Overcoming War, Sickness, & Struggle – My Mother’s Heroic Story

By: PaKou Lee, Social Media Intern

“Who is your hero?”

I’m sure you’ve been asked this question before, whether it was for a school essay, speech presentation or in your daily conversations. There are so many different and amazing answers: celebrities, super heroes, a family member or a stranger… the list is endless.

My mother. She is my hero. When I think about my mother, she is definitely heroic. Her story is incredible. And here’s why:

My mother, Mao Moua, at Christmas time!

During the Vietnam War, the Hmong people aided the United States by rescuing downed pilots and fighting where America needed them. The Veit Cong were hunting down the Hmong people because of this. Can you imagine running for your life in the jungles of Laos? You’re holding your children’s hands, hoping they don’t make any noise. Fearing that if your child cries of hunger, the sound will attract the enemy that carries a deadly weapon. Then you have to think quickly as to how you and your family are going to swim across the Mekong River to get to the Thailand border, where temporarily freedom awaits. (I always imagine trying to swim across the Mississippi River, which is crazy!). You beg for your life to get on a boat. You find ways to build a boat out of bamboo. All of these thoughts and images cross my mind when I think about my mother. I don’t think I would ever be able to handle what she and my older siblings went through. I have a better life because she survived the war. 

I was in elementary school when she started studying for her citizenship. She barely spoke English, she knew the basic ‘yes and no’ and so forth, yet she still struggled. She played her tape cassette all day long, listening and learning about what was going to be on her citizen test. She would repeat the questions and answers to herself, “Who was the first president of the United States? George Washington.” My mom passed her test and became a citizen. She studied and practiced so hard, she deserved every bit of it. I was so proud of her.

My mother passed away when I was twenty. I think I was a junior in high school when she was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure.  She had dialysis three times a week, 3-4 hours a day at DaVita. During my first two and half years of college, I scheduled my classes around her dialysis schedule so I could go with her. I don’t know how she did it. I wasn’t even the one receiving dialysis and I was always exhausted during and after. There were times when we stayed overnight for a few days at the hospital every month. It was definitely a roller coaster. Her blood sugar was too low or her blood pressure was too high. Something was always wrong.

I remember when she received her first blood transfusion. The nurse explained the process and consent forms. I had to explain it to my mom in Hmong. She teased me because I couldn’t pronounce a Hmong word correctly or couldn’t find the right term. It was a good laughing medicine.

I want to thank my mother’s heroes: the nurses, doctors, and especially the blood donors. Without your generous donations, I’m not sure what would have happened. But I’m glad my mother was able to receive it and be able to live. Thank you for helping my hero stay alive and be a little bit stronger for me. I’m so thankful to be a part of the American Red Cross and to have Jody Weyers be my mentor. I’ve met amazing people and new friends through this internship. I’m so proud to be a Red Crosser!

#BeAHero

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