Breaking a Leg
I was in an accident on my scooter
March 31, Easter. I broke my leg. I did
not think it was broken at the time. I just
knew that I could not operate my knee,
but it was, indeed, broken. My job as a
security guard was put on hold for the
duration but I will still have it when I can
walk unassisted again.
I have been a security guard, mostly a
gate guard at beach resorts since 2005.
My friend in Cam Đức, was the
Vietnamese equivalent of a sharecropper
as it was a hundred years ago in Mississippi .
A couple of years after I started working
at Regency Towers beach resort the
political and work disabilities were lifted by the government from the Catholics in Việt Nam
and large and/or foreign employers were then allowed to hire Catholics.
There is a long beautiful Pacific Ocean beach near Thông’s village in Khánh Hòa that was being
developed to lure foreign tourists. Beach resorts were going up on fifteen to twenty miles of the beach. It
occurred to Thông that maybe those beach resorts needed security guards like the ones in America so he
took himself out to the beach and was hired as a gate guard at a large complex then under construction.
His income more than doubled and money came in regularly instead of being concentrated in a three month
period leaving the rest of the year to catch as catch can odd jobs and a low calorie diet.Thông was not
content to work only his assigned hours and gladly worked on his days off substituting for other guards who
wanted extra days off or were sick.
Thông and I worked the same jobs for the same sort of employers for several years. For the last year I
have been working at a shipyard, still on the gate. Then I broke my leg.
I have been supporting Thông’s daughter Nguyệt in school since she was fourteen in 2003. The accident
induced hiatus from my job put me in a bind because for up to three months I have no income except just five
hundred dollars a month Social Security. I had some savings because I am always putting money by for the
purpose of buying my next airplane ticket to Việt Nam but still sending the money Nguyệt needs would be
Fortunately I had insurance on my scooter. The adjustor came to the house and got out his clipboard and
calculator. His laptop computer was mounted in his car and was Wi-Fi connected to the internet. I said nothing
to him beyond greeting him. I did not point out to him that the front end of the scooter had been modified by a
previous accident and some fiberglass and an ad hoc headlight. It was painted though, and looked good. He
asked me no questions, just looked at the scrapes and breaks and the pieces of the plastic fender. Then he
went to his laptop and looked up the prices of the affected parts. He was amazed at the cost of plastic fairing
parts and did not consider repair of damaged pieces, just replacement parts. When he was finished he wrote
me out a check that was what I had paid for the scooter in the first place. The scooter was not operationally
damaged, only aesthetically. The money was gravy and would keep the support going to Nguyệt while I
recuperate. I would not have to eat up my Việt Nam travel fund after all. Last week the telephone rang in
the middle of the night and I managed to get up on my crutches and get to it in time to answer it. It was
Nguyệt. The connection was bad and she sounded frantic. I could not understand he rin Việtnamese or in
English. I spoke slowly, supposing that the quality of the sound was as bad at her end as it was at mine and
told her to put it in email and I would answer quickly.
She has the laptop I sent her when she started grad school and connects to internet with it but she didn’t
compose the email immediately. She said later she was too distraught at the moment. 6 hours later her note came
to my email. She said her dad had been in an accident on his scooter and had broken his leg. She said the
situation was very bad.
I emailed back and asked her for details.
Over the next two days we traded many emails and phone calls and I found out that the situation was,
indeed, very bad. She sent pictures of him in the infirmary bed with his leg wrapped up in what was only
a splint. He could not get the operation it needs without payment of 18 million đồng first, about $860. I know
he has a couple of hundred dollars in savings but there is no monthly payment plan so I had to promote the
rest. Actually I found nine hundred dollars and sent it by a money transfer company that takes the cash to the
recipient’s door, but it takes three or four days so I emailed Nguyệt with a scan of the check and the particulars
and told her to tell her mother to take it to the gold shop and see if they could promote a loan for a week. I
think the gold shop will do it. The proprietor knows me from the times I have stayed there. Time is important.
The sooner the bone is properly set the more likely a good outcome.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Kim Anh, Thông’s wife called at midnight. It is the first time she has called that I have understood what
she said. She normally talks too fast and the connection is always bad. Last night she spoke slowly and
enunciated each word. She said that Thông’s leg had been operated on. She had taken my email detailing
the $900 I had sent to the doctor and that said that the money was coming. It was done immediately. It
will be two days before the money actually gets there.
Tôi còn cầu nguyện cảm ơn Chúa.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
And an update:
Thông got his leg fixed and now I find out his cheekbone is broken, too, but that is covered by the money
I sent. That might be tougher than the leg. When I broke my upper jaw back in ’72 I had to have my jaws
wired shut for three months and could only “eat” through a straw. Everything had to be pureed. The string
beans were a bit much, the strings got stuck in my teeth in a tangled mass. I hope he doesn’t have to go
through anything like that. Whatever happens Kim Anh will take very good care of him. He also has
fourth degree burns- that’s to the bone- on his leg and a hand. I will see how that came out when I go back there.
I have had to insist to Nguyệt that she not feel she has to put grad school on hold while she returns
home to help take care of Dad. As an unmarried daughter in a traditional society it is difficult for her not to
do that. I think I convinced her that she can help her father more by finishing her education and using that
MBA to lever herself into the middle class (for a start). She is working now part time for an export/import
company that deals mostly with companies in Taiwan.