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]

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