It has been over 20 years since I have been to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Los Angeles. My journey started 35 years ago, when I was 7 years old living in Columbia, South Carolina.
My family and I were refugees from Vietnam and we immigrated to the U.S. in 1980. At the age of 6 months, towards the end of the Vietnam War, I contracted polio, which weakened my right leg and left arm. Members of our sponsoring church connected my parents with Shriners Hospitals for Children and thus began my relationship with this great philanthropy.
My first procedure was reconstructive surgery to my right hip, which left me in a body cast for six months. After the surgery, I received my first of many knee, ankle and foot orthoses (KAFO’s), which provided greater support for my right knee, hip and ankle. The experience was memorable beyond the itchy body cast and not being able to move for six months, because the memories of my time at the Greenville Shriners Hospital those first few weeks are only positive. My English was limited, but I distinctly recall joy, love and compassion shown by the entire staff and friends that I made at the hospital.
In 1983, our family relocated to Southern California and my care continued at the Los Angeles Shriners Hospital. It was at this hospital that I had subsequent procedures to my right knee and left arm performed by Dr. Moseley and Dr. Johnson until 1995 when I turned 21. The staff at the Los Angeles Shriners Hospital was great, but my favorite person was my orthotist, Alan Pryor. The relationship established between us was a deep bond because he made me a much lighter brace that allowed me to wear regular shoes – instead of the ugly brown boot in my first leg brace. He also worked his magic to remove the knee locks, which allowed me to walk without having to swing my leg and also be able to bend and move much more gracefully. This allowed me independence and to live a much more active lifestyle
Since leaving Shriners, I graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 1998 and the University of San Francisco with a master's degree in public administration. Today, I work as a financial capital analyst for UCSF in the budget and resource management office in San Francisco. In my spare time, I love to volunteer at my church; do short-term international mission trips; work out doing adaptive crossfit; and sketch and draw the world around me. In 2014 after a series of personal challenges, I was inspired to funnel all my passions and use my artistic abilities to give back to the organizations that have helped me get to where I am today. I started selling my artwork with proceeds going to support my favorite charities, which include Shriners Hospitals for Children, Challenged Athletes Foundation, Wheels for the World, and UNICEF. In December, I launched my artwork website, to bring greater visibility to the important work being done by these organizations. My parents instilled in my siblings and me the importance of giving back, especially to those in need, because we were there ourselves. The website is dedicated to the important work being done for those in need and to my late father, Howard Ngo.
On behalf of my family, thank you Shriners Hospitals for Children for all the ways you have positively impacted all of our lives!