Enlarged tongue tortures poor girl in northern Vietnam

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Duong Thi Thao has an oversized tongue that has prevented her from closing her mouth for all the 14 years that she has lived on this earth so far.

The problem has made it difficult for her to eat, with her teeth biting the tongue all the time. Even simple things like breathing and swallowing her saliva are difficult tasks for Thao, a VnExpress report says.

Her exposed tongue dries and bleeds often, especially in the dry and cold weather found in the mountainous province of Thai Nguyen Province in northern Vietnam.

Thao's parents say she was diagnosed with congenital throat and chin tumors that caused her tongue to swell beyond the mouth cavity.

Sam Ottawa, an expert from Virtual Medical Miracle Network which connects patients needing medical help with doctors, hospitals as well as charitable and medical institutions in Vietnam and overseas, told Vietweek Thao might be suffering from Macroglossia, or Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, a disorder caused by an increase in the amount of tissue on the tongue, rather than by a tumor.

He said the condition can be corrected with surgery or radio frequency reduction.

Do Thi Thon, her mother, said Thao did have a surgery when she was one year old, but she was never taken back to the hospital because the family could not afford it, and they had to take care of two older children as well.

Thon said she and her husband had sold their only buffalo and all their fields, and borrowed some more money to take Thao to the Vietnam-Sweden Children's Hospital in Hanoi.

But their money was only enough to have the tumors in the throat and chin removed.

The mother said she remembers doctors saying that her daughter needed to go back to have her tongue size reduced. But the parents could not afford to do it.

With their fields and buffalo gone, the H'Mong couple in Xuat Tac Village, Phuong Giao Commune, Vo Nhai District have had to hire out their labor to make ends meet, and their debts have kept piling up.

The parents say it hurts them a lot to see Thao, an innocent and kind girl, boycotted by her peers.

Thao just stays at home after school, playing with her pets.

"My friends say I am dirty, that I do not brush my teeth, that I keep sticking my tongue out. But that's not what I want (to do).

"Every time they tease me, I would find a corner to cry and dare not tell my parents."

Thao said she used to be angry with her friends, but now feels more like it's her fault.

Duong Van Kieu, chairman of the commune, said Thao's family would need a large sum of money to treat her, but the commune itself is not doing well and is in no shape to help them.

Half of the families in the commune, which is home mostly to the H'Mong and Dao ethnic people, are poor. Many areas do not have electricity supply or proper roads.

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