The hospital was split up into several buildings; we entered a rundown building where patients stayed before their operations. As we entered her hospital room, which she shared with seven other patients, the lack of resources and good healthcare was very apparent. Each patient is supplied with just a simple bed and family members are required to bring their own food, bedding, and clothes for the patient. I was struck by the look of pain and sadness in Diem’s face as her skinny emancipated body lay still on the bed. She was unresponsive to our smiles and words of encouragement, and I could tell that she had been suffering for a long time. As I stroked her back and gave her last smile, I wished for her surgery to be successful so she could regain the happy, fun childhood that she deserved.
Outside the hospital building, patients’ families stuck incense sticks in the ground, praying for healing and successful operations. We also passed by many people sitting on the ground waiting to be seen. Vietnam has a shortage of doctors and nurses, and people often have to pay doctors extra money to actually be seen.
We went back on 7/14 to visit Diem after her surgery. This time she was in the main hospital building, which had been recently renovated with new wooden doors and elevators. Although the hallways and entrance area looked newer, patient rooms were in just as bad condition as before. Sometimes two people were forced to share one bed, nurses were scarce, and there were no IVs or monitors by the bed. When I saw Diem, I was relieved to see her looking healthier and more responsive than before. Her surgery had been successful and she no longer had that miserable look of pain on her face. We greeted her family and gave her some small candies before saying goodbye. It was encouraging to know we helped sponsor this girl’s operations and that now she has the chance to live a long and healthy life.
[For the trip, VMO/ACWP raised additional funding for 6 corrective surgeries for children, Diem was one of the lucky recipients]
-- submitted by Michelle Wong, UC Berkeley