The doctor spoke some pidgin Vietnamese, and the nurse a smattering of high school French. Using that combination, together with much impromptu sign language, they tried to explain to their young, frightened audience that unless they could replace some of the girl’s lost blood, she would certainly die. Then they asked if anyone would be willing to give blood to help. Their request was met with wide-eyed silence. After several long moments, a small hand slowly and waveringly went up, dropped back down, and then went up again.
“Oh, thank you,” the nurse said in French. “What is your name?”
“Heng,” came the reply.
Heng was quickly laid on a pallet, his arm swabbed with alcohol, and a needle inserted in his vein. Through this ordeal Heng lay stiff and silent. After a moment, he let out a shuddering sob, quickly covering his face with his free hand. “Is it hurting, Heng?” the doctor asked. Heng shook his head, but after a few moments another sob escaped, and once more he tried to cover up his crying. Again the doctor asked him if the needle hurt, and again Heng shook his head. But now his occasional sobs gave way to a steady, silent crying, his eyes screwed tightly shut, his fist in his mouth to stifle his sobs.
The medical team was concerned. Something was obviously very wrong. At this point, a Vietnamese nurse arrived to help. Seeing the little one’s distress, she spoke to him rapidly in Vietnamese, listened to his reply and answered him in a soothing voice. After a moment, the patient stopped crying and looked questioningly at the Vietnamese nurse. When she nodded, a look of great relief spread over his face.
Glancing up, the nurse said quietly to the American, “He thought he was dying. He misunderstood you. he thought you had asked him to give all his blood so the little girl could live.”
“But why would he be willing to do that?” asked the Navy nurse.
The Vietnamese nurse repeated the question to the little boy, who answered simply, “She’s my friend.”
Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.