[Editor's Note: In honor of Mother’s Day, we'd like to share the story of one of the unsung heroes of Agent Orange, a mother who has made countless sacrifices to care for her children who are unable to care for themselves. A special thank you to the War Legacies Project for connecting Make Agent Orange History with Mrs. Doan Thi Que.]
Mrs. Doan Thi Que has been caring for her son Le Ve Nam for 16 years. He suffers severe developmental and physical disabilities that are believed to be linked to his mother’s exposure to dioxin in the Quang Nam province, which was heavily sprayed with Agent Orange during the war in Vietnam.
Que first had a feeling something was wrong when Nam was just 7 months old — he didn’t seem to be progressing like other children his age. Filled with concern, Que carried Nam by foot to the nearest clinic, 17 miles away from their home in Tien Ha Village in central Vietnam. The clinic diagnosed the boy as severely disabled but they didn’t have the expertise or capacity to provide a precise diagnosis for the boy.
Despite the heart-breaking circumstances the family now faced, Que did not lose hope. Que decided then and there that she would dedicate herself completely to the support of her young son. Her love and passion proved a powerful force as Que has spent the better part of two decades providing essential care for Nam.
Fortunately, the family received a cow and some chickens from the War Legacies Project, a nongovernmental organization that provides assistance to families affected by Agent Orange, and this allows Que to stay home and provide Nam the care he so desperately needs.
“It is difficult now because he is older and very heavy so it is hard for me to lift him,” Que says. “I have to place pillows around him at night so that he does not fall off the bed as his arms and legs are in constant movement [from the muscle spasms]. He does not sleep well because he has trouble breathing.”
While life is difficult for the family, Que stays focused on the future. She gains strength from the joy her son shows from his achievements whether it is building a tower of blocks with his feet or sorting small stones into piles.