Patrick Lam was born in Saigon, South Vietnam in 1972 with the birth name of Phat Tan Bui. In 1979, his family made the desperate decision to send him with a group of relatives who were attempting to escape the country. Patrick was adopted by his uncle, said goodbye to his mother and siblings, and escaped on a fishing boat crammed with 200 boat people. After a harrowing week at sea, they encountered an oil rig and jumped into the ocean in order to be rescued. From there, the family was sent to tiny Kuku Island for several months where they essentially fended for themselves, then to Galang, Indonesia, and finally to San Francisco in 1980.