This is Phuong (remember him?) immediately after surgery, still under anesthesia. Thanks to the doctors' courage and dedication, his face is immensely improved - he will actually be able to use his left eye again, which, though working, was enveloped by the tumor. What really moved us was the appreciation the local doctors and nurses expressed towards the Interplast team for giving Phuong, who had been denied so many times, a chance at a normal life.
After a weekend of deliberating on how to best approach Phuong's difficult case, the doctors decided to operate on only the left side of his face, to minimize blood loss and risk of complications during surgery or post-op care.
Dr. Khundkar and Dr. Vu (host surgeon) worked on Phuong in the OR for nearly four hours. Dr. Vu is a local maxillofacial surgeon. This case was one of many times in which Interplast doctors worked together with local doctors to provide high quality care while sharing invaluable medical skills and knowledge.
My Tho, Vietnam - Phuong is a 27-year old with the largest facial tumor I have seen. In this podcast I talk about Phuong's case and how Interplast has changed his life. The tumor began to grow at age 7, and quickly took over his entire left face, enveloping his eye and ear, and clearly keeping him from living a normal life. He has had three surgeries before, but the tumor has grown back each time. Recently, no local doctors or international team visiting the area has offered to take his case, due to the risk involved with the blood loss and the need for careful post-op care. Even in the US, this case would be considered a difficult case and booked for a full day in the OR.
My Tho, Vietnam - Here is Minh Man on the left, in the ward the morning after surgery. He is feeling well and and even has some new friends, who also received new hands thanks to Interplast! The patients certainly develop a sense of community while waiting, sometimes days, in the hospital before and after surgery - we are amazed at how friendly everyone is and how well everyone has gotten to know one another while here. The Vietnamese truly keep good spirits though difficult times.
My Tho, Vietnam - Minh Man is a friendly 10 year old boy. When he was 4, his clothing caught on fire while playing in his house near a wood stove. Panicked, Minh Man ran out the door and around the block - it was ten minutes before his mother could catch him and douse the flames, by which time he was badly burned. Today, his left wrist is locked in an extremely awkward position due to the shrinking of his skin over the years, making his left hand rather useless. No Vietnamese doctors that he has seen would attempt his case, because of how difficult it would be to release his wrist to allow for full extension.
Once in the operating room, Dr. Khundkar and Dr. Nolan released Minh Man's burn contractures on his wrist to give him full extension of his wrist. They will next take a skin graft from Minh Man's abdomen to place on the open wound where his skin had shrunk.
We have seen many serious burn victims in the past week, and those team members with experience on other trips have remarked on how common burns are in the developing world, due to cooking methods and unsafe machinery and equipment.
This is Loc, an engineer who fixes cars, motorbikes and other machines. Eight months ago a gasoline explosion gravely burned his face, chest and both his arms. The burns slowly hardened and shrunk his skin, to the point where he could barely use his left hand. The doctors operated on this hand to release the burn contracture and grafted skin from his groin to his hand and wrist. He came out of anesthesia speaking English, which was quite a surprise to the recovery room nurses and translators, saying "I can work again" and "I am happy, I am happy!"
This is My Linh immediately after surgery, her cleft lip repaired by Dr. Nolan. She is under general anesthesia, but when she wakes up, she'll have a new life awaiting her.
With a reshaped lip (and hopefully next year, a repaired palate), My Linh will be able to eat and grow better. My Linh’s is a powerful story of two miracles: first, of a generous young woman who made a commitment to nurture a seriously challenged newborn girl, and second, of a foreign team of doctors who happened to come to My Linh’s neighborhood and offer their time and effort to help her live a better life.
Especially moving is the story of My Linh, a 1 year old with a cleft lip and palate, who was abandoned by her parents. A sad part of this culture is that many people in this culture feel ashamed of having a deformed baby. Three or four days after My Linh was born, her mother left her at the hospital. A stranger who was in the hospital visiting a friend saw My Linh's father, who was crying. He said he couldn't care for the child and didn't know what to do. The stranger, who was already struggling to provide for 4 children, decided to adopt her, and when she heard about Interplast, she brought My Linh to Tien Giang hospital in the hopes of giving the child a new life.
The days have been long (breakfast at 6:30 and leave the hospital around 8 or 9 PM), but this kind of story really makes our time here rewarding. It reminds us why we are here and of our goal of providing hope to people who desperately need it.
The first three days of surgery have been quite a success. It has been quite an adventure, first with 2 suitcases MIA until yesterday, then the autoclave machine going down (but now back up and running thanks to the hospital's engineer), the difficulty contacting friends and family in the States, and of course the food: fish and shrimp heads, fish sauce, squid, and all sorts of funky fruits! All of the team members' spirits are high and we have really bonded as a team towards our goal of helping these unfortunate children.
This is Van Huy. As you can tell he has a pretty intense bilateral cleft lip. He is scheduled for surgery later today and I will try to get a picture of hm after he emerges.
The patients and families have been a pleasure to work with. At right are the patients in the pre-op room being examined by Dr. Gallagher, the pediatrician. The day's 10-11 patients plus parents wait up to 12 hours in the pre-op room for their turn for surgery, sitting on the floor or sharing one of the two beds! Yet rarely have we heard any complaints or crying from the parents or children. They are all so friendly and gracious to our team members at all times. Unlike the US where many people take high quality medical care for granted, many of the families are very poor and cannot afford regular medical attention, so they are incredibly grateful that we give them any time and attention at all. It has really
moved us to see the love the parents and family show for their children by traveling long distances and wait for hours, sometimes days, so that their little ones can live better lives.
We have already performed about 40 procedures on 31 patients in 3 days. We have seen a wide range of cases, including: cleft palates and lips, eyelid ptosis (where the eyelid muscle does not function and the eye remains partially or entirely closed), some terrible arm, facial and groin burns, a tongue hemangioma where the girl's tongue was several times the normal size, and hand and foot polydactyly (extra fingers and toes) and syndactyly (webbed fingers or toes). It has been amazing for us translator/coordinators, without much medical experience, to be able to work in the OR and witness the incredible work of the surgeons, Drs. Khundkar and Nolan.
Drs. Khundkar and Nolan examined nearly 200 patients on clinic day to create a surgical schedule for the next two weeks. They looked at the patients and evaluated their needs, chance of success, and amount of time needed to perform the relevant procedures. It was a pretty exhausting day, but really fascinating.
Hello! Over the course of the next two weeks, an Interplast surgical team will be working in My Tho, Vietnam, providing life-changing surgeries for children with burns, cleft lip/palates, ptosis and other injuries and congenital deformities.
My name is Tin Ha-Ngoc, and I am one of the coordinator/translators for the Interplast team. This is my first Interplast trip, and I am very excited to be here. I hope to upload pictures and text to tell some of the stories of the children and the team, but internet access here can be a little spotty.
Interplast communications and technology coordinator Seth Mazow will call me from the Interplast office in California via Skype/Gizmo each night (morning for him), record our conversation about my day and turn it into a podcast. Here is my first interview with him about today's clinic day. This is the first Interplast trip to incorporate podcasting, and we are hoping it goes well. If you have any questions you would like to ask me or the other team members about our work here, post a comment here and I will try to answer each day.