Singaporeans give generously to help pay Vietnamese premature baby’s medical bill

Photo: Nguyen Van Thang
Baby Tue Minh remains in an incubator in the ICU. Photo: Nguyen Van Thang

Eleven days after their first child was born prematurely, Singapore-based Vietnamese researcher Nguyen Van Thang and his wife Nguyen Hong Thuy have yet to hold their son.

Nguyen Van Tue Minh was born after just 26 weeks and three days, weighing only 1.04kg. He has been in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital since the day of his birth on 11 November.

Tue Minh cannot breathe on his own yet because his lungs are not fully developed. He is expected to be in hospital for at least the next three months. Due to the risk of infection to the baby, the Nguyens have only been able to touch their son through the holes in an incubator.

Asked how he felt the first time he saw his son, Thang, who works as a post-doctoral research fellow at Singapore University of Technology and Design, told Yahoo Singapore on Tuesday (22 November), “It was very painful to see the baby. He was so small after he was born. We feel sad, but we understand (why we cannot hold him).”

Premature babies, also known as preemie babies, are babies born at less than 37 weeks in the womb. They are at greater risk of hearing and sight problems, and conditions such as cerebral palsy.

Medical expenses

Baby Tue Minh's medical bills will amount to a six-figure sum. Photo: Nicholas Yong
Baby Tue Minh’s medical bills will amount to a six-figure sum. Photo: Nicholas Yong

But baby Tue Minh is getting a helping hand from the country of his birth. Singaporean and other donors alike are helping the Nguyens out with a medical bill that may amount to $268,000.

One week after Thang launched a crowdfunding effort on, donors have pitched in to help raise almost $60,000. The amounts donated range from just five to several hundred dollars.

“Stay strong, the world is full of miracles if you believe in them. Your child will get well soon,” said one anonymous donor. Another donor Therese Song said, “Jiayou (Mandarin for ‘press on’)! Keep fighting, little baby!”

The couple have also received some $30,000 in direct donations in Singapore and Vietnam. “I feel very thankful to the contributors and donators. We don’t feel so worried about the bill now,” said Thang.

The couple had initially planned to return to Vietnam this week in order for Thuy to give birth back home in February, as the medical costs in Vietnam are much cheaper. However, she went into premature labour on 11 November.

There was to be another shock for Thang – he was informed that the final medical bill would range from $228,000 to $268,000.

During the baby’s first month in hospital, the Nguyens will have to pay around $3,000 a day, said Thang. The latest bill after 10 days of hospitalisation was $28,730.

Doctors that Yahoo Singapore spoke to said that each day in the ICU will cost at least $1,500, depending on the patient’s condition, the class of ward and the amount of treatment and/or surgery needed.

KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital declined to answer Yahoo Singapore’s queries, citing patient confidentiality.

Hoping and waiting

Nguyen Van Thang and his wife have been maintaining a vigil at the hospital. Photo: Nicholas Yong
Nguyen Van Thang and his wife have been maintaining a vigil at the hospital. Photo: Nicholas Yong

The Nguyens, who have been married for a year, do not have medical insurance and are not eligible for government subsidies. Thang has been working in Singapore since March 2015. He earns around $5,000 a month while his wife does not work.

“My family and relatives have already donated a little, but their salaries are very low over there as compared to Singapore. My parents are also retired,” said Thang, the oldest of four children.

He considered bringing Tue Minh back home to reduce the costs, but was advised against it by doctors as the trip might be too strenuous for the baby.

So Thang turned to the internet for help, and it has all paid off. He hopes to raise about $125,000 from the crowdfunding effort. Thang reckoned that he can foot a quarter of the bill on his own, while the hospital has also agreed to allow him to pay part of the bill by installments.

Baby Tue Minh is “doing better and better”, said Thang, and has gained a little weight – he currently weighs about 1.095kg.

The Nguyens visit their son every day. Thang has been granted time off from his job until the end of the month, while Thuy has been busy expressing milk for Tue Minh. This is fed to him at 0.8 ml per hour.

Asked what he hopes for his son, Thang said, “I hope my baby will get well soon and be back home with us.”