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Story of Bui Van Thuan

There are more than 100 children born with cleft lips and cleft palates queuing up at the hospital today with HOPES. And I was touched by the story of 9 years old boy - Bui Van Thuan.

His parents are Muong ethnic minority and poor living in Tan My commune, Lac Son District, Hoa Binh province with the very low income, barely earning enough to provide food and necessities for the family.  After the harvest, they are hired to do extra farming work which earns them some additional money to live a slightly better life and look after their two children. 

As recalled by Bui Thi Minh, his mother, on the 3-month pregnancy, she had a flu and took some medicines without prescription. After 9 months pregnancy, she gave birth to Thuan. Instead of being excited to welcome a new member of the family, she felt faint and cried a lot when she saw her son’s face with cleft lip and cleft palate. Time was passing, he lived with cleft until he was 2 years old then he had surgery. 

Thuan is in grade 4 at his village school. He is good at Maths but very bad at Literature, this is because his cleft palate has not been fixed yet. Whenever he spoke, no one understood. Friends teased, bullied and laughed at him. 

“I don’t want to go to school. My friends don’t want to play with me, they tease me every day. Why am I different from them?” Thuan asked his mom. 

“Because when you were a baby, you cried so much that your voice is abnormal”.  Mom replied. 

He didn’t know that is a 'white lie', he just try to be obedient so that his voice would get better soon. As for the parents, they knew first hand of the struggles he would face when growing up, but sadly they also knew they couldn’t afford surgery to fix his deformity. 

As announced, his family knew Operation Smile and they didn’t want to miss this opportunity to change his son’s face. They faced a lot of difficulty in borrowing 2 million VND (about $ 100) for transportation and meal fee.  And finally, they arrived in Hanoi with a high hope that Operation Smile would change his life forever. Fortunately, he was one of the children eligible for surgery after having medical test. 

On the day of operation, his mother was so anxious and didn’t sleep till the next morning. And Thuan, after the surgery, didn’t cry but tears ran down his cheek, maybe it was the wound hurting or maybe a tear of joy!

For Thuan it was a simple thing is to make everyone understand what he says but for his parents, his son’s life is changed one more time. He will have a normal life now, like others.

For me, after few days being with patients, I feel more fortunate than children like Thuan.  I wish that more and more patients with facial deformities meet Operation Smile so that their lives can be changed one time


Nguyen Thai Thanh

Mission Coordinator - Operation Smile Vietnam



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