Commentary: 15 year-old Le Thi Tham, born without arms due to speculated origin of Agent Orange , has shown us her determined to succeeding in life in face of adversity. Her story makes us feel blessed to have no deformity and should allow us to give up in life when things do not go the way we wish. She is an inspirational to all of us, the power of the mind over the body. Human spirit is so amazing.
Born without hands at birth, Tham can write, draw, sew, type… by her feet. Her painting won the second prize in a painting contest held in her hometown – Thanh Hoa province – while her notebooks are on display at the Vietnam Women’s Museum.
Every morning, Le Thi Tham in Dong Thinh commune, Dong Son district, Thanh Hoa province uses her left foot to brush her teeth, comb her hair and dress up to go to school. Tham is a 9th grader at the Dong Thinh Secondary School.
Caption: For the convenience of his daughter’s study, the father invented a table that fit Tham’s tiny body.
In her small house in Doan Ket village, Tham’s mother, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Tinh recalled the sad memory when she delivered her first daughter.
“Until now, after over ten years, I cannot forget the haunting moment in a day in early 1998. After waking up on the hospital bed, I looked around but I did not see my baby. I asked others but they did not say anything. I began having doubt of an unfortunate thing. A week later, when I insisted to see my child, my mum took her to me. Seeing the tiny and weak baby, without hands, I was petrified between tears,” Tinh said.
That time a lot of people wondered why the baby did not have hands. It turned out that Tinh’s mother joined the battlefield in the Southwest and the Central Highlands and perhaps she was exposed to Agent Orange.
At birth, Tham not only did not have hands but was very light, weighing just 1.2 kg. It took nearly two years for Tham to learn crawling, three years to walk and four years to speak clearly.
At the age of five, seeing other children go to school, Tham looked very sad. One day, she cried, asking her parents to send her to school.
The mother cried, tried to advise her daughter to give up that idea because she does not have hands to carry a school bag and to write. Tham was very sad and did not say a word for a whole day. A few days later, Tham borrowed an old pen and a notebook of her cousin to practice writing with her left foot while her parents were absent from home.
Seeing their daughter’s effort, the parents stopped preventing her from practicing writing to turn into supporting their daughter. They only hoped that their daughter would feel good with this, not hoping that she could go to school.
Nobody expected that, but by her great effort, Tham made rapid progress. After practicing writing by pen, Tham tried to write with chalk, despite ulcers.
In 2004, Tham passed the examinations to enter the local primary school, which is close to her home. On the first day of school, Tinh took her daughter with disabilities to the class, picked her up on a chair. Tham quietly used her leg to open her school bag, take off a notebook and write before the eyes of surprise and admiration of the whole class.
One day, Tham returned home from the class. She did not eat but kept crying. Thinh asked her why, Tham said: “Why don’t I have hands like others?”
“The question pierced my heart. I did not know how to explain to her. I just embraced the child and we both burst into tears,” the mother said.
The couple was determined to teach their child, who was very eager for studies. “After a few months going to school, my daughter could write very well. She could also make multiplication, division, addition, subtraction very fast,” Thinh said.
From the first to ninth grade, Tham was also one of the best students in her class. In particular, she usually ranked first in good writing contests.
The little girl not only writes well, she can use her left leg to sew clothes, draw and embroider proficiently.
Last year once Tinh went home from the field, she was thrilled when Tham gave handkerchief to her, in which she embroidered the line: “Happy Women’s Day 8/3. Love You Forever, Mum!”
Tham has a special hobby: drawing. Her paintings won the second prize at a drawing competition held by the Fine Art Association of Thanh Hoa province in 2007. Special, Tham’s notebooks were present in the exhibition entitled “Women beyond Fate” at the Vietnam Women’s Museum in Hanoi.
Outside the classroom, at home Tham also helps her mother with housework, like picking vegetables, cooking, and teaching her brother. Besides literature and math, Tham said she likes information technology very much.
“This laptop is my dear friend. Every day I take the time to read books or learn math on this computer,” Tham said and started her laptop by a foot. Tham can use her feet to type proficiently.
Speaking of her dreams, Tham said she would try to enter a college and to become of information technology engineer.
“I’m in disadvantage to others because I do not have hands. But it has not discouraged me because I still have legs and mind. Whenever I feel sad, I think of teacher Nguyen Ngoc Ky to motivate myself, because teacher Ky does not have hands but he has become very popular and is admired by everybody,” Tham said.
Tinh and her husband are very happy because their daughter is a good student a good girl, but the mother is still worried of her daughter’s health. According to Tinh, her child’s scoliosis disease is getting more severe. Her legs are unequal. At the age of 15, Tham is less than 1.4 m tall and weighs 27 kg.
Compiled by Mai Lan