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.