My job on this trip is to photographically document projects by MEDRIX, the charitable group we have worked with for the past three years. MEDRIX is involved in health issues and safe water.
This is the fourth year the Mystery Guest Blogger has taught a course in English medical terminology to the doctors at Hue Central Hospital. She loves it! For a nurse/teacher, there is nothing quite so enjoyable as an eager and hardworking group of learners. The doctors already can read and speak English – they need to know the technical medical words (and how to pronounce them) so they can stay current in their fields and attend medical conferences. English is the common tongue of business and medicine in the world – the Vietnamese desire to learn English has nothing to do with wanting to be more western.
For the ten student nurses on this trip from Seattle Pacific University, this was a learning experience. They are doing their “clinical rotations” (practical experience) in pediatrics and public health. Americans like to think when they go on trips to third world countries that they will be teaching the local population, but in this case, the American students are under the tutelage of Vietnamese physicians. The pediatrics department is housed in a new and modern building, though not quite like an American hospital. For instance, there are eight beds in a room – and the beds are adult beds because the mothers will be with their children all the time. Note that there aren’t guard rails on the beds, nor is the room air conditioned. The noise level is very high, privacy unknown, and a common bathroom for all. Nonetheless, the facilities are clean and well maintained.
And the students work with patients. This mother is a member of one of the hill tribes in the mountains (what American soldiers used to call Montagnards) who is very very poor – so poor, she ate nothing but cassava during her pregnancy. This is her fourth child: the first is dead, the second has cerebral palsy, the third is mentally retarded, and this one has a malformed heart valve that doesn’t return enough oxygenated blood to the body. The baby’s cleft palate makes him unable to nurse, forcing the mother to try to feed him with a spoon. The infant is not expected to survive.
This mother ponders her baby’s future. The doctors have just left the bedside and she has learned the child’s digestive tract doesn’t allow enough nourishment for growth. While Viet Nam’s economy has boomed in recent years, wealth hasn’t spread quickly to the countryside. Health care is not free in Viet Nam, though the very poor are cared for regardless of ability to pay. Mom may be wondering how she will pay for the necessary surgery.
As I write this, I am in the mountains. The students are now being paired with Vietnamese student nurses and will be working in village clinics and visiting home bound patients. I’ll keep you posted.