Vu Quoc Tuan has not had an easy life himself, but is firmly in the business of saving lives - and expects no reward in return.
His incredible humanity has seen him donate a kidney to a poor girl for free, refusing an offer of US$50,000 made by a better-off family.
Tuan's story came to light when the 38-year-old native of Phu Tho was honoured at the 8th National Patriots Festival held in Hanoi on Monday (December 27).
He was working as a guard at the Hanoi Children's Hospital when Tuan was moved on seeing Ta Thi Thu Ha, 18, the same age as his daughter, struggling with kidney failure. It was the year 2008 and Ha had been suffering for at least six years then.
Learning that the family was poor, with the father a war invalid and the mother the sole breadwinner working as a vendor, he decided to give the girl one of his own kidneys.
When he started to undergo examinations in March 2008 to prepare for the surgery, a family from nearby Hai Phong visited him and offered to pay $50,000 for the kidney, but Tuan told them he had to give it to a niece.
"You have money, so you can find [the kidney] at many places, but if I don't give the kidney to my niece, she will die," Tuan said.
Tuan was born to a poor farming family and quit college after one month to take care of his family after his father died of sickness. He said he has been working different jobs around the northern region, thus has a special sympathy for poor people.
Doctors at the hospital were surprised by his decision to donate. No one that they know of had ever donated a kidney to a total stranger.
The donation was made after more than 60 tests were done between March and October 2008, during which time Tuan had to undergo the pain of needles several times, including into his spinal cord.
He had to borrow money to raise his children during the period as the examinations kept him too busy to go to work. His wife, a guest worker in Malaysia, was also struggling there because of the global economic crisis.
The transplant was successful but Tuan didn't accept a single dong from Ha's family, though they wished to give him some to help his recovery.
He now has a desk job at the Mechanics Company No.17 under the Ministry of Defense. The company director, Chu The Thinh, offered him the job after the surgery weakened him and he could no longer afford to do hard labor.
Not the first time
Tuan's job as a guard at the Children's Hospital was also the result of his second nature - helping others in trouble.
In 2007, he saved a child from two fighting buffalos on the street and was hospitalized with rib fractures.
At the hospital, Tuan offered to donate blood to a girl who needed an emergency operation. The hospital was short of blood, and Tuan, being a universal donor (O group), gladly donated his. The girl's family found out where he lived and tried to pay him, but he refused. So they helped him get the position.
When working as a hospital guard, Tuan has been known for helping patients' relatives look for rental homes.
Earlier, when working at construction sites, Tuan had several times carried pregnant women to the hospital for delivery.
And when he was a xe om driver, he often transported poor people for free.
"Every time I see a person in need of help, I just think that if I don't do anything, they will die. I myself am unhappy, so I understand their situation," Tuan said.