TN to Chicago. After hosting us for lunch, he took us to the Northwestern University Prosthetics Research and Rehabilitation Engineering Research Program, where we spent 2 fascinating hours meeting all of the staff in the research center, and visiting the various testing labs. We are hopeful that by the time he starts school, Thien Nhan will be able to play, and run and walk like other kids. Due to his young age, the immediate goal is to find a short-term solution to improve his mobility.
Back to Chinatown in search of Vietnamese food we finally stumbled upon Café Hoang, owned and operated by a former mechanical engineer named Quy and his lovely wife. The pair recognized TN from VN Express. Oh what a meal Chef Quy prepared! After paying the bill, we were shocked when Quy appeared and returned our money, saying, “It’s our honor to help”. And then the couple made an additional donation of $100!

As much as a journey to heal TN, this trip has been a discovery of the basic goodness in people everywhere. Thanks to all for their loving kindness!

[Photos, top: Worchester House, below: United Airlines, Cafe Hoang, Avis]

Monday, August 25, 2008

You've Come A Long Way, Baby!

On Tuesday morning Thien Nhan is meeting prosthetic specialists at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. To remind everyone of how far this brave little boy has come, here's a photo of Thien Nhan as a newborn in Intensive Care at Quang Nam Hospital, shortly after he was mauled. Thanks to everyone who's made this transformation possible!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thirsty and Happy

It's been an eventful few days for Thien Nhan! Following a very successful and speedy recovery from his urethral dilation, Thien Nhan and his family drove to Boston, where they attended a medical conference and met some of the surgeons who might be involved in the future genital reconstruction process. Dr. Joe Rosen presented Thien Nhan's case to conference attendees, while Greig Craft met with many doctors in a bid to rally support. On Sunday, they flew on to Chicago, where Thien Nhan will meet prosthetic specialists.

The urethral surgery has made urination much easier for Thien Nhan, who used to refuse liquids so as to avoid having to urinate often. Thien Nhan is delighted with the results. "He is enjoying peeing and shows me all the time," reports his mom, Mai Anh. [The photo shows Thien Nhan and Mai Anh eating pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) in Boston].

Friday, August 22, 2008

Resting Well

Dr. Herz, the urologist who performed Thien Nhan's urethral dilation on Thursday morning, reports that the procedure went well. Dr. Herz enlarged the boy's urethral opening and stitched it to the skin to hold it open with sutures that will dissolve. A scope revealed that Thien Nhan's urinary system is in good shape and his kidneys are normal. His existing urethra is of a length that will make the future grafting of the urethral tube --which will be built using tissue from the inside of his cheek -- much easier. About one third of his penis remains, which is good news for future reconstruction. He will also have control of his bladder functions. At this stage Thien Nhan's testosterone levels could not be ascertained by a blood test. This test will be performed when he is near or at puberty. Thien Nhan is now in great hands, recuperating at the home of Dartmouth Center nurse Jennifer Ames. [The photo shows Thien Nhan being comforted by his parents post-surgery.]

Thanks to the medical team for their expertise and compassion: Dr. Daniel Herz , Dr. Levi Deters, Dr. Jennifer O'Flarhety, Dr. Christopher Rinaud, Jennifer Ames and Diane Beattie.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

At the Doctors' Office

On Tuesday, Thien Nhan was examined by pediatric urologist Dr. Daniel Herz (in photo) and rehab physician Dr. Robert Deters at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. On Thursday, Dr. Herz will perform a urethral dilation, and use an internal scope to determine the condition of Thien Nhan's urethra in order to plan for future reconstructive surgery. The child's urethra may need to be reattached to the skin. Thien Nhan will be put under anesthesia during the procedure and have a catheter inserted for about three days afterwards. The doctors will also run blood tests to ascertain Thien Nhan's testosterone levels so as to establish what type of hormone therapy might be needed in the future. Based on his initial exam, Dr. Herz was optimistic that the core genital structure remains, which is good news for Thien Nhan's future reconstructive surgery.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Thank You Pacific Star Group Singapore!

The staff of Singapore-based global real estate investment firm Pacific Star Group has contributed a sum of US$8,300 towards Thien Nhan’s US trip and medical costs. This is in addition to a personal donation of US$5,000 from Pacific Star’s Group President, Mr. Jeff Tay .
Mr. Tay wrote: “Beyond money, may God bless Thien Nhan with a life full of abundance after such an unfortunate start in life. I believe Thien Nhan will grow up with forgiveness in his heart through the grace of those who have shown care and love in providing him a 2nd chance in life.”
Pacific Star Group’s Vice President of Administration, Agnes Sebastian, adds: “It is really heartwarming to see us steadily reaching our goal in helping Thien Nhan stay a strong, free-spirited and bubbly boy. I believe our donations, in addition to Mr Jeff Tay ’s personal donation would amply provide for his trip and medical costs and will help bring relief Thien Nhan. We wish Thien Nhan all the best and success for his surgery in USA .”

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Overnight Flight

Following a phone interview with a journalist from the London Daily Mail, Mai Anh, Thien Nhan and Nghinh joined friends of Son Michael Pham’s for some familiar food at a Vietnamese restaurant in Seattle. Then it was time to say “Cam on & hen gap lai” (Thank you & see you again) to all of their new friends in Seattle.

On Sunday night, the family caught a 10.30pm flight to Boston, where Sue Hammond of War Legacies Project ( met them early on Monday morning. From there, they all drove to Sue’s home in New Hampshire, which lies near Dartmouth University Medical Centre. The family is now resting up in preparation for Thien Nhan’s medical exams.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sleepy in Seattle

Yesterday, Thien Nhan and his family accompanied Son Michael Pham of Kids Without Borders to a Rotary Club luncheon at the Seattle Yacht Club (see photo), where more than 100 attendees gave the family a standing ovation. A journalist from The Reporter presented Thien Nhan with a toy mobile phone, and the tot promptly "called" his big brothers in Vietnam and had a long, imaginary conversation.

Tired out from jetlag, Thien Nhan fell asleep as soon as he'd finished dessert. Reporting on their second night in the US, his mom Mai Anh wrote:
"TN woke up last night at about 2am and played by himself in the dark. I heard him calling: "Duck duck!" and saw him playing with a toy duck given to him by Mr. Phi, a Vietnamese American man we met. He also called Little Minh on his new toy phone, then put the duck and his foot into my shoes and moved around the room quietly for about half an hour. Then he went back to bed by himself and slept soundly until 7am."

For info on Kids Without Borders, see

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Fine Welcome

Upon arriving in Seattle, Thien Nhan and his adoptive parents, Mai Anh and Nghinh, were met by Son Michael Pham of Kids Without Borders and swarms of TV reporters. Mr. Pham describes the family's arrival in the US as follows:
"Mai Anh did a wonderful job even being swarmed by the media with questions and after a long flight. Nghinh tried to keep Thien Nhan from falling off the stroller. And Thien Nhan was totally unimpressed with all of the attention, blowing kisses to the crowd surrounding him and then screaming "Let’s Go" after he got bored."

Thien Nhan's arrival in Seattle was covered by three US TV stations. To read one of the stories, go to: Today, the family will attend a large Rotary Club luncheon.

Mai Anh wrote the following note about their journey to date:

"Thien Nhan slept very well during the flight and slept tight last night. We are in very nice hotel. Weather here is warm and so beautiful. We woke up early this morning and walked around the hotel under sun shine. TN pointed the car pass by and shouted so excited.
TN has a new trolley [stroller] and car seat. It is the first time he sits like this in the car. He looks so serious and happy in his "king seat".

The photo, taken prior to Thien Nhan's departure at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi, features Thien Nhan's family and trip organizers Greig Craft (with his daughter) and Na Huong.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

They're Off

After a quick stop at the EVA air office to thank the staff for donating a transit hotel room in Taipei, Thien Nhan and his parents Mai Anh and Nghinh were off to Hanoi's Noi Bai airport for their noon flight to Taipei. While nervous about leaving her other two sons, aged 3 and 8, behind in Hanoi, Mai Anh is optimistic that this trip will lead to great opportunities for Thien Nhan. At 11pm Taipei time (10pm in Vietnam), the family will board their overnight flight to Seattle, where they'll be met by Kids Without Borders founder Son Michael Pham.

Bon Voyage!

Tomorrow, Thien Nhan and his parents Mai Anh and Nghinh are flying from Hanoi to Seattle via Taipei. Greig Craft, who is organizing their US trip, called the EVA Air office in Hanoi today to confirm that all was in order. The ticket agent informed him that they had wanted to upgrade the family to Business Class, but unfortunately the plane was fully booked. Aware that a long stopover in Taipei followed by a trans-Pacific flight would be rough on 2-year-old Thien Nhan, the Vietnamese staff of EVA's Hanoi office had chipped in to pay for a transit room in Taipei airport for the family. We continue to be amazed by people's kindness and generosity towards Thien Nhan!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Feeling Poorly

Poor Thien Nhan has a sore throat and a fever, and has slept badly for three nights now. He saw the doctor yesterday, who diagnosed a virus and prescribed Panadol, cough medicine and more rest. Mai Anh is tired and worried, as she, her husband Nghinh, and Thien Nhan leave for Seattle the day after tomorrow. Luckily, the rest of the family hasn't caught the bug yet... The photo shows Thien Nhan preparing to take his medicine. Yuck!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Moon Festivities

On Saturday evening Thien Nhan joined dozens of well-wishers and other kids at a pre-Mid-Autumn Festival Moon Party, hosted by Hanoi's Le Club. Everyone who attended enjoyed the entertainment and excellent food, including traditional fruit carvings. The kids were mesmerized by the songs and colored lanterns, while the adults helped to raise money for Thien Nhan's US trip via a charity auction. Sadly, following a stressful week of medical tests, Thien Nhan came down with a fever and had to leave the party earlier than he'd have liked to. He's now resting up to get back in shape for his long trip to Seattle on August 14th.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tests & Treats

Thien Nhan spent most of the past week undergoing medical tests prior to his departure for the US on August 14th. He stoically endured blood tests, x-rays, scans and a lot of poking and prodding. On Thursday, Thien Nhan rushed straight from the hospital to meet Miss Vietnam, only to be met by dozens of camera flashes and crowds of reporters. As usual, Thien Nhan took the chaos in stride and enjoyed the party. When it was time to leave he asked if he could take some sweets home for his big brothers, which is remarkably thoughtful given that Thien Nhan just turned two! While last week was tough for the tot, tonight he'll enjoy a special pre-MidAutumn Festival party.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mid-Autumn Festival

Since Thien Nhan will be seeing doctors in the US during the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, the generous owners of the Le Club in Hanoi have decided to throw him a pre-moon Moon Party. Tomorrow (7pm Saturday Aug 9th) night, kids of all ages are invited to join Thien Nhan for moon cakes and a lantern procession at the Le Club, 162 Phuong Liet, Truong Chinh Street, Hanoi. Please call Ms. Thu Hang for details: 868-9568. The party organizers hope to raise some last-minute funds for Thien Nhan's trip to the US next week, and to give Thien Nhan and all the kids who attend a magical Moon Party.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sweet Moments

Not only did Thien Nhan spend yesterday afternoon in the company of Miss Vietnam, he also got to share the beauty queen's birthday cake! Ms. Mai Phuong Thuy celebrated her 20th birthday with Thien Nhan and other fans at a book signing in Hanoi. A successful model, Ms. Phuong Thuy is donating proceeds from the sales of her new photo book and DVD towards Thien Nhan's medical expenses.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

True Beauty

Miss Vietnam Mai Phuong Thuy announced that she will donate all proceeds from her just-published photo book Phu Nu va Tuong (Women and Classical Drama) and DVD 'Hoa Dong Noi" (Countryside Flower) to help fund Thien Nhan's medical care. The compassionate beauty queen read about Thien Nhan in a local newspaper and decided to help out. On August 6th, which is Miss Phuong Thuy's 20th birthday, she will greet fans and sign books from 4-5pm at the The Thao & Van Hoa office at 33 Le Thanh Tong Street, Hanoi. Thien Nhan will attend the signing and meet his new heroine Miss Vietnam. Thank you Miss Mai Phuong Thuy! (The photo shows Miss Phuong Thuy holding tuong opera masks).

Monday, August 4, 2008

Kids Without Borders

Thanks to the hard work of Greig Craft and Hoang Na Huong of the Hanoi-based Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, Thien Nhan and his parents received their USA entry visas yesterday, and will fly from Hanoi to Seattle on August 14th.
The family's air tickets were donated by Son Michael and Judy Pham, who run Kids Without Borders, a 100% volunteer-driven non-profit organization based in Seattle. Many thanks to Son Michael and to Judy for their generous support! To learn more about their long-running good works in Vietnam and elsewhere, check out the Kids Without Borders website at or email them at Their organization encourages schoolchildren to help other kids in need, thereby encouraging a lifelong commitment to volunteer work. (The photo shows a group of volunteers with some of KWB's beneficiaries on the steps of Saigon's Opera House.)

Thien Nhan, Mai Anh and Nghinh will spend a few days with the Phams in Seattle recovering from jetlag and meeting people involved in local charities. They will then will fly to New Hampshire on August 17th.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

High-tech Baby

Speculating about Thien Nhan's choice of career when he grows up, his mom Mai Anh says:
"We think that Thien Nhan might be an IT man, so he won't need to walk around. Then when I see him listening and dancing to his brother Big Minh play the piano, I hope that he could become a successful pianist, which also doesn't require him to move around much. But photography seems to be his main love, and photographers travel a lot!"