Ha Noi, Vietnam 5

Posted by on Mar 25, 2011 in Blog | Comments Off on Ha Noi, Vietnam 5

Ha Noi, Vietnam 5

Friday, March 25, 2011.
Vien Bong Quoc Gia Hospital, (National Burn Institute) Ha Noi, Vietnam.

This entire week was a steady and well-trained-for performance. Today is Friday, our last day of surgeries. Today we fly mid-air in a blur of twists and turns and stick our landing. Today we will soak in the remaining hours as guests in this beautifully layered, tough but graceful country. Having been witness all week to helping Vietnamese men, women and children who have suffered burns, we leave with awe stuffed in our pockets.

I promise I won’t go heavy on you today. The mission has been thick with cases where written description and photographs would simply be too much. I’ll just leave it at this. If you have ever given a dime to our foundation or would ever do so in the future, it’s a bell-ringer of a time to reflect on that thought. Five days straight. Eight to ten cases a day. We took donor passion and turned it into surgical solutions for people loaded with excruciating problems. Keep it coming, friends.

They always say the character of a team is a reflection of their coach. Coach here being Tom Flood, a Vietnam-era veteran with the U.S. Army and Air Force and retired R.N. who ticked 25 years at the Methodist Medical Center in Houston. Tom is easy to track down in these halls as he’s as tall as a starting forward and bald as a sand dune. A steady dose of smiles always swirl in his wake. Tom’s been running medical missions for 12 years now and knows how to navigate the nuts and bolts of this dance. Hands, burns, urology, cleft-lips and palates. If you’re clay-dirt poor and live in a developing country and need surgery, Tom Flood is a welcomed friend.

Our volunteer surgical team has bonded. Laughed together. Strange food has been shared. We are all staying at the Perfect Hotel, which is a $1 taxi ride from the hospital. Ironically, the hotel isn’t perfect. It’s just the name of the place. In the lobby there is a giant mural painting of a tiger, an eagle and a shark all trying to eat each other in a mad battle. The downstairs restaurant smells like old hot-dog water. “No Smoking” signs are on every wall, usually with an ashtray positioned directly below. That said, it’s basic and cheap and by all accounts, for us it really is the perfect hotel. Our long days render us hound-dog tired, and a bed is all we need.

Tomorrow we’ll all say goodbye to Vietnam. An old friend for some. A new friend for others. It will be like letting go of a comforting hand. We hope to take with us the kindness and sincerity of a Vietnamese mom and dad, and the charm of a Vietnamese child, with eyes dark and wet as strong black coffee. This friend we all call Vietnam. Hope to see you soon.