Monday, June 14, 2010

From Shore to Ship, Volunteers Continue to Treat Patients

Each day of our mission in Vietnam, health care providers travelled by boat and by van to clinic sites they had established throughout the greater Quy Nhon region. During the eleven days of work they treated 19,600 patients for a wide range of ailments. Some of those whose needs were most compelling were then brought on board the ship for surgery.

Serving last week at one of these sites known as Medical Civil Assistance Programs was Project HOPE volunteer pediatrician Dr. John R. Neale, who has treated as many as 60 patients in a single day here. One local man came in with his somewhat apprehensive seven-year-old daughter named Kieu Trang and described her case by saying at the outset that it was time for her to have surgery. She had an obvious left-sided mandibular mass present since birth and, according to her father, had initially had relatively simple surgery at the Quy Nhon General Hospital in 2005. Now she was old enough for more. So Trang was next seen by the Mercy’s dental unit and came to the pediatric ward on the ship for a CAT scan and treatment under the care of HOPE volunteer hospitalist Dr. Betsy Treft among others. Once the tumor was excised and the pathologist had declared it non-malignant, Trang was given a bone graft and substantial post-operative care.

Trang’s grateful father was with her throughout, because patients who come on board during humanitarian missions are encouraged to bring a family member. The two slept in adjacent “racks” (beds). Trang’s father, like her mother, earns his living as a rice farmer, and they have an older son living at home as well. While the father and daughter were on the pediatric ward, they were assisted regularly by HOPE volunteer nursing student Kimberley Fong. She says that one day Trang is likely to be a doctor or a nurse. During Trang’s stay on the ward she shadowed Kimberley, using her own borrowed stethoscope to listen to the heart beat of any person or stuffed animal that would comply.

Trang and her father were the last to dissembark from the USNS Mercy before the ship’s departure from Vietnam. Now minus the disfiguring tumor, she seemed relieved to be heading back to shore wearing a bright orange striped sun hat that helped minimize the still-visible closed incision from the surgery.

Thanks for reading - Mary Hamill, Project HOPE PAO

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