Last week I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Kieu, pediatrician and founder of Project Vietnam, about their new Breaths for New Borns campaign. Through this campaign, Project Vietnam is donating resuscitators to rural villages in Vietnam and their doctor-volunteers are teaching the local doctors to use them. Basically, when babies are born, they have to flush out the fluid in their lungs from being in their mother’s womb—there’s a crucial time window of just a couple minutes to take that first breath of air and flush out the liquid, otherwise the baby may have permanent brain damage or even die due to lack of oxygen. In the U.S., 1/10 babies need the extra help by a resuscitator to take their first breath of air. In Vietnam, 3/10 babies need that help to survive.
With just one resuscitator, we can save around 100 babies a year. The device lasts at least 3 years and costs just $100—that’s 300 babies a year who can be saved with one resuscitator… and if we break it down, that’s $0.03 to save a baby. Holy, 3 cents!
Dr. Kieu has been running Project Vietnam for 20 years, and she’s still going strong. She still attends every medical mission twice a year, and still handles the patients herself—all while organizing a team of doctors, engineers, and volunteers to go on these trips with her.
Showing me how the resuscitator works on their practice baby, Neo-Natalie lol.
Such a sweet woman! I also must mention that she was so incredibly well-spoken, she basically led the conversation herself and answered questions before I even asked them! She definitely made me look bad because she was so experienced haha.
Learned so much from Dr. Kieu and I am so touched by how passionate she is!
Now I want to tell a mini story—if not for anyone, then for myself. The summer before my senior year of college, I was interning at an ad agency in account management. I was having coffee with one of the account executives & was picking his brain about the industry, life, etc. I asked him “What’s your most/least favorite part about working in advertising?” and when talking about his least favorite part of advertising, he responded with something along the lines of: “I hate that people get wrapped up in trivial things and argue over the shade of blue we use in this ad or [little things like that]… We’re not saving babies here.” I remember that last line specifically, because at that moment, I thought to myself “but I do want to save babies.” Not literally, but in the sense that I wanted to do something with meaning and a positive impact on the world (as opposed to editing copy all day about cars). I told him that the lack of substance was what turned me off about the ad world, and we concluded that I probably shouldn’t be there and at least the internship taught me what I wouldn’t want to do haha.
Anyway, this is the story that popped into my head during my drive home from Dr. Kieu’s home, because shit, I realized that I indirectly contributed to saving babies that day. And although it is indirect and I won’t give credit to myself for anything but listening to Dr. Kieu share her stories of saving babies, I do feel like I am a step closer to doing something with meaning and substance. And that really matters to me.