In many Asian countries, due to poverty or lack of education, many babies, especially those with physical or mental disabilities, are left at government-sponsored facilities, like the “baby hatches” in China, to become wards of the state or charities.
The Central Highlands of Vietnam, which remain very poor despite the robust economic growth that the country as a whole has experienced in recent years, recently experienced an incredible case of a baby being abandoned in an orchard. The baby was discovered in a plastic bag tied to a coffee tree in Lam Dong Province, the heart of the coffee belt that makes Vietnam the world’s second-largest coffee producer.
According to the Straits Times, the baby was estimated to have gone several days on her own with no care. She was in terrible condition, having been exposed to the harsh sun and bitten by mosquitoes, and worst of all, maggots had infested a wound on her head. Her prognosis was grim: doctors believed that if she lived at all, she would never make it more than a year.
Greetings to all, I am Venerable Minh Tai (abbot of Hue Quang Pagoda). If anyone would like to contribute to baby Hoai…
That’s when the baby’s guardian angel stepped in. Her given name is Trieu Thi Thien Kim, but as the abbess of the Hue Quang Pagoda near where the baby was discovered, her religious name is the Venerable Minh Tai. She has taken over 100 orphans into her pagoda over the years and helped find foster families for them.
She and her nuns currently have 10 orphans in their care. Hearing about the case, she adopted the little baby and proceeded to raise $25,000 for medical care calling upon Facebook users and Buddhist temples all over Vietnam to help out. She decided to call the little girl Hoai An, meaning perpetual peace in Vietnamese.
After she raised the necessary funds, Minh Tai took the baby to one of the best private hospitals in Asia, Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore. There, doctors have done everything they can to give Hoai An the chance she deserves at life.
The challenges they face are numerous: in addition to all the injuries she sustained after abandonment, doctors were able to determine that Hoai An was born premature. She suffers from hydrocephaly, with dangerous levels of fluid building up in her brain.
As the weeks have gone, the abbess and adoptive mother has been with her every step of the way. She has launched a new fundraising campaign to cover the additional costs of treatment. Dr. Tang Kok Kee, the neurosurgeon at the hospital who has led the team that has been treating Hoai An, told the Straits Times: “I wouldn’t write her off at this point; that would be wrong. There is a chance her condition will improve.” However, doctors are still waiting to find out how much of the baby’s brain has been affected.
Meanwhile, the Venerable Minh Tai isn’t giving up on her charge. “She is sleeping better, crying louder and has more of an appetite. She has also gained about 700g in weight and her reactions have improved.” As long as the baby has a chance, she will be there, she said to the Straits Times. “We won’t give up on Hoai An. With the support of the donors, I have faith that her illness can be cured.”
Recently, Minh Tai and her nuns celebrated Hoai An’s first month of life, a traditional ceremony in Vietnam, thanking Buddha for answering their prayers. Minh Tai has given the baby a nickname that represents her amazing struggle to survive. Hoa Sen Da is the name for succulents in Vietnam, because as the abbess said: “Even if nearly the entire plant is gone, if one leaf is left, then it can still regrow.