Breaking Through

“Prior to getting to Taiwan, surgeon, speech therapist, and corrective dentist were like potatoes placed into a compact container. Within close proximity to each other, yet never made contact with each other. But after I returned from my training in Taiwan, our relationships instantaneously changed. Now, it’s like a spider web; surgeon, speech therapist and corrective dentist, forming a tightly interconnected network with the patient as the center of it all.” Thanh is the NCF speech therapist seed medical practitioner. She comes from the Vietnamese National Children’s Hospital. When asked for the biggest difference she found from working with the Vietnamese team before and after the being invited to train in Taiwan, she immediately used the analogy of the potatoes and spider webs to vividly describe the differences she observed.

Thanh has serviced the Children’s Hearing and Speech Center at the Vietnamese National Children’s hospital for more than 10 years now. Her work as a speech therapist mainly involves evaluating and treating young children patients with a cleft lip or palate, hearing disabilities or problems with speech development. When she first started working, Thanh initially wanted to focus her energies on those with hearing disabilities, but in these recent years, more and more cleft lip and palate patients have been visiting the hospital. Thanh thus realized these patients have strong needs for language therapy treatment, and thus took the initiative to propose to the hospital that she needed training to strengthen her skills in giving speech therapy to children with a cleft lip or palate. Due to this, Thanh came to Taiwan in the middle of last year to train for two months. “I was very conflicted initially! When the director of the CGMH asked me questions on the relationship between cleft lip and palate and language therapy, I realized that I knew nothing on the subject!” Thanh said with a wry smile. However, as the optimistic person Thanh is, she encouraged herself “No one is perfect, I must thank my mentors for giving me a second chance, and guiding me from the basics. Now I can confidently evaluate and treat my patients!” Just from conversing with Thanh, one could easily distinguish her diligent work ethic and her drive to complete all her missions. “I have a child patient with nerve paralysis, a cleft lip, problems with her heart and ear, among many more issues. When I first met her, she was only 3 years old, with an aggressive and volatile temper. She never wanted to talk to anyone. Her family was very worried for her. For me, she was a tricky case, I didn’t know what to do with her. I decided to just try spending time with her, play with her, eat with her, understand what she liked and didn’t. She slowly opened her heart to me, allowing me to assess her listening capabilities, and her language ability. I proceeded to begin teaching her some simple vocabulary. A year of company and therapy later, she was already willing to converse with classmates and neighbors. She was no longer short-tempered, and her family was extremely happy watching her transformation”. Due to Thanh’s rigor and patience, her ability to utilize her newly learned knowledge in the hospital is evident.

Due to Thanh’s rigor and persistence, her ability to utilize her newly learned knowledge in the hospital is evident.

Thanh shares with us a worry in her heart. How will the children living in rural places have access to medical attention? Their will to return to hospitals for regular check-ups are quite low, reasons including transportation fees, and general lack of knowledge towards therapy and treatment of the parents, whom have much less social mobility than those living in urban areas. During Thanh’s appointments, she teaches the parents of the children easy therapeutic methods, requesting for them to help treat their children at home as well. However, when she runs into cases where the family lives far away from the city, they are often nowhere to be seen after 1 appointment, unfortunately, finances and knowledge acting as a barrier for the child’s happiness. “Because of this, my dream is to combine my experiences with my newly obtained knowledge from these past few years to open up language therapy courses in local hospitals spread across Vietnam. This would allow local hospital staff to possess the knowledge of therapeutic procedure of dealing with patients with a cleft lip or palate. I believe this will help raise turn out rates to hospitals for patients in rural areas”. From the short interview with Thanh, it wasn’t hard to spot her passion for work and her caring love towards all patients. “My greatest motivation for my work is through the patients. When I receive the simplest greeting or gratitude from a patient or parent, I always begin feeling like it’s all worth it.” Thanh said with a gentle smile.



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