No arms but much love

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 Nguyen Thi Son Duong and her grandfather Nguyen Van Thang, who says he is willing to donate his arms to her

It is hard for four-year-old Nguyen Thi Son Duong to keep her balance when walking around. She keeps falling, and once recently lost four front teeth.

The girl who lives in the northern Vietnamese province of Hai Duong does not have arms, but just stubs from the shoulders.

Her grandfather Nguyen Van Thang serves as her arms and is looking for a surgeon who can amputate his own arms and graft them on her.

The girl has asked him often to make her arms so that she can play, write, and help with the housework, he says.

"I have told her that when she is 20 and grown-up like me, I will ask scientists to cut my arms and give them to her.

"I just wonder if people can do that now."

He has asked doctors at Bach Mai, a leading hospital in Hanoi, and was told foreign doctors may be able to.

Duong has learned to clean the house, pick vegetables, and paint with her feet.

Thang says: "She can also eat with her feet. But that would be dirty. As long as I am alive, I will not allow that. I will be her arms."

Thang has prostate fibroids that once made his arms go numb. He went for several acupuncture sessions to cure it so that he can take care of Duong and give his arms to her later.

Call of devotion


Nguyen Thi Son Duong picks water spinach, taking the young parts for cooking, with her feet.

Duong's family was only informed of some "defect" six days before her birth. Earlier, after scans, doctors had said the baby was a healthy boy.

Thang said the village was hit by an epidemic that year. "Everyone had a fever and cold. Maybe she was deformed because her mother was sick."

The girl and her parents live together with the families of her father's three brothers and her grandfather. Thang has told the other couples not to have a baby so that everyone can focus on taking care of Duong at least until she is seven.

"She is suffering from one of the worst miseries possible on earth. The whole family has to be devoted to her to compensate for the bitterness she must be feeling," Thang says.

"Her uncles also love her and know the family's difficulties, so they would have voluntarily done it anyway."

Thang has asked them to name their children Thuong Chi, or "love your sister," when they have some later.

"This is a family of love."

But it may not be a province of love, he says.

He has taken her to various agencies in his Lai Cach Commune in Cam Giang District, and to the provincial government to ask for providing her support.

Some people shed tears at seeing her and promised to do something immediately, but she only receives VND360,000 (US$17) a month.

Thang says he named the girl "Son Duong" (mountain goat) as he likes the strong animal.

"They have terrific endurance in harsh conditions. My girl will also be so."

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