Archive for March 30th, 2015

We will meet in the parking lot of Jr. High Park in Brea at 6:00 p.m. This park is located at 400 N. Brea Blvd. Please note: there are 2 parking lots for this park…one on Brea Blvd. and one on Lambert Ave. We will be parking in the parking lot on Brea Blvd. The entrance to this parking lot is just north of Lambert Ave…on the east side of Brea Blvd.

Margaret’s run (5 miles)

Congrats DONNA and PAM!!!  They both ran the Thomas House 10K this past Saturday and earned medals for placing in their division.  Donna placed 1st and Pam placed 5th.  Exciting news!

Su’s Medical Mission Trip to Vietnam:  As most of you know, Su was in Vietnam for a week as part of a medical team which provided care to patients in a very rural area of Vietnam.  Su wrote this wonderfully descriptive account of her time spent there.  After reading this, it reminds me of how appreciative I ought to be for a life filled with not only the basic necessities…but an abundance of ‘things’.  Kudos to Su and the others who participated in this trip and provided much needed medical care to those who so desperately need it.  This is her letter:

Dear friends and sponsors,
As you can guess from this letter, I made it back alive from Vietnam, safe and sound.  It wasn’t always so smooth.  I almost missed my flight to Vietnam because of severe traffic delays on a late Thursday night and because China Airlines and Air China are actually two different airline companies in two different LAX terminals.  So keep that in mind as it will save you the trouble of running down the terminal like a crazy person with a carry on, dragging a large check in luggage and your 70 -year-old mom running behind you, pushing a large cardboard box  with stuffed animals and vitamins on top of a luggage cart.After our 13 hour flight to Taipei, 3 hour flight to Saigon, 1.5 hour flight to Vinh, and a 3 hour bus ride totalling over 31 hours of travel with layovers to the glamorous Hotel Hoang Dinh in the middle of nowhere, we were finally there!  To be frank, I’ve stayed in much nicer motel 6’s but what can you ask for in rural Vietnam where most residents don’t have plumbing.  Certainly, it was a step above every backpacking trip I’ve ever taken.   The hotel had air conditioning, plumbing, and wi-fi.  All the essentials.  The mattress was rock hard, the carpets have never been vacuumed, and the trash can already had trash in it when I arrived in the room.  Still it was better than my neighbor who noticed that her toilet had urine in it despite having that paper tag on the seat that said it was sanitized.  I was also lucky enough not to get mosquito bites while I slept or traveler’s diarrhea but that might be too much information.  Some people walked into the village and bought sheets to sleep on.Project Vietnam decided this year to go deep into the rural communities.  Our first job site was a school that was almost a 2 hour bus ride from our hotel.  It’s actually a scenic route as the countryside is green, lush, and picturesque with jagged mountains and low hanging fog in the mornings.  The school did not have air conditioning, plumbing, or electricity before we arrived but managed to build a flushing toilet for our visit.  Our logistics team also set up electricity for us and they will have the toilet and electricity long after we leave.  Arguably a bigger present than the actual doctors and medicines themselves.   Without air conditioning in 90-100 degree heat with high humidity, it feels like you’re working inside a wet sauna.  Generally, we are working 4-5 doctors and nurse practitioners in a school classroom with our interpreters.  After a long sticky hot day of work, our smelly crew piled into the buses for almost 2 hour bus ride back to the hotel where we ate, showered, and collapsed.  It is challenging and limiting to have a short list of medications that we can prescribe but if we find a serious condition like breast cancer, project Vietnam pays for one year of medical insurance for the patient to continue to receive care.  It costs just  $50.

Our second job site is at a hospital about 1.5 hour away in another direction.  Another scenic drive as we noticed fires every night when we drive home.  They are burning their trash as there is no trash service in rural Vietnam.  The hospital did provide a little more sophistication as we were able to order very simple lab tests like wet mounts, urine dips.  There were three little kids who had severe anemia.  4 members of the Project Vietnam team donated blood to these kids because they were universal donor blood type.

After our work days, we had a meeting where the leaders of project Vietnam informed us this was one of the roughest conditions they ever recall staying in.   To make up for it,  they were going to take us to the beach in the big town of Vinh, out to dinner at a nice restaurant the next day and spend one night at a nice hotel.  Woohoo!  I was never so excited to see a hair dryer.  I had gotten used to going to sleep with wet hair.  With high humidity, the socks I washed on Tuesday were not dry until Friday.  But it turns out laundry costs 50 cents per item and it’s ready the next day.  What a complete moron I am to try to do my own laundry here.

The day after, we went to Saigon for a celebration banquet before flying back home the next day.  There are lots of ups and downs. Up:  I bought a delicious fried donut off the street for 5 cents.  Down:  My friend got diarrhea from eating fruit from the market.  Up:  Vietnamese food is awesome everywhere.  Down:  our main hotel doesn’t replace your shampoo bottle.  They actually fish out the empty bottle out of the trash and refill it partly with shampoo.  If you don’t believe me, ask Dr Walton.   I’m not making this stuff up.  Up:  Products are generally cheap as I bought a $10 dress for the banquet.  Down:  there was only one size ( women) at this particular outdoor market stall and it apparently was too small for me as I split the seam putting it on and could not get the belt around my waist.  In Saigon where they do have clothing sizes, I am a size Large.   Up:  rural Vietnam is actually quite beautiful.  Down:  them cockroaches are bigger than your average cat.  Well, I must admit,  that is an exaggeration.  They’re more the size of mice.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip and I would definitely do it again.    I’m lucky that my employer DaVita encourages us to volunteer abroad.  In previous years, doctors recalled seeing the desperation in the eyes of people who knew they weren’t going to be seen.  This year, the number of Project Vietnam clinicians seeing patients was tripled with DaVita’s involvement and we, along with the dental team, saw more than 600 to 800  patients each day.  Working in the rural areas of a 3rd world country is difficult, exciting, and fun all at once.  You re-evaluate your own life situation when you interact with people whose lives are vastly different than yours.  It’s reinvigorating to know that one can leave their comfortable American lifestyle to step into another totally different world and find that people can thrive under the simplest conditions and people can connect with each other despite language and cultural barriers.  I hope everyone can have such a memorable and transformative experience and one does not even need to work in medicine to do this.  Hint:  this is another invitation to sneak into my luggage next time.

Thank you again for your support.
Below are some pictures from the trip:  our new bathroom with flushing toilets and sinks, the elementary school, the hospital, the market where I bought my dress, the view from our bus ride, and our working conditions.
Working Conditions

Read Full Post »