The Boy They Call Fish

The story of Minh Anh, who suffers from a rare skin condition, and the Essex gran devoted to improving his life.

Minh Anh doesn’t live at home with his family, his living confinements are situated at Ho Chi Minh City hospital in a secluded ward in Vietnam. The appearance of his rare irritable skin condition is scaly has led to his name which he is known as inside the hospital walls…Ka, which is the Vietnamese word for fish.

Brenda Smith, a British woman who has made frequent trips to the hospital ensuring Minh is looked after. As he reaches his adulthood the medical staff, parents and Brenda need to make a tough decisions and for Brenda herself she needs to come to terms that that the child she took under her wing may have come to the age where her support is no longer needed.

Ichthyosis is a skin disorder causing dry, scaly skin. It is affecting around 1 in 250 people. It is usually an autosomal dominant inherited disease, although a rare non-heritable version called acquired ichthyosis exists.

The condition is not life-threatening; the impact on the patient, if it’s a mild case, is generally restricted to mild itching and the social impact of having skin with an unusual appearance. People afflicted with mild cases have symptoms that include scaly patches on the shins, fine white scales on the forearms and upper arms, and rough palms.

Severe cases, although rare, do exist. Severe cases entail the build up of scales everywhere. When the build up of scales is bad, the person with a severe case suffers from “prickly itch” when he or she needs to sweat but cannot because of the scales. Various topical treatments are available to “exfoliate” the scales. These include lotions that contain alpha-hydroxy acids.


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