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Originally uploaded by interplast
Jane Chen, Interplast trip logistics coordinator.

Fifty-three-year-old Khia had already had five operations, some performed by earlier Interplast teams, before she came to clinic day this year in Cao Lanh. Years ago she had filled an old gas tank to light a lamp, and it had promptly burst into flames. She was home alone at the time, and, because her clothes were made of satin, the fire quickly spread, and she sustained severe burns all along her arms, chest, neck and face. Until her first operation in 2007, she was not able to move her arm or to raise her head. It was a terrible time for her, and this past Thursday, the day of her surgery, Khia still teared up when she spoke of those years. However, even as she spoke of her hardship, you could see the strength and pride in her face. She raised her hand to her chest as she told our volunteer translator that even though her scars still pain her at times, she is very strong, and she is glad to be alive. Her husband of 18 years accompanied her to the hospital for her operation. He himself has issues with his eyes and high blood pressure. The mutual love they have for each other was incredibly apparent over the course of her surgery and the days afterward while she waited to have her bolster and sutures removed. She asked our doctors several times when she could be discharged, as her husband would not leave without her, but she worried that his condition would worsen if he waited. In the end, she left a couple days earlier than scheduled, with the promise to return for a follow-up on Friday. They both came back on Friday as promised, and our surgeons found that her graft was doing well. After this surgery, Khia will be able to move her neck much more freely and to raise her head. It hasn’t been an easy road for Khia, but she has come a long way.

A Different Kind of Partnership

Originally uploaded by interplast
Sandi Walsh, Interplast volunteer OR nurse.

Hello from Vietnam! After a lengthy trip here (as I missed my connecting flight in Detroit, and therefore missed the group flight), I traveled a day later by myself and finally made it to Cao Lanh. Thanks to the team for setting up O.R. without me!

It is extremely hot. It feels like it’s 100 degrees. If it weren't for our air conditioning in the O.R. and the PACU we would not be able to work as efficiently as we do. Over the past seven days, we've done over 60 cases.

Each morning we are greeted by a “than lan” (gecko) in our wash up room. I call him “ban” (my friend). He eats the insects and helps keep us bug free. Works for me!

Cao Lanh

Cao Lanh
Originally uploaded by interplast
Emma Phan, Interplast volunteer coordinator/ translator.

Cao Lanh is a quaint city and the people here are very kind and easy going. You just have to make sure you eat dinner before 8:30pm because the restaurants all close after that. The hospital staff feels like they are old friends. I’m glad to be here helping out and seeing children and their parents smiling.

First Week in Cao Lanh

Deb Rusy, Interplast volunteer anesthesiologist.

It has been an extremely busy week in Cao Lanh. We had over 150 patients in clinic, approved 82 patients for surgery, and continue to see walk-ins daily. Yesterday, twelve operative cases made for a twelve-hour day. The Vietnamese coffee kept us vigilant and efficient. All patients have done well and were smiling this morning as we did rounds to check on them. The hospital staff is gracious and hard working. Overall, the team is running smoothly, and this first week is flying by!

A Joyful Turn of Events

Chau with his mother
Originally uploaded by interplast
Erin Marlin, Interplast volunteer PACU nurse.

Six months ago there was a joyous day. Chau was born to a mother and father in a town called Tan Kieu in Vietnam. Unfortunately Chau was born with a cleft lip. When the father saw his son for the very first time, the day became very dark and grey for him. Not being pleased with what he believed a perfect baby should look like, the father took the situation into his own hands. Following the advice of his own mother, he kicked his wife, Thi Diem, out of the house and left her with a son to care for all on her own. Being a single mother at the age of 25 was not easy, and therefore, almost impossible. So Thi Diem's mother, Chau's grandmother, helped care for her daughter and the newest member of their family. On March 21 the Nguyen family (baby, mother, and grandmother) rode a bus for 2 1/2 hours to attend Interplast’s clinic in hopes for a new beginning. After 48 hours of waiting at the hospital, Chau finally had his cleft lip repaired. Watching this beautiful little boy recover in the PACU was a very joyous moment for me. However, the true highlight of today was seeing the look of pride and joy on his mother's face when she saw him for the first time. Chau was, and always will be, a beautiful baby. Six months ago, there was a very dark day. Today however, is a very good day—a day that marks a new beginning.

Global Health