Day 5: Physical Therapy Team

We made it here safely and smoothly after a VERY LONNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGG trip. We have been very busy since the first day at the hospital. The children's hospital is much bigger than we expected. They have 850 or so inpatient beds and 2000-3000 patients come every single day as outpatients to see the doctors.

The rehab clinic is nice and has more things than we expected, but has no resources to get more things. They have been so excited about all of the "gifts" that we brought. We still do not know about the container with all of the large items. The shipper at home says it will arrive at the end of the week but the shipper here has another story. Please pray for us and them that we can get it when it does  arrive. The hospital had a container that sat at the airport for over six months before they got it. They have some OLD computers and printers. We will buy them a new printer and several cartridges. If a child needs a picture book to communicate, the family has to pay money for each picture. We still have money to spend to buy more things that the clinic cannot afford. We take so much for granted.

The PT and OT in my group presented on Cerebral Palsy yesterday. We totally revamped what we originally planned because of limited time. We have interpreters repeat each and every sentence. It is also difficult to convey some of the technical terms and philosophies, but we're managing. We have also been interpreting for each other to help each other find easier words ... we call it the "easy thesaurus". Several therapists came in from the provinces to also learn.

I presented today on feeding disorders in children with Cerebral Palsy. I think it went very well. They had me demonstrate treatment in the afternoon; it was very challenging to have 40 people watch you with a small child.

The children love us but are often not sure what to think. They also seem to not have seen many toys before and are mesmerized by something as simple as a popup toy or the donut stacker. I was treating a small baby who was very involved neurologically and he started to have a seizure during my session... a little scary but was okay. The children are beautiful and the parents sweet. Worried faces look the same in all cultures.
I think as people are finding out we are here, more are coming. So much to do, not enough time. Tomorrow we will present on autism. Psychology is a new field here and they are very interested in learning. I will probably treat more kids then.

We go to the orphanages in Can Tho and Vinh Tanh this weekend and then back to the hospital on Monday. I hope to work with many children and the therapists more 1:1 then. I feel like we have all helped in many ways, but know that there are a thousand more things we can do. (The temptation to keep coming back is very tempting…)

The heads of the hospital departments invited us to a TET party today at lunch. It started with them boiling LIVE shrimp in front of us. They looked like they were "dancing". IT WAS DELICIOUS. They taught us how to peel it -- and pull off the "legs" and all. Who knew I would ever be able to do that. It has been strange eating food that looks back at me. They leave EVERYTHING on. No eyes for me thanks.

The food kept on coming and coming at lunch. Fresh seafood RULES. I had a food coma from eating so much. I have realized I have to be careful what I eat because of the MSG. I have had two migraines already. It's a crapshoot knowing what food has MSG.

Next week I will get a tour of their natal unit. They are hoping to build a neonatal unit someday. Right now if a child weighs 1000 grams or less at birth, they do not try to help it because they don't have the resources to care for it. I sometimes wonder after seeing the severely premature kids at home that we "save" whether we have the right idea.I will also get a tour of the burn unit. They have about 30-40 children in it right now. Most of the burns are scald burns from the families having boiling water on the kitchen floors because their homes are so small. It was very sad the first day when we visited the ER. A young girl had been brought in with burns over 80% of her body and I believe she passed away as we were leaving. Eighty percent is severe at home. It was a very surreal experience to be in the ER like it was no big deal.

The ICU was next door. They don't have enough ventilators so families have to pump a breathing bag by hand, sometimes for several months. They have a craniofacial unit that I hope to work in a little bit next week. They see about 10,000 children with cleft lip and palate every year. They are not sure why, but believe it may be from chemicals from the war. Operation Smile, another organization, has visited but they need more help.

The families are like CNAs [certified nursing assistants] in United States hospitals. The families have to do all the daily care like washing, feeding, and cleaning the clothes and they never leave the child's side. Although they have so little in many ways they also have some fun things. In the outside "waiting" area there are vendors or cafes and toy stands. I guess like a gift shop. They have little jungle gyms and rides like they do in front of some grocery stores.

We have survived our long days by treating ourselves to a little shopping. For those of you who know me well, it is my natural "high." I have had four outfits made already. Souvenir shopping is also good. I may need my own shipping freight to get everything home.

We have been invited to one of the therapist’s homes for a day during Tet, which should be very exciting. There is so much to see and do. So far we have seen only the city (dirty and crowded) but hope to see the more traditional green Vietnam.

We have been busy as you can see. I average about four hours of sleep each night. We have a driver who picks us up each morning at 7:30 and brings us home at 4:30 or so. I figure I will adjust to the time change by the time we go home.

Thank you again to everybody for this opportunity. You will never know how much it means to the therapists and the children here.

It is actually very easy to find an Internet café. They are everywhere and very cheap. (And Dad, it's faster than your connection at home.)