Father, son get closer after trip to Vietnam

July 6, 2006

By Erin Sweeney
Tribune Reporter

June 16, 2006

As a boy, Keir Moreano felt his father didn’t have time for him. As he grew older, he couldn’t relate to his father.

IF YOU GO What: “As the Call, So the Echo” documentary by New York University film graduate and Albuquerquean Keir Moreano, about his and his father’s visit to Vietnam.

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Guild Cinema, 3405 Central Ave. N.E.

Keir Moreano had liberal tendencies; his father was a Republican. The younger Moreano viewed the world with optimism; the elder was a cynic.

So the younger Moreano was shocked two years ago when his physician father, Alex Moreano, announced he was headed to Vietnam to volunteer at a hospital.

“My dad is not a save-the-world type of guy,” he said.

His son decided to take off a semester at New York University film school to join his father. He thought a trip to Hue, Vietnam, would offer the perfect opportunity for his senior film project. He also thought he might get closer to his father.

In an operating room in Vietnam, the two men saw each other in a light they never had before.

“All of my previous assumptions about my father began to melt away,” said the younger Moreano, now 23. “Once you watch your father open up another person’s head to remove a brain tumor, you’ll realize you never really knew him in the first place.”

Alex Moreano had a similar reaction when he saw his son creating the feature-length documentary. “As the Call, So the Echo” will be shown Saturday at the Guild Cinema.

“It’s a significant step when a parent sees their child has become a confident, performing individual,” he said. “To actually see what he does is quite amazing. It’s just tremendous.”

Keir Moreano grew up in Seattle and moved with his family to Albuquerque at age 19.

Alex Moreano is a nose-ear-throat doctor now working with Presbyterian Healthcare.

His father “was the kind of dad that came home from work and read the paper,” Keir Moreano said. “I wasn’t intellectual enough for him till I reached my teens.”

Moreano, 50, decided to go to Vietnam because some medical equipment he had donated to a nonprofit health care provider was still held in customs two years later. He decided to join the nonprofit and offer his services along with the equipment.

One patient who gets significant attention in the documentary is a young female rice farmer named Hwa. She had been living in the Vietnamese hospital for months awaiting surgery on a tumor in her neck. Without surgery, she’d die.

“They’re fairly needy in all respects, and their training is fairly sketchy by our standards,” Alex Moreano said. “If I didn’t help these patients, no one would. This was the end of the line for them.”

Keir Moreano was surprised at his father’s compassion.

“No one could help her,” he said. “My father and I both were directly experiencing the life of this person.”

If you want to know what happened to Hwa, you’ll have to watch the documentary Saturday.

“(Presbyterian) thinks it’s a great story about health care around the world,” said Todd Sandman, public relations director for Presbyterian Healthcare. “We can see how fortunate we are here in New Mexico and in America to have the best kind of health care available.”

Keir Moreano lives in New York City, where he is developing a career in film and producing. He is flying to Albuquerque to attend the premiere of his documentary.

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