Friday, July 26, 2013

Ninh Thuận Mobile Clinic #1 06/08/13

After flying back to Ho Chi Minh City, we rested for the remainder of the day and prepared for the nine hour bus ride the next morning. We ate banh mi that morning while we waited for the bus. Once it arrived, loading onto it was hectic – we maneuvered through people and numerous boxes of supplies. Even a young man had to sit in the aisle since there weren’t enough seats. Once the bus drove away, we settled down and got comfortable. Some of us slept while others talked and joked along the way. I was fortunate to sit next to a cheerful person who I later became friends with. I learned that she was 25 years old and travelled to mobile clinics every weekend. It was not till later that I found out she was actually a doctor. She was so young because becoming a doctor requires only 6 years of education after high school in Vietnam. After a couple of rest stops and dinner at a restaurant, we finally arrived at our hotel in Ninh Thuan. We quickly retired to our rooms and were up before 6 the next morning. The bus picked us up, took us to breakfast, then to the school site where the mobile clinic was held.

This mobile clinic was solely for children. As they arrived, they were checked by doctors while some of us shadowed. After their check up, the children were directed to a classroom where Thanh, Anne, and Huong taught dental hygiene, nutrition, and hand sanitation lessons. They even sung and danced to the Vietnamese butterfly song together. While the children waited, they also colored pictures with crayons. Afterwards, the children had to enter the dental station where teeth extractions were performed. Most children had 3-4 teeth extracted. However, a lot of them put on brave faces and hardly shed any tears. Even our members were amazed at how much pain they tolerated. We did also hold on to children that tried to run away and comfort some crying children. The dental station was definitely where most of the action was occurring.

Noon came and we had a home-cooked lunch prepared for us by the adults. Once we finished eating, we napped on student tables before new patients arrived and we resumed our work. It was shocking how comfortable and refreshing sleeping on a hard surface could be. Or, we were just that exhausted. We continued working for another few hours, ate dinner, and headed back to our hotels. After freshening up, we reconvened at one room and played mafia and told ghost stories until we the need for sleep took us over one by one.

-- submitted by Thuong Tran, UC Berkeley

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