Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hospital and emergency surgery

On Thursday 7/7, we went to visit Diem, a ACWP operation recipient, at Trung Uong hospital in Hue. Diem is eight years old and has three younger siblings. This was to be her second operation on her intestinal tract, this time to remove a tumor. [It was eventually found to be a rare case of ovarian cancer, tumor was about an inch in diameter, her left ovary had to be removed]

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

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hepatitis B Vaccinations

We had another early start July 14th and jumped into the group van to head to the village area where we would be testing the children for Hepatitis B and administering vaccines. After driving along the main paved roads, we turned off to a narrow road where we pulled up to a small building. The doctors and nurses were already present as well as a crowd of children most of them with their parents. More were constantly arriving by moped or bicycle.

After supplies such as milk cartons for the kids and gummy treats were unloaded, it was time to get the vaccines started. But first, the kids had to receive their immunization record card. Diep began calling out the names and the kids got their card. From there the kids would first get their blood taken. When the kids got their blood drawn, they would simply stare with wonder at the needle as it sucked out the blood from their arm. There was never tears running down their cheeks or squirming in the chair. After the blood sample was taken, it was tested for Hepatitis B positive or negative. A thin strip of paper was held in the test tube of blood. If two lines appeared in the indicator region on the strip, that indicated that the child had Hepatitis B. If only one line was present, the child did not have Hepatitis B. When a child was positive for Hep B, she or he would go to another room where the doctor would talk to the parents. There was a few kids that tested positive. The parents asked questions like any worried parent would, and the doctors would warn of what the child should avoid, such as drinking alcohol.

If the children tested negative, they would wait to be called into the
vaccination room. In this room, two doctors administered shots so the children came in twos. It was a rare sight to see one the kids squirm or cry when they got their shot. After they received their shot, two VMOers would be seated nearby and give them two vitamin gummy's and Omega 3 gummy's along with a carton of milk. By the time the kids left the room they had hands full with gummy's, milk, an immunization card, and one hand on their arm where the shot had gone in.

While we could not administer the vaccines, draw blood, or test the
blood, there was other ways for us to help. While some of us called out names for immunization cards and managed the crowd, others handed out a candy after the kids got their blood drawn, or a vitamin and milk carton after the vaccination, and others talked and played with the kids while they waited.

As the day went on, the crowd began to disperse as the kids got their examinations. When the last child had left, we took a photo with the doctors, packed up the leftover goodies for the kids, and headed back into the big van. It was one of the rather more rewarding days because we knew that the kids who had received the vaccine would be Hep B free but also a solemn day knowing that some of the kids we had been playing with had been diagnosed with Hep B.

[Out of 100 kids tested for the hep B virus, only 3 failed]

-- submitted by Andrea Luethy, UC Berkeley

Friends of Hue Clinic

After an arduous day of work and fun, we all met in one hotel room on Saturday night to discuss plans for the following day. It was then that we discovered the daunting news that we would have to split into two groups to work at different mobile clinics. Having spent a week doing everything together, we were virtually inseparable. More importantly, our group was assigned the task of working at a mobile clinic without the guidance of our “Mama Diep.” 
The next day came and we were nervous and unsure of what to expect. Regardless, we loaded our taxi and were driven to a shelter in Hue. As we waited for the children to arrive in shuttles, we set up banners and organized the medicine and vitamins in the pharmacy room. 

Upon arriving, the children lined up to sign in and get their weight and height measured by Andrea and Bao. They continued upstairs to see the doctors and came to the pharmacy room afterwards. Michelle bagged the medicine and handed out toothbrushes and toothpaste while Thuong took their prescription papers and called out names of children receiving their medicine. Although hectic at times, the overall process went very smoothly and the children behaved well. A total of 179 children were given check-ups and medicine. Vitamin C pills were popular among the children. When they weren’t prescribed by the doctor, the children asked for pills themselves. Luckily, the Vitamin C pills were abundant and every child that wanted them was able receive some. 
Hygiene and sanitation education
During our down time, we formed a circle with the children and played singing and dancing games such as “Who Is King.” The children were not the only ones who had a good time; we had lots of fun ourselves. After taking plenty of pictures and saying our goodbyes, we headed home in happy spirits knowing the children benefited in at least one way from our presence.

 -- submitted by Thuong Tran, UC Berkeley

First 2 Clinics

On July 9th we went to our first mobile clinic outside of Hue.  The site was quite small for the number of people that had come to get free check-ups; there were about three exam rooms and one pharmacy.  Most of the patients were poor elderly folks and some had traveled very far to come to the mobile clinic that day.  

When we first arrived, each of the non-native speakers in the group were paired up with a native speaker.  At first, Thuong and I tried to help at the registration desk, but the clinic was already crowded with people so it was difficult to be of much help.  Later on Diep and I got the opportunity to take the blood pressure of patients coming in to see the doctors.  We hadn't had much prior experience taking blood pressure, but we quickly learned with practice.  Some of the older patients had incredibly high blood pressure.  They explained to us that they ate a lot of salty foods and smoked cigarettes, which likely caused their high blood pressure.  Once the patients completed their check-ups, the doctors usually wrote them prescriptions for medications they would then pick up at the pharmacy.  I later joined Andrea in collecting the massive wave of prescriptions that were coming into pharmacy, then handed the stack to Donna, who was calling out names.  While I was standing in front of the pharmacy, an older woman came up to me and began speaking to me in English.  I was so surprised, her English was quite good!  It was a hectic day, but we were glad to help as much as we could.  After wrapping up the clinic, we went as a group to eat Banh Uot, which ended up being one of my favorite dishes.  We were also so thirsty after working that we drank bottles and bottles of soy milk!

On July 10th we had our second set of clinics.  Two separate mobile clinics, one run by ACWP and the other by Friends of Hue, were organized at the same time so we had to split up into two groups.  Diep, Donna, Krish and I went to the ACWP clinic while Bao, Andrea, Michelle, and Thuong went to the Friends of Hue clinic.  The site for the ACWP clinic was much bigger than the day before, allowing for a more organized system of check-ups and medication pick-ups.  The group of people that came to visit that day were primarily minorities and most were young women with their children.  While I handed out toothbrushes and collected prescriptions outside of the pharmacy where Donna was working, Diep worked at the registration desk and Krish took pictures of the days events.   The kids loved the toothbrushes and some of the older kids were showing their younger siblings how to use them.  Many of the kids also received vitamin supplements along with their toothbrushes.  It was another successful mobile clinic, a rare yet helpful resource for the local community of the region.

-- submitted by Michelle Keyser, UC Berkeley