I feel like I have crossed a border into two foreign countries. One, the country of Vietnam, where I am overwhelmed by the gracious, open friendliness of the people toward us, and two, the world of medicine. I have spent the last two days doing something I never would have imagined would be available to me: witnessing up close a surgical team at work - actually two surgical teams as the operating room has two tables with two teams operating simultaneously. I have observed cleft lift and cleft palate repairs, as well as burn grafts and ptosis repairs.
I have so many impressions of these two new worlds I have entered. One overriding impression is my profound mutual admiration for the Interplast team of medical professionals and their Vietnamese counterparts. The Interplast volunteers came together for the first time on the flight over and by Day 2 of the trip were functioning as a high performance team in the operating room. Not only were they adapting agilely to working with each other for the first time, they were performing surgery jointly with their Vietnamese colleagues, communicating via a translator. A key component of an Interplast trip is to enhance the surgical expertise of the in-country medical personnel. One of the first cases was very complex and difficult; the two doctors worked together to figure out the best resolution for the 10 month old patient. When they completed the surgery and shook hands across the patient, I experienced a full gamut of emotions, wanting to both cheer and weep.