The Nhung Report

In 2016 the ICSF team encountered a very unusual little patient in its annual mission to the Hai Phong, Vietnam Children’s Hospital. Her name was Nhung (pronounced “Nyume”). Nhung, age five at that time, was born with a huge dark, mole covering most of her face. Nhung’s mother had been looking desperately for a way for her daughter’s condition to be treated. She fearfully imagined the time when her daughter would have to go to school and face the ridicule, teasing and marginalization that children with deformities frequently face. Eventually Nhung’s mother took her to the capital city of Hanoi hoping for good news. Her hopes were dashed, however, when she was told by a specialist that there was no one in the entire country of Vietnam who could treat her daughter and that the condition was basically untreatable. The bad news was devastating to Nhung’s mother. She began to imagine Nhung coming home from school with tears in her eyes because of bullying and laughter from her peers.

Nhung, age five, with giant hairy nevus prior to first surgery by ICSF

Then, one day, a doctor Tram Anh who had initially seen Nhung several years earlier at the Hai Phong Children’s Hospital contacted her mother with some hopeful news. A team from the United States had treated a child with a condition similar to Nhung’s, although less extensive, and had gotten very good results. Dr. Tram Anh informed Nhung’s mother that the team, the International Children’s Surgical Foundation, was coming soon for their annual mission to the hospital. She wanted Nhung to come and be evaluated by the American team although she gave no promises as she knew Nhung’s deformity was very complicated.

As Dr. Williams evaluated Nhung on the first day of the mission he felt overwhelmed by the little patient sitting in front of him. “ I had treated these larger moles, known as a giant nevus, previously although none were nearly as extensive as Nhung’s”, recalls Dr. Williams. “In fact, as I sat there that day I was at a loss of how to proceed. I did, however, feel that, in time, I would feel some Divine guidance as to how to help this unfortunate little girl and her family.

It was immediately after the first surgery that Dr. Williams began to put together a plan. “As we were getting Nhung off of the operating table after the surgery, ideas suddenly began to fill my head for how to proceed the following year”, he recalls. “It would take many operations over years and many return trips but I felt a strong assurance that it was doable”. He further states: “Of all the overseas medical organizations, Nhung had made her way, miraculously, to the only organization that takes on long-term patients, like her”.

Nhung in April 2023, after her fifth surgery by ICSF over a span of seven years. She will need two additional surgeries to completely remove the remainder of the nevus.

The following year, Nhung underwent removal of all of the nevus from her forehead as well as the bridge of her nose, using a skin graft from her abdomen and a forehead flap, respectively. In 2018 she underwent staged removal of the nevus on the cheek, followed in 2019 by removal of the eyelid portions of the nevus covered by skin grafts from her upper, inner arm.

Sadly, Covid19 hit just in time to force cancellation of ICSF’s 2020 Hai Phong mission. For Nhung’s mother, sadness turned into deep worry as the next few years rolled by without the ICSF team being able to return because of government restrictions on foreign medical teams. In late 2022, however, the good news came that foreign teams could once again come. Nobody was more thrilled than Nhung (now twelve) and her mother!

April, 2023 saw the ICSF team treat Nhung for the fifth time along with nineteen other children with various facial deformities. ICSF thanks its faithful donors who make possible the treatment of so many little patients around the world, including patients that other organizations cannot treat, such as Nhung.

Design by Melissa Ventura, Development by Drew Bertola and Walter Martin.