Written by Audrey Cheng, John Teanio
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Diana Chang, Ida Eva Zielinska
On April 11, 2021, Tzu Chi volunteers and Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) medical professionals gathered at Tzu Chi USA’s Las Vegas Service Center to provide their third COVID-19 vaccination event for the community. Christine Fisk, a Tzu Chi volunteer and the person in charge of the service center, delivered a welcome speech to all present.
Christine mentioned Dr. Phan Nguyen and Dr. Rebecca Edgeworth because they were key in Tzu Chi USA’s vaccination efforts in Las Vegas. Her words also brought a ray of light to the hearts of residents present at this event.
Individual Efforts Combine to Help Fight the Pandemic
Many people joined forces to serve at the vaccination event, eager to halt the spread of COVID-19 and do their part to help end the pandemic. As she had during the previous events, Dr. Rebecca Edgeworth brought students from Touro University Nevada to Tzu Chi USA’s Las Vegas Service Center to join the team attending to the community’s vaccination needs.
Dr. Noel Yumiaco, a pathologist, came to help out along with his wife Raquel and their son Nolan, the three having volunteered during Tzu Chi community service events many times. Raquel remembered the day of the first vaccination event: “At that time, pandemic cases were soaring. Many people who hadn’t made an appointment came to Tzu Chi, desperately looking for the vaccine. Tzu Chi volunteers registered all people in line, hoping they might be able to get the leftover vaccines.” Her son Nolan also experienced a similar situation and was very happy that he helped them secure a vaccine.
Pairote Phruksukarn is a volunteer at a police station in Las Vegas, and this was his fourth time helping out at a Tzu Chi event by shouldering traffic command duties. Witnessing Tzu Chi USA’s charitable efforts in the region during the pandemic, he praised Tzu Chi volunteers: “Good people, kind-hearted, well-trained, and full of professional knowledge – truly respectful!”
Dr. Phan Nguyen and Dr. Rebecca Edgeworth had accompanied each other on a long and arduous journey to get to this point in the public vaccination initiative. In phase one of vaccination, Dr. Nguyen couldn’t bear seeing the vaccination venue overcrowded with long queues. He was filled with sadness seeing the elderly struggling as they waited in line for a dose of vaccine and later shared his sympathy for the senior citizens in a Facebook post.
Dr. Edgeworth, a professor at Touro University in Henderson, is also the resident physician during Tzu Chi USA’s medical outreach in Las Vegas. She read Dr. Nguyen’s post while working with medical students to help with vaccinations in various communities in Las Vegas, and it sparked an idea. She proposed that the School of Medicine of Touro University collaborate with Tzu Chi USA to vaccinate senior citizens and those who meet government regulations as determined through a free consultation.
To streamline the process of vaccination for vulnerable seniors, Dr. Nguyen reached out to petition local government officials across several regions to secure doses of COVID-19 vaccines. However, his requests were mainly denied. Fortunately, Dr. Edgeworth managed to persuade the head of the Nevada State Emergency Response Commission to dispense a thousand doses of the Moderna vaccine to the Tzu Chi USA Las Vegas Service Center, which eased their supply difficulties somewhat.
While Dr. Nguyen felt relieved that they had overcome the challenge of obtaining the vaccine, another setback appeared for him to face. The doctor’s father was suddenly diagnosed with a grave illness. As a result, his speech at this third vaccination event was delayed, as he was off-site, attending to his father’s needs. Another member of the team at the event, Christopher Trinh, spoke on Dr. Nguyen’s behalf and relayed the concern about his father’s health, making a special request:
“In addition to vaccination, we might also do bone marrow donation testing. The reason being that Dr. Phan Nguyen’s father was recently diagnosed with leukemia. Although his current condition is still under control, he may need a bone marrow transplant in the future. Therefore, I would like to ask if the young people here waiting for vaccinations are willing to get tested? Thank you for your participation, and let us carry out yet another vaccination event with you.”
Continuous Compassion Comforts People’s Hearts
After taking care of his father, Dr. Nguyen went straight to the vaccination site to assist despite his busy schedule. Yuqin Chen, one of the residents who received a vaccine, was a refugee who had fled from Saigon, Vietnam. When meeting Dr. Nguyen, he learned that the doctor was also from a refugee family as well. Yuqin was touched upon realizing that this vaccination event was made possible partly due to Dr. Nguyen’s care for the community and persistent efforts. He was equally moved by how everyone was joining forces to help the good doctor’s father.
Dr. Nguyen had learned that his father has acute myeloid leukemia a month earlier and one day after Tzu Chi’s second vaccination event. Since then, Tzu Chi volunteers had gathered their energy to pray for Dr. Nguyen’s father every night when they made their Daily Prayer. A week before this third vaccination distribution, Christine Fisk, who was overseeing the event, also called Dr. Nguyen to suggest that he seek help from the Buddhist Tzu Chi Bone Marrow Stem Cell Centre in Taiwan.
Dr. Shirley Chen, a director on the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation team, was willing to help too. In addition, a Tzu Chi USA medical team volunteer, TsuiLin Venezuela, also contacted Dingren Wang, a volunteer who is familiar with bone marrow banking operations. Dingren was the one who proposed to collect samples of bone marrow donation for Dr. Nguyen’s father during the third vaccination.
That night, upon hearing Dingren’s unexpected proposal, Dr. Nguyen cried.
At the third vaccination event, after Dr. Nguyen arrived and took a moment to address everyone gathered there, tears rolled down his face as he plucked up the courage to ask for help. “If you can and are willing to provide samples, please log on to https://bethematch.org/ to request a test kit to see if you are a potential donor. If you can’t be successfully matched with my father, please donate your bone marrow to another lucky patient who needs help,” he said, always keeping the needs of others at heart.
What everyone saw that day was the filial piety of a child and the compassion of a doctor. From vaccination to the collection of bone marrow samples, no matter the activity, as long as kindness and love persist, every hardship can be overcome and heart comforted.
At this third vaccination event held at the Tzu Chi USA Las Vegas Service Center on April 11, 2021, 247 residents were served, receiving a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.