A volunteer nurse in Bac Ninh, Vietnam has spent more than 30 years of her life caring for patients suffering from leprosy.

Nguyen Thi Xuan gave up her kindergarten teacher job in 1987 and signed up as a nurse to care for people suffering from a disease that at the time was heavily stigmatized in Vietnamese society, Viet Nam News reported.

Xuan said she was heartbroken to see lepers suffering, with many of them losing limbs to the disease. The first case that truly left an impression on her was when she saw an 84-year-old man suffering from late-stage leprosy waiting in a corner for his demise. His only wish was to meet his children and grandchildren one last time before his death.

They never showed up.

His funeral was attended only by a few patients who themselves struggled to move around. The young kindergarten teacher had an epiphany from the old man’s sad story and decided to devote herself to serving leprosy patients.

After she volunteered at the Qua Cam Leper House in the Back Ninh Leprosy Dermatology Hospital Center, the leader of the house helped her sign up for a medical training course, and in 1992, she became a qualified nurse.

After watching patients struggle with daily activities as the disease ate away at them, she asked the house to send her on a course to learn how to build wooden prosthetics for patients to help them move with dignity.

Despite never having been married, Xuan says she has never felt lonely as the leper house was her home and everyone there was family to her.

Hoang Thi Cac, a patient who has been suffering from leprosy and has been living at the house for more than 60 years even wrote a song for her to show her gratitude. For the nurse, the love from her patients gives her the strength to keep going every day.