Eight-year-old Danh has cerebral palsy and lives in a care center in Vietnam. He spent most days lying in his crib and would remain laying down even when he ate — a position that, unbeknownst to his caregivers, caused him to choke on his food. But now, Danh sits up in his wheelchair to eat and loves engaging with the other children.
Danh* was born in June 2007 and was abandoned when he was an infant. He is now enrolled in care in the House of Love in Cam Ranh, Khanh Hoa. He has cerebral palsy and was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, for which he received surgery to drain the excess accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from his brain. However, his brain was affected by the hydrocephalus and resulted in stiffness and some brain damage. Despite the fact that Danh received good care and attention from the nuns at his care center, some of his specialized needs were not met due to his caregivers’ lack of knowledge and skills in caring for children with cerebral palsy. While in care, the nuns focused mostly on providing him with proper diet, medical care when he gets sick, and good hygiene. As he got older, Danh spent most of his time lying in his crib and being in a room by himself. Danh could not move, sit up or walk by himself. He ate in a laying position and depended mostly on his caretakers to meet his daily needs. The caretakers mostly showed up and interacted with him shortly during feeding or bathing time or to change his diaper. The only means of entertainment for him was watching TV. He cried when the TV was turned off and felt happy when it was on.
Danh’s life changed remarkably in November 2015 when his caregivers received the ONP training to teach healthy, safe feeding for children without families organized by Holt International and the SPOON Foundation. Right after the training completed, the nuns ordered a wheelchair for Danh and some supplies needed to provide him with simple massage and physical exercise. Twice a day, Danh is given about one hour of massage and exercise using the big yoga ball. He is now fed while sitting up in his wheelchair. His caretakers share that Danh responded well and enjoyed the massage and exercise he received. He also got used to his new wheelchair after the first week. Now he can’t wait for his caretaker to come to his room every morning. He smiles happily when seeing the caretaker showing up in his room with his wheelchair because he knows that it is time to be brought outdoors with the other kids. While outdoors, he is around many other kids who stand around him, talking to him and making him laugh. Danh has been so happy and excited with these changes in his life. This is a simple change, but has made the Danh’s life significantly meaningful and full of excitement.
Hang Dam, MSW | Holt Vietnam Program