On Dec. 8, the anonymous woman entered Covid-19 quarantine at Lang Son General Hospital in the eponymous province on the border with China with symptoms of mental disability.
She was repatriated by Chinese authorities after a raid on illegal immigrants during a Covid-19 prevention and control campaign.
Upon transferal to the hospital, she was unable to recall her name and home address.
“The woman maintained she was only 18 years old,” said nurse Luong Thi Minh.
During her stay at Lang Son General Hospital, she was shy and often talked nonsense, according to chief nurse Luu Hai Chau of the hospital’s Department of Infectious Diseases.
“It was difficult to communicate with her and collect more information,” Chau added.
“Every day, nurses took turns bringing food to her bed. We also observed her habits and preferences in order to get close to her,” she recalled.
On Dec. 22, the last day of her 14-day quarantine, the woman wrote down some incomplete words resembling an address, which Minh subsequently identified as a village in Hanoi.
A day later, police informed the nurse a family had been searching for a missing relative for the past 24 years. With a glimmer of hope, Minh made contact with two people who turned out to be the woman’s older brother and sister to arrange the uplifting reunion.
With no recollection of her life in China, she gradually regained some stability.
Victim of human trafficking
The woman, 50, was the seventh daughter in a family of nine children. In 1991, she was tricked by a friend living near her house and sold to China where no trace of hers could be found. Even her brother, who had sought work there to find her, experienced little luck.
In 1996, she returned home to everyone’s surprise, saying she had been sold to a man in China for VND5 million ($215) and given birth to two children.
Missing her children, she left for China again only two weeks later, leaving no trace of her whereabouts.
A day after the woman’s older brother and sister received her photos from Minh, they picked her up from Lang Son General Hospital.
“We hope she would soon recover her memory,” the nurse said.
This was not the first time medical workers at Lang Son General Hospital had helped human trafficking victims locate their relatives after many years apart.
In July this year, medical staff at the hospital helped Tran Thi Hue, who was trafficked to China, to find her relatives after 24 years. Hue was among a group of illegal Vietnamese immigrants transferred back to the country by China’s Guangxi Province police on July 3.
The country has recorded over 3,400 victims of human trafficking since 2013, over 90 percent of them women, children and people from ethnic minority communities.
Eighty percent of victims end up in China, which suffers from one of the worst gender imbalances due to its former one-child policy and illegal abortion of female fetuses by parents who prefer sons.