Medical Team in Vietnam
When Rose Marinas and Sheri Chessani, both nurses in the intensive care unit at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia, signed up for a volunteer mission to Vietnam, they suspected they were in for an intense experience.
In April 2011, with their bags packed full of educational materials, Marinas and Chessani began their IS-hour journey to Hue, Vietnam. The nurses had volunteered to be part of a medical! surgical team, headed by Sum Tran, MD, a plastic surgeon at Henry Mayo. They were joined by Dr. Chand Khanna, also from Henry Mayo, and a team from Mount Sinai Medical Center of New York.
In all, seven plastic surgeons, one cardiologist, one pulmonologist, one family practitioner, and two registered nurses participated in the volunteer mission that provided free surgeries for 76 patients with multiple surgical complex problems, and medical treatment for more than 500 patients (including 50 heart catherizations).
"I always wanted to go on a humanitarian mission and this was the right time to go," said Chessani, who, along with all the volunteers participating in the mission, paid all her own travel and living expenses. "It's good to give something back."
Chessani and Marinas taught CPR to medical students and nurses at Hue College of Medicine. They lectured on infection control, safety protocol, pre-op and post-op care and pain control, and assisted in the ICU at Hue Central Hospital, a 1,600-bed Dr. Tran also started a preschool after he noticed unsupervised children playing in the streets. The Trantien Foundation carries out his family's tradition of providing medical care and supportive social services to the underprivileged in Hue. facility. In addition, they assisted in the village's free clinic while the team's plastic surgeons performed surgeries at the hospitals. Surgical cases were preselected based on critical need. Most surgeries were reconstructive for cleft palates, cleft lip repair, burns, club feet and hands, birth defects in children, and motorcycle accident cases.
"It was shocking to see all the people lined up, waiting to be selected for surgery," Marinas said. "If the surgeries could be done, then the doctors would do them. Dr. Tran performed surgeries from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. He never stopped, he just kept going."
While Chessani and Marinas assisted in the ICU, they observed major differences in the way cases were handled considering the very limited resources in the Hue hospitals.
"There was not much technology or equipment. Despite the shortages, people were creative and resourceful under very poor conditions," Chessani said. "They improvised in some interesting ways. For example, since there were no biohazard containers, they used empty water bottles as containers to throw away dirty needles. They did their best with what they had." She explained that since there were not enough nurses (12 ICU patients for each nurse in Hue compared to 2 ICU patients for each nurse at Henry Mayo) patients' families took care of their loved ones by bringing them food and seeing to their needs.
In addition to assisting in the village's free clinic and the ICU at Hue Central Hospital, Sheri Chessani (left) and Rose Marinas (center, in blue scrubs) offered lectures on pre-op and postop care, infection control, safety protocol, and pain control, and taught CPR to medical students and nurses at Hue College of Medicine lCU patients for each nurse at Henry Mayo) patients' families took care of their loved ones by bringing them food and seeing to their needs.
During lecture sessions, Chessani noted that local nurses and doctors were like sponges, absorbing all the new knowledge the Henry Mayo nurses presented. And despite the language barriers, all the people were very gentle and kind and had no trouble communicating their appreciation and gratitude, she said.
Chessani and Marinas had nothing but praise for their experience calling it an "eye-opener." Chessani noted that in addition to leading the medical missions, Dr. Tran, with the assistance of family members and friends in Hue, opened a free clinic, which has seen more than 30,000 patients in the past seven years. He also started a preschool after he noticed unsupervised children playing in the streets.
"Dr. Tran is our hero," she said. This was a rewarding and humbling experience. We don't realize how great we have it in the U.S.A."
On medical staff at Henry Mayo since 1984, Dr. Tran, who came to the United States in 1975 as a refugee, started conducting surgical missions to Hue, his home village, in 2007. He established the Trantien Foundation to carry out his family's tradition of providing medical care and supportive social services to the underprivileged and underserved in Hue since 2005.
"Now that I am semi-retired, I can pay back the Vietnam community," he said. "It's time I paid back my people."
In addition to the surgeries, his team presented a seminar about plastic reconstructive surgery to 40 local surgeons; a seminar about chest medicine and cardiology to 50 local physicians; and a lecture to 120 nurses about nursing care.
"Part of the mission is to help the people there with knowledge," Dr. Tran said: "They are 10 to 15 years behind. We showed them [local doctors] the procedures and taught them the technique. This was on-the-job training for them."
His team saw about 150 patients who needed plastic surgery. They selected 76 of the most difficult and needy cases. The 2011 mission was the first time he included nurses on his medical team, and it is something he would like to continue.
"I was so happy with contributions from Sheri and Rose, they are exceptionally skillful and compassionate nurses," he said. "There is a lot of need for nurses to go there and teach the care of patients. There are so many ICU patients."
Dr. Tran is already planning the next mission for April 7, 2012. He will soon start the process of arranging government permission for foreign travelers. There will be a cultural festival in Hue at that time, so the process must be started early. For more information or if you are interested in joining the team, please call Dr. Tran at 661-253-2211 or visit www. trantienfoundation.org.
ABOUT HENRY MAYO - Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital is a 227 bed not-for-profit acute care hospital serving the Santa Clarita Valley since 1975. Services include trauma, emergency, intensive care, maternity, surgery, nursing, wound care, behavioral health, and acute rehab, as well as cancer, cardiology, imaging, lab, digestive, respiratory services and physical and occupational therapies. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital is located at 23845 McBean Parkway, Valencia, CA 91355-2083. For more information, visit www.henrymayo.com or call 661-253-8000.