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Trivia night to raise funds for an international student

April  02, 2014

A diagnosis of cancer is scary. Imagine that diagnosis coming while you are young, in a foreign country, thousands of miles from your family. For Long Nguyen that is how it happened, and that’s why friends and fellow students on Augustana’s campus are organizing a fundraiser. 

On Saturday, May 3, starting at 6 p.m. in the College Center, a trivia night will be held to benefit Nguyen, a sophomore from Vietnam, majoring in applied mathematics and economics. General admission will be $10, and Augustana student admission will be $5. The event is open to the public.

Nguyen first started to experience symptoms, such as fatigue, drowsiness and hoarseness, about one year ago. In the fall of 2013, he felt a lump in his neck, which alarmed him; in December he was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer at the University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City. There he underwent surgery to remove the lump and about 30 lymph nodes in his neck.

Prior to surgery, his right vocal cord had been paralyzed. Since surgery, he has regained movement and his voice is back to normal. Currently in the recovery process, Nguyen is taking hormone pills daily.

Throughout the entire process, Nguyen said the Augustana community united and provided him with support and care. Dr. Rowen Schussheim-Anderson, chair of the Augustana art department, Jane Tiedge, the coordinator of international student life, and Quan Vi, the college’s creative design director, especially have worked together to provide support.

“They have coordinated to help me with transportation to and from the hospital, insurance information, as well as communication with the doctor,” said Nguyen. “I am very thankful because these people have been very supportive, and they make me believe that there are people who care about my well-being.”

The event’s planners say the fundraiser is desperately needed to assist Nguyen and his family. “When a family sends their son or daughter to the United States to study, they budget for the academic and living needs of their student,” said Jane Tiedge. “Long’s family was not able to travel to the States to be with him for the surgery, and they do not have the funds to cover all of his medical expenses.”

Nguyen also was not certain whether his family would be able to afford the cost from the cancer treatment and surgery on their own. “I was very nervous, because I come from a family with little means, and the hospital bill might drive my family into bankruptcy,” said Nguyen. “Above all, I am afraid of dying, especially when I am so young and have not even finalized my major, let alone what I want to do with my life.” 

In his homeland of Vietnam, Nguyen was ranked No. 2 among high school students for his knowledge of physics. His story is rare for another reason: he is one of very few Augustana students to continue to pursue his education at Augustana after going through cancer treatment.

Nguyen has recognized the encouragement and support from the Augustana community before and after the surgery. The fundraiser is part of Greek Week, during which members of Greek groups showcase their spirit through a variety of different events. This year, the trivia night has been picked as one of the main events. “I learned that other students care about me too,” said Nguyen. “Even though I do not know many of them, this fund-raising shows me the Augustana spirit, which is that the whole community will unite and help one another when it is most needed.”

Nguyen remains strongly optimistic throughout his fight against cancer. “Long is a very brave guy who has not complained once about his medical situation,” said Dr. Schussheim-Anderson. “Even in the car coming home from his surgery, in deep pain, he tried to smile and he did not utter one word of complaint.”

For those who wish to reserve a table or know more about the event, please contact Jane Tiedge at (309) 794-7444 or janetiedge@augustana.edu. Additionally, an account has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank under “Long Nguyen Medical Expenses.”