Medical Mission in Vietnam: Day 5 Surgeries

The team closed the surgical part of the mission with eight surgeries on Monday, bringing the total to 34.
  • 40-year-old male: soft-tissue and bony procedures
  • 36-year-old female: bony procedure
  • 45-year-old female: bony procedure
  • 36-year-old male: soft-tissue procedure
  • 20-year-old female: amputation of deformed toe
  • 12-year-old male: bony procedures
  • 12-year-old male: soft-tissue and bony procedures
  • 38-year-old female: joint fusion
Closing thoughts from Chris.
It’s the last day in the operating rooms. There’s a newfound quiet here. Everyone knows the drill. The ping of the heart monitor now seems like a metronome, keeping time as the team moves seamlessly through the halls. Jenni and Madison have cleared and paved the path. All is rolling along.
Marathon runners talk about getting in the zone somewhere around mile 18. Autopilot kicks in. It’s not complacency or arrogance, nor carelessness or apathy. The focus just comes easier. There aren’t as many questions: Wheres, whats, and hows are much more infrequent. Most were answered days ago. Questions have given way to the good-natured joking and ribbing that comes as people become more familiar with each other. As strangers become acquaintances, acquaintances become friends, and friends become family.

Over the weekend, some of the team headed home to the demands of the home, jobs, schools, and families. Their absence has added to the quiet. The team is down a few players, with everyone now lifting a heavier load. But it’s more than that. We feel somewhat incomplete.
The quiet has weight to it. People are aware that the other world awaits that just around the corner. Just as a child’s excitement is more intense the day or two before their birthday, the reality of leaving weighs heavily a few days before hopping on a plane to San Francisco. I know I’ll always have the memories. The generosity, talent, professionalism, and dedication I’ve witnessed have impacted me and my daughter. And impacted how we will move forward from the IEP team and everyone here — the patients, doctors, and nurses. 

But it’s not the same. I’ll remember cracking up with Fletcher, but that’s not the same as sitting next to Fletcher and cracking up. I’ll remember what Nyska told me about surgery, but that’s not the same as standing next to him and watching a master at work. Wing’s caring, gentleness, wisdom, and kindness had nestled into my psyche, but that’s not the same seeing her explain a procedure, not just with her words and intellect, but with her heart. I’ll come home and tell my wife some of Ezequiel’s jokes, but they won’t land in my living room as well as they did in the hallway outside the OR.

Experience is sweet. Memories are bittersweet. For those who know me, you know I have a sweet tooth.


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