In Quang Tri Province, central Vietnam, there is a particular family whose unique situation has attracted attention. While the parents, who are in their nineties, can see normally, their four children became blind by the age of twenty.
They have struggled for years with the terrible, incurable eye condition that has caused four family members to go blind.
But the third-generation can see the light at the end of the tunnel: they have children with normal vision. Moreover, these healthy family members are also well behaved, hardworking, and extremely grateful to their parents and grandparents.
Despite their misfortunes, the third-generation members make the family of Ho Vung, 88, in Gia Dong Village, Trieu Do Commune, Trieu Phong District, Quang Tri Province, hope for a better future.
The days of living in darkness
One day a Tien Phong (Youth) newspaper reporter went to Ho Vung’s house. In response to a call at the front gate, a man’s voice announced from inside the house, “Yes, this is Vung’s house, who is that?”
A few minutes later, four middle-aged people slowly came out, each of them standing one step from the door of the house.
The house is low and small, but there are many doors. All four people seem to have normal eyes at first glance, but they are all blind.
When the reporter entered the house, they saw Vung lying on a bed, next to it were two more beds, and in the wing house were two more beds.
Vung has been sick for many years, at the age of 88, he usually lies in bed. When the reporter came in, he was trying his best to sit up.
His children sensed that their father was having difficulty sitting up and quickly found a way to help him. Ho Dan, 54, one of Vung’s sons, supported his father with his hands.
Talking to the reporter about the children, Vung sighed. He grabbed a package of documents and said, “Here is the certificate from local authorities recognizing all our four children as blind so they are entitled to allowances.”
Despite his old age, Vung could recognize the characters in the documents with his eyes. His wife Hoang Thi Mot, 84, also has normal vision, but her memory is not good.
“My children all went blind when they grew up. But there are not many people who know that,” he added.
Ho Thi Hue, 58, the eldest sister of the four, told Tien Phong that her eyesight got worse and worse when she was in 4th grade. By the time she was in 8th grade, her eyesight had been too bad to see anything on the blackboard, so she had to stop going to school.
At the age of 28, Hue could no longer tell if it was morning or evening. Now she is totally blind.
Hue’s next brother, Ho Dan, experienced the same thing when his vision deteriorated in 5th grade. He became blind at the age of 25.
Younger sister Ho Thi Thuan, 50, was ‘luckier’ because her vision deteriorated in 7th grade, but she went completely blind when she was 30 years old.
The youngest brother, Ho Hoang Duong, 38, did not have a better fate. He, too, has been blind since he was 18.
According to Duong, he lived in depression at some point in the past because he could not face his terrible fate.
At that time, he would just lie in bed without saying anything. He would get so angry when he came across something while walking in the house that he would throw it out of the yard.
Twenty-five years ago, a charity organization brought Dan and Duong to Ho Chi Minh City for a medical examination.
Dan said that at the time he fervently hoped that his younger brother’s blindness could be successfully treated. But he was distraught when he learned about retinal degeneration, a disease for which there is no effective treatment.
On the way home, Dan tried to comfort his brother while they were both in deep despair. Dan burst into tears as he watched Duong almost go mad with hopelessness.
The two brothers accepted their fate but did not give up hope that they could be cured in the future as medicine grows more advanced.
Five years ago, Hue and Thuan were taken to Hanoi for an eye examination. However, after twenty years, nothing has changed. Doctors’ answer is still ‘retinal degeneration.’
The two sisters returned home without saying anything. Their silence gave the whole family the understanding that they must continue their life without their vision.
|From left: Ho Hoang Duong, Ho Thi Thuan, Ho Thi Hue, and Ho Dan, all of whom went completely blind in their youth. Photo: Tran Mai / Tien Phong
Searching for the light in will and love
Vung and Mot tried harder than they could to care for their four blind children. Despite their extremely harsh living conditions, the couple never complained about anything that might inadvertently cause their children to think of themselves as a burden.
When Mot was sometimes sick, she tried to laugh and to make the family comfortable and warm.
The couple’s health has definitely deteriorated after almost ten years of hard work raising four children.
The members of the family have been taking care of each other for years. The parents became the children’s eyes, showing them how to do simple tasks while their lives depend mainly on financial support.
As he went to fetch water for the reporter, he bumped into a kettle. “Lucky it did not break,” the old man said, putting the kettle in its place and asking who had put it in the wrong place.
In the dozens of years in this particular house, everything has its own place. Once something is put in the wrong place, it is hard for them to find or becomes an obstacle for everyone to walk.
Although she is blind now, Hue got married when her vision was normal. She went utterly blind when she was pregnant with a daughter.
Hue’s daughter is 30 years old, and she is fortunate to have a normal vision and happy life with her husband and children. “It’s enough for me already,” the blind woman said contentedly.
Dan has his own peaceful family of three children after marrying a woman who suffers from an intellectual disability.
Their three children are all doing well in their studies. The eldest daughter, Ho Thi Phuong Nha, entered college this year.
“Our children do not complain about how poor their parents are, but try their best to get ahead, which makes us extremely happy,” Dan said.
The blind father is even happier that his children not only try their utmost to study under all circumstances but are also grateful to their parents and grandparents who take care of them carefully.
The children’s devotion is seen as compensation for the unfortunate fate of the family. The allowances or scholarships the children receive always make all family members smile.
Thuan said that their home could be pardoned by heaven so that their third-generation members could have healthy eyesight and normal mental abilities.
Inspired by the hopeful nephews and nieces, Thuan lives more positively. Although she is blind, she raises pigs and chickens to earn a living and support other family members.
“We just have difficulty getting out of the house. It is easier for us to go out and do something at home or in the garden because we are familiar with the environment,” Thuan said.
“Everything has been fixed in recent years, from the feeding trough for the pigs to the cages for the chickens, we know exactly how many steps we need to take.
“However, we do not know how much pigs and chickens grow, so we have to ask our grandchildren for help when we need to sell.”
Nguyen Huu Phan, vice-chairman of the Trieu Do Commune People’s Committee, said local authorities have been supporting unfortunate households like Vung’s for years, but they can only help them partially because resources are limited.
“The biggest concern is the health of the next generation. The children’s eyes are normal, but we do not know if something bad will happen in the long run or not,” Phan said.
“We hope opthamologists can help the family, especially Dan and Hue’s children.
“Is there a cure for their condition now?”
“We hope there is an ophthalmologist who knows a lot about ‘retinal degeneration’ and has our four siblings examined again to know whether there is a possible cure for it,” Hue said.
Dan hopes that his children will be loved by the people around him so that they can continue their studies.
Thuan is waiting for useful stuff to help the visually impaired walk comfortably and work to earn their own living.
Duong wants to find a decent job that will allow him to stay at home to work and take care of his parents.
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