From Thighland to Thailand

March 4, 2010

Thailand 3.14

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 2:53 pm

Thailand 3.14

March 4, 2010-Thursday-14th day

See Jennifer’s blog  at now with video! and

I had a terrible night. Jen wanted to look at my CF card from my digital camera to review the day’s photos for posting on her blog.  She hooked it up to her computer and said that there were no photos.  A cold sweat appeared as I peered over my eyeglasses with a raised eyebrow.  Jen defensively says, “I didn’t do it.” I put the memory card into my camera and it read “no image.”  Okay, so I put it the memory card in the computer and looked onto the card, which previously had 465 photos on it and it did not show any folder or photos, as if it were blank and unused.  After my explicative loosely translated as “Oh doo doo!” I was hoping to find a recovery program somewhere on my computer but to no avail.  Light bulb went off: Internet access.  Long story short (I actually can if I try), if it happens to you, take the memory card out of the camera and don’t take any more photos and go to and get Image Rescue IR4, which recovered 99.5% of the photos intact that were “hidden” on the card.  It’s worth it even at 3:30 am.

I want to introduce Libby Andersen, RN, FNP, is a nurse practitioner from Seattle who is a very cordial and friendly individual.  She was introduced to Luka and his foundation in 2005 when she came with her church, Seattle Grace Presbyterian Church, who helped build a church in Thailand.  She wanted to come back to Thailand to help in a medical position so she prepared herself for this by first workeing for a family practice group for three years to get familiar with primary care medicine.  In November 2008 she began volunteering at the Akha Youth Development Center helping with mobile clinics to serve 12 Akha churches, public health education, and nurse at the AYDC medical clinic.  Libby has been extremely useful and is an asset to the team because of her medical background helpful with triage in addition to being a translator for both Akha and Thai speaking patients.  She has accompanied the team to most clinics and will stay here in Thailand for several months more after we leave and will be able to follow up on some of our patients that we have treated. Thanks Libby for all that you do for the foundation and for the sacrifices that you have made and the hardships that you have endured.

Our itinerary, as you now know is not written in stone.  The village that we were going to go to is located way in the hills and it was determined that the vans couldn’t go up the bumpy roads so we would have had to change to 4 x 4’s.  It was felt that the drive might be too rough for the medical team.  What are we, a group of pansies? Instead we were detoured to the Song Serm Sart (“promote religions”) Presbyterian Church, located about an hour away in the pineapple village, whose members are primarily Thai citizens.  That means that most of them have access to health care and many are already on medications but want refills or a second opinion. We had a nice spread with plenty of room for the entire team and lots of elbowroom.  I got excited when they rolled in an actual hospital bed for either surgery or examinations.  They were just being hospitable.  We prayed together in the beginning as a group.  Today, I tried to be more cordial, less stuffy arrogant impersonal surgeon-like, than I have been, with less business-like and production line mentality since Bill put away the whip. The patients still, however, couldn’t tell I was smiling since I had too much BOTOX on-board.

The medical team saw its usual ache and pains and GI complaints.  Two patients stood out amongst the crowd.  One young man was burnt with acid when he was 5 years old protecting his brother from getting spilled on.  One half of his face including the eye and ear were destroyed with subsequent scaring on his face from the burns or from skin grafts.  His hands and arms and legs and back were not spared either and he had contracted scars and keloid scars all over his body.  The best we could offer was to get him glasses to read and for distance because he was afraid of loosing his job as an air-conditioning tech.  Dr. Tajiri and Dr. Chinn had to do some fancy fitting in order for the glasses to fit on his face since his nose was shallow and he only had one ear.  They were able to fit him for both reading glasses and one for distance.

Another child, seven years old, but with severely stunted growth and blindness had a severe congenital defect.  The young mother was told during an ultrasound that the fetus didn’t look right so the mother took some pills to abort the fetus.  Then the grandmother said don’t abort the baby because she’ll take care of the it if there’s a problem.  Little did she know the severity; the baby went to term and was severely disfigured, blind, and stunted in size.  But she cuddled the child with pride and a great big smile.  Apparently, Luka has seen this a couple of times before where the picture is the same.  The young mother takes a pill to abort and the baby goes to term and with similar looking birth defects.  We took pictures and gave it to the grandmother who was very grateful to have a picture with her grandson.  The child had cataracts and nothing could be done.  I often feel helpless or useless despite having sophisticated American medical training to leave the families or patients disappointed especially when they have traveled so far with a lot of hope.

Perhaps Kane was more helpful in his contacts with a few patients with whom he prayed.  He put on his spiritual counselor and psychiatrist hat and he said that they had “similar problems, only different language” regarding dealing with stressful family issues between in-laws and relationships with the immediate family.  With one patient who came in for a refill for anti-depressants, he didn’t think that medications were the answer to her problems; neither did she.    He was able to get a bible and read some verses to share the gospel to the patient, who was torn between Buddhism on one side of the family and Christianity on the other side, to use scripture to deal with common problems.  The patient asked him to pray with her so Ming, Luka, Kane and the patient prayed.  He must of spent about an hour with her working through lunchtime but I think Kane felt that he was fed, more importantly, spiritually.

We felt a strong relationship with this church because they are our Christian brothers and sisters.  The church is the family.  They expressed to us that the church was praying for healing and that God answered their prayers by having this medical team respond to their prayers.  In other words they felt that, “God sent you.” So it is an amazing feeling that Medical Team International was the answer to someone else’s prayer.  In appreciation, they gave each member a souvenir bag of dolls, pins, and key chains as a token to remember them by.  Those tokens along with the memories and photos make it impossible for us to forget our experiences with them.

There’s been a rash of well, rashes.  I noticed a peculiar rash on Jen’s neck.  Odd place so I put antifungal on it.  “I want a 2nd opinion”, she says.  “Heat rash I imagine” Dr. Patton and suggests a steroid cream.  Then he noticed it on my neck. Odder still.  Gail had a rash as well as Bill.  Come to think of it, Jack had a rash on his chest. Epidemiologically analysis suggests…Akha bead necklace that several of us were given as a “Thank you” by the Akha women villagers when we visited the Huisan Akha village and the church last Sunday!  Working diagnosis: allergic contact dermatitis.  We were beadazzled.

Medical Team International itching to sign off.

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