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Farewell Dinner

Farewell Party Phan Rang, Vietnam-Dr. Joyce Chen, Interplast Webster Fellow.
At the farewell dinner the local government presented each of the team members with certificates of appreciation as well as colorful locally handcrafted scarfs and bags.  In total, approximately 60 people attended the gathering with toasts, music and magic tricks filling the evening festivities.  New and old friends celebrated the successful two-week visit during which more than 70 procedures were performed by the team.

Last Days in Phan Rang

Phan Rang, Vietnam-Steve Garner, Interplast volunteer plastic surgeon.
Starting to wind down. We finished all of our big cases so as to allow adequate time for safe follow-up before the team’s departure.  Delighted to report there was not even one problem during the whole trip.  There was wonderful camaraderie among all the team members.  All our patients did great and could not be more warm and appreciative.  We are taking our host Vietnamese nurses and OR staff to dinner tomorrow night to thank them for all of their hard work and support during our time here. 

Luon Five Days Post-Op

Luon post dressings Phan Rang, Vietnam-Dr. Joyce Chen, Interplast Webster Fellow.
The day Luon has been waiting for has arrived.  Five days after his surgery, Luon’s neck dressings were finally removed.  Everyone is ecstatic that there is 100% take of his skin graft.  Luon will now be able to fully extend and move his neck.  He was very emotional and appreciative of his life changing surgery.

Weekend in Nha Trang

Nha Trang Phan Rang, Vietnam-Dr. Joyce Chen, Interplast Webster Fellow.
The team spent the weekend in the coastal city of Nha Trang.  We spent our time exploring the town’s central market as well as some of the surrounding islands by boat.  Some team members even got to swim in the warm waters of the South China Sea.

Green Hammock

CleftPhan Rang, Vietnam-Dr. Joyce Chen, Interplast Webster Fellow.

Sleeping peacefully on a swinging green hammock is six-month-old Tai.  Tai had a unilateral cleft lip which Dr. Rai and I repaired.  He has done well overnight and will be ready to go home later today.

Luon Update

Luon Phan Rang, Vietnam-Dr. Joyce Chen, Interplast Webster Fellow.

Today while doing rounds in the wards we stopped by to check on Luon. He is doing great and continues to express his appreciation for the team. Next week his dressings will be removed which is something he is really looking forward to.

Patient Consultations

Patient Phan Rang, Vietnam-Dr. Joyce Chen, Interplast Webster Fellow.

In between cases the surgical team, consisting of Dr. Steve Garner (pictured center), Dr. Shankar Man Rai (pictured right) and me, offer patient consultations. Having three surgeons on the trip allows for a rich exchange of ideas, especially beneficial when discussing the treatment options for challenging patient cases.


Hands Phan Rang, Vietnam-Dr. Joyce Chen, Interplast Webster Fellow.

One of our first patients was Quang, a 13-year-old boy who was born with syndactyly (when multiple fingers are fused together) on both hands.  Dr. Shankar Man Rai, director emeritus of Interplast’s surgical outreach center in Nepal, and Interplast Webster fellow, Dr. Joyce Chen, performed the surgery to release his contracted fingers.  In order to protect Quang’s freshly placed skin grafts, Dr. Rai custom fit empty plastic bottles over the dressings, a process that was both creative and efficient.

Hospital Photos

Phan Rang, Vietnam

Here are some more photos from Jeff Speer, Interplast anesthesiology resident from Dartmouth, on his first Interplast trip (see previous blog post). 

The first photo is from the first day at the hospital, when we held clinic to evaluate patients for surgery. IMG_2578
  This other photo is the entrance to the hospital's OR.IMG_2611

First Interplast Trip

Phan Rang, Vietnam-Jeff Speer, Interplast volunteer anesthesiology resident.

IMG_2612I am an anesthesiology resident from Dartmouth on the current trip to Phan Rang. This is my first trip and it has been an absolute privilege to be part of this humanitarian effort. My teammates on this trip are amazing individuals. Our translator coordinators, "Momma Kim" and Thuohy have gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure a smooth process. As someone unfamiliar with the language and culture of Vietnam, I have learned a lot from them! I've included some photos of some memorable moments.  This photo is a little tyke waking up after anesthesia as I bring him to the PACU.


Hello from Phan Rang!

Phan Rang, Vietnam-Steve Garner, Interplast volunteer plastic surgeon.

We finished our first week of surgery with wonderful results and no problems whatsoever.  Michelle Dodge has been amazing for someone NEVER in an operating room before.  It can get a bit gnarly in there for the lay person.  Another star on the roster has been our PACU nurse hero, Jules, on his very first Interplast trip who brings a huge professional experience to the team.  We want to see him be like our fearless team leader, George, still tirelessly serving the Interplast worldwide family in his 70s!  I should have his kind of energy.  Truly amazing cumulative lifetime contribution to medicine and to charity.
We took a short rest over the weekend at a nearby town of Nhatrang on the South China Sea coast.  Fascinating open air markets with endless varieties of dried fish.  Also some kind of herbal wine with a cobra and a scorpion in the bottle.  It was described to me as Vietnamese home brew Viagra.  No comment. 
For the nice day boat ride around the harbor, our tour guide was about the same age as me and grew up in Nhatrang.  He learned English well as a boy from some US Naval officers stationed there in the 60's and 70's.  He made it through those awful wartime years in a peaceful location only to get sent two years later to fight in Cambodia.  One of only 4 out of 64 in his unit to survive an ambush.  He had to lay on the ground with a shrapnel wound in his chest feigning death so the enemy soldiers "cleaning up" didn't shoot him as they did most of his comrades laying on the ground.  We looked tearfully at each other thankful to be alive and to be sitting together having coffee.  I could not have felt more humbled and referred back to my original post regarding my feelings about going to Vietnam.
Back to another busy surgery week tomorrow.  We also are very excited to see the results of some burn and tumor reconstruction grafting we did very early in the trip to ensure safe follow-up time.  Elated to say, they are all looking GREAT.  Still hard for all of us not to worry until the patients are safely healed.  George is actively arranging even further long term care by local physicians for after we depart.
Good night!


Phan Rang, Vietnam-Michelle Dodge, Interplast Director of Finance.

Luon and his wife traveled over 40 km (24miles) from their village to be seen by the team. Luon was a corn and papaya farmer at the time of his accident. As he and his wife prepared to go to sleep, he set down his lantern on the table near his bed. While they were asleep, the wind knocked over the lantern and spilled hot oil over his chest and neck. His accident happened nearly nine months ago, and since then he has been unable to work his land because of the limited movement he has due to his burn contractures. Unable to work his land, Luon was forced to sell his property. His 16-year-old son, 13-year-old daughter and his wife all work in a local factory in order to support the family.

After his surgery, Luon told the team he could now work again and take care of cows for other farmers to once again make a living for his family. As he woke from surgery in the recovery room, he called over the translator, not for medication or for any physical complaint, but to ask her to thank the surgeons for him, to thank them with all his heart.

Ten Years with Interplast, First Interplast Trip

Phan Rang, Vietnam-Michelle Dodge, Interplast Director of Finance.

It’s amazing to meet our patients firsthand and to see all these beautiful people come to the team in need of surgery. After working with Interplast for ten years, this is my first team trip. As Interplast’s director of finance, I only have time to work on the financial aspects of Interplast. However, this experience has put the work we do into a new light, and it’s a privilege to witness where all our hard work goes. 

A Meaningful Trip

Before heading to Vietnam, Dr. Steve Garner, Interplast volunteer plastic surgeon, sent us a short email highlighting the importance his time in Vietnam would have for him. Steve is now in Phan Rang working in partnership with local medical staff, to bring reconstructive surgery to those in need:

“Vietnam will be a special trip for me. The majority of my childhood was during the Vietnam War years with agonizing war images plastered on TV, magazines, and the broken hearts of those on both sides on the conflict who suffered it in ways I cannot even imagine. I wept the day, in 1979, I received my acceptance letter to medical school because I knew I would never ever have to be sent anywhere on the planet as a combatant. To be able to go now to that same sliver of earth's Southeast Asian geography as an American citizen on a humanitarian trip is an emotional and sentinel event for me as well as a humble reminder than I am truly one of the fortunate sons.”

First Day of Surgery

Phan Rang, Vietnam-Steve Garner, Interplast volunteer plastic surgeon.

Hello from Phan Rang.  Finished our first day of surgery.  Two tables in the same room.  Patients with cleft lip and palate problems, vascular malformations and complex hand deformities.   We were at the hospital for nearly 11 hours and then went back again after dinner.  All patients safely tucked in for the night!  Some bigger burn scar contracture surgery cases tomorrow. 

Now in Phan Rang

Phan Rang, Vietnam-Steve Garner, Interplast volunteer plastic surgeon.

Greetings from Phan Rang.  All is well after our long trip and our first day of work.  We saw more than 50 patients in clinic today and set up our preliminary operative schedule.  The people are lovely, warm and appreciative.  Many cleft lip/palate cases, congenital hand deformities and severe burn scar contractures.  Almost no signs around the hospital or town are bilingual; the only good one was at the radiology department, which was called "Dept of Imaginal Studies." 

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