Whenever Lan Anh wants to give up, she remembers her family and reaches back out to life.
In a room in Xuan Mai Town of Hanoi's Chuong My District, Le Thi Lan Anh shows her students some photos taken on a recent trip to central Vietnam. At only 1.3 meters in height, there seems to be little difference between the beaming teacher and her pupils.
Forty-four years prior, Do Thi Lan had struggled to hide her tears when first holding the 1-kilogram, convulsing Lan Anh. Her father Le Huy Toan, a veteran of the war in central Vietnam, immediately knew the cause of his newborn daughter’s agony.
"Take her home and care for here. If she lives, that is good. If she does not, we can do nothing," the couple were told after visiting several hospitals in search of answers.
Lan Anh’s mother was unable to properly feed her daughter due to constant bouts of crying.
"The baby cried, then I cried," said Lan, who had to send her daughter to her mother-in-law after eight months of maternal leave.
All of their neighbors were skeptical, thinking Anh would not survive.
"This is my granddaughter, I’ll take care of her," maintained her grandmother, who used wet towels to daily wipe Lan Anh's fingers and toes in the hope her joints would stretch and heal.
Whenever Lan Anh fell sick as a child, her father would drop everything and take her to hospital. When she finally started walking, her grandmother gave her a heavy pair of sandals to ease the pressure of spinal deformity.