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Vietnam update

I got another – and probably final – email from Michael this morning. I am absolutely floored by what God has done in just a few days! I will definitely post some of his pictures when he gets home…in two days!!! We can’t wait to see him again! I’m going to have to give him a really hard time about the Vodka and beer and motorcycle. 🙂 Little Baptist Boy is all grown up! I am cracking up.

…We then went over the the national pediatric hospital where we met one of the directors and one of the two neurosurgeons to assess things for the trip in February by the neurosurgeon from Richardson. I think that I found out the information that he needs and they can hammer out the specifics via e-mail with the hospital and the GVI office. I took some pictures of the OR equipment that I hope will be helpful to them.

Our time in Lao Cai was very good. On Monday, we met with the director from the ministry of health from Lao Cai province as well as the eye doctors from the 2 Lao Cai hospitals and the preventive care division that has some equipment for a mobile eye unit that they can take to the district hospitals but that they don’t have funding for right now to be able to take it and do surgery.

On Tuesday I actually toured the two hospitals and saw the mobile equipment. They have some knowledge but very limited equipment. At our meeting on Monday they were able to express the areas that they consider the most important and where they need the most help which was very good. They need both equipment and training in many areas and are very eager to set up a program with GVI. On Tuesday afternoon I gave lectures on cataract surgery and strabismus. Now that I know their level of training, I think that we can prepare more specific lectures to help teach them next time. At lunch on Tuesday the director of the main hospital in Lao Cai and some of the doctors hosted lunch at our hotel. It was very interesting as they talked the entire time and I had no idea what they were saying most of the time. I had my first Vodka as it is tradition to toast and drink at these lunches. Sherman was able to communicate for them to go easy with me since I needed a clear head for the lectures so I only had a couple of shots but he had to “take one for the team” a bit more. Luckily we had an hour break before going back to the hospital so we could all rest. But the relationships were cemented well through that lunch and lunch the next day with the Ministry of Health director and a few doctors (I only had to sip beer during the toasts at this lunch…and even toasted once myself).

On Wednesday, they wanted me to see a “few patients” to start the morning. I expected it to be 3 or 4 difficult patients but it ended up being probably 30-35 patients over about 2 hours. I saw some strabismus and they had me preparing do join them in surgery in the afternoon on an adult patient. The director later nixed that plan, which was for the best since I didn’t have my loops, they have limited instruments, I didn’t have prisms to measure her strabismus exactly, and they actually wanted me to do the surgery so they could watch and learn. My stress level was much lower after that plan was canceled. Later in the morning we had a wrap up meeting with them and talked about some of the things we could do for the next trip.

Tentatively we think the next trip will probably be in May with either me or Eric going with possibly another doctor or optomotrist if we can set it up. We hope to develop a short training course on refraction techniques that we can teach and then bring some simple equipment and instruments to donate to them to use. It’s amazing what they do without instruments that we consider so basic. We hope that we could go out to some of the poor villages and check patients with them which would aid the villagers and let the docs practice the techniques. We also talked with a local optical shop about making specific glasses for the villagers (who often can’t afford them) if we were able to bring donated frames. The Lao Cai doctors were very excited about this plan so hopefully it will go through.

There are a lot more details but I need to go. We are having dinner tonight with the PACCOM leaders that came to Northwood a couple of months ago. Apparently the restaurant that we are going to is where Laura Bush ate when she was in Vietnam. Tomorrow will be pretty free for me (my only rest day other than Sunday) until we go to the airport. Our flight leaves at 11 something Hanoi time. I’ll probably tag along with the others as they hook up with some friends, old exchange student families, etc.

Before I go, I’m not sure if I told you about going to Ta Van village for the hygiene and vision screening or not. We didn’t see as many kids as we anticipated but checked all the teachers and all the students that were present. We gave out about 20 pairs of glasses. I’ll have to tell you all about moving rocks on the road after all the rain and Andy giving me my first lesson on a motorbike (don’t worry I’m still completely intact).


And we’re still doing well at home. I have said several times today that I’m not sure how I could have survived the last two weeks without my extended “family”! We have so many great friends who have stepped up, taken my kids, fed us dinner, called me, emailed me – all very, very encouraging. The time has really flown! I know having the kids in school and being on a regular schedule has helped a lot – I don’t think I could have done this during the summer…or two years ago when we were virtually “friendless,” which is another post for another day. For now, I am even more thankful for the community of people God has placed in our lives for such a time as this.

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