Quang Ngai, Vietnam – Nicole Friedland, Interplast Staff & photos by John Urban
Our team arrived in Quang Ngai late on Sunday night. The trip was grueling for the 12 surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses–some of whom traveled for more than 36 hours to volunteer for this trip. We arrived at 8:30 p.m., set up the hospital, and went to bed.
Awake at 6:30 a.m. we had the first team meeting and made our way as a full team to the hospital. We were told that about 250 patients were waiting for us and, as we made our way in to a large room, we saw indeed that hundreds of patients and their families we’re patiently waiting for our arrival. The group, made up of two surgeons, three anesthesiologists, four nurses and one pediatrician, is a seasoned group, having completed many past trips for Interplast. They quickly set up three stations where patients were screened, first by our local partner and pediatric anesthesiologist, Dr. Hien, our two surgeons, and finally by the pediatrician and trip anesthesiologists.
Every patient is initially screened to determine if they have a need for reconstructive surgery. This is an important first step because many hopeful parents will bring children with a variety of ailments, such as blindness. Our pediatrician examined everyone, but the specialty of this trip is reconstruction. After the first screening each patient was examined by the surgeons. If they determined that surgery was needed, the patient would receive his or her final examination by the pediatrician and anesthesiologist to determine that they were healthy enough for anesthesia. Patients with colds or malnutrition are at high risk under anesthesia and Interplast is, first and foremost, committed to the safety of the patient.
The hours passed and the group of waiting patients slowly diminished. At the end of our long first day, we had more than 80 patients scheduled for surgery over the next two weeks. An exhausted team made its way back to the hotel for some sleep before the first day of surgery.