Monday, June 29, 2015

Month of Hugs and Love, Friends old and new!!

This is just a few of the many examples of the past and new friends that I got to interact with over the past 30 days:

Child in Mui Nei who rented me her sand dune slide
Em Hung, Dr. Chi Tran's nephew and my first friend ever in Vietnam
Child at Father Truc's Church
Anh Day, Dr. Thao Nguyen's Father
Mother of Ngoc (2014 team member)
Govenor of Binh Phuoc Province
Gabriel, my daily running partner from Mercer
Father of Bac Si Ha, who is an amazing human being
Father Truc, Priest and teacher at the School for the poor
Matt Yim, My 4 year in a row daily running partner and close friend from Mercer and expert prosthetics leader
Tre, our expert prosthetics leader and friend from Florida
Bac Si Ha and Bich, both of whom I am fortunate to have the chance to work side by side with in the medical clinic

All of you and others make this experience truly memorable!!!!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fair well lunch

One of the saddest days of the year for me was made somewhat bearable by the gracious and amazing friends and families who I have gotten to know over the past 4 years. We had 3 hours before our flight would depart from Saigon, but we made a point to meet with some very important people to me: Em Hung, who is my brother from Vietnam and my longest local friend, and Anh Quoc, who has supported and treated our team for the past 2 years to countless dinners and the use of a 2-ton truck for the mission this year. Both of these individuals have a special place in my heart for their kindness and generosity!!!
An addition to our team this year was Anh Day, Dr. Thao Nguyen's father., He played a vital and pivotal role, which cannot be quantified!!!
I had the fortune to meet with Dr. Chi Tran's mother for the first time, who traveled from Arizona to spend time with her family in Da Nang for the past 30 days. She welcomed me like family and made us feel like our efforts for the patients of Vietnam were second to none. These are the individuals who when I land in Philadelphia, I will miss dearly until the next time we meet!!!
Cam on rat nhieu for the amazing send off!!!!!!
Gap Lai Nam Sau!!!!! (See you next year!!)

Wrap-up celebration

After many long hard days in the clinic, it was time to announce the results for the 2015 Mission. Bac Si Ha started with a speech, thanking the entire team for their dedication and hard work. He praised the efforts of the entire group and specifically said that the Temple team made a significant contribution to the success of the mission. Each Faculty gets a chance to address the team. When it came to my words, they went like this, "It amazes me each year that a team from Philadelphia can meet a team from Georgia, half way around the world, and accomplish such great things. The common thread amongst the entire team was our dedication, compassion and love for the poor patients of Vietnam. I am very proud of how seamlessly the Temple team merged with the Mercer team from day 1. It is never about 2 teams, but we act as ONE!!! At times I was very tough on my team, but its only because I want them to be tough on themselves when Im not around!!! I want to thank Bac Si Ha for agreeing to allow Temple to be a part of this journey once again. Many of you will say Bac Si Ha is amazing. I say he is a fantastic practitioner, an inspiration to everyone and we all should aspire to be even close to his level of commitment to patients. He treated his final patient with the same intensity as he treated his first patient, and did it all with a smile, which we all know is sometimes hard to do. I thank Dr. O'Brien and Dr. Kunz for accepting our Pharmacy students into the prosthetics clinic and training them as one of their own. I thank Bich, who was a pleasure to work with in the medical clinic. But I have to give special thanks to 2 individuals who without their assistance, our team couldn't function. I Thank Dr. Thao Nguyen and Dr. Chi Tran, who have been partners with me for the past 4 years. Their dedication to this mission and their assistance with coordinating all our teams efforts is immeasurable. Finally, I close with my annual toast,
Bac Si Ha, YO!!!!!!!

The totals for the 2015 mission are as follows:
2300 medical patients
468 prosthetics
400 gift packages to families
Thousands of lives touched!!!!!


As tradition goes,. each year we cake the faces of our members celebrating birthdays. Also tradition remains, where at least once before we leave, the team plans a payback for me.
I thought multiple times that a payback was imminent, but it never came. Until the night before our departure from Binh Phuoc. A surprise attack, with a mixture of shaving cream, sunscreen lotion and talc power. Of course I can't be the only one to partake, so the hugs began, and the team all showed evidence of the revenge!!!
It is really all in good fun and Im happy they feel comfortable enough to plan this surprise attack!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Record breaking final day of clinic

Our final day of clinic was bound to be a busy one. The evening before, Bac Si Ha approached me and asked if our Pharmacy team would be willing to travel to the clinic early starting at 6:45 am in order to get an early start for an anticipated record breaking day. When we arrived, the waiting area was packed , busier than any previous day. Before lunch we treated 155 patients with a variety of condition such as a broken patella (see x-ray and knee) and an amputee missing both his left arm and leg due to a land mine injury. After a brief lunch, we started the second half of our day. By 5:00 PM see treated an astonishing 250 medical patients, including this child who was born with the aftermath of his family being exposed to dioxin (Agent Orange) from the war, and this quite severe bilateral heel spur causing crippling pain.
Today, we left no patient untreated.
After patient #250, I turned to Bac Si Ha and said, "I saved up 11 months of energy for this mission and I think I just spent it al on the last patient"!

Ancient traditional therapy

Patients around the world rely on various traditional methods of curing disease. It is common in Vietnam for patients to resort to "ancient" treatment options such as "Cupping" and Induced inflammation to ward off disease. This is an example of a patient who has severe thoracic compression and vertebral fusion. For the past few years her pain has been so severe that she has been using heated cups to assist in drawing out the "toxins" that are causing her pain. In addition, she has extreme scarring from years of scraping the skin to induce inflammation to ease her back pain.
After some manipulation, physical therapy and pain medications, she described her pain as significantly less. It will take multiple treatments such as ours to provide more permanent relief.

Tour of Binh Phuoc

The second city we set up clinic was in Binh Phuoc, which is nirthwest of Saigon, close to the Cambodia boarder. Unlike Ben Tre, which was an existing clinic, our team had to set uo a medical and prosthetics clinic in an area located inside a resort. for 6 days we have been totally focused and overloaded with hundreds of medical patients arriving each day. We have seen a total of about 100 yards from the front gate to the pavilion where the prosthetics area was set up.
Little did we know, that we were in front of 200 acres of a resort owned by My Le. My Le was voted one of the top-50 business woman in Vietnam and was given this land by the government after the war to help sustain the people of Binh Phuoc.
Today was a day off, and My Le was kind enough to allow our team to partake in some letting lose activities such as bumper cars, riding a roller coaster, and enjoying a water slide and pool area.
It really was just what the Doctor ordered. Each and every member of our team took advantage of some down time to refresh for the few days of clinic left to come.
Cam on rat nhieu My Le!!!