Young designer without hands defies the odds

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Nhật Hồng & Bảo Hoa

HÀ NỘI — A man who lost both his forearms in a work accident at the age of 19 is refusing to let his disability hold him back.

Dương Hữu Phúc was working as a mechanic when an oxygen tank exploded causing his devastating injuries.

But despite having surgery to remove his arms, Phúc was thankful he escaped with his life.

“When I was taken out of the room, the first person I saw was mum,” Phúc told Việt Nam News.

“She cried. I had to tell her that: ‘It’s okay. I’m still alive and that’s good enough.’”

Eight years after the surgery, Phúc, now 27, is now able to do almost everything by himself, and not just the basic everyday chores.

He is an accomplished interior designer and photographer.

Phúc now works as a freelance interior designer and photographer. — Photo courtesy of Dương Hữu Phúc

Born and raised in Lạng Sơn Province, Phúc had started learning mechanics when he was 16. It was something he saw himself doing in the future to support himself and his family.

Following the accident, doctors had to cut off both his forearms in order to save his elbow joints, which if removed, would mean that his life will be even more difficult.

Both of Phúc’s forearms were removed after the accident. — Photo courtesy of Dương Hữu Phúc

During the 28 days of treatment for Phúc, everything fell on his mother’s shoulder.

His parents divorced when he was six, and since then his mother took various jobs to raise him and his older sister on her own.

“When I lost my forearms, it seemed like I lost everything – my dreams, aspiration, career, future family,” said Phúc.

“But still I kept trying because I still have my mum. When she gets old and can no longer work, I hope I can take care of her.”

With the accident occurring just 12 days before he was supposed to take the university entrance exams, it seemed like the door to higher education had closed on him.

Yet when Phúc learned how to pick up a pen again, he was surprised to find out that his writing was just the same as before the accident.

Phúc said: “I called my mum right up and said to her: ‘Mum, I can still write, please help me continue school.’”

Striving to get into the university was one of the most unforgettable moments for Phúc, because just one day before he went to Hà Nội and submitted his application, he underwent another surgery.

Phúc said: “The bone in my right arm was protruding out of my skin, and it was the fourth time I went through this type of surgery.

“Right after I went out of the operation room, my mum and I started travelling from Lạng Sơn to Hà Nội.”

Interior design – the major he was applying for – required an in-person art test. Due to his special circumstances, he was allowed to finish the drawing off-campus.

“I had to use my left arm to press the pencil to the unaffected part of my right arm [to avoid the surgical wound], and finish my work right that night so that my mum could submit it to the school.”

All his hard work paid off – Hà Nội University of Business and Technology accepted him to their programme.

“I feel like that was my greatest effort. I overcame the pain to finish my work, to get into the university,” said Phúc.

Hoàng Thị Phượng, Phúc’s mother said: “Now that he has completed his studies and brought back a degree, I am overjoyed.

“Even if I get sick, he can still take care of himself, that is alright.

“I hope in the future he can get a stable job, a stable income, that would be better.”

Phúc works on a design on his computer. — VNS Photo Bảo Hoa

After graduation, Phúc started working as an interior designer in the capital city.

With the company located on the other side of the city, he woke up at 6am everyday to travel to work.

The firm was surprised that he could work as a designer without hands, but his efforts were soon recognised.

Trịnh Bá Thịnh, a co-worker at the company said: “Phúc put in a huge amount of work to be able to do things like any normal person can.”

It took him months to become an official employee, but due to economic hardships, the business recently demoted most of its staff to contributors with no base salary – including Phúc.

Now Phúc works as a freelance interior designer and photographer. As the walking street around Hoàn Kiếm Lake is reopened, he and his mum sell toys here on the weekend for more income.

Despite everything he went through, Phúc remains an optimist.

Vũ Ngọc Thành, one of Phúc’s housemates said: “Phúc is different, he has a very positive outlook about everything in life.

“That is something I see in him and must learn from him.”

Phúc hopes people in the same circumstances as his can stay positive to overcome the challenges that life sets in front of them, and that businesses can lend a helping hand to provide employment for people with disabilities.

“I myself have had many people help me in my job, and I’m very grateful towards them,” said Phúc. — VNS

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