Quang Ngai, Vietnam-Nicole Friedland, Interplast Staff. Photo by John Urban
Nguyen Duy is 14 years old. He's a handsome boy who lives about an hour away from Quang Ngai. His mother is a farmer and his father is a carpenter. Like most teenage boys, he's shy and monosyllabic. He suffers from a congenital birth defect that fuses his middle, ring and pinkie fingers on both hands. A small protuberance extends from each pinkie. This deformity runs in his paternal family; his father and grandfather both had it. He is one of four children, and two of his siblings also have the problem. His young niece also has it.
Duy's brother had the surgery years ago and he's encouraged Duy to come see the Interplast team. His brother told us that when he'd had the surgery, the doctors just numbed his hands and sliced him open. Small wonder then, that his older sister is too scared to come for surgery.
Duy says his friends at school tease him a lot, pointing at his hands and laughing at him. We asked him what he does in response and he shyly says, "I tell them 'Leave me alone!'" He said he was very scared to come to the clinic but today, his surgery day, he feels ready. I see him later as he's led into surgery. He smiles and looks strong.
Dr. Deb Rusy administers anesthesia, and surgeon Del Mount cuts a zig-zag section through the skin encasing the fingers and separates the digits. This year, they do his right hand. He will be encouraged to return to have his left hand operated on next year.