Day 7: First Week Recap from Jeffrey Spanko

Hello, Jeffrey Spanko writing some thoughts about the first week of the medical mission to Can Tho. We arrived Sunday afternoon and spent a fun New Years Eve in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).

They closed a number of streets and there was a huge crush of people watching music and fashion shows culminating in a classic countdown to New Years Eve. At the stroke of midnight there were fireworks, confetti, music, and dancing in the street. A universal moment for all.

We traveled to Can Tho New Years day and began our preparation for surgery on Tuesday. We screened patients for a long, hot eight hours and saw 37 patients. It was the usual crush of patients and there families hoping to be seen and treated. Wednesday we screened half the day and spent the other half preparing and sterilizing our instruments. 
It has been very hot and humid with afternoon monsoonal rains every day…much hotter than I recall any of my prior four trips to the Mekong delta.

Thursday we began surgery with the familiar confusion of the first day. After an exhausting six surgeries we realized we are the most efficient team yet due to the familiarity and coordination of the Vietnamese OR staff and our surgical team. We really are seeing the benefits of working at the same hospital with the same participants, both from the states and Vietnam. The collaboration and participation of the Vietnamese and American doctors is the best in five missions.

I am pleased to see that the Vietnamese orthopedists have prepared and increased their knowledge, clinical relevance, and surgical techniques that we use for the lower extremity deformities that we treat. 

We concluded our screening late Thursday afternoon after surgery. Friday we operated on five patients and found that we have become a smooth, well-oiled machine in our flow of patient care. We are doing two more cases a day than on previous trips. I am so pleased that we can treat more patients as well as see increased participation, teaching, and learning for the Vietnamese surgeons. All of our equipment and supplies are working flawlessly and we look forward to donating them to the hospital at the conclusion of the mission. 

I will write again in a few days and I would like to conclude with a big "hello" and "thank you" to all reading about us, and those who donate and support us so that we might make this medical and humanitarian mission possible.