First Days of 2007: Steve's Update

Well, a year’s work gathering supplies is crammed into 26 LARGE cartons and some overflow in our luggage. Everything was hoisted onto two pickup trucks and a van. At the airport all but one carton made it under the weight limit of 70 lbs. each. EVA Airlines kindly provided us with a carton to relieve some of the weight from the heavy one. Just a guess, but I think we had around 1,300 Lbs. of supplies with us this trip. My back thinks so, anyway!

Our 2007 team assembled along with our supplies at SFO. This year’s team came from New Jersey, Chicago, San Diego and the cities of the Bay Area. A couple of new teammates met the veterans and the old timers met with many hugs and handshakes. Then, it was off to the EVA lounge to relax for a bit and renew old friendships.

Our team is not really complete until we meet Professor Nyska and wife Fruma in Saigon.  They travel from Israel to join us in our work.  We departed SFO at Midnight headed for Taipei about 14 hours away, followed by a 3 hour flight to Saigon the morning of the 31st. HAPPY NEW YEAR in Saigon then off to Can Tho on the first.

Everything made it to Can Tho all in one piece, we hope! The hospital had one van waiting for us at the hotel. I don’t think that 13 circus clowns could fit in one van, let alone our medical team. Not a problem. The doctors took off walking and a couple of us took the ceremonial van ride to the hospital.

Once again, old friends met and greeted each other. We headed to the conference room, which has one of the biggest conference tables I have seen. The room and table easily accommodated all of us and all of them. Words of greetings and plans for future meetings are discussed…next year we will work at the new hospital. The new hospital has been a long time coming and will allow the doctors to work in a more modern environment.  The meeting ended with smiles around the entire table.

The doctors were now off to work.  Now the good stuff begins. The doctors made it to the examination area where a crush of patients awaited. The doctors hope to see all of the patients who have had surgery in the past and all of the new patients who have been prescreened by the hospital.

Theresa, Jenni, and Fruma sorted and organized the supplies we carried with us. I wasn’t there, but I heard that the supplies were stored in a little-used room at the end of one of the near by wards. When our ladies opened the door to the storage room, they were greeted by an entourage of nose twitching, gray furry rats. Then, opening a door inside the room cockroaches as big as elephants came pouring out to greet them. Their screams got rid of the rats and there was a mad dash to get toxic chemicals to rid them of the roaches. The roaches over here are really big and they fly, enough said.

Wednesday…The doctors and nurses spent the morning preparing the supplies for the upcoming surgeries. Materials were organized and sent off to the autoclave for sterilization. I heard no more stores or reports of rats or roaches. The afternoon was spent examining those patients not seen earlier. Steve and Mai Khanh spent the afternoon interviewing returning patients for a project that Tina is working on for her studies. Flecher is also filming past patients and interviewing some as well. All of the new and returning patients were seen and surgeries were scheduled. Tomorrow the surgeries begin.