From Thighland to Thailand

March 1, 2010

Thailand 3.10

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 12:31 am

Thailand 3.10

February 28, 2010-Sunday-10th day

See Jennifer’s blog  at now with video! and

QUOTE OF THE DAY: After our chaotic and hasty departure from Myanmar Jack Patton said, “I usually only drink at home.”

We look forward to this day as we are going the Huisan Akha Village to see some familiar faces.  This is Luka’s church and we are going to attend church service.  On the 7th day God rested and since we are not God and don’t work as hard as Him we get to work a half a day.  The time of season is hot and humid and my most memorable moment is when we went during monsoon season and the river current was quite fast and strong and our vehicles could have been swept our off the waterfall.  Now I was sincere and I warned Leroy about the risk and he rolled his eyes because he can’t trust me now.  I wanted him to be ready to capture it on video.  Okay, so it wasn’t as torrential as I thought and one of the 4 x 4s was spinning donuts in the shallow stream and later people were washing their motor scooters and cars and some children were playing naked in the stream.  So it wasn’t exactly life threatening as I thought and anyway, we had enough excitement for this week.

We drive up the dirt road through the village and the villagers are waving at us as if they have been expecting us.  As we ascend up the steep hill towards the church we are greeted by an elderly couple who shake our hands as we pass by.  That was interesting since they usually greet us with both hands together in a praying position, fingers pointing up and bowing saying “Sawasdee.”  Perhaps they’ve adopted the American tradition or wanted us to feel with our own American gestures.   Some greeting us with a necklace of beads as a token of their thanks for coming. Dr. Tajiri hitched a ride up the hill on the back a motor scooter driven by Luka hanging on for dear life; I think he wanted to drive.  Yesterday Pastor Jack played Easy Rider and took a scooter for a spin around the foundation’s compound and said he felt that he wanted to keep on going down the highway.  Bruce, who has ridden for forty years was very tempted to hop on a Harley here but says Nannette won’t let him ride one.  What happens in Thailand, stays in Thailand.

Many of the villagers are in their best Sunday dress with traditional Akha headdress and clothes.  It’s so cute to see a child in the outfits as well.  Immediately we start recognizing patients and relatives of Luka and his family of helpers.  My betel nut buddy from the past smiles proudly displaying her dark red blackened teeth at me and we immediately connect since that was the least memorable moment for me-when she gave me her dose to try and I passed out for an hour; that what the team tells me.  As a welcoming gesture, she reached into her purse to pull me out another one but really, it was too early in the morning and I had to work;  I usually like to have betel nut with my dinner.   Luka’s mother is dressed more contemporary and she has this stylish Star Wars T-shirt on with her Akha headdress.   May the Force by with you. We meet Luka’s father as well and he appears to be standing proud saying “That’s my son.”

We attended the worship service and we sang hymns in Akha.  Pastor gave a mini-sermon and several members were either praying a very long time or nodded off.  Similar to when Pastor Jack gives his sermon back home.  Pastor thanked the church for giving us the opportunity to come and serve them again and how God sent us here and that we are brothers and sisters in Christ and gave a talk about uhhh, ummm; I can’t remember I fell asleep. I’ll have to see Leroy’s video.  Thank God we didn’t have to sing; we were spared the humiliation.  We will save our talents for the karaoke bar and after betel nut!

The villagers brought some of their offerings as food and brought vegetables and fruit and placed them on the altar while some poured bags of rice into a large community container.  It was their way of giving back.  The goods were auctioned off at the end to raise money for the church, kind of like our doong fundraiser.  The team members took up a collection and Pastor presented a group offering to the Akha pastor.  When he collected the offering from us he went around and asked ”Do you want to give again?”  He liked the idea so much that I think he wants us to pass the offering plates around again back home.  Be prepared.  Now, now for most of the congregation it will still be less than 10%.

One of the deacons stood up and talked directed at the team and loosely translated (my Akha isn’t very good) he felt that God put the village on a hill so that we could find them. He kept some of the elders alive so that they would have the opportunity to see us again.  All of us together, Akha and us Americans, are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  Thanks for coming back, we knew you would because you said you would.

We worked half a day but it seemed longer.  It was getting late and triage had to deal with turning about a dozen patients away. It’s not a good feeling. Andy felt that we didn’t complete our job and felt bad for the patients, especially after traveling miles. Logistically or for the sake of the team members’ physical state there has to be limits on what we can do or how many we can see.

Another frustrating moment was for Dr. Chinn.  The process of getting glasses is very long and arduous.  The patient has to do an eye exam by first reading the chart.  Then Dr. Chinn examines the eye itself for disease and determines the needed refraction.  Then Dr. Tajiri determines which lens is needed for that prescription and Jennifer and Leroy grind the appropriate lens, smooth the edges to fit snuggly into the frame.  These are handcrafted.  Then the glasses need t be fit on the face adjusting the arms and nose pads.  So after going through all that, he asked a patient if he can now see the clock which was an object in the distance. “No”, the patient replied.  Surprised, Dennis checked him again, looked at the eyes,  reconfirmed the prescription, put the glasses back one him and asked once again if he could see the clock.  Again he said, “No.”  Now we don’t’ see Dr. Chinn really frustrated and you can see him saying, “In all my 57 years of practice…”  He readjusts them again, checks the Rx and was about to make brand new glasses and he basically blames the patient our of frustration, “I don’t understand why you can’t possibly see the clock??” Dennis is not chuckling anymore. He’s about to say “Are you blind, man?!”  The patient turns to the interpreter and points toward this huge object.  As Pastor describes it, “He couldn’t see because my fat head was blocking his view.”  After Pastor moved, the patient had 20/20 vision and could see the clock.

Working the production line and experiencing bottle necks is taking its toll.  Poor Jennifer, on her very first trip, got so exhausted she passed out in her chair, snoring.  We checked to see if she was arousable. “Hey, it gets so slow waiting it’s time for a nap.”  Jennifer there are no such things as breaks; there are no child labor laws here in Thailand.  She’s not use to manual labor.  I bet she was raised with a silver spoon, almost positive.  No, I’m sure of it.

Jack, holding his chin up high, was so proud to say that a patient (my betel nut buddy whom he’s trying to steal) felt that Dr. Patton cured her aching shoulder because after the injection she had total range of motion and she could do jumping jacks, handstands, and cartwheels once again.  “It’s a miracle! I’ve been cured!” she exclaimed, dropping to her knees, kao towing, and kissing his feet.  I think that Jack was trying to get on her good side for some betel nut as a token of her appreciation.  And then Jack had the audacity to say, “Mark got a chance to do good work.”  A chance? CHANCE??  You mean I haven’t done any “good work” yet.  Thanks a lot.  I’ll have you know that I cured two people today.  Okay, so it was just a mole.  But it was hairy and big sticking out on her chin.  People would say, “Is that a spider on your chin?” After I cut it out she proudly wanted to take it home so I gift-wrapped it for her.  Yes it was that women that Pastor came into the room and suspiciously said, “Why are you in bed with that woman, doctor?”

You try working in those conditions, doing surgery in a dark room with only a flashlight, operating literally on my knees and sitting, I said sitting, on the bed, which was the only makeshift operating table available, contorting my body in between back spasm, trying to sew up flesh with throw away instruments.  I’ll have you know that Luka’s dad came to me, to me, Jack.  I removed a 1 lb. fatty tumor, okay maybe 1 oz. lipoma and a neurofibroma from his back.  I got HIS back; I wish you watched mine, Jack.  Just wait for that local anesthesia to wear off then let’s see how cured she really is.  Who’s the hero now?

I’m sorry; I got a little testy.  I know, it’s not about me.  It’s about them. Jack, let’s go have that drink, my treat.

Medical Team International signing off…It’s Miller Time.

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