Successful Chef Finds Out What’s Really Important In Life When His Son Suffers A Brain Injury

After chef Dee Nguyen's son endures a devastating brain injury, the chef changes his entire life to become his caregiver.

Chef cuts up vegetables
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After chef Dee Nguyen's son endures a devastating brain injury, the chef changes his entire life to become his caregiver.

Dee Nguyen put his heart and soul into building the career of his dreams. The son of Vietnam refugees, Nguyen grew up with little, but had big dreams of one day earning a high power career for himself as a doctor or a lawyer. However, it was cooking where he ultimately found his passion in life. According to Today, he graduated from the prestigious California Culinary Academy before accepting a position at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, California. It wouldn’t be long before he’d outgrow the position and rise through the ranks.

In early 2001, Nguyen was finally seeing all his hard work pay off. He’d built the career he’d dreamed of and had almost reached the status of a star chef. He’d also married the women of his dreams, Linh Hua. Now the couple were anxiously awaiting the birth of their first child. However, his life was soon going to shift in a way he hadn’t expected. His son, Berlin, was born with a rare disorder that causes the stomach, kidneys, and bladder to malfunction. Berlin had only just entered the world before requiring several emergency surgeries to save his life. Despite his hardships, the little boy persisted and began talking at only 9-months-old.

However, when Berlin was only a little over a year old, he had have a devastating setback. A routine surgery went terribly wrong when the doctor mishandled the boy’s breathing tube, cutting him off completely from oxygen for over 15 minutes. The accident left the child in a coma. Although Berlin eventually woke from the coma, he had suffered severe brain damage. For the rest of his life he’d be a quadriplegic, with limited communicative ability.

Nguyen and his wife were forced to come to terms with the fact that their son was going to live a life different than the one envisioned. He would depend on them for the duration of his life, needing assistance to eat and bathe himself among many other basic day-to-day functions. Still they were filled with joy and grateful to have their son when they thought they were never getting him back. They now own a small bed and breakfast which allows them the time to provide their now 17-year-old son with around the clock care.

Berlin’s full time aide, who helps him at school, marvels at his parents’ selflessness.

“It’s a very humbling feeling to be around them and know how much they have given Berlin and given up in their own life.” And yet, she says, “they don’t ever appear to be frustrated, disappointed, angry, resentful in any way about Berlin’s disabilities. They just love him.”