Ha Noi, Vietnam 2

Posted by on Mar 22, 2011 in Blog | Comments Off on Ha Noi, Vietnam 2

Ha Noi, Vietnam 2

Tuesday, March 22, 2011.
Vien Bong Quoc Gia Hospital, (National Burn Institute) Ha Noi, Vietnam.

It’s been an interesting cadence of the senses as we wander through our day. See, touch, taste, smell, and hear. Rinse, lather, repeat. This is day two at the burn hospital in Ha Noi, Vietnam. Our volunteer surgical team stayed late last night and managed 7 cases without incident. No hiccups are a good sign, given all the variables. Yesterday we became rapidly familiar with our own team and also the Vietnamese hospital staff we are partnering with. In this fashion, the language is a huge barrier, especially with the patients. I wish it were as simple as asking a question each time we want to understand something. Instead, we rely on the few bilingual translators we have on hand. Otherwise, it’s body language and fluctuations in tone. Eyes become key. To cope, we find ourselves drawing pictures of items on our “needs list” or making chicken noises when we ask directions to a restaurant. I do hope it’s as amusing to them as it is for us. In the end, smiles are usually exchanged as a common denominator.

We are guests in this military hospital stationed with 300 beds. 100% occupancy. 100% of the time. The waiting list is long, which can be excruciating when faced with a severe burn. If a patient doesn’t have money, the wait can get very long, as in eternal. We are here to help those who can’t afford to wait forever. As we walk the halls, the daily sights can be warm such as when a mom or dad throws you a gentle wave. The sights also cut your wind short as in the oozy beds sourcing newly arrived patients. I love that our volunteers have given up time with their families and loved ones. Revenue streams will slow. Some volunteers will probably get sideways with a nasty stomach bug. I love that our donors have given us the opportunity to help these families. I wish I could take every person that has ever given us a dime and introduce them to a Vietnamese mother after we have helped her son or daughter.

It’s noon now. The hospital lunch room is the size of a small hallway. The kitchen staff is throwing down some mean chicken curry Pho soup and rice noodles along with bananas, watermelon, an oddly square loaf of sandwich bread, vacuum fried lotus seeds (vacuum fried?) and green tea that has the words “functional food” on the packaging. The team takes breaks between cases where they can. I’m grabbing a short sit and then I will walk over to Operating Room two. A 7-year-old girl named Nguyn (pronounced “Win”) is undergoing an abdominal keloid excision. This adorable little girl was accidentally nudged into a pot of raging hot water that was being boiled for drinking water. Now her stomach is a storm of scar and tissue mass. It could be different as this case is so preventable on the surface. But maybe those are our standards. Reality is…this is a very poor country. To survive, you burn a fire on the floor and throw a pot on it if you want to drink water. Stoves and sturdy tables are a luxury. Surgery for your child is beyond luxury goods. I’m glad we’re here to help a girl with a genuine little smile.