Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Huong Phong, Mobile Clinic #1 - Saturday, July 20

It was the morning of our first mobile clinic and we were all excited for our first day. After a short drive away from Hue, we arrived at a clinic building in Huong Phong commune. The building normally serves as a local clinic so there were already rooms set up as examination rooms. As the volunteer doctors and staff members started setting up, us eight VMO members divided into pairs and took on different responsibilities. Patricia and I were in charge of taking the blood pressure of all individuals to be examined in our room. Our room had two doctors meaning our room would be able to see twice as many patients. Each person seen that day would get their blood pressure taken, have a consultation session with one of the doctors, and get a prescription filled if needed. The population we saw that day consisted mainly of elderly and middle-aged adults.

Patricia and I were not fluent in Vietnamese at all. Luckily, our soon-to-be dear friend Anh, a college student currently studying at Hue University, volunteered to help our group by translating for non-Vietnamese speakers. In return, we hoped to help her practice English.  With Anh’s help, we were able to communicate with our patients on a more personal level. To help the doctors, we helped fill out forms for each patient with each person’s name, age, and blood pressure.

When we started taking blood pressures, we realized that one of the blood pressure machines was not providing us accurate readouts. One of the doctors noticed me trying to fix the machine so he asked me if I was familiar with taking blood pressures manually with a stethoscope. Thankfully, I knew from a previous class. The doctor handed it to us and gave us a quick demo just to ensure that we were setting up and determining the values in the same configuration as the other doctors. The goal was to keep all the values as standard as possible, creating little room for error. Aside from blood pressure, many of the elderly locals told us about their back, head, and stomach pains. The doctors and us listened to their descriptions of how the pain originated and for how long it has been bothering them. As I listened and interacted with many of the elders, I noticed that many looked relieved and excited to have someone listen to them talk about their pain and discomfort. We even had the opportunity to listen to many personal stories. It was great to know that our services were valuable and our presence beneficial.

What touched me a lot was that many individuals knew their previous readouts from other clinic visits and compared them to that day’s blood pressure reading. They smiled when they found out their score readout improved for the better and frowned when their efforts did not provide a more favorable blood pressure reading. We heard quite frequently individuals saying they had healthier blood pressures due to the medicine they were prescribed during previous clinic visits.

At the end of the day, we were able to contribute in various ways. From tasks as small as advising individuals with significantly high blood pressure to lower their salt and sugar intake to assisting in the pharmacy, the eight VMO members on the trip had an unforgettable experience. Most importantly, we assisted the doctors by providing extra hands to help out so that as many patients could be seen that morning. As the clinic came to a close, we were able to help the doctors see over three hundred locals in a span of just a few hours. These individuals were able to leave with prescribed medications and medicated oils based off of their consultation with the doctors.

What a great first mobile clinic!

- submitted by Catherine Suen, UC Berkeley 


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