Mr. Xoan’s family story has been one of resilience, hope and sacrifice, as shown in a previous blog post. Yet, when we came back to finish our interviews, we were blown out of the water but what we found.
Since we didn’t get to see Mr. Xoan last time we came to visit we stopped by once again to interview him. As we approached his home we noticed that the buffalo that was outside when we visited last time was gone so curious me decided to ask about it. We had to sell it to pay for the last hemophiliac treatment of Toan and Trung, Mr. Xoan said. At this point, we have heard that story from so many of the families but were never really able to fully grasps what that meant or if it happened as frequently as they were saying. Yet here we were, back less than a week since we saw Mrs. Phan feeding that big and well-cared for bull and suddenly he was gone.
Looking around we didn’t find neither Mrs. Phan nor Trung; Toan was already back from the treatment in Hue and Lien was, as always, outside on her bed. My son, Trung, is still in Hue as he wasn’t doing so well when he was first seen by the Doctor and my wife is out in the fields harvesting the rice, told us Mr. Xoan. What we did find, and everywhere, were some seeds that were spared all over the floor. It was rice, freshly harvested from the day before- a process that takes 2 to 3 days and happens twice during the year.
We’ve been meaning to get footage of rice paddies for a while then and it just happened to be that now one of the main beneficiaries of the proposal I was working in was out there, so I jumped at the opportunity of Mr. Xoan bringing us over. And he did.
At this point, we’ve seen Mrs. Phan as a caregiver, loyal mother and wife, but here she was looking stronger than any woman I’ve ever met and irradiating close to super-human powers. Mrs. Phan started her day at 5 am and had been out in the sun since then, working the fields like there was no tomorrow. A feat that only a ‘superwoman’ could accomplish.
We went back to the house and there she was again, Mrs. Phan, taking care of Lien after a 6-hour shift on the fields. How much strength does this woman have?, I thought.
Without even us mentioning anything, she told us that Trung was still in the hospital in Hue and was going to stay there for an undetermined time. By then, we had tried to capture the stories of the different families suffering from Agent Orange but given their limited mobility most of them had been indoors. After some on the spot braninstorming we thought on the importance of visiting Trung at the Hospital in Hue, which is 3 hours away from Dong Hoi. The family agreed and out we were on our way to visit Trung.
When we saw Trung he looked so much healthier because of the blood transfusions he had been receiving over the past days but also a bit worried. There’s a shortage of blood at the hospital so I might not get one for a few days, he said. Indeed, when we asked the Doctor when would he get the next blood transfusion, he said he didn’t know as the resources kept varying. I then remembered something Toan, Trung’s youngest brother, told me when we were at his house. During the week I was in the hospital, I saw 3 people died, he said, referring to the outcome of a lot of the patients that come in for transfusions and leave dead because of the lack of blood.
As we quickly learned, this was the regular modus operandi at the hospital. After some back and forth we were told Trung would not be getting any transfusions over the weekend, which was the only time we could be around. We had to leave only hoping for the best.
We went to Mr. Xoan’s house one last time to say goodbye in what turned to be a very emotional exchange. This will forever be the family which will stay in my heart and Linh’s, my interpreter and co-worker, for years to come,; hoping that we meet again sooner than later.
Posted By Armando Gallardo (Vietnam)
Posted Sep 29th, 2015