Thursday, January 21, 2010

Surgical Mission @ Cho Ray Hospital, Vietnam 1.8.10

My journey begins October 6, 1971 Danang, Vietnam...38 years of adventures some what not by choice, but more so by fate, America becomes my home. Nevertheless, deep inside of me, the instinct in me, still long to be back in Viet Nam to contribute to the poorest of the poor. As an opportunity arise, I was invited to return "home" as a guest...

I just returned from a surgical mission in Viet Nam with the Surgical Volunteers International group. I was honored to provide anesthesia along with a group of humble, unselfish American doctors and nurses. It was a heart wrenching experience for me, probably much more so because it was my motherland. It was hard for me to comprehend how a human being can endure such sufferings. I guess I once lived under these conditions, but wonder if it's still sufferings since you don't know any better? Is it fate or luck that separates these unfortunate group of people from my friends, my family and me here in the States? Surely it's not their choice...

We operated on 20 patients over a 5 day period. Their ages range between 6 years old to over 60. Most of the patients traveled from long distance with some more than 12 hours away just to be able to get an interview with us in hopes of being selected. In one extreme case, the patient traveled 3 nights and 2 days to get to Cho Ray hospital where we were operating out of. All of these are burn patients with contractures throughout their bodies which limit their daily activities, and abilities to work, not to mention their self image. The burns range from acid burns, mine explosions, to the most common of gasoline explosions. Each one of these patients had his or her own tragic story of the accident. Some are purely accidental while a few are due to cruel intentions of others, like acid splashed, or being soaked with gasoline, and placed on fire by their spouse.

There was one particular boy that captured a place in my heart. His accident happened just over a year ago, but he has already overcome self pity. He has accepted his image and is ready to move on. All he asked of us was to release the fingers in his right hand so that he can hold a pen. He's ready to go back to school to better himself. He does not want to be a burden to society. He is a very bright boy, and I feel that he will go very far with his determinations. He always has a smile on his face, even when asked about the accident. Ninth grade is the highest level of education available in his home town so his family moved to a different town for the purpose of him entering high school. The first day there, his father bought and assembled a gas cook top for the family and the gas probably had an undetectable leak that in turn caused an explosion. He remembered his father yelling "FIRE! FIRE!", but he was so sleepy he thought it was just a dream (or nightmare in this case). His last memory was that of his father carrying him out of the house engulfed in flames. His father passed away six days after this accident. He was wheel chair bound while recovering at home by himself. His mother has to continue to work to provide for the two of them. Refusing to accept his disabilities, he practiced getting out of the wheel chair. Of course it started off with falling out of the wheel chair, gliding, rolling, tears... tears...more tears...and many weeks and months of determination- nine months into the tragic accident, he was able to walk with the assistance of a home made wooden cane. He is living with his mother, who sells vegetables at their local market making $2 on a good day.

(Please note that these pictures are graphic)

The Surgical Volunteers International coordinator, Tom Flood, has taken this boy in and has pledged to support him financially while he's in school. Furthermore, less than a week of coming back from Viet Nam, Tom is heading a team to Haiti this week. This in itself is another endless case stories of sufferings. The kindness and generosity of this group has left me speechless. I have always been on the receiving end of the spectrum. Endless counts of blessings-for being who I am, my family, my friends, my education, my freedom to see the world... I hope as you are reading this, you can be on the same wave length with me in praying for these unfortunate patients and others like them. Furthermore, if you are financially able, please consider a tax-deductible donation of any amount to:

Surgical Volunteers International.
2823 Newbury Ct.
Pearland, TX 77584

Your generosity will help Surgical Volunteers International to continue their mission in bringing smiles, hopes, and encouragement to the lives of those who are less fortunate than us.

I am attaching a few video clips and pictures that I was able to capture during this mission.


Dat's pre-surgery interview:

Dat's post-surgery interview:

Skin Graft to the released foot contracture:

Tour of the Burn Unit @ Cho Ray Hospital:

Orphanage in Hoi An: