Blog Wrap-Up: 8G Video! + Fundraising for 9G + Crazy Cool Open Heart Surgery Gif

8G Video

It’s been two weeks since we returned from our trip but we’re still bathing in the afterglow. And now, we have a video to reignite the fire that 8G put in our hearts! Check out the video below to witness some of the wonderful moments from our mission:

Filmed by Long. Edited by Long and Nick.

If you would like to see more MEMO-related footage, including past trips, check out our MEMO Non-Profit YouTube Channel here and our Facebook page here!

Fundraising Has Already Started for 9G!

While the end of the 8G trip signals the end of the 8G-era, our new 2014-2015 Non-Profit board has already begun working to make the next trip, 9G, even better than this year. To start, we have set up an easy way for our supporters to give a few dollars to our cause throughout the year: Crowdrise for MEMO. A link in the banner above called “How To Donate” is also available to access this fundraising page.

As you all know, 100% of the donations go straight to our programs. For an idea of what the money can buy:

$9 = 1 Hepatitis B vaccination for life
$60 = 1 whole year of schooling for a child
$3,000 = 1 heart surgery for a child with congenital heart problems

Clearly, even $10 will change the life of a person in need. Feel free to share our page! We can use all the help we can get!

Beating Heart Ready for Surgery

Technology these days is amazing. One of our MEMObers, Yvonne, was able to capture the still-beating heart of one of the heart surgery patients in a moving picture (a gif). During this particular shadowing opportunity, the doctors had prepped the patient for his surgery, but had yet to stop the heart because one of the main surgeons had yet to arrive. Thus, we were able to see the human heart doing its great work before it got fixed (in this case, there was a hole between the ventricles, allowing oxygenated and deoxygenated blood to mix inside the heart). Other MEMObers who witnessed other surgeries usually came in after the heart was already stopped, so being able to see a real working heart was a particularly special experience. Click “more…” below to see the amazing gif.

Thank You!

We want to thank you, dear reader, for keeping up with us on our journey these past few weeks. Thank you for worrying about us when we weren’t able to update for a few days in the middle. Thank you for giving us your positive feedback and making us feel loved. And most of all, thank you for being a friend of MEMO. Without you, there would be no trip, and this blog would not exist for you to enjoy. We would not have learned all we have and touched the lives we did. And so with you, we were able to make the world just a little bit brighter.

We hope you stick around to support MEMO’s next mission trip, 9G! I know I’m looking forward to seeing what else we can do for the wonderful people of Vietnam! It’s sooo going on the blog ;]

Written by Crystal.

A few of the blog posts are still incomplete, so keep checking back for additional personal posts, pictures of our MEMObers, and more!

(more…)

Ngày 12: Enlightenment (Ky Quang Orphanage/Temple)

The multi-colored flags signaled the establishment’s devotion to Buddhism. Photo by Crystal.

I smiled at her as I slipped my index finger into her tiny palm. She grabbed onto it and my heart melted a little more. “Look,” Dr. Belville said, “When you put your finger here they’ll grasp it.” He held his finger up to her hand and she grabbed on. “They can still sense things. It’s just that their brain had packed up and left.” I looked back at the baby and couldn’t help but feel an immense amount of empathy towards the one year old child in front of me. We’re all born with a few flaws here and there, but this child definitely got the shortest end of the stick.

Recap

“This temple gives me hope,” Cassia said. On our last day in Vietnam was spent at Ky Quang Orphanage and Temple in Thành Lộc, Sài Gòn. The temple is home to several orphans with disabilities and it surely left something in all of our hearts by the end of the day.

We arrived at the orphanage at 1PM after lunch and checking out of the hotel. We all marveled at the statues at the temple when we first got there. We settle down and took out toys for the kids. As we handed out the toys, the children smiled at us and with each smile, something special was indented into our hearts. In contrast with the other orphanage we visited on this trip, this orphanage housed many more mentally and physically disabled children, many severely so. For me personally, it was a realization of how beautiful of an organization this temple is. To take children of all shape and sizes and raise them to the best of their abilities, it was truly amazing to see the dedication and care from the staff at the orphanage. Similar to what Cassia said, this temple does give me hope. It allowed me to see the brighter side of mankind, the kindness and caring that we are able to show to those in need. Our MEMObers got a chance to play with the kids and they were adorable as any other children out there. One was a really big hugger while another would not let go of you when you picked him up. The kids loved the toys and it made me extremely happy that I could be part of their happiness.

The day ended after a few hours of playing with the kids and an exploration of the main temple shrine. We headed to a Parkson near the airport and spend hour last hours in Vietnam there before dinner. After dinner, we headed to the airport and said goodbye to a few members who are staying back in Vietnam. It was truly a life changing trip. As I’m sitting here, reflecting on my year with UCLA’s MEMO and my two weeks with my 8G family, it was an extremely humbling experience. And in a sense, I felt as if I’ve reach a sense of enlightenment on the trip; it’s both an insight about myself and the world around me.

Impact

  • toys were donated to the kids at Ky Quang Orphanage
  • monetary donations were made as well

Impact Made on our MEMObers

“Every child is a miracle. But the bigger miracle is how these children are born everyday fighters: fighting to stand up straight, to process what others are saying, and to breathe. When the fight each day is between your physical being and your willingness to live, the fight becomes real. When the fear that your next breath is not guaranteed, the fight becomes more than just a fight, it becomes a battle. I admire these kids, the way their willingness works. The strength that it takes to keep moving forward–bravo.”
by Kristina

Snapshots

The temple had stunning architecture. Photo by Julian. 

Miles playing with the kids. Photo by Vanessa Lee

Smiles left and right ^_^ Photo by Vanessa Lee

Dr. Belville teaches our MEMObers about hydrocephalus, a condition that results in the abnormal growth of the head and consequent cognitive disabilities. The temple cared for a number of children with this condition. Photo by Julian.

Our MEMObers were heartbroken to learn that these children with advanced stages of hydrocephalus were too far along to be saved, but we tried our best to make what was left of their lives joyful. Photo by Julian.

Vivian and a child from the orphanage. Photo by Julian.

Papa Simon and Mama Kat. Photo by Vanessa Lee

Selfies with the kids are a must! Photo by Ailin Ko

 

The hugger! Photo by Hugh Huynh

He was pretty happy to see Dr. Belville. Photo by Julian

haha, Hi Hugh! photo by Julian

Duy and The Hugger! Photo by Julian

Aren’t they precious? Photo by Julian

Chilling with the kids. Photo by Brandon Dao

The temple’s scenery. Photo by Vanessa Lee

Inside the main shrine of Ky Quang Temple. Photo by Long Nguyen

Can you tell what the fashion trend was during our trip? MEMObers take one last group photo (with Chu Loi’s adorable family in the very front) before getting on the bus and heading to the airport. Photo provided by Julian.

8G officers say good-bye to Chu Loi. Thank you so much for your help and see you next year! Photo provided by Julian.

Anh Phuc (center) also came to see us off at the airport. We’re looking forward to working with you again next year! Photo provided by Julian.

 

– Personal perspectives and Featured MEMObers coming soon –

Ngày 11: Leaving Our Mark in Kiên Giang (2nd Day of Medical Clinic)

The whole clinic team: MEMO, Vietnamese medical students, Vietnamese doctors, and our university hospital liaisons. Photo from Nguyễn Hoàng Định.

Recap

Our second day of clinic took place in An Sơn. The nice thing about being only a five minute walk away from our clinic was that we got to wake up at 6 AM (or later, if we wanted to skip breakfast) to make it to the clinic by 7 AM. It was also exciting thinking that the people we had already seen walking around the town or at the get-together the night before would also be present at the clinic. This thought strengthened our connection to the community we were about to serve.

We walked over to the clinic site, which was the same place we sang and danced with the medical students and locals the night before, and helped set up the clinic in order to open at 7:30 AM. For the last time, our 8G MEMObers assisted with patient intake, took blood pressure and pulse at the triage station, pricked fingers at the glucose and cholesterol station, helped relieve back pain in the physical therapy room, performed EKGs and ultrasound examinations with the help of Drs. Duy and Belville, assisted the local dentists with dental procedures, prepared medications at the pharmacy stop, and led patients around the clinic to their next examination.

The number of patients admitted had to be capped near 400 around 10 AM in order to ensure that everyone who had come in that day could be seen through to the end of their visit, and by 11:30 AM, it was time for MEMO to depart. The medical students and local health professionals stayed to finish up the last of the prescriptions and dental work, but as we were the ones who supplied the EKG and ultrasound machines and provided physical therapy, those services had to stop. The day ended much too soon, but there was only one boat available to take us back to the mainland, and it would leave at noon, so we had to hurry!

We went back to our motel and had only a few minutes to change out of our scrubs into something more comfortable for the 9+ hour journey back to Sài Gòn. We got to the boat just in time, and made the nearly 3-hour speed boat trip back to our beloved bus, which was waiting for us at the shore. On our way back to Sài Gòn, we stopped by a crocodile-themed restaurant which featured ̣(literally?) tons of live crocodiles and beautiful sights in a surreal restaurant experience. While the crocodile curry was a new experience for everyone, I think the most popular thing there was ice cream!

We finished our trip back to Sài Gòn at 11:30 PM. We got new rooms with some new roommates, and most of us immediately showered and flopped down to sleep in our last night in Việt Nam, happy to once again have air conditioning, private bathrooms with separate toliets, sinks, and showers, and real mattresses.

Impact

  • an additional 400 patients were seen during this second clinic day

Personal Reflection
by Duy

Fans, western toilets, and electricity. Never in my life had I been more thankful for these amenities. When we arrived in An Sơn, we had just completed our first clinic day after a unique experience on the last island. Being without clean drinking water, air conditioning, and beds had left us all a little haggard and worn. Some of our scrubs were literally white from the salt of our sweat. After checking in to our “motel” in An Sơn, many of us took our first shower in 48 hours. It was that moment when we collectively all looked at each other and breathed a sigh of relief that I realized how spoiled my life was. Things that we had taken for granted, such as running water and electricity, were godsends in Vietnam. I think I can safely say that we all learned to appreciate the simple pleasure of a cold bath after a long day of work.

That is not to say An Sơn and the island were without their own unique beauties. The night sky gleaming with innumerable stars seemed otherworldly, as if someone had created a CG backdrop for our adventure. Only this time, it was real. Waking up in the morning and gazing out at the harbor with the sun rising was simply too stunning for any photograph to possibly capture.

Our night in An Son culminated in a night of song and dance at the school where we were to hold our second health clinic. The dances the students taught us seemed to be more akin to sports stretches or calisthenics; eschewing grace and form for energy and good-natured silliness. Regardless of the massive confusion on our parts due to the language barrier, I think it’s safe to say that all parties involved had fun. We got to play games and dance around with many of the university medical students who would be working with us the next day and I at least felt a little closer to my homeland. There were… some songs that were sung… hopefully no recordings were taken. An anonymous source tells me that the singer has retired from his career out of sheer embarrassment and has decided to focus more on freestyle rapping instead. (Editor’s note: Duy was the singer.)

The next morning, the 8G team set out for the school to hold our second and final health clinic. I was placed into the crowd control team and after a quick rundown by Julian, we were all set to work. I was stationed in the patient examination room, where the Vietnamese doctors waited at tables to see every patient that visited the clinic, after which I would lead them to their next destination. All of the doctors spoke reasonable English and were more than willing to give us hands-on experience with patient examination. One of the doctors had me use his stethoscope to listen to a patient’s breathing and heart rate. There is something strangely exciting about working with people. In books, we memorize that ordinary heart rates are 60-90 beats per minute (as I learned in Vietnam) and that when listening to a patient’s breathing you should pay close attention to wheezes or whistles. But, nothing can come close to actually placing the stethoscope in your ears, asking the patient to breathe in and out slowly, and hearing (or in my case hoping to hear) the lungs expand and contract.

Working in crowd control was also a lesson in improvisation. In the beginning there was a bottleneck into the patient evaluation room as everyone wanted to see the doctor as soon as possible. Luckily, the Vietnamese medical students who were assisting us were able to acquire a few benches and a megaphone and began directing traffic into the evaluation room using numbered lots. Then, an issue came up at the physical therapy station. Patients were being directed to physical therapy, but then had no idea where to go after, which was usually pharmacy. The solution: a MEMO member was stationed at the physical therapy room and their sole job was to take patients to the pharmacy station. After this, more help was required at the blood pressure station, so Curtis was recruited to assist there. Natalie, with her extensive Vietnamese vocabulary of five words, was then stationed in front of the ultrasound room and was tasked with controlling patient flow into one of the busiest areas. Much to my amazement, using only hand signals and bác sĩ (“doctor” in Vietnamese), Natalie was able to manage tens of patients at a time as to not overwhelm Dr. Belville and Johnny, who were running the ultrasound examinations. All in all, the second clinic was really a testament to the flexibility and confidence of the 8G team. Despite having only five minutes of instruction, all of the MEMO members worked efficiently to run the health clinic. Everyone jumped into their roles and completed their tasks without complaint or hiccup. It really made me proud to say that I was a part of this team seeing how satisfied the patients were when they left.

Snapshots

The triage station is the first place patients go after getting their admittance papers. Crystal, Yvonne, and Vivian, alongside several medical students, took blood pressures and pulses of every patient who came in. Photo by Long.

Kim checks the glucose and cholesterol levels of a patient at the blood testing station. Photo by Long.

Kevin and Simon, as part of the Dental Team, help the dentists by cleaning the instruments after each use. Photo by Long.

Vanessa assists the Vietnamese dentists during dental examinations. Photo by Long.

Truman, tasked with Crowd Control for this day, carefully leads a patient to her next destination at the clinic. Photo by Long.

Brian, Elaine, Nancy, and Brittany prepare prescriptions for the patients as part of the Pharmacy unit. Photo by Crystal.

Patients wait to hear their names called by the medical students at the pharmacy station. Photo by Crystal.

Vietnamese doctors work quickly to diagnose the patients at the clinic. Photo by Crystal.

Mandy and Duy, part of Crowd Control, stand by the patients in the Examination room, ready to take them to their next destination. Photo by Crystal.

Patients wait to be examined by the doctors. Photo by Crystal.

Patients wait to be seen in the shade of a tree. Photo by Crystal.

Johnny, along with Drs. Belville and Duy, work together to diagnose a patient using our portable ultrasound machine. Photo by Crystal.

Miles and Nick, trained in using the EKG machines, have just prepared a man for a reading. Photo by Crystal.

Dylan, one of our three MEMObers trained for our new Physical Therapy program, performs the exercises alongside the patient and counts off the time to hold position. Photo by Crystal.

The medical students call the next patients to receive their prescriptions. Photo by Crystal.

Anh Phuc and Chu Loi, our hospital liaisons, take a little break from being amazing. Photo by Crystal.

Written by Crystal.

Featured MEMObers coming soon!

Ngày 10: This Is It (1st Day of Medical Clinic)

The first day of clinic started with a beautiful sunrise. Photo by Kristina.

Một cây làm chẳng nên non
Ba cây chụm lại nên hòn núi cao.

Recap

4:45AM: Wake up
5:30AM: Meet up at Co Kim’s home-stay
6:00AM: Be on the boat to head to the clinic’s island
7:00AM: Get there, eaten, and be ready to set up for clinic
7:30AM: First day of clinic begins

This was the first day of clinic; this was what the majority of our trip’s purpose had came to. After a whole day of simply trying to survive on the home-stay island, we were all still filled with excitement and anticipation for the first clinic day. It was kind of like the first day of school (or for me at least), where all this preparation of school supplies and knowledge and expectations of the first day of school finally comes true.

Officers, the ultrasound team, and some team leaders were on the first boat to head out to the clinic’s island (to help set up) and all our other members followed after. When we all meet up at the clinic’s location, we headed straight to work. Dental team jumped into their gowns and gears, eager to help the dentists. Ultrasound machines were all ready and set up to go; the team performed abdominal check-ups as Dr. Belville supervised and monitored their scans or scanned the patients himself when necessary. EKG team was hooking patients after patients to the EKG machines, working nonstop. Pharmacy worked side by side with the UMC students as they organize and packed prescriptions, one after another. Crowd control carefully directed every patient to their designated areas, helping the patient with whatever concern they might have. Triage measured the blood pressure of one patient after another without minding the extremely hot summer sun. Glucose worked effectively as they took the blood of each patient and tested it for glucose and cholesterol. And last but not least, intake had one patient after another, lined up for the clinic that they’ve been waiting for since sunrise.

And within all the mumble-jumble and hectic running around and trying to find more alcohol wipes and seeing one patient after another, I couldn’t be more energetic for the first day of clinic. We worked from 7:30AM to 1:30PM, 6 hours of nonstop direct patient interactions. As crazy as it all sounds, our members loved every minute of it; we can finally see the direct impact that we’re making on these patients and their lives.

After lunch, we waited for an hour for the boat to travel to An Son Island for our second clinic day. We checked into a nearby motel and settle down. It was amazing to see running water and an actual toilet for two days! Once everyone was washed up, we had dinner and enjoyed a night out with the UMC students. It was an extremely heartwarming way to end such a long day.

Impact

  • We helped approximately 500 patients on our first day of clinic, with many receiving dental care, access to our pharmacy, and check-ups with local doctors.
  • our physical therapy program, the brainchild of Long Co Nguyen just days before, debuted at this clinic. MEMObers Julie, Dylan, and Sam were trained on a few moves to teach the patients.

Personal Reflection
by Sam

I started out going on the 8G mission trip with high spirits, upbeat anticipation, and of course motivation to do good unto others. It wasn’t until the weekend before our voyage that I received an email detailing a 3-person team to pioneer a physical therapy booth into the clinic. To be honest, I felt as if I had been struck by a potato from absolutely nowhere. First off – physical therapy? I had no idea what this meant and even after reviewing the material I remained skeptical of its practicality. Sure, stretching has its place, but would the elderly Vietnamese laborers have the flexibility to preform even the simplest of movements? I figured I would just work through the movements and roll with the punches.

Come clinic day. The room sweltering in moist blanketed heat certainly took its toll early on. Already before the first patient, tiredness massaged deep into my body. Keep in mind that I spoke Vietnamese on the level of a circus bear; loud incoherent growls aimed at conveying the only phrase I knew: “I don’t speak Vietnamese”. Julie translated while my job, much like the circus bear, was to perform the various acrobatic movements so the patients could understand what they would need to do. On top of that, I caressed each patient making sure they held posture. So when the first patients streamed in, I stood quietly in the corner smiling awkwardly while focusing really hard on what I should do with my hands. I probably just smiled and waved.

Most of the patients were in between middle aged and elderly. All had sun damaged skin burnt brown wrapped around worn smiles and bodily aches ranging from everywhere under the shoulders. Some held frail frames that the phrase “skin and bones” would take on a literal illustration. Others tipped the opposite side of the scale. Handfuls of the younger patients understood the movements from just one demonstration. The majority of the older patients took multiple tries to properly flow through a single movement. But to my surprise, these aged Vietnamese folk could actually bend and flex their bodies. Perhaps PT would really work after all.

I won’t sugar coat my experience. A vast majority of the patients left hastily as they did not want to wait in line for their medications or ultrasounds. Few thanked us and even fewer seemed genuinely pleased with our session. But for all it was worth, if these hardworking people practice their exercises they will see results. The gratification will not be instant, but I believe good things come to those who struggle. I think the lesson buried beneath layers of sweat and bug spray sang along the lines of this: helping others means willing to endure hardships without gratitude so that at the end of the day, they come out stronger. And as someone who wants to end his trip as he started with high spirits and upbeat anticipation; this is exactly what doing good unto others must feel like.

Snapshots

8Ger’s setting out at 6AM. Photo by Duyen.

Photo by Hugh.

We’ve traveled by air, land, and sea. Photo by Hugh.

Yvonne at breakfast. Getting ready for a full day of work. Photo by Vanessa.

Patients line up to be seen at the clinic. Photo by Long.

Dentist team, hard at work. Photo by Kevin.

Julie and Sam teaching a patient stretches from our new PT program. Photo by Julian.

The excitement of clinic days. Photo by Julian

Duyen and Brandon, hard at work for glucose. Photo by Julian

Thao, Cassia, Brittany, and Kat at pharmacy. Photo by Julian

Johnny and Mandy working nonstop at the ECG machine. Photo by Julian

Truman, Duy, and Curtis helping out the dentist at the Dental Station. Photo by Julian

Yvonne, Kristine, and a volunteer helping out with patient intake. Photo by Julian.

Julian, Danny, and Vivian working hard in the blazing sun at triage. Photo by Julian

Photo by Julian

The halls were filled with patients! Photo by Julian

Vanessa performing an ultrasound scan on a patient with the supervision of Dr. Belville. Photo by Julian

The view of An Son island’s shore from our motel. Photo by Johnny.

Duy’s performance at our “bonfire” with UMC’s students. Photo by Johnny.

Featured MEMObers coming soon!

Ngày 8: Child’s Play (Thiên Bình Orphanage Day)

Kristine playing Red Light, Green Light with the kids. Photo by Johnny.

“Um, red light!” Kristine yelled out. Some kids twitched from their frozen position before and other called them out for doing so. Even some of our MEMObers were caught and moved to the starting line. The 8Ger’s played with these young and bright children from Thiên Bình Orphanage under the beautiful bamboo trees in the front yard. The shade casted by the tree gave the children a nice and cool area to play under the clear blue sky.

Recap

We reached Thiên Bình Orphanage around 9 AM and we were super stoked to play with the kids. The trip took a while, but it was definitely worth it when we saw the bright and shiny smiles on their faces. The scenery of the place was unforgettable. Children running carelessly under the bamboo trees, laughter ringing in the air when stuffed animals were being handed out, and a keen sense of curiosity floating through the minds of the children, wondering who we are and why we were there.

Settling in with the kids took a while because they were shy at first, but after we all got to know them, the kids played with us like we’ve been there more than once. Some of us played soccer, others played random games, but we all ran around under the sun laughing and having a good time. There was a nursery full of infants and toddlers further in the orphanage and that’s where a few of us spent a majority of our time. Mama’s and Papa’s became added to the front of our names as we claimed a baby as ours and played with the precious thing until we left.

The orphanage provided us lunch (which some MEMObers helped prepared) and after a heartwarming meal, we played with the kids some more until 2pm. Being at the orphanage opened a lot of our eyes to how simple the lives of these children were. All they needed was a shelter, food, and some love and care. The world was their playground as they came up with creative ways to play with one soccer ball.

By the end of the day, we left the orphanage with handmade keychains that we bought from the kids and a heap load of memories and pictures on our phones. They were truly adorable and I admire how they’re always so energetic and loving towards us. It was a great way to jumpstart the traveling portion of our trip.

Impact

  • toys, food, and $1,000 were donated to the children at the orphanage
  • MEMO sponsored a birthday party of every child at the orphanage

Personal Reflection
by Kristine

Visiting Thiên Bình was one of my favorite memories from 8G by far! I was lucky enough to personally interact with many of the babies, toddlers, and teenagers from the orphanage. At first when my fellow 8Gers and I arrived, the kids were pretty shy and refused to give us eye contact (or they were just indifferent – pretty sure the toddlers had no idea what was going on). After we bribed them with candy and stuffed animals, they decided to give us a chance. One of the older kids (I think he was about 19 or 20) gathered up all of those who were around six-years-old and up to play games. As they began to form a circle, they were singing songs that I recognized from my church scouts, which actually made me super happy because I felt like I was in my element at Thiếu Nhi. After that I went into Huynh Trưởng mode as a few of the 8G guys and I led activities such as 7-up; duck, duck, goose; freeze tag; red light, green light; and tug-of-war. It was very heartwarming to see how the kids interacted with each other. They were practically siblings as they lovingly teased one another, celebrated as a team when they won, or comforted their crying peers whenever someone accidentally got hurt. They actually reminded me a lot of myself when I was their age, and I realized that we weren’t so different after all. I loved how these kids were witty and sassy but they also had good manners. They would bow when appropriate, called me Chị (sister), and replied to everything with a cảm ơn (thank you) or a dạ (yes, sister). After awhile, I left my 8G homies to play soccer with the older kids because I pretty much suck at any sport that required balls (for realz).

I wandered off further into the orphanage area, curious to see what else I would find. I came across a bunch of toddlers, waddling around in a fenced area, and I asked the supervising lady if I could come in. She was more than happy to accept my help. [I later found out that all the workers here were volunteers who agreed to live at the orphanage to help the children; these people were seriously such saints.] As soon as I stepped in, two little boys were hyperactively jumping up and down, signaling for me to pick them up in each arm as two other kids held onto my legs. At that moment, I kind of understood how my grandma felt raising seven kids (just playing). I realized that all the toddlers really wanted was some attention and affection, but there were so many of them and only one me, so I called a group of my friends over to help. They were really fascinated with my name tag and hair, and they really liked it when I sang to them Vietnamese pop songs (although I only knew every other word). After about half an hour, it was time for them to eat and nap, so we let them be and left to enjoy lunch with the older kids and the rest of our group.

After we cleaned up after ourselves, the 8Gers had a little more than an hour left at the orphanage, so I decided to visit the nursery because I heard so many great things about it from my friends. There were babies everywhere! My heart was melting from the overload of cuteness and I wanted to play with each and every single one of them. However, there was this crying baby boy (ten months?) who really caught my attention. My friends tried to calm him down, but he just kept on screaming so I decided to put my instinctive motherly skills to the test. After holding and singing church songs to him, he calmed down and I was actually really proud of myself. The more I held him, the more he started to smile (and drool), and I realized that he was actually a very happy baby – my favorite type of baby! And so I spent the rest of my time at the orphanage playing with him, doing silly things to make him laugh. In that short amount of time, I fell in love with him… and I didn’t even get his name! It broke my heart when I had to leave him, and my friend jokingly said that I should just stay here and he’d pick me up in a few hours (I actually wanted to take him up on his offer). Before I returned to the bus to depart, I donated money to the treasurer of Thiên Bình because if any place deserved it, it would be this place. Although these kids didn’t have much, they were content. They were grateful for all of their gifts and for our company. They had such a bright perspective about everything and their faces were always smiling. The children at this orphanage were truly inspirational. They’ve come a long way and I hope MEMO continues to offer them aid. As I walked towards the bus, I shouted to the older kids to nhớ học giỏi (do well in school), and their faces split into huge grins as they replied, “Dạ, chị!” When the bus began to move, the kids continued to wave at us, and some even tried to playfully run after us. That image will always be engraved in my mind. I truly hope to come back here one day, to continue to help them. Maybe I’ll fall in love again and adopt from here in the future because all of these children deserve their shot at happiness, and I’d be so honored to be a part of that if I could.

Snapshots

(left to right) Thao, Cassia, Elaine, Kat, and Vivian standing next to the food that we’ donated to the orphanage. Photo by Long.

Julian with one of the children from the orphanage. Photo by Long.

Vanessa and one of the babies from the orphanage. Photo by Long.

Kristine playing with the kids. Photo by Long.

Seflie time! Photo by Long.

Some of the MEMObers played soccer with the boys. Photo by Julian.

D’awh. Photo by Julian.

Say cheese! Mandy hangs out with one of the young ones. Photo by Julian.

Mama Elaine, Mama Julie, and Papa Long spend some time in the nursery. Photo by Duyen.

Simon, Duy, Kevin, and Nick hang out with the older boys. Photo by Julian

Long, Natalie, and Nancy with some of the older kids at the orphanage. Photo by Julian

hehe hi Truman. Photo by Julian/

Written by Kristina.

Featured MEMObers

(left to right) Elaine, Cassia, and Mandy

Elaine
School: UCSD
Major: Pharmacological Chemistry
Why 8G?: From the moment I heard about the mission trip to Vietnam I wanted to be a part of it. Not only was it a chance to revisit my homeland for the first time in 16 years and immerse myself in my own culture, but I felt the need to do whatever I could to provide help to the country from which my parents originated. In addition, it seemed exciting to be working in a close team with similar goals, as well as medical professionals.

Cassia
School: UCLA
Major: Psychobiology
Why 8G?: I have heard many great stories from previous mission goers on how insightful the experience was for them and wanted to see for myself. I wanted to gain a deeper understanding what goes on around the world medically and receive some hands-on experience that I cannot get in a traditional classroom setting. I hope I had helped change someone’s life from this trip because this trip definitely changed mine.

Mandy
School: UCI
Major: Biological Sciences
Why 8G?: MEMO gives me the opportunity to have hands on patient interactions, experience Vietnamese culture, and allows me to create a bountiful of cherished memories with the other MEMObers.

Ngày 7: New Lives, New Perspectives (3rd University Hospital Day)

It’s a boy! An 5 kg (11 lb) baby was born by c-section on July 23rd at 9:45 AM, with MEMObers present to see it! Photo by Crystal.

Recap

The third day at Bệnh Viện Đại Học Y Dược TPHCM (University Hospital) once again gave our 8G MEMObers the opportunity to see other procedures that they missed from the days before. Open-heart surgeries, gastrointestinal surgeries, general surgeries, C-sections, angiograms, shadowing Vietnamese doctors and our own doctors, and more were offered. This entry includes multiple personal reflections to capture the variety of experiences we had.

Impact

  • MEMObers once again gained insight into the Vietnamese healthcare system and observed many different procedures
  • as part of our Transfer of Technology Program, Drs. Duy and Belville continued to teach local doctors and medical students new procedures and helped diagnose patients
  • heart surgeries and recovery continued for our MEMO-sponsored children

Personal Reflection I
by Hugh

The hospital days definitely gives us opportunities that we can’t get in the states; being able to scrub in and watch the doctors operate on patients in the OR is one of the major takeaways from this trip for me so far. I learned so much about medicine in such a short amount of time. Kevin and I started off the day shadowing Dr. Duy and Dr. Belville while they worked at diagnosing a few patients. While we watched Dr. Belville perform angiograms on two patients while Dr. Duy explained every step of the way telling us what Dr. Belville did, why he did it, and pointed out any abnormalities shown on the angiograms. After that we got to have a first hand view of an open heart surgery with four others. Although only witnessed the end of the surgery, seeing a live, heart beating inside of a person’s open chest cavity a few feet away from me reminded me how lucky I was to be able to go on this trip. With all I learned in this one day, I can’t wait to gain a bunch of experience during the clinic days.

Personal Reflection II
by Ailin

Today I saw a c-section and I have to say, out of all of the surgeries I’ve seen so far, this has been the best one. Going into the operating room, I saw a big belly. It was beautiful. The fact that a new life was going to appear at my fingertips made me so excited when the doctor made that initial incision, I was truly nervous, and I had butterflies in my stomach.

As she went deeper and deeper into the womb, I was amazed by how much space a woman has in her belly (sidenote: it was truly wonderful). As she pulls the baby boy out, initially, I was perplexed. It was blue! The baby started crying and ironically, I was filled with joy. I witness the birth of the baby, whose name the doctor gave us MEMO. The baby boy, our MEMO, was a pure joy. As he became a normal color, and the mother was getting stitched back like all new, I realized a lot of things. First, I got to thank my mother. Mothers do a lot for the child as she gives unconditional love every single step of the way. Mothers will go through pain, cuts, and surgeries for you to be safe. Second, it made me wonder of the great sacrifice needed to give life. Lastly, the surgery made me love life even more. I appreciated life as I saw the child coming out of the womb. Give life, love life, and live life.

Personal Reflection III
by Crystal

Shadowing, touring, and observing at the university hospital gave me so much more than I expected. I knew I was going to be spending a lot of time with the local doctors, nurses, and patients, visiting the facilities. I knew I was going to be observing surgeries and other procedures that I would not have had the chance to see in the States. I knew that the Vietnamese healthcare system was behind the American system technologically, so I honestly didn’t figure I would be impressed or particularly inspired by anything.

I was so wrong.

How naive I was to think I knew enough to judge this experience before it happened. Perhaps the fact that we (as MEMO) were coming to donate supplies and share knowledge with the  hospital gave me the false impression that I wouldn’t be seeing or learning anything I hadn’t known before, since apparently the US had it all. Besides getting up-close and personal with the complexities of surgeries and other procedures, I failed to imagine the possibility that there were things the amazing people running Bệnh Viện Đại Học Y Dược TPHCM could teach me, but I am so glad to be proven wrong.

Drawing from my previous experiences in American hospitals, the biggest difference I noticed between the environment at Bệnh Viện Đại Học Y Dược TPHCM and in the States was the sheer amount of activity and energy flowing through the hospital daily. The hospitals I have visited in the US through my time spent shadowing, volunteering, and being personally examined were generally quiet though busy with a manageable number of people waiting to be seen. Patients have plenty of privacy, and procedures require many legal and documentary hoops to jump through before they can go underway. The hospital in Vietnam, however, is incredibly different. Because paperwork is done AFTER surgeries in Vietnam, the doctors are able to get through many more patients each day than in the United States, multiplying the number of (much-needed) procedures done compared to the US. There are regularly hundreds (maybe thousands!) of patients waiting with their families to see a doctor on site at a time, making the crowds very dense: any space available for someone to sit or stand as they listened for their number to be called was occupied. Physicians met with patients in a walk-in clinic seemingly designed to maximize the number of tiny exam rooms in a given space. They worked from 6 AM to noon with no breaks, had lunch, then continued into the night. There is no such thing as a slow day. Furthermore, each inpatient room had four beds for four people, who were accompanied by their families. Anyone who couldn’t fit in the rooms spilled out into the hallways, which also seemed to act like additional rooms themselves. The scene at the hospital was chaotic, but while some visitors may get a sense of anxiety, inefficiency, or even hopelessness as they move about the place, I saw an incredible drive to give and receive help behind it all.

I was touched by what I felt was an atmosphere of selfless dedication, compassion, cooperation, and respect for necessity. The relatively high number of surgeries performed per day tells me that the hospital staff will work to make these necessary procedures happen as often and as soon as needed, as much as possible. The shared patient rooms make a statement on valuing the life of those admitted over creature comforts, especially given the limited resources. The hospital’s tolerance of – and apparent attempts to accommodate to – an insane number of patients seems to imply that since Vietnam is in need of good healthcare, Bệnh Viện Đại Học Y Dược TPHCM is doing its best to provide for all who come to it. Even the patients and their families seem to understand that being seen by a doctor here is a blessing to be shared, and they don’t question when they have to undress for an examination with another patient (or foreign premeds) in the room. The entire hospital seems to be united under the purpose of getting care to as many people as possible with the resources they have. Given that the need for healthcare is so great but the resources so much lower than that available in the States, the task is seemingly insurmountable. However, Vietnamese people are known for their incredible persistence, diligence, and industry, as well as their generosity. I have no doubt that the amazing people at Bệnh Viện Đại Học Y Dược TPHCM will do their best to climb the endless mountain ahead. While the system in place in Vietnam is dramatically different than what I am used to in the United States, I absolutely appreciate its merits and attitudes towards providing care to those who need it or seek it. I am honored and proud to to be able to help a hospital that strives to do the greatest amount of good. In my mind, there is no nobler goal.

Featured MEMObers

(left to right) Ailin, Julie, and Nancy.

Ailin
School: UCSD
Major: Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Why 8G?: As overstated as it sounds, I just wanted to help people. I felt that as a college student, you cant make that big of an influence even though you want to. But through this trip, I was able to firsthand witness how big of an impact united college students can make. To improve the living conditions of the people of Vietnam, I see how one scholarship, one surgery and just one simple act of kindness can alter a person’s life for the better.

Julie
School: UCI
Major: Public Health Sciences
Why 8G?: Growing up, I’ve always wanted to take part in humanitarian work. So when I heard about MEMO, I was really excited to have an opportunity to actually give back to my community.

Nancy
School: UCLA
Major: International Development Studies and Geography & Environmental Studies
Why 8G?: Not only am I here to uncover my cultural identity and to immerse myself into the Vietnamese culture, but to also understand the effects of a third world country, as I will be working with international relations in the future. 8G has been a life changing opportunity for me to see firsthand how one person can save countless lives. It’s amazing how a few minutes of your time can significantly impact the life of someone else.

Snapshots

This post contains graphic photos of surgeries and procedures.

(more…)

Ngày 6: I [heart] You (2nd University Hospital Day)

Our MEMObers had a chance to see the operation in person.

Our MEMObers had a chance to see open-heart surgeries in person. Photo by Julian

Recap

The second Bệnh Viện Đại Học Y Dược TPHCM (University Hospital) day began much like the first, but our 8G MEMObers were able to catch the opportunity to see other procedures that they missed the day before. Open-heart surgeries, gastrointestinal surgeries, general surgeries, C-sections, angiograms, shadowing Vietnamese doctors and our own doctors, and more were offered again. This entry includes multiple personal reflections to capture the variety of experiences we had.

Impact

  • MEMObers once again were able to learn more about the Vietnamese healthcare system and observe many different procedures
  • as part of our Transfer of Technology Program, Drs. Duy and Belville continue to educate the Vietnamese doctors and medical students on new procedures and helped them with diagnosing patients.
  • heart surgeries and recovery continue for our MEMO-sponsored children

Personal Perspective I
by Thao

Today was the second day that we went to University Medical Center (UMC) to explore and observe the hospital environment. I was lucky enough to be able to witness many eye-opening surgeries in one day. In the morning, a group of members and I were escorted to the general surgery floor where we could observe different cases. We had permission to enter each operating room, with the right attire, to see and learn more about the operations from the surgeons and nurses themselves. At first, I was confused since I have never taken any anatomy courses and do not know enough Vietnamese medical terms to understand what they were doing. Fortunately, a group of doctors from Indonesia and the Philippines were also there to observe so they explained the purposes of the surgeries, procedures, and the like. I witnessed a laparoscopic hemicolectomy (or something like that) where the surgeons inserted a tube through an incision on the abdomen to remove a certain mass. I did not get to stay for the entire procedure but it was super cool! Later in the afternoon, I was able to witness an open heart surgery. I have always admired the human heart for its tireless function of pumping blood through the bodies (think of it metaphorically, I guess). So, to be able to see the heart up close and to see someone receiving a treatment that would potentially help their heart do its proper job is magnificent. The most heart-breaking (no pun intended) sight was to see the children in the ICU in pain after their heart surgeries because there was nothing I, the doctors, the nurses, or the drugs could do to alleviate their discomfort. Something I overheard Dr. Duy say today at the UMC was, “Work until you drop, then get up and do it again.” It really sums up the purpose of this medical mission. Every year, we try to better our fundraising and advertising techniques in order to expand awareness for our cause, thus providing better health care for the Vietnamese community during the mission trip. No matter how tired we are, we will always strive to do more. Of course, the amount of difference made depends on different people’s perspectives. Personally, having the opportunity to be involved in this trip is more rewarding than I can express eloquently in words. Not only am I able to help the people in my motherland, but I also get to develop friendships with people I otherwise would not have crossed paths with. Whether or not I will become close friends with them, we will always be linked by this brief but amazing experience. I’m sure everyone here agrees with me when I say that even though we came on this trip to give back to the underprivileged community, it actually rewards us with something even more valuable, which is this inexplicable feeling of more satisfaction and blessings.

Personal Reflection II
by Duy

Dr. Belville: We need a 7 french.
Vietnamese Doctor (in broken English): Here is a 7 french.
Dr. Belville: This isn’t a 7 french.
Vietnamese Doctor: This is what we use here.
Dr. Belville: It’s missing the adapter but it will have to work.

The most dramatic/drastic difference between Vietnam and the United States is and always has been the economic disparity. As a child, I witnessed this while visiting the Vietnamese countryside. That experience became an inspiration, albeit a negative one. I vowed never to fall into such poverty nor would my children have to endure such conditions. Nearly a decade later, I realized the vast technological gap between the US and my parent’s homeland. The university medcial center is Saigon’s most technically advanced medical facility, servicing much of the local Vietnamese community. It is by far the most incredible feat of social, medical, and healthcare services in Vietnam. The sheer volume of patients and treatments of UMC simply dwarfs any other hospital I have seen in the US. Seemingly hundreds of patients queue for hours just to consult with a doctor. It must take a miracle everyday for UMC to operate and at least be functional.

Vietnamese Doctor 1 (in Vietnamese): This ultrasound machine is amazing.
Vietnamese Doctor 2: I wish we had this here.
Vietnamese Doctor 1: If only it were so.

That moment is when reality set in. UMC is a facility which cannot remotely claim to state-of-the-art. Scalpels are dull, equipment is reused, and doctors are left to improvise with what little they have. UMC is a monument to human perseverance in the face of immense adversity. Faced with unthinkable patient flow, subpar supplies, and the chaos of paperwork, the staff of UMC make the daunting manageable. With a dearth of effort and overabundance of energy, they save lives with a smile. I doubt a US-trained doctor could make it at UMC for more than a year. We Americans are spoiled by our air-conditioned, comfortable, pampered lifestyles. We live in a world where a doctor’s first concern is not how many lives they can save but how many lawsuits they can avoid. In a way, UMC served as a second inspiration for me. In the maw of despair, UMC stands for salvation and the protection of human lives. UMC reminded me that the object of my life should not be to avoid failure, but to alleviate the suffering of others.

Dr. Belville (to Dr. Duy after teaching Vietnamese doctors a new procedure that Dr. Duy invented in the US): Halfway through it, you have to remember that this is their first time learning and performing this procedure.

The day you stop learning is the day you cease to be relevant in society. In this constantly evolving modern society, one must be open to change and be accepting of new ideas. The MEMO mission trip is in my opinion the embodiment of cultural/educational exchange. This symbiotic relationship between Vietnam/UMC and the mission team has taught me so much about life in general. As we teach,we learn more about ourselves, each other, and our surroundings. I wish somehow that these days will go on forever but I know they won’t. Hopefully these memories will be immortalized forever in this blog and the multitude of photos that were taken.

Featured MEMObers

(left to right) Simon, Kat, and Kim.

Simon
School: UCI
Major: Neurobiology
Why 8G?: I am one of the two Koreans in 8G, so honestly, I have been asked this question many times. I originally had no intentions of going on the 8G trip after joining through one of our fellow 8G member, Duy Bui. However, the testimonials, members of all MEMO chapters, previous trip videos, and etc. encouraged me to first-handedly see what I have been fundraising for. Plus, the hands-on dental experience sounded very appealing for my career path. The Vietnamese culture shock previous mission trip members talked about seemed like something that could be memorable and valuable in my life as well.

Kat
School: UCSD
Major: Human Development
Why 8G?: When I first heard about MEMO and their mission, I knew I had to be part of the organization. My ultimate dream is to provide healthcare, education, and other resources to underserved populations and developing countries around the world for a sustainable future. 8G allowed me to be one step closer to my dream while also giving me the chance to learn about my culture, heritage, and cuisine in Vietnam.

Kim
School: UCLA
Major: Biology
Why 8G?:  I’ve visited Vietnam several times before, but I’ve never really gone with people who were around my age, especially people who have such an inspiring goal. It was a chance to experience what Vietnam offered in a new and different manner. I wanted to get to know more Vietnam, its culture, and its people while getting a sneak peek at what working in the medical field would be like.

Snapshots

This post contains graphic photos of open heart surgery.

(more…)

Ngày 5: Exposure (1st University Hospital Day)

They’ve been expecting us! The university hospital days begins with a short presentation welcoming MEMO and overviewing the history of the facility. Photo by Julian.

Recap

Waking up at 8 AM was glorious. After two days of waking up at 5:30 AM to be at the hospital for Hep B at 8, the extra two hours of sleep was heaven. For the next few days, we will be visiting Bệnh Viện Đại Học Y Dược TPHCM (University Hospital) and its various branches for more medical exposure.  We headed off to the main university hospital and heard a presentation from the hospital’s representatives giving a quick history of the hospital’s establishment and the services it currently offers. After the presentation, the 8Gers got a chance to meet two of the five MEMO-sponsored children with congenital heart defects who will be receiving heart surgeries and take pictures with them. Let me just say, they were precious. Actually, precious doesn’t even come close to the look on these children’s face and how these surgery sponsorships will influence their lives. Some members teared up a little when we saw them; myself included, because I tear up with anything.

After the presentations and pictures, we divided into two groups for a tour of the hospital. One group got a general tour of the surgery building (the older building of the main branch) and the new building with rooms for all other medical practices. We went to the chemotherapy room, radiology department, MRI/x-ray floor, ultrasound room, outgoing informations section, and last-state oncology floor. The other group visited patient rooms, were introduced to the palliative care floor, and checked out the CT rooms, the huge walk-in clinic area, the ENT department, and vascular radiology rooms.

Walking through the hospital gave most of us a very different feeling. A feeling of helplessness because these people are in such great need yet we were unable to do anything for them, so they’re just simply there waiting. One of our MEMObers, Cassia, said, “There was a grandson walking his grandpa around the hall, back and forth, back and forth because his grandpa has nowhere to go. He can’t leave the hospital. Here you are, spending the last months of your life in the hospital halls.”

Despite how heartbreaking the chemotherapy and waiting rooms looked, it gave us a sense of purpose on this mission. Most of us are here with the intention of becoming future physicians, future helpers to this scene of possibly relieving the sickness of these patients. The scenes at the hospital might be a little more on the solemn side, but it gave some of us more motivation to continue our pursuit of medicine.

We boarded the bus once more and went to the maternity branch of the university hospital. A doctor there gave us a tour of the facilities and some of us were chosen to stay to witness some births. I was one of the lucky few (yay!), so I got to hold a baby and see the end of one natural birth as well as a full C-section operation later on. For me personally, it was eye-opening to see the birth of a child and all the possible medical practices behind a C-section and/or any other operation. I apologize if my wording sounds really choppy, but I still can’t recollect that I just witnessed two births/lives/babies begin born/anything you call it, in one day. If the walls could talk and tell us what our day here would be like witnessing procedures like this, I’m pretty sure they would have said, “Welcome to the university hospital. You have now step foot into the ‘house of medical practices.’ Here is what goes on behind the scene of just the words ‘surgery’ and ‘operation.’ Here is an insight, an exploration of not only your knowledge of medicine but also your knowledge of the physical human body. Enjoy your stay.”

My day ended when my group and I reconvened with everyone else for lunch. Another group was chosen to stay afterwards to see a few more surgeries at the first hospital branch.

End Day 1.

Impact

  • five children with congenital heart defects were sponsored for heart surgeries this year. Lê Kim Thi ̣Yến and Phan Trung Toàn are two of the five children who we had the pleasure of seeing at the presentation.
  • Transfer of Technology boxes have safely arrived at the hospital
  • MEMObers gain more insight into the Vietnamese healthcare system

Personal Reflection by Danny

Saphanose vein ablation. Colovesicle fistula. Medical terminology that sounded more Vietnamese (a foreign language to me) than English, or perhaps it was Vietnamese? The burnt bone of a shoulder replacement surgery I was observing smelled like beef brisket. The mini ultrasound was sitting in a purple luggage labeled “MEMO”, waiting to be used. I didn’t know what was going on and I was drained from the hour-long wait, but I couldn’t be more excited.

It had all come down to this. From standing at the side of Bruinwalk (a popular walkway on campus at UCLA) selling MEMO bracelets at the beginning of the school year, to the Vietnamese operating room I was standing in now, the work I had done with MEMO has brought me this far. It felt like the puzzle pieces were finally becoming the bigger picture as I realized that all of our efforts were culminating in the moments in front of me. A shiver ran down my spine when the doctors described the necessity for a heart surgery as a ventricular septal defect, a topic I was lectured on in physiology class. I really had to work to put together all the information I learned in basic biology and Vietnamese class to understand it all, but nevertheless, it was rewarding knowing that my previous training and experiences could bring me here.  My experience in the OR was like a bow on a Christmas present, neatly putting everything from the past year together in a tidy little box. This is what we worked for, and I am happy to be here.

Snapshots

Anh Phuc, one of our beloved hospital liaisons and long-time friend of MEMO, delivers a welcome presentation at the beginning of our hospital days. Photo by Julian.

8G officers and Co Kim stand with Phan Trung Toan and his mother. He will also be receiving heart surgery thanks to our sponsorship. Photo by Crystal.

8G officers and Drs. John Belville and Duy Nguyen pose for a picture with Le Kim Thi Yen, one of the children receiving sponsorship for a heart surgery, and her mother at the university hospital. Photo by Crystal.

Dr. Duy gives a presentation to the local doctors on a new procedure for varicose veins. Photo by Long.

Dr. Belville, after giving his own presentation, elaborates further with the hospital staff. Photo by Long.

Hundreds of patients await their turn at the university hospital. Photo by Julian.

 

MEMObers are led by one of our university hospital liaisons, Chu Loi (Mr. Loi), around the patient floors. Photo by Julian.

Team Dory poses with the boxes filled with medical supplies donated through our Transfer of Technology Program. Photo by Julian.

Written by Kristina.

Featured MEMObers

(left to right) Curtis, Thao, and Danny

Curtis School: UCSD Major: Biochemistry and Cell Biology Why 8G?: I wanted to see what the work we do during the year will go towards, and I wanted some hands-on experience with medical stuff that we’re doing in the US. I also just wanted to be a in foreign setting because as a doctor, you’re not exactly sure where your patients are coming from and you need to be able to connect to them.

Thao School: UCI Major: Pharmaceutical Sciences Why 8G?: For me, I’m here because as a student, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything useful for other people. We’re just going to school, go home, and study, and that’s it. I didn’t feel like I was contributing much this way, and I wanted to do something more in line with what I want to do in the future, so I think that going on this trip helps more, because I am be actively helping people.

Danny School: UCLA Major: Physiological Sciences Why 8G?: I really like learning and I came because I want to practice speaking Vietnamese. It’s also a good chance for me to explore medicine in a different setting. I’m looking forward to learning Vietnamese, getting to know friends, getting to learn a different culture, and having a lot of fun while helping others.

Ngày 3 + 4: Hepatitis B Program Debut!

Yvonne helps the nurses at Benh Vien Quan 2 with patient intake on Ngay 3. Photo by Julian.

The most important words for the past two days were viêm gan siêu vi B”, Hepatitis B. The second most important words were “vắc xin ngừa viêm gan siêu vi B,” or “Hepatitis B vaccine”. After a year of planning, the Hepatitis B program, made possible by our friends at UNAVSA (see Ngày 0 for more details), made its first debut at Bệnh Viện Quận 2 (District 2 Hospital). MEMObers were able to help out the hospital staff with the screenings and vaccinations of the thousands of patients who arrived for the program. As with any new venture, we had a few hiccups (perhaps the best possible hiccups) at the beginning, but by the second day, the 8G MEMObers were able to apply all of their Training Day skills to the first clinic setting of the trip.

Ngày 3 Recap

After eating breakfast at 6 AM, the 8G MEMO team boarded our usual bus and got on our way to Bệnh Viện Quận 2 for the first day of the Hepatitis B program. We put on our MEMO scrubs for the first time as a group, making the trip feel even more real than before. We finally looked like the past MEMO mission goers in the photos we had spent much time looking through in anticipation for our own trip. On this particular day, we were looking forward to triaging and ultrasound-ing with the people who would benefit from this program. However, as we pulled up to the hospital around 7:30-8 AM, we saw that the place was already milling with people, with staff workers making announcements over the speakers and moving the crowd through each task. It was clear the program was already going at full force. The hospital had made good use of the funds from the Hep B program, setting up fully-staffed spaces for people to take numbers and have their basic information recorded, blood draw stations to collect samples for screening for Hep B, blood pressure stations, results stations, vaccination stations, and more. For those who received positive results for Hepatitis B, they were to be sent to an ultrasound room for further examination by our own radiologist Dr. Belville, who had just arrived. The program seemed so well-equipped and self-sufficient that we actually had to ask for positions for MEMObers to help! While our MEMObers were disappointed by the lack of work available for them this day, knowing that the Hep B program was running well anyhow helped us realize that this was certainly not the worst problem we could be having.

The MEMObers filed into an auditorium where hospital staff members and doctors, including our own vascular surgeon Dr. Duy, gave speeches about the program to an audience of patients and lectured on the symptoms, transmission, and prevention of Hepatitis B. Afterwards, the MEMObers remained in the room, available for any open positions with intake, records, or blood pressure. Knowing how to speak, read, and/or write Vietnamese was very important for the work, so our more knowledgeable speakers were kept relatively busy helping with the patient information and translating. Some other MEMObers were able to shadow the local doctors present on the site, and all were available to observe the different points of the program. The open positions available in records, blood pressure, shadowing, and intake were few since the program had so much professional help from hospital staff, so MEMObers had to rotate often in order to give everyone  a chance to do some work. In our downtime, we bonded in the auditorium with games, plenty of chatting, and even a practice physical therapy session with Sam.

After our 8G leadership spoke with the hospital to ensure more positions were available for MEMObers the next day, we left to go eat at a beautiful outdoor restaurant for lunch. Rain began to pour around us just as we were digging into the main courses; officially one of my favorite memories. We then returned to our hotel and had free time to shop, exercise, and rest before dinner at an incredible buffet at the Bình Quới Tourist Village. It was basically the Vietnamese Disneyland of buffets, with tons of awesome food for your unlimited consumption, gorgeous scenery around you, and extra-short tables and chairs for the authentic dining experience. The only bad thing was that mosquitos loved it as well, and I know I got more bites in one night than I had the previous days. After eating our fill, we returned to the restaurant and MEMObers bonded in each other’s rooms until lights out.

Ngày 4 Recap

Once again we arrived at Bệnh Viện Quận 2 early in the morning after breakfast, but unlike yesterday, we went straight into our rotating shifts at the blood pressure, intake, records, glucose/cholesterol, and ultrasound stations. Several of the interested MEMObers were also rotated through shadowing Dr. Sim Ca. Having refreshed our skills with the work the day before, we felt ready and willing to jump right into the already bustling Hep B program.

The work today was much more satisfying than the day before as we were able to make up a substantial portion of the workforce. The 8G officers supervised the MEMObers and switched out the shifts as necessary. Time passed by quickly when the stations received plenty of patients; it was amazing how much forty minutes felt like fifteen. We returned to the same outdoor restaurant from yesterday’s lunch for today’s lunch, then went back for more shifts at the hospital until 4 PM. With real clinical experience under our belts at last, the 8G MEMObers left the site with a greater sense of purpose.

We returned to our hotel and had several hours to rest and get ready for our special fancy MEMO dinner on a boat. The boys put on their shirts and ties, looking dapper, and the girls looked fabulous in their dresses. The restaurant was inside a boat designed to look like a junk (the type of boat), and musicians and dancers performed with classic Vietnamese instruments and costumes. After the delicious dinner, we took photos at the bow and watched the lit-up Sài Gòn skyline move by as the boat made its way around the river. A lightning storm provided some more entertainment to the already extraordinary view.

Impact

  • 1000+ patients were screened and vaccinated for Hepatitis B
  • patients were educated on what Hepatitis B is, how it is transmitted, and what to do to prevent it
  • the Hepatitis B program began!

Personal Reflections Ngày 3 by Kevin

Interviewing the patients that were being screened for Hepatitis B today at the hospital was an amazing experience for me. The patients were extremely nice and cooperative in answering the questions despite my struggle with explaining Hepatitis B in Vietnamese. However, what really surprised me when interviewing these patients was that I received responses from both ends of the spectrum. On one end, you have those who knew what Hepatitis B was and on the other end, you have those who didn’t. By holding this screening, we were able to not only educate the patients what the program was about and how to get treatment, we were also able to provide medical care for the impoverished Vietnamese people. This is what MEMO is all about and that’s why I enjoy being in MEMO with all my fellow MEMObers striving towards a common mission!

Ngày 4 by Truman

Like yesterday, we went to the hospital to screen for Hepatitis B. Although we performed the same basic tasks as before, every passing moment brought about a new patient and a new story to learn. After observing the interactions between the patients and Bác Sĩ Sim Ca (Dr. Sim Ca), as well as communicating with the doctor using my extensively broken Vietnamese, I walked away with a deeper understanding of the plight of the Vietnamese people. She explained that the lack of doctors in Vietnam relative to the number of patients made it impossible to perform a detailed diagnosis. The rushed nature of these patient-doctor visits, often lasting only a minute or two, were also prone to mistakes and inaccurate diagnoses. This really opened my eyes to the medical disparity between developed and developing countries like Vietnam. It’s ironic and unfortunate that there is so little medical care available to a country where a majority of the population lives in poverty and desperately needs the attention. Because of this, I fully appreciate the opportunity that MEMO is giving us to make a difference on the 8G mission trip. Not only can we extend a helping hand to those currently in need, but we also gain the knowledge we need to truly understand and fix situations like this in the future—MEMO truly is a gift that keeps on giving!

Snapshots Ngày 3

The Hepatitis B Program had an incredible turnout. The nurses at the intake station filled out thousands of intake forms over the course of the two days. Photo by Julian.

(left to right) Dylan and Danny use their skills from Training Day at the blood pressure station. Photo by Julian.

While waiting for the next shift, Sam teaches Kristina and Crystal what he learned from physical therapy training the night before. Photo by Julian.

MEMObers dine together fancy-like at a beautiful restaurant in their MEMO scrubs. Photo by Juilan.

Ngày 4 

Duyen, Duy, Yvonne, and Brandon man the glucose/cholesterol station. Photo by Julian.

Long watches as Ailin brushes up on her glucose/cholesterol testing skills. Photo by Julian

A patient winces while getting her blood drawn by hospital staff as her family looks on in support. Photo by Julian.

Thao uses her native Vietnamese language skills to help the nurses with patient records. Photo by Julian.

Simon helps Elaine and Vanessa digitize patient information in the records room. Photo by Crystal.

Mandy, Duy, and Kim work alongside nurses at the blood pressure station. Photo by Julian.

(left to right) Kevin, Simon, and Truman are all smiles after they shadowed Dr. Sim Ca. Photo provided by Truman.

(left to right) Rebecca, Kat, Mandy, Nick, Danny, and Kristina enjoy a beautiful dinner together on the boat. Photo by Julian.

The 8G Team (minus Julian, Long, and Dr. Belville, who are taking photos) sure know how to look classy for banquet. Photo by Julian.

Written by Crystal.

Featured MEMObers

(left to right) Natalie, Johnny, and Miles. Just part of the Ultrasound Team! Photo by Crystal

Natalie
Why 8G?: I go every year, and I keep coming back because it’s different each time, so it’s always interesting. You learn a lot about medicine. At the hospital you can see things you can’t see as much in the US. You get the whole cultural experience.

Johnny
School: USC
Major: Biophysics
Why 8G?: I’ve always wanted to participate in a medical mission so that I can dedicate 100% of my time serving others with the knowledge I’ve gained from my years at school, so when I heard about MEMO, it was a dream come true to be able to serve my own people and learn more about my culture and cuisine myself.

Miles
School: UCLA
Major: Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology
Why 8G?: I heard about MEMO from Johnson (7G) and he mentioned that what was special about MEMO compared to other medical mission groups was that you are able to go to the same places year after year and see the same people each time you serve them, so it is a continuous effect. I wanted to be involved with something where you make a lasting impact.