An Edmonton woman who was just three days into her six-week trip to Asia said she was attacked by a group of men in Vietnam who mistook her for an American. It happened while an international spotlight was on the country ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s two-day summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Heather Middleton was riding a motorbike from Hanoi, Vietnam to Ninh Binh on Sunday when she needed to stop for directions. She pulled over in what she said was an area populated with people, homes and shops, and got off her bike.
“My phone was very close to dying so I decided to ask somebody who was walking by,” Middleton said Thursday via Facebook messenger from a Vietnam hostel.
“A group of men — four Vietnamese men — heard me talking and I’m assuming they heard my accent and thought I was American. I did have a Canadian patch on my bag but it was on my bike.
“They started throwing rocks at me and saying, ‘Dirty American, dirty Trump’ and shouting and coming towards me.”
Middleton was frightened by the interaction, so she tried to get back on her bike to ride away, but that’s when the situation escalated. She said two of the men had motorbikes as well and began to follow her.
“I tried accelerating to get out of there faster and I got into third gear when one of them cut in front of me. So I kind of veered to the left a little bit and the other was beside me and he kicked at my tire and my bike bobbled and I just went flying. I hit the pavement hard.”
She said the men grabbed her wallet and left. There was a crowd of people around, but she said no one stepped in the help while the altercation took place. She was alone, scared and in shock.
That’s when a Vietnamese woman came to her rescue. Still reeling from what had happened, Middleton said she felt a bit uneasy by the woman’s approach.
“She pulled out her phone to use Google translate and the first thing she said was, ‘I want to give you love’ is what it translated to. At that moment I realized she was trying to help me.”
Middleton said she was in such shock that she hadn’t yet realized she was injured.
“I looked down and I was sitting in a puddle of my own blood,” she said. “She (the Good Samaritan) tied my leg because there was skin hanging out of my pants that were ripped. My knee was just falling to pieces.”
WARNING: Some of the photos in this gallery show Middleton’s injuries and are graphic. Viewer discretion is advised.
The woman’s name was Angela. Middleton said she drove her to the nearest hospital, which she described as another terrifying ordeal.
“It’s just dirty and there’s rust and mould and mice everywhere and no one speaks English and they had no electricity. There was a power outage for the first half, the lights came on later, but for the first half they were holding a flashlight,” she recalled.
“They took me to an operating room, which was just an empty room with a tin table in the middle and a pan of tools that had rust on them. They were pinning me to the table the using Google translate to tell me to calm down because I was obviously hysterical knowing that this was where they were going to try to fix my knee.”
Middleton said she ended up with 10 stitches and a brace from her upper thigh to her foot. While she was frightened, she said Angela stayed with her the entire time, which helped put her at ease.
“She held my hand and wiped my tears and I’ve just never experienced such kindness from a complete stranger who doesn’t even have a way to communicate with me. It’s just such immense kindness,” Middleton said Thursday, tearing up.
After spending about eight hours in the local hospital, Middleton contacted a friend who was teaching in a nearby town. They took a cab to an international hospital in Hanoi.
“I sensed that they had urgency to help me so I felt a bit better. They sterilized the wound and I had road rash down my side and they cleaned all that up,” she said, adding she was given a tetanus shot.
Middleton said she doesn’t know the extent of her injuries yet; once the stitches come out she will learn more.
“I have to go back every day to have the bandages changed and cleaned. They’re worried about infection so I’m on antibiotics and pain killers,” she said. “Right now we’re just kind of waiting until the stitches have healed. There’s not much else they can do for me until they know I can bend my knee.”
Middleton is now staying in a hostel in Hanoi until she learns if it’s safe to continue her trip, or if she will have to head back to Edmonton for additional medical care.
A Government of Canada travel advisory issued in November urges travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in Vietnam due to increasing petty crime targeting foreigners.
The attack happened just days ahead of Trump’s visit to Hanoi, where the president met briefly with the North Korean leader to discuss how they will implement a North Korean pledge to give up its nuclear weapons.
After an amicable day Wednesday, talks between the two leaders ended abruptly on Thursday.
“I have met so many people here and 99.9 per cent of them have been so beautiful and so kind and so generous,” Middleton said. “I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe I was just in a bad neighbourhood, I don’t know. Maybe people are riled up because Kim Jung Un and Trump met in Hanoi this week.
Watch below: An Edmonton woman is speaking out after a frightening incident overseas. The woman says she was targeted by men who thought she was an American. Vinesh Pratap reports. WARNING: Graphic content.
Middleton said she doesn’t plan on filing a police report because she can’t remember what the men looked like due to the shock of the ordeal.
Angela has been back to visit her at the hostel. Middleton couldn’t be more grateful for the woman who she said saved her life.
“The second I saw her, I just bawled my eyes out. I didn’t mean to but I was just overwhelmed with just how caring and thoughtful she was and that she was still trying to keep in touch with me.”
A spokesperson with the Canadian government said consular services are being provided to Middleton.