A special bond of language

If St Vincent’s had a loyalty system, Tieu Ong would be one of its most enthusiastic members.

Mr Ong has been visiting the hospital for a variety of conditions for many years.

But despite the psoriasis, the chronic knee pain, the operations and the neurological condition, Mr Ong says he enjoys coming to the hospital.  The reason is simple – it’s our Vietnamese interpreter, Kim Nguyen.

Speaking to Mr Ong with the assistance of Kim, it is apparent that they share a very close bond.

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Tieu Ong

‘Kim is very good – she is always there to help non-English speaking patients. I very much enjoy the time I get to spend with Kim when I am here,’ Mr Ong says.

Mr Ong has had a tough life.  He fled Vietnam by boat in 1979, spending time in a refugee camp, before being resettled in Australia.

He and Kim have much in common, as Kim also came to Australia as a refugee.

From his home of 33 years in Richmond, Mr Ong will often bring in fruit and vegetables, including watermelon, plums, custard apples and bananas.

‘All the staff are so good to me,’ Mr Ong says. ‘I always feel grateful for what the hospital has done for me. I won’t forget it till the day I die.’

Kim says that Vietnamese patients have a unique way of showing their gratitude for the care they have received.

‘Whereas some patients might bring flowers to show their appreciation, Vietnamese patients are more likely to give fruit and vegetables from their own garden,’ Kim says.

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