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Vietnam Medical Relief Mission Web Blog - March 2007

Click on below dates to view blog entry.

March 4, 2007   RETURN TO TOP

The Team arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, VN on March 4th. We experienced some delays in getting through Customs in Vietnam and were not able to pick up our medicine boxes until the following day. On March 5th, the Team headed to Can Tho City early the next morning.

March 6, 2007   RETURN TO TOP

What a wonderful start today! Our first stop was Xa Truong Thanh. We arrived around 9AM and patients were anxiously waiting for us. Patients were as happy to see us as we were to see them. After providing medical and dental care in 95 degree heat, the WHA team saw a total of 275 patients with age ranging from 15 months to 91 years old.

The people of Xa Truong Thanh Village continuously expressed their appreciation for the Team, especially for coming from the US to assist and provide them with medical and dental care. It was definitely a rewarding feeling. We were touched to be able to make a personal connection with the people. Please stay tuned for another day of our expedition.

"We touch peoples lives. You feel like there’s so much you can do in so little time"

- Dr. Bui WHA Dental Team (Maryland)

March 7, 2007   RETURN TO TOP

Yes, you heard it right! Another successful day! The team headed to Xa Truong Xuan village today. We treated 302 patients. We were very fortunate to have a large tree in the courtyard to provide shade for us on another steaming day. It was definitely more than we could've ask for.

What really made today pretty awesome were the different things we had experience outside of treating patients. It was about mid afternoon when it started drizzling so one of the coordinators hurried and announced for the patients to quickly move indoors, away from the rain. No one made a move and looked at him with a smile. One of the patients told the Coordinator "it's ok; we can handle a little drizzle." The people of Vietnam are use to it. They work through wind and rain so a few drops is nothing to them." Wow, that really made us feels like whiners! :D

Have you heard of a thing call a Monkey Bridge? In this region there are a lot of rivers and a monkey bridge is a common method to cross these rivers. Perhaps why it's call a monkey bridge is because it looks like only a monkey would be able to cross it. It's made from logs or branches. There is an acrobatic balancing act when crossing this type of bridge because of the narrow footpath.

"Many of the team members met and are working with each other for the first time. Although they encountered a few obstacles along the way, we were able to work together and overcome them. What's made this mission successful so far is definitely the Team, very resourceful and cohesive."

-Thien Do, MD

March 8, 2007   RETURN TO TOP

We drove two and a half hours to todays’ location in Xa Thoi Dong village. This is the furthest we have gone to reach our patients thus far. On the drive there, we passed through rural farm villages that were cultivating rice and other local vegetables. We also saw a lotus field still in its early stage. It was a sign of hope for us as we were on our third village.

Through out the day, one special patient especially touched us. A little girl about 10 years old with Down syndrome was seen by Dr. Cohen. Her mom brought her in because she was having difficulty breathing. Dr. Cohen examined and diagnosed her with pneumonia. The decision was made by Dr. Cohen to send the little girl to the hospital for immediate care.

The girl was in clear respiratory distress, and without oxygen would likely get too tired to be able to breathe on her own. We feel conflicted about sending her off to the hospital. For her it was likely a stroke of luck that she became ill while we were there. Hopefully, as a result she will survive this episode of pneumonia. But our thoughts go back to her future—what about the next time she is sick?

Even for lunch, the team worked together to prepare a quick meal in between seeing patients. This just shows how dedicated the team is.


March 9, 2007   RETURN TO TOP

We took a break today from seeing patients and visited Can Tho School of Health Sciences. We met the Dean of Can Tho School of Health Sciences. He gave us some background and a tour of the school. They also gave us a power point presentation in the construction of the new school which hopefully will be completed within the next 2 years. The new school will house multiple facilities that will advance the education of the faculty and their students in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing. The architectural design is a collaboration between both Vietnamese and Swedish architects. It encompasses the elements of earth, land, air and water – the very elements of Nature. Quite impressive!

Afterward, we visited the General Hospital of Can Tho where we met with the Director. Due to the time constraint, we didn’t have a chance to visit the old hospital which was built about 110 years ago by the French. Currently, there is a construction and development of the new hospital which will be completed in June 2007. It will be a multi-specialty complex facility that encompasses modern technology and equipment.

Dr. Duc and Dr. Cohen gave a lecture to the medical student of the university about preventive care. Their talks focused on the historical background information and the practices of family practice in Canada and the U.S. Afterward, the audience enthusiastically asked questions about residency program in family practice in the US versus that of Vietnam. During the talk of Dr. Bonnie, Van Thanh made a mistake in her translation when she said “every family practioner needs to have 40 childbirth deliveries.” What she meant to say is “every FP needs to help deliver 40 times.” The audience clearly was confused and laughed at Van Thanh’s mistake.

Pharmacists Kaitlin Truong and Loan Nguyen gave a presentation about the pharmacy curriculum in the US. The audience of pharmacists was very interested and expressed a need for more training in clinical pharmacy at the School of Health Sciences.

March 10, 2007   RETURN TO TOP

Today was such an emotional day for us! We saw a lot of patients with severe illnesses. It was definitely the worst of the four villages that we’ve been to so far. Unlike the other villages, a lot of these patients have never been diagnosed before. In this particular case it’s the presence of WHA in Vietnam that will have a long lasting effect on the people here.

One of our volunteers Thien Trang does not have a medical background, but she is still a very integral part of the team. Besides a positive energy, she also assists the dental team in many aspects. One way is she provides dental hygiene training to the children, adults and the elderly. This will provide them with a lifetime of good dental techniques.

By noon we saw a little over one hundred patients, but the flow of people slowed down. We thought after we started again that it would be a breeze, but we forgot about the power of word of mouth. When we returned, the rush of people was overwhelming.

By the end of the day we saw 320 patients including a lady who we sponsored for her to get a mammogram to see if the lumps on her breasts were cancerous.

“There were a lot of patients today with severe hypertension and hypertensive crisis. With hypertension, we always tell the patient to take the medicine every day, for a long time. However, the responses we get from the patient is ‘But I don’t have money. I only go to the doctor when I feel sick. Then the doctor would give me a shot and a few pills enough to bring my blood pressure down.’ What can we do to help?”

Dr. Y Duc, MD

“It brought me to tears to have to translate to the family member for Dr. Cohen that her grandson was dying”

Vicki Nguyen, Internal Audit Consultant

March 11, 2007   RETURN TO TOP

Not only did we treat 350 patients today, we also treated two of our team members. The heat combined with the facility layout made for poor air ventilation. One team member, a registered nurse had heat exhaustion and dehydration. We had to give her nausea medication and some IV fluid for dehydration. Another team member threw up from the same symptoms and had to recover the rest of the day.


One of the local physician assistants invited us to his house for lunch. During lunch, he turned on his karaoke system and a couple of the team members sang to a popular Vietnamese song. He and his family were such awesome hosts.

The dental team typically see about 30-40 patients per village. Today they saw 75 patients, double the amount they usual see. This team is like a self sufficient well oiled machine. Dr. Dao who is a local dentist works side by side with the other two dentist from the states. This truly is a team effort to help the less fortunate.

We had dinner at Pho Hien, which is one of the street vendors. They serve a variety of noodle soups such as Hu Tieu, Pho, Bun Bo and Bun Rieu. The food was delicious and all of that for one dollar a person. What a bargain!

Today was definitely physically challenging for the team thus far. However, we are all here as a team and we watch out for each other. You spend 24/7 with your team members. It feels like your second family away from home.

March 12, 2007   RETURN TO TOP

Todays temperature reached close to 105 degrees not including the thick humidity. We definitely didn’t want to lose anymore team members from dehydration so we constantly reminded each other to drink water.

This village was so unique. We saw three kids from age two to seven with severe, but surgically fixable, congenital heart problems. Two of the parents cried to us pleading for help because they’ve known that these kids have heart problems but they cannot afford the surgery. After consulting with each other, we decided to take down their contact information to see what resources we can raise to help. What’s sad is that these kids are so young and may not have the same chance to live a normal life as other children.


We’ve been very fortunate to have Dr. Y Duc’s wife, Ms. Loan on this trip. She is like the mother to the team and cooks lunch for us everyday. Ms. Loan wasn’t able to join the team today, so we missed her cooking a lot. Each team member had to hop on a moped in order to get lunch. For some of us, it was our first time on motorcycles. In Vietnam, this is their main means of transportation. The streets are filled with them criss crossing like the streets of New York City during lunch hour. It’s normal to see a family of three or four on one motorcycle. Who needs a minivan?

Tomorrow is our last village before the end of the mission.

March 29, 2007   RETURN TO TOP

Please accept our apologies for not blogging on time. We've successfully completed our mission and are now back in the States. We wanted to give the team a chance to recuperate, especially from the jet lag and get caught up on their personal lives/work.

On our last day, we were at DK Vinh Thanh hospital treating patients from two villages (Xa Thanh My and Thanh Quoi). We were only there for about 5 hours but we saw 242 patients. We weren't thrill about rushing through our examinations, however, we wanted to see as many patients as we could. Even so, we did not compromised the quality of our work, which is extremely important to us. This location is so unique in the sense that we were actually treating patients in a small local hospital. It was a pleasant treat. We also examined the nurses and doctors from this hospital. This was definitely honoring because the local doctors and nurses really value us and trust us to treat them.

One of our dentists came down with an upset stomach. Even so, she went with us on the last day of our mission. She's such a trooper!

For the second half of the day, we met with the Public Health Officials of Can Tho (Can Tho So Y Te). They expressed their sincere appreciation to the team for our efforts. They also gave us some very positive feedback that they heard from the patients that we saw from the different villages. At the end of the mission, we donated our surplus medicine supplies to Can Tho So Y Te so it can be distributed to the local clinics and our surplus medical supplies went to the Can Tho School of Health Sciences where they can be used for teaching purposes and for patient cares.

Our departure from VN was bitter sweet. We feel like there's so much more we can and want to do. Seeing how unfortunate some people are, it makes you really appreciate what you have.

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