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A mum's worst nightmare

Being an SOS mother wasn't always easy for Nguyet, but today, she says: “My family is what happiness is made of.”
Being an SOS mother wasn't always easy for Nguyet, but today, she says: “My family is what happiness is made of.”

It's tough for any parent when a child falls sick. Things are even harder when you have nine other children to care for. So how did SOS mother Nguyet cope when little Chang fell prey to appendicitis and she had to spend a prolonged spell away from home to care for him in hospital?

Dien Bien Phu is the capital of Dien Bien, one of Vietnam's poorest provinces. When Nguyet first became an SOS mother at the Children's Village there, she was apprehensive about how things would turn out. Taking on a whole new family and caring for children who were not her own was not something Nguyet was able to adjust to overnight: “I must admit, I found it difficult to adapt myself to the new family environment and being a mother during my first days.”

A tough time

For Nguyet, it was the shock of a health scare that made her realise how much she loved her children. “One day, my youngest son Chang complained of a stomach ache. I was really worried and immediately took Chang to the hospital for treatment. He was diagnosed with appendicitis.”

Like any mother, Nguyet wanted to stay with her little boy while he endured the unfamiliar environment of the hospital. “It was a tough time,” she recalls. “Chang incessantly called my name in pain. I would hold him tightly and wish I could suffer instead of him.”

It wasn't just the pain of watching her child suffer that made things tough: “I was also worried for my other children.” While she stayed with Chang, Nguyet left his siblings in the care of an SOS aunt back at the Village. During this difficult time, Nguyet showed heroic strength and commitment, somehow managing to care for all ten of her children. Each day, she found herself shuttling back and forth between hospital and Village: “In the afternoon, when [Chang] took a nap, I quickly got back home to wash clothes, care for the children and remind them to obey their aunt.”

“Dear mum, please don't be far from us”

This little boy is having a check up at the medical centre in Dat Lat
Chang was discharged from hospital three weeks later. Here, another
little boy receives a medical check up.

The climax of these emotional few days came as a shock. On the second afternoon, when Nguyet was back home with the children, her eldest daughter Lan suddenly approached Nguyet, distressed. “My dear mum!” she said. “We miss you so much after one day. But how unwell you look today. Please don't be sick like Chang, my dear mum!”

Nguyet recalls how moved she was by her daughter's outburst: “I was so touched, I sat down and held all my nine children tightly in my arms while my eyes filled with tears. 'Is this my family?' I asked myself. The children stayed beside me and said together, 'Dear mum, please don't be far from us!'” Heartbroken, she explained that she had to return to hospital to care for Chang, but she promised to stay with them as soon as their brother improved.

Exhausted emotionally as well as physically, Nguyet returned to Chang's hospital room to the sound of his sobs. She held him in her arms and despite the tears, Chang looked up at her and smiled. In that instant, all Nguyet's exhaustion fell away, and she was filled with love for her son. After an uncertain start as an SOS mother, Nguyet is clear about one thing today: “My family is what happiness is made of,” she says.

Chang left hospital three weeks later.

We hope you agree, SOS mothers like Nguyet do an amazing job. Learn more about their incredible work, meet a mother on video, and find out how you can help.

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