Monday, June 23, 2014

Final Thank You!!!

A very special Thank You to Dean Peter Doukas, The APPE office, Faculty, Staff, Friends, Family,  and Donors. Equal Thank You to Bac Si Ha, Dr. McMahon, Dr. Sumner, Dr. Thao Nguyen and Dr. Chi Tran. Without all of your support, none of the exciting, life changing activities could have been accomplished!!! On behalf of our entire team, We are eternally grateful for your generosity!!!
This ends the third chapter of Temple University School of Pharmacy's Vietnam Mission!!!!
Time to plan for 2015!!!!!

Mission Highlights!!!! ENJOY

My Newest Family Members

Spending 30 days with student team members, in another part of the world, you gain a better appreciation for their individual personalities, strengths, and interests. Our team this year consisting of Thao Nguyen, Chi Tran, Ngoc Bui, Joy Chen, Giang Duong, Terrence Gardner, Meghan Mitchell and Dhimo Vrusho did an exceptional job. I could not be more proud of their commitment and dedication to this mission. From January, this hand-picked team worked weekly at training and preparing, above and beyond their normal school work. Together they raised over $7000.00 that was subsequently matched by a number of Mission alumni, family and friends!!!
I made this statement a few times over the past few weeks, "I can't always pick the smartest student, I can't always pick the best personalities, but what I always hope is to pick the hardest working team I can". This year I succeeded in doing just that. I worked them harder than ever, longer than ever, and was probably more difficult on them than ever. Not one of them complained. They proved that if you have genuine care and compassion, great things can be accomplished!! You are all now part of my extended family. (Not Ong (Grandpop) as they like to say, but as I like to say, a Big Brother that they can turn to in good times and bad!!!!!
Cam on Rat Nhieu for working so hard. You All Make Me Very Proud!!!!!!!

Recognition and Celebration

The mission has come to an end, too quickly if you ask me. We worked for 17.5 straight days with only 1 day off. That day was spent visiting the church as previously mentioned. 2014 was an overwhelming success. We treated 2500 registered medical patients (another 500 plus non-registered), fit 465 prosthetics, donated books and supplied for 180 school children, and provided both monetary and gift packages to all our amputees!  These numbers exceeded previous years and this years projected expectations!!
I asked our team, "How much longer could you keep up this pace, 12-13 hours a day, 100+ degrees, no days off etc....."  Answers: 1. May be another week, 2.Not a day longer. When my team asked me: Answer: "11 months per year with 1 month regrouping and rejuvenation".
Amazing how I can derive so much energy and enthusiasm for giving back to the impoverished patients in this country. I dedicate 100% of my strength, energy and passion every single day to every single patient. You learn a lot about yourself during a mission like this, and each year I grow more and more as an individual. Our contribution to this years mission was overwhelmingly successful. All the days, weeks and months of preparing and training paid off.
In my traditional final speech to our team I said:
"I must give thanks to certain people tonight. First, to Bac Si Ha. Every year and every day I work with him I gain a better appreciation of what it means to be a practitioner, a teacher and most importantly a human being. Its not only the amount of compassion that he treats the patients with, its the amount of time he spends and all with a smile on his face!!! I Thank Dr. Sumner, who I have grown to appreciate and learned a great deal of patience from. I Thank Thao, who without her administrative support, this mission would not be possible. I Thank Chi, who has been with me since the beginning of my Vietnam mission work, and has been such trust-worthy partner who volunteered 100% this year and I am very proud of!  I would like to recognize 2 teams of virtual strangers that have come together to become ONE team. One team with One Goal, similar passions, and the desire to do GOOD!!!! I am proud of everyone who dedicated all their hard work in making this mission a success"

Almost made it through without a flood of tears

Just when you think you are going to be able to complete the mission without a flood of tears taking over, you arrive at clinic to this amazing young girl. I remembered her from 2013, when we treated her for post-polio syndrome. Carried in by her mother, muscles rigid and face wincing in pain, we began our evaluation. Last year we made a recommendation for her to get a brace to fit her back, which would assist in her walking by herself and help with the rigidity. During our manipulation, our patient cried in uncomfortable pain, sending waves of emotion through my body. Still holding it together, Bac Si Ha injected her and promptly asked me to straighten and stretch her limbs. Feeling how rigid her arms and legs were, I was hesitant. However, after gentle stretching, I sensed her trying so hard to follow along with my motions. Her face was determined to completely stretch her limbs. When she finally did, and the movement was easier for her, the slightest smile came to her face. My heart absolutely broke. At that point I had to excuse myself from the clinic for a few minutes of quiet crying. I cried because there was little I could do and felt helpless, even though the look on her face became one of gratefulness.
My hope is that her mom complies with our recommendation this year. We will prepare next year to purchase certain types of braces for the different aliments that could have been helped.

Sweet Revenge as Promised

2014 Mission landed us three birthday celebrations. Dhimo, Ngoc and Chi (belated and Happy Graduation). During each, the tradition of cake smashing was prominent. As anticipated, my team laid low, waiting for few very perfect times to take revenge. First was at one of our evening Karaoke nights, where a surprise cake was delivered and quickly smashed into my face. Thanks Ngoc!!!
Second was on our final night in Saigon. A very shrewd team planned an important meeting to discuss the following days activities, Anticipating one last revenge, I knocked, stood to the side of the door and waited. When nothing happened, I entered and got too at ease. Eventually after a subtle knock on the door, I opened it to Dhimo and a handful of shaving cream!!!!   BY THE WAY, WHO BOUGHT MENTHOL!!!!!!
All in good fun, my new family took pleasure in covering me from head to toe!!!
JOB WELL DONE!!! It was well deserved!!!!

Charity donations and revisiting school

Our one day off during this medical mission takes us to a familiar place. Each year so far we have visited this church on the outskirts of Can Tho, which is also a school for the poorest children in this area. In order to qualify to attend this school, you must fall very much below the poverty line. Tuition for each child is $2 USD per month. So when one of you donate as little as $25.00 and apologize for not being able to donate more, you have just provided a years worth of education to a needy child. Historically at this school, the children have to share text books for learning. About 1 set of books per 10 children. Not the best way to learn. We decided to purchase a full set of text books for each of the 180 students who attend this school. Costing approximately $1200.00 USD, we transported the books from a small dirt road, by motor boat through a canal, and arrived to find the children eagerly awaiting our arrival. A favorite is them to sing to us, play games with us and interact with us. Well this year, more than years past, we were prepared. For the previous 4-5 days, on our 45 minute bus ride to clinic in Phuong Dien, we were taught to sing one of the popular Vietnamese Children's songs: "Bon Phung Choi"! After persistent, listening, practice, practice, practice, practice, (with nights dreaming of Bon Phung Choi) our team finally was able to sing the song. The basic premise to the song talks about "4 corners of the world coming together without boundries to help each other, regardless of background".
At this school, 3 years ago I met Thai. The by with the voice of an angel. (See blog I was hoping he would be there and yes, 3 years later he is grown into a mature young boy, who remembered sitting on my lap in 2012.
I was also blessed to see Nguyen, who I met last year. (See blog She also remembered me and zI was strategic to place myself in position to make sure I distributed the years worth of books to Nguyen.
Success today and success for a years worth of learning for our favorite children.