Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gambling Proceeds

One of Thien Nhan's supporters in Saigon has pledged to donate all of his golf gambling wins over the next year towards helping Thien Nhan. In the past month this guy's bets have netted the tot US$300. Luckily Thien Nhan doesn't have to pay when he loses!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Back On TV

There was a long report about Thien Nhan on last night's VTV "Thoi Su", which is aired nationwide in Vietnam at 8pm. Those who missed the show can see it online at
This report followed a 40-minute VTV3 special about Thien Nhan on May 27th.
These TV interviews have generated renewed local interest in the tot's case. Mai Anh's "quick" trip to the bank this morning turned into a 25-minute chat session, as tellers and other customers recognized her from last night's news and peppered her with questions and good wishes.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Creative Giving

The support from people across Vietnam and around the world for Thien Nhan has been remarkable. Last week a construction worker in very old, dusty clothes stopped by Mai Anh's home to give Thien Nhan VND100,000 (US$6). "I hated to think how long he had to work in the sun and rain to earn that money," said Mai Anh.
Meanwhile, grade 1 kids from Doan Thi Diem School in Hanoi stopped by the Dan Tri newspaper office to hand over VND1m that they'd raised for Thien Nhan. Another creative fundraising effort is coming via (Electronics Market), an online retailer of electronics and household items. During the month of May, Cho Dien Tu has promised to give 10% of online sales to Thien Nhan.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Grooming Woes

Despite Thien Nhan's loud objections, his dad Nghinh decided that it was time for a haircut. Once it was over Thien Nhan seemed pleased with the results--or at least with the fuss that was made over him.
Unfortunately, having just reported that his long-standing rash had cleared up, it's come back. One arm is covered in nasty red bumps. "It looks really ugly," reports mom Mai Anh. Once again, poor Thien Nhan is itchy and slathered in ointment.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

More "Funny Money"

Singaporean comic artist CC Lee just sent in another US$2,333--money he raised through sales of his t-shirts and comic books and donations made by his kind readers and colleagues. To date, CC Lee has raised an astounding US$7,430 (S$10,103) for Thien Nhan. Thanks for adopting Thien Nhan's cause, Lee! And thank you Singapore!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Baby Soft

Two months ago, when Thien Nhan was first adopted, he was covered in mosquito bites, suffering from a rash and afflicted with scabies. Despite being doused with all sorts of creams and ointments, the scabies proved hard to eradicate, and poor Nhan scratched himself raw. Finally the doctor recommended that Mai Anh change his clothes and bedding twice a day and boil everything for two hours. For a few days the family did a LOT of laundry. Today, Thien Nhan's skin is "as smooth as a baby's".

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Last night, Dr. Dong, a physiotherapist who specializes in injury rehabilitation, stopped by to visit Thien Nhan with two colleagues. Born and raised in Hanoi, Dr. Dong studied medicine in the United States, where he now works. He was back in Vietnam doing other charitable work. While the power was out during Dr. Dong's visit, forcing him to examine Nhan by candelight, the doctor still managed to get a good idea of Thien Nhan's special needs. "He was very good and kind," reported Mai Anh. "And the people who came with him cried a lot when they saw Thien Nhan. They really want to help him."

Lost & Found

Greig Craft, an American resident of Hanoi who runs the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, first heard about Thien Nhan's case in mid-2006, shortly after Thien Nhan was abandoned and mauled by a wild dog. Greig traveled to Quang Nam province to see the injured baby, and contacted overseas doctors who promised to help if he survived. After Thien Nhan was returned to his birth mother, Greig lost track of him, assuming, like most people, that Thien Nhan had succumbed to his massive injuries. When Greig learned via recent media reports that Thien Nhan was alive and had been adopted by a family in Hanoi he got in touch with Mai Anh -- and is now helping to secure medical help.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

School Spirit

This morning, the students and staff at Tran Nhan Trong School in Hanoi held a special assembly to present Thien Nhan with the money that they'd raised for him--VND3.5 million (US$219). A very nervous Mai Anh had to make a speech in front of the entire school, while her husband Nghin ran away to hide...

Thien Nhan, meanwhile, missed the excitement because he was back at VietCot getting an extra 1cm added to his prosthetic leg. This is his second leg, and fourth adjustment in two months! While he's been under the weather lately and eating less, he's gained about 1.5kg since being adopted going on 9 weeks ago.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Unstoppable CC Lee

This time round, readers and colleagues of Singaporean comic artist CC Lee sent in S$1,947, or US$1,423 to help Thien Nhan! As well as donating all proceeds from the sales of his books and t-shirts to the tot, plus footing shipping costs, Mr. Lee threw in US$177 to bring his latest Pay Pal transfer up to US$1,600. To date, this wonderful man has helped to raise S$6,643 (almost US$5,000) for Thien Nhan. Check out Lee's comics at

Thanks again Singapore!

Growing Boy

This afternoon Thien Nhan will go back to VietCot, a center that trains prosthetic technicians in Hanoi, to be fitted for a new prosthetic limb. Since being adopted just over nine weeks ago he has grown by several inches and needs a longer prosthesis.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Under the Weather

Thien Nhan isn't feeling well today, slept badly last night and has a poor appetite. A storm is brewing in Hanoi and changes in weather typically cause Thien Nhan's leg stump to ache.

On the surgical front, we're waiting for some pioneering reconstructive surgeons in Washington DC to review Thien Nhan's case. If this lead doesn't pan out, we'll likely send him somewhere closer to home for urethral dilation--the first, relatively simple procedure that he needs. While he definitely needs urethral dilation within the next few months, at this moment he isn't in pain, so we've decided to wait and see about Washington...
When Thien Nhan was first adopted (and prior to that), peeing was a nightmare for him as he often had urinary tract infections, was severely dehydrated, and was unused to being offered a lot of liquids. By keeping him very clean and ensuring that he drinks loads of water, his new parents are helping to make peeing less uncomfortable for him.
In the first weeks that they had him, in order to obtain urine samples and monitor his urine output, family members would take turns following him around the house with a plastic cup, which rarely worked! They were so desperate to get a sample at one point that when he piddled on the floor they used a teaspoon to try to collect it...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Visitors for Thien Nhan

Thien Nhan had a busy Saturday morning. Sue from War Legacies, a US-based non-profit group that does a lot of great work with Agent Orange victims and disabled people in Vietnam, stopped by to meet Thien Nhan and Mai Anh for the first time. They also met Simmone, an Australian physiotherapist and businesswoman who came by to examine his leg stump and review his leg exercises. Both Sue and Simmone were both amazed by how fast Thien Nhan can move without his prosthetic limb--nobody can keep up with his one-legged crawling!

Bad News

We got some very bad news today. The Shriner Hospital in Boston concluded that, given the severity of Thien Nhan's genital injuries, there is nothing they can do for him at present. The doctor sent us the following note:

i … reviewed Nhan's medical information yesterday with our surgeons here as we are trying to determine what can be done to help this little boy as we do to all applicants before they get to the hospital it became very clear for all of us that there is very very little we can offer considering the sever out come of the trauma i.e loss of his 2 testes and penis which is impossible to reconstruct and even if we try the results after many many procedures are not satisfactory and we know all will be none functional … sorry to disappoint any of you as I know you are great in trying to help as we try too but we do not want to promise an outcome which is unattainable,many thanks for your efforts and communications...
Alia Antoon MD

While we are disheartened we will continue to seek other options. Sooner or later the technology will improve and Thien Nhan will benefit from it. To learn more about genital reconstruction scroll to the bottom of the page.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Evening Stroll

Located in the middle of Hanoi's 1,000-year-old Old Quarter, Thien Nhan's house lies just a short walk from Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi's most famous beauty spot. Morning and night, locals flock here to walk, eat ice cream and exercise and Thien Nhan often joins them. His dad Nghin likes to take the boys around the lake every evening, with an occasional stop for kem (ice cream) as a treat. While Thien Nhan now rides in a baby stroller, in the future he'll be putting those fancy loafers (check them out, at right) to good use!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Physio & Prosthetics

An Australian physiotherapist will check in on Thien Nhan this Saturday, so as to determine what physio care he needs and recommend specialists. Because Thien Nhan's leg was amputated before he knew how to walk he needs special instruction and physiotherapy, and his prosthetic care is very complicated. We really need help in these areas as soon as possible--please email if you have expertise in these fields and are willing to help.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Birthday Boy

Today is the first birthday of Pham Phu Thien Nhan, who, like our Thien Nhan, was born in Quang Nam province. Rather than hold a birthday party for their son, Pham Phu Thien Nhan's parents made a donation to help Phung Thien Nhan! Thank you Pham family!

Back at the Cop Shop

Mai Anh, Nghin and Thien Nhan are well known at their local Hoan Kiem police station, where they've been filling out huge amounts of paperwork in order to get Thien Nhan his own passport. His name has now been legally changed from Ho Thien Nhan to Phung Thien Nhan.

Back home, Thien Nhan has now managed to take a tiny step on his prosthetic limb! Here he is, cheered on by his proud dad and ba noi (paternal grandmother).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Funny Faces

Trang Pucca has posted some great shots of Thien Nhan (copyright at

These pics should give you all some idea of just how charming, hilarious and naughty Thien Nhan can be!

Upcoming TV Special

Thien Nhan, Mai Anh and Nghin spent Saturday evening in a TV studio in Hanoi (see photo at left), filming a 40-minute show about Thien Nhan that will air on VTV1 (a national channel in Vietnam) at 10pm on April 27th. We hope that this show and other recent media attention will cause some NGOs to take an interest in Nhan's case and offer further help with prosthetics and physiotherapy...
On Sunday night Thien Nhan didn't sleep a wink--and neither did Mai Anh! A change in weather is causing Nhan's leg stump to ache, which makes him understandably cranky.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Great work!

Fans and friends of Singaporean comic artist CC Lee have donated US$3,577 via Lee's blog at
Check out CC Lee's cool books, t-shirts and artwork -- proceeds go towards helping Thien Nhan!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Thanks VOV!

On May 9th, Hoang Minh Nguyet, director of Voice of Vietnam radio, presented Thien Nhan and his family with a cheque for VND50 million (US$3,125), donated by the staff and listeners of VOV, where Thien Nhan's new dad works as a radio journalist. A giant CAM ON to everyone at VOV!

No scam

We received an email from Bruce Travis, accusing us of running a scam. Read on to learn Bruce's concerns and our reply:

From: Bruce Travis []
Sent: Friday, May 09, 2008 10:50 AM
To: thien
Subject: Re: Disabled Baby Charity

Who are you trying to kid?You should get real. This is not how people go about raising funds for injured children. And there is no surgical procedure on the planet that costs $150'000 in Viet Nam. I suspect that you people are scam artists.

To:, thien , MaiAnh Tran ,
Subject: helping thien nhan

Dear Bruce,

While there are many scams out there, this isn’t one of them. If you read through our blog at you’ll discover the extent of this child’s injuries. His story was covered extensively by the local and foreign press. See a recent AFP story here:

Our fundraising target of $150,000 is an estimate at best. A hospital in Thailand has quoted $5,000 (excluding doctor fees, which the surgeons have offered to waive) for the dilation of his urethra. We are now waiting to hear back from a hospital in Boston, which has expertise in this field. But the urethral dilation is just the first, simple step to recovery. So far, no doctors have been willing to even guess at the cost of rebuilding a sensate, functional penis. We have based our fundraising goal on the cost of sex change surgery (female to male). Thien Nhan’s case is obviously more complicated than these procedures.

Given that phallic reconstruction remains groundbreaking, our goal of $150,000 seems conservative. As for doing it in Vietnam, there's no way. While American researchers have grown rabbit penis cells, according to this 2006 article -- -- trials in humans remain “a long way off”. And the world’s first (and only) penis transplant took place in 2006; see

If you, or anyone you know, has any expertise in genital reconstruction, hormone replacement or prosthetics, we’d love your input.


Elka Ray & Tran Mai Anh

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Baby pics

Ms. Kim Phung of Ho Chi Minh City sent us some photos of Thien Nhan as a small baby, taken by Danang postal worker Ms. Ly and posted on a local charity website:

Having heard of Nhan's plight shortly after the dog attack, Ms. Ly made a great effort to help him. After Thien Nhan was released from hospital in Danang and returned to his birth family in the hills, Ms. Ly regularly made the 2.5-3/hour drive from Danang to his birth village to check on his condition and to bring him milk and supplies. It was thanks to Ms. Ly's online postings that Mai Anh and Elka were able to find Thien Nhan's whereabouts. Without this woman's dedicated kindness, Thien Nhan might have remained forgotten in abysmal conditions.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Facebook group

All of you on facebook please take note: Elka has created a facebook group for Thien Nhan at and will be updating it regularly.

Please join up and pass on this link to your friends and family to help us to reach a wider audience.



Looking back

When Mai Anh and Elka first met Thien Nhan in December 2007 he was malnourished, anemic and suffering from various infections. Shocked by his neglected state and hopeless situation, they resolved to do everything possible to get him the love, care and medical attention that he deserves.

Monday, May 5, 2008

US$14,77 and counting

Comic artist CC Lee's fundraising efforts in Singapore have brought our total donations up to US$14,577 -- and recent donations via War Legacies in the USA remain uncounted. The lady in charge of War Legacies is currently on a work trip in Central Vietnam, so we'll update the donations to Thien Nhan that went via War Legacies as soon as we can.

Please scroll to the bottom of the page for our (incomplete) list of donators.

Thanks so much to all of you!

Thank you Singapore!

More thanks are due to Lee Chee Chew, the talent behind the CHEW ON IT comic strip, and to his generous readers, friends and colleagues in Singapore! So far, Lee -- whose comic strip runs in the Sunday Times -- has raised US$2,400 for Thien Nhan!

To check out Lee's efforts and to get a good laugh, check out his funny site at:


Sunday, May 4, 2008


Since news of Thien Nhan's plight was reported in local newspapers and on TV he's received dozens of visitors. People have given little Nhan everything from money to milk powder to their own kid's favorite toy and stopped by to cuddle and chat with the tot. Here he is with a couple of well-wishers, obviously loving the attention!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Thanks Lee!

After donating $100 to Thien Nhan, Singaporean comic artist Lee Chee Chew decided that he wanted to do more. Determined to help the tot he started to raise funds for Nhan via his blog at So far, Lee's colleagues and readers have donated US$700! His funny comic strip, "CHEW ON IT" runs in The Sunday Times in Singapore.

Special thanks to Gan Yong Lee, Clara, Bretault Francois, Anna Cheong, Chandra, Irene Lee, Paul Lim, Kelvin, Amran Mohamed, Seah Meng Hwee, Loke Wai Liam, Sally Lam, and Tay Chern Hui.

Weather report

It's raining in Hanoi and the change in weather causes Thien Nhan's leg stump to ache. He's been tired and cranky but has to persist with his daily walking lessons, which are overseen by his Uncle Hoan. Last week the technicians at VietCot extended Thien Nhan's prosthetic leg by several centimeters to keep up with his growth.