Monday, December 31, 2012

Day 1: Patient Evaluations

We're halfway through our first day of work at the hospital. After a good breakfast at our hotel, we traveled through the city to Can Tho General Hospital in four taxis. The local doctors greeted us at the cars and showed us to the exam rooms and waiting area, where patients and their families were already waiting for us.

The hospital has arranged for these specific patients to be seen by the IEP doctors, so most have been pre-screened and are likely candidates for surgery or PT consultations. The patients come from all different areas in the Mekong Delta as Can Tho is the second-largest city in South Vietnam. Some of the areas from which patients travel are very rural, making it even more difficult for people with lower-extremity impairments to function in their communities.

We quickly set up and started doing the patient intake.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tired, Safe & Sound in Vietnam

Scooter ingenuity in Can Tho.
We have arrived, collected our gear, and dispersed to our various rooms and own devices for the evening. Some of us planned nothing more than a shower and some reading, while others opted to head along the river a couple of blocks to find food. (Personally, this bag of pretzels is as fine a feast as I need right now.)

The EVA Air flight from SFO to Taipei was a 14-hour marathon, the last two of which were very bumpy and uncomfortable for many of us. It was nice to have about an hour to wander around the airport before hopping on the flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Of course, after a few of us attempted to throw Jenni into a tizzy by being the last onto the plane, we buckled in, the plane pulled back -- and stopped. Our flight out of Taipei was delayed two hours while they replaced a computer. Of course, since the plane was fully boarded, we got to spend those two hours on the tarmac. Luckily the entertainment system worked.

Friday, December 28, 2012

On Our Way!

Winging it from Taipei to Ho Chi Minh City.
Fourteen people, fourteen boxes of medical supplies, fourteen checked bags -- all at San Francisco International Airport ready for fourteen hours of flying. And that's just to Taipei.

We all arrived from our various corners -- San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Nebraska, Chicago, and beyond -- and gathered at the International Terminal. We'll meet up with more of the group in Ho Chi Minh City and the full group in Can Tho.

Our check-in went very smoothly. Once everyone was here and we'd unloaded the supplies from the truck (thanks Dan!), we checked in as a group and made our way through security. The nice people at EVA Air gave us access to the lounge, so we're all here snacking on noodles, fruit, and other good stuff.

Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho -- time travel by bus.
Our flight leaves at 12:05a, so we're happy to have a comfortable and quiet place to relax before we have to gather at the gate. We'll fly from SFO to Taipei. We'll be in Taipei for a short layover and then fly to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Once through customs we'll take a bus to Can Tho -- about four hours to go 168 kilometers.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Preparing for Can Tho: Jeffrey Spanko, DPM

Drs Spanko and Lehnert in
Can Tho, November 2010
It is with great excitement that the IEP medical team enters the final week before our departure for Vietnam on December 29. My name is Jeffrey Spanko, DPM, and this will be my seventh medical mission to Can Tho in the Mekong Delta. I am a team surgeon on our medical missions, as well a co-founder and director of the International Extremity Project.

I have known Dr. Lehnert since he was a medical resident in the early 1990s. We have since become close professional and personal friends. It was a defining moment for me when Dr. Lehnert invited me to join him for my first medical mission to Vietnam in 1999. Together, we formed Mission Peace, our first non-profit medical team.

In 2009, we reorganized our group and became International Extremity Project (IEP). The November 2010 mission was our first as IEP (posts start here). Earlier this year, in June, we provided care in Namibia (posts start here) and are now returning to Vietnam for our upcoming mission.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Preparing for Can Tho: Kim Austin

Our departure is getting closer!

Most of the Northern California team members met in San Francisco yesterday to pack boxes of medical equipment for our upcoming trip. We're bringing everything from surgical screws to scalpels, gauze, and walking casts. And doctors, of course -- but they don't fit in the boxes.

I somehow expected we'd have a lot more boxes, but everything packed into fewer than fifteen 60-pound boxes. (I guess that means I can bring an extra pair of socks or two.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Preparing for Can Tho: Stacy Lerner

I cannot believe this will be my 4th trip with the International Extremity Project! I am so happy to have gotten connected with IEP and really enjoy this adventure each and every time I go. Each trip has been filled with new experiences, old friends, and great collaboration between medical professionals.  

As a pediatric physical therapist, my work with IEP challenges me, but also inspires me. Working with the doctors at the initial stages of the trip in evaluating patients of all ages and diagnoses for possible surgical intervention allows me to provide my point-of-view as a physical therapist to their work as physicians/surgeons. This collaboration has been very positive and productive for a wide variety of patients in the past, as I expect it will be again in 2013!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Team Member Bio: Stacy Lerner

This will be Stacy's fourth trip with International Extremity Project. Her previous missions were in 2004, 2007, 2010. She and Amy Levin will spend the first few days with the IEP doctors at Can Tho University Hospital helping to evaluate patients. They will then spend time at children's hospitals in Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City working with pediatric patients and families.

Stacy has been Pediatric Physical Therapist for 20 years and works at Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, where she has lived since 2009. She is widowed and previously lived and worked in Chicago until moving to Omaha.

You can also follow Stacy's experiences in Vietnam on her own blog about the mission.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Preparing for Can Tho: Sahra Sellers

I am currently in my final year of residency training at the Palo Alto Veterans Hospital. Over the past two and a half years I have been fortunate to receive training from both Dr. Lehnert and Dr. Spanko.

I vividly remember my first year out of medical school, when two of the senior residents in our program left for the 2010 mission trip. I remember in part because I had to cover their patients while they were gone, but mainly because I was hoping to be chosen to go on IEP's next trip after hearing about their experiences in Can Tho. Being involved in medical missions is always something that I have wanted to do.

I feel very honored to be able to participate with International Extremity Project as a resident. Not only will I be able to help directly with patient screening, surgical treatment, and post-operative care, but I will be learning valuable lessons that I can carry with me on all my medical missions in the future.

Although I have not been to Vietnam, I visited my brother in Jakarta, Indonesia, last March. My first experience in Asia was quite eye-opening because the culture and environment are so different from my daily life. I am really looking forward to all the Vietnamese culture has to offer, especially the food! ~Sahra Sellers

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Preparing for Can Tho: Logan Lehnert

Even the youngest members of the IEP travel team have to prepare for the trip to Vietnam.

For many of members of the team, this will be our first medical mission. For Logan and Lex Lehnert, the sons of Bruce and Jenni Lehnert, it's already their second, having traveled on IEP's first mission to Namibia in June 2012 where they met Namibian First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba.

Logan Lehnert
Logan, in his own words:
I asked Dad if he bought the plane tickets already, and he said yes. I was not happy.  Now I have to get shots. 

I have already been to Africa on a medical mission, which I did not have to get shots before I left.  

If I did not have to get the shots to go to Vietnam then I would be happy to go.

I am sad about the shots, but proud of my parents helping other kids.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Team Member Bio: Kim Austin, Marketing & Writing

Kim has worked with the International Extremity Project since 2007, writing, doing marketing, and handling patient data.

The 2016 mission will be her third traveling with the team. Her first in-country experiences with the team were the 2013 and 2015 missions to Vietnam. During missions, she helps to document the team's work through the blog and social media, gather patient information, interact with patients and families, and help in the operating-room during surgeries, whether comforting patients or getting supplies.

Kim is a writer and a senior marketing manager at Cisco Systems.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Preparing for Can Tho: Wing Ip

I am one of the many podiatry residents that Dr. Lehnert trains at the Veterans Hospital in Palo Alto, California, and I was extremely grateful and ecstatic to be chosen by Dr. Lehnert for such an amazing mission.

I am going on this medical mission with the International Extremity Project to surgically correct foot deformities in Vietnam. I hope that through surgical corrections the patients will have better ability to walk more independently and freely, so that they may have a better chance of working, going to school, and living more independently.

This will be my first medical mission, and I hope it will be the first of many more to come, especially since this is one of the reasons why I wanted to be a doctor. I also strongly believe that in order to be a better physician and surgeon, I need to experience, see, and learn as much as I can. I know that this mission will provide me with such an opportunity.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Preparing for Can Tho: Bruce's View

Bruce Lehnert, DPM and Jenni Lehnert, RN
The International Extremity Project and our team have evolved since my first medical mission in 1998. This will be my eighth trip to Vietnam and my seventh to Can Tho. It's my sixth mission with my wife as nursing director

This is the seventh trip for Dr. Jeff Spanko, the fifth time Dr. Jonah Mullens has joined us in Vietnam, and the fourth with Flecher Fleudujon as our documentary filmmaker. Henry Duvalsaint is joining us for the third time, now handling logistics from travel to communications with the hospital to many details in Can Tho. Kim Austin has been handling our website and blog over five missions and will be joining us in Vietnam for the first time this year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Getting to Know IEP's Henry Duvalsaint

Such a small world. About four years ago, I visited Bruce Lehnert's office for a podiatry check up. I overheard was speaking to someone using a few Korean words, which caught my attention.
We started talking about Asia and he mentioned his medical missions to Vietnam. I asked him in which city his mission was involved. To my surprise he mentioned Can Tho. I had been going to Vietnam for many years and have a lot of connections Can Tho, including my friendship with Dr. Sophia who was then Director of Can Tho General Hospital. As a matter of fact, I had just been in Can Tho that February as a guest at the wedding of Dr. Sophia's niece.

Monday, November 26, 2012

International Extremity Project: How We Do It

I feel a great sense of pride when reflecting on what our team has done.

All in all, we have performed major lower-extremity reconstructions on 250 children and young adults. These are operations that the families could not afford nor were there local doctors with the skills to perform them. These foot and ankle surgeries provide life-changing deformity corrections. Whereas most of these children couldn't walk or even wear shoes before their procedures, the corrections allow them not just to walk, but to attend school, own businesses, become farmers, and participate in their communities.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Team Member Bio: Bruce Lehnert, DPM

Dr. Bruce Lehnert, DPM -- Co-Founder, Medical Director
Since 1998 Dr. Lehnert has been organizing medical missions and performing reconstructive foot and ankle surgeries on children and adults with severe compound lower-extremity deformities.

Dr. Lehnert is a foot and ankle surgeon with Sports, Orthopedic, and Rehabilitation Medicine Associates. He has been in practice for more than 22 years since his residency and fellowship training in foot and ankle surgery. Dr. Lehnert has published many scientific articles and has teaching appointments at the California College of Podiatric Medicine and Temple University.

He has organized and participated in 12 medical missions to Vietnam and two to Namibia.

More posts with Bruce Lehnert.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

2013 Mission Team

Medical Team
Bruce Lehnert, D.P.M. - Medical Director
Jennifer Lehnert, R.N. - Nursing Director
Meir Nyska, M.D. - Surgeon
Jonah Mullens, D.P.M. - Surgeon
Diane Koshimune, D.P.M. - Surgeon
Amy Levin, MA CCC-SLP - Speech Therapy
Stacy Lerner, PT, PCS - Physical Therapy
Wing Ip, D.P.M. - Resident Surgeon
Sahra Sellers, D.P.M. - Resident Surgeon
Susie Whipps, R.N., B.S.N. - Nurse
Jean Robert Duvalsaint - Surgical Technician

Support Team
Henry Duvalsaint - Facilitator
Flecher Fleurdujon - Documentarian
Kim Austin - Writing & Social Media
Michelle Wachs
Laura Spanko - Student
Michelle Albright - Student
Julia Gross - Student

Monday, November 12, 2012

Preparing for Can Tho

Dr. Jeff Spanko at MedShare.
The California-based members of the medical team met Saturday to go through more details for the trip to Can Tho at the end of the year. We have our passports and visas all settled. The medical supplies we're taking with us are are all in hand or on the way from the companies donating them. We're getting down to the details of ordering medications and counting marking pens.

Each person on the mission team will have three pieces of luggage -- one personal bag and two bins of medical supplies, ranging from dressings to surgical screws.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Getting Ready for Vietnam, Not Just Writing About It

Getting ready for an international medical mission involves a lot more than getting time off work, buying plane tickets, and showing up at a hospital somewhere. There are the normal travel preparation things: passports, visas,  vaccinations. Then there are the other parts and pieces like fund-raising, team meetings, inventorying equipment, packing everything into carefully weighed containers. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kids Helping Kids

There's something about helping children that just seems to resonate -- even with other kids. Want proof? Just check out LMMission, a website and project started by two junior high students with high hopes for making a difference.

They've started their own non-profit organization with the goal to raise money and then donate to people in need, including International Extremity Project's 2013 mission. They're collecting recyclables, organizing bake sales, and putting together other ideas to raise money.

As people who understand the desire to make a difference, we applaud these southern California teens for their entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to helping those in need. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Gratitude from the IEP Team

We would like to thank all those who have made this Namibian extension of the International Extremity Project possible.

Our gratitude goes out to:

We also appreciate and thank our generous donors for their continued support of IEP and this all-volunteer medical mission project.

Finally, there is another mission to Vietnam in January 2013. This will mark the eight mission to Vietnam for myself. The other members of IEP may have not been there as many times but are equally dedicated. Stick close to the web page as it evolves into the next chapter of IEP's raison d'etre.
~ Bruce Lehnert

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wrapping Up Our First Namibian Mission

Today, we visited and evaluated the patients on whom we'd operated last week in the hospital ward at Katutura Hospital. We found that all the patients are recovering comfortably and without infection. We worked with the local medical teams to finalize the patients' plans for postoperative care.

Second Week, First Namibian Mission

Equino cavus "toe walker"
deformity prior to surgery.

We completed the operative portion of our Namibian mission on Wednesday, June 20. In total, we operated on 18 patients, most of whom had complex foot and ankle deformities. Of the 18 patients, 10 required procedures on on both feet.

Following the day's surgeries, the team was invited to meet with the Namibian First Lady. Penehupifo Pohamba, the wife of President Hifikepunye Pohamba, thanked us and expressed her gratitude to the team and the change of life we have brought to our Namibian patients.

The IEP team with Namibian First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba.

At the meeting with the First Lady, the International Extremity Project (IEP) team donated power equipment and bone-fixation devices to the Namibian Ministry of Health.

Tonight we are participating in an educational seminar with the Namibia Medical Society. IEP's Dr. Meir Nyska will present a continuing medical education seminar on ankle sprains to local medical professionals and students.

We'll spend tomorrow following up with patients we worked with over the last two weeks.

Jenni Lehnert, RN, conferring with local nurses.

First Lady Pohamba with
Lex and Logan Lehnert.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

IEP on Namibian TV (Video)

Read the related article, "18 patients with deformities benefit from American doctors surgery," on the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation's website.

Friday in Namibia -- Interviews & Surgeries

Our Thursday started off at 6:00 a.m. with an interview on Good Morning Namibia broadcast on the Namibian Broadcast Corporation (NBC). 

It was Dr. Lehnert's first time on TV and it went really smoothly.  Later in the evening, NBC did a special on our team for the 8:00 p.m. broadcast.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thursday in Namibia

Dr. Nyska and a local doctor
planning procedures.
Because we aren't able to help everyone who needs surgical attention in the short time we're here, we have had to prioritize patients and procedures.

We are prioritizing helping the children because we can perform life-changing operations that can be the sentinel event of a new life.

Equino cavus deformity pre-surgery.
Repair will require Achilles
tendon lengthening and midfoot
The team started the morning with a meeting of the Orthopedic Department at 07:30, where we reviewed the previous 18 hours of admissions and shared our combined experience.

The first day in the operating room started at 08:30. The team performed seven cases, including a combined total of 13 procedures:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wednesday in Namibia

Failed ankle fusion in need of revision.

We started off Wednesday at 0730 in the Orthopedic Department reviewing the previous day's cases. The Junior Medical Officer presented his on-call cases for critique by the one of the local orthopedic surgeons. We were able to participate as well as they consulted our team on some of the cases.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Positive Reception in Namibia

The team had a positive reception with media, Ministry of Health, and United Africa Group. Dr. Lehnert was interviewed by four media houses and introduced the team.

Namibians very welcoming and benevolent people. It looks like we have found another home for IEP! 

We also met Dr. Ludwig Walters, the sole orthopedic surgeon for Katutura Hospital. He has arranged the screenings and surgery time for our group.

We made some great connections and look forward to tomorrow.

Do you have questions for the team?
Post them on our Facebook page or use the comments box below!

First Days in Namibia

IEP Namibia 2012 Team

Dr. Bruce Lehnert - 8th IEP mission veteran
Dr. Meir Nyska - 4th IEP mission veteran
Dr. Beny Kish- 1st IEP mission
Jennifer Lehnert, RN

Monday, June 11
Our flight from Frankfurt was cancelled and we had to wait 8 hours for another flight to Namibia. We arrived at 8 p.m. local time on Monday.

Tuesday, June 12

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Travel Tales to Namibia, SFO to FRA

Friday, 6/8/2012

Trying to minimize bags now, United wants $70 per piece.

Sitting on plane waiting for the first leg of our journey. Lots of miles to cover. Plane is packed and incredibly uncomfortable. It will all be worth it when we get there.

Sunday 6/10/2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pre-flight Check: Namibia

_X_ Make Contacts
_X_ Arrange Schedule
_X_ Book Flights
_X_ Pack Gear
_X_ Get Anti-malarial Meds
_X_ Gather Reading Material for 30-hour Flight

Check. Check. Check. 
And Check.

The IEP team leaves tomorrow evening for the inaugural trip to Namibia. Once there, there's a new checklist:

___ Conduct Patient Screenings
__Perform Surgeries
___ Meet with the Namibian Minister of Health
___ Get Interviewed by Good Morning Namibia

Stay tuned to the site for updates from Windhoek.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hello Can Tho!

It's official: Planning for the next International Extremity Project (IEP) medical mission to Can Tho, Vietnam, has begun! 

The team has been working with Can Tho General Hospital and Can Tho University Hospital to organize patient evaluations and surgeries in January 2013.

As currently scheduled, the mission team will arrive in Saigon on December 30th, then travel to Can Tho to work until the 10th of January. For an idea of what will happen during the mission, check out the posts from the November 2010 trip.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Next Week: Namibia

In the first mission trip outside of Vietnam, four members of International Extremity Project (IEP) are heading to Namibia next week. Dr. Bruce Lehnert and Jenni Lehnert, RN, will be traveling from the United States and Drs. Meir Nyska and Benny Kish will be traveling from Israel. Dr. Kish is new to the team.

In addition to patient screenings and surgeries, the team will meet with the country's Minister of Health, and do a one-day medical seminar. They'll be working with the University of Namibia Medical School and the public hospitals in Windhoek, the country's capital and largest city.
The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) will also film some of the team's work for newscasts and plans to interview Dr. Lehnert on Good Morning Namibia during the the first week of the trip. Keep an eye on the website for trip updates and hopefully news footage as well!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Next Mission: Namibia

Africa - Namibia highlightedIn June 2012, Dr. Bruce Lehnert -- medical director of the International Extremity Project -- is taking an elite group of U.S. and foreign physicians to Namibia in South West Africa. 
While there, Dr. Lehnert will meet with Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Dr. Richard M. Kamwi, the Minister of Health, to organize an ongoing medical presence.