Changing Duy's World

In the beginning, nothing was in his favor.  He was too old for us (18).  He was in a country where we have no liaison (Vietnam).  He was an unlikely visa candidate (single male with relatives in the U.S.).  He would be hard to place with a host family (again, 18 and male).

Yet, when she heard his story from his uncle, Hoan Trinh, HTC executive director Helen Salan knew she wanted to try to make it possible for Duc Duy Trong (Yee) to come to the U.S. for medical treatment.

And she did . . . and he did.


Two things about Duy's story inspire people to help him.  First, the accident that
befell him, and its terrible consequences.  While helping a neighbor, he was
electrocuted.  The current entered his hands and went through his body and out his
feet. His hands were so badly burned that they had to be amputated.  Second, his
courageous spirit.  Duy was training for a career as an artist when he was injured;
imagine what it meant to him to lose his hands.  Yet his attitude was magnificently
positive.  Complaints:  none.  Joy and gratitude:  plenty.  (His host mom says, “If he
was sad about what happened to him, none of us ever knew it.”)

So it was only right that so many things fell into place for him.  The Consul General at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon brushed aside the usual concerns and gave the green light for a visa not only for Duy but also for his grandmother, who helped him with his basic needs. (After his accident, Duy could not feed or clothe himself, or even use the bathroom by himself.)

            The University of Michigan, which has cutting edge technology in prosthetics but rarely accepts foreign patients in that program, also said yes.  And just as the question of a host family arose, Wade and Anna Campbell of Westland happened to read about us in the Detroit Free Press and called Detroit area coordinator Marge Badowski to offer their home to any child in need.  Um . . . would they take a grandma, too?  Yes.  To complete the near‑perfect package, American Airlines, through its Miles for Kids program, donated tickets for Duy and Grandma Loan from Tokyo to Detroit.  Generous donations funded the rest.

Duy and his grandma fit comfortably in the Campbells' home. Grandma Loan formed a special tie with Victoria Campbell, age 3.  They rode together in the third seat of the family van, Victoria in her car seat and Grandma Loan buckled in beside her.  They will be soulmates for life.

At U. of M., prosthetist Michael Hillborn and therapist Lisa Miner fitted Duy with hooks for both hands and trained him to use them.  Duy worked on his rehabilitation with great determination, and soon the Campbells reported that he was able to draw almost as well with his hooks as with his own hands.  He even demonstrated enviable dexterity with chopsticks!  Better yet, he could ride a bike, an important skill back home in Vietnam.  Wade Campbell watched in amazement one day as Duy sped down the street, shouting "WHEEEEEEEE" as he sailed by.

The staff at U of M's prosthetics department believe that Duy's remarkable
physical progress was due in no small part to his remarkably positive attitude.  They
even made a video tape of his work in rehabilitation and plan to use it to inspire
other patients.

When Duy returned to Vietnam, he had a whole new set of skills to replace his
lost hands.  And he was part of a whole new circle of friends who had helped deliver
those blessings simply because his story had touched them, and because they believe
in hope for the children. 


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