From Thighland to Thailand

March 7, 2010

Thailand 3.16

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 5:09 am

Thailand 3.16

March 6, 2010-Saturday-16th day

This will wrap it up for Thailand 2010 Medical Team International.   I hope that this ejournal or blog or emails have kept you in the loop during our mission here on the Thailand-Myanmar and that you have been able to experience the roller coaster of emotions with us.  These past two weeks were a blur and was filled with excitement, adventure, happiness, sadness, evictions, disappointment, hope, fulfillment, joy, camaraderie, team work, faith, and love.

The last clinic at the end of our journey was held at the Jaoporluang Uppatham 5 school in Ghan’s village near the Myanmar border.  On our way up the steep mountain we saw a trail of families, primarily women and their children slowly and determined walking up the hill to the clinic still one mile away.  Later, I am told that most of those people were Burmese who had gone over the mountain, crossed the border, just to come to this clinic.  Most of the Akha we see live in the surrounding hills and walk down to the clinic.  Ghan grew up with these villagers and we saw some familiar faces from the prior expedition and some patients were seen last time.   They must have been happy campers  for similar treatments or have more teeth pulled.

As they clinic begins I look around and survey what’s in store for us today. I see exhausted, weary looking people, sluggish at times but some who are actually hyperactive, some skinny while some are overweight, many look overworked, and a few that appear near death.  Curiously, they are all dressed in blue.  Hey, wait a minute, that’s the mission team!  It’s been only 2 weeks and they’ve aged quite a bit.  Get them home quick before they collapse!

These villagers are tough and strong!  They define the meaning of work.  They die with a hoe in their hands, men and women. I saw many 70 and 80 year olds with ripped muscles and back pain from bending or stooping over.  Eighty per cent of the patients I saw today needed anti-inflammatory medications, pain killers, and steroid injections just to get back to work as soon as they can.  Time is money; they can’t afford to be off of work.  Their back hurts, they can’t flex their fingers, they suffer from tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and joint pain.  I saw an elderly lady with hunchback pushing a cart up hill.  Work=food.  They really impressed me with their work ethic and bring to mind the Hmong that work the fields back in Fresno in the hot sun growing the strawberries.  Support your local ethnic farmers!

This was a very interesting case and a teachable moment.  A relatively young muscular man, 40ish, came in with complaints of body numbness.  His left hand was deformed and had severe muscle wasting from severe ulnar neuropathy.  How odd that it didn’t get treated earlier.  He said his feet were numb and as he took off his socks the feet were quite narrow and deformed. I thought that those feet don’t belong on that body.  The toes were clubbed and he had sores, craters, and ulcers on the bottom of his feet. There was dense numbness and thickening of the feet. Usually we see that in diabetic feet so I tested his sugar level and it was normal.  I got a second opinion from our chief medical director and he looks and authoritatively says, “leprosy.”  Okay, as I back off from him slowly as not to reveal my panic.  “Isn’t Hansen’s disease contagious?” I asked trying to avoid the “L” word.  “Oh, you’ll probably won’t get it” he nonchalantly responds in his usual caring soft voice.  PROBABLY.  Hey, I didn’t get vaccinated for that.  No one did.  If I get it we’re all getting it.  Besides the optometry team fit him for glasses and been exposed.  Why am I the only one concerned here?  Don’t body parts fall off?  Luka says there’s even a leper colony in Chiang Rai.  I asked if it was safe.  “Oh yeah, it is safe.”  But that’s what he says about everything…  Luka gave the patient his card so that he can be taken to the hospital to be evaluated and tested and eventually be treated with medications.  In the meantime, hopefully the antibiotics and steroid injections will offer him some palliation.

I offered to be quarantined in First Class since the rest of the team is waaay in the back (should have gotten Premium Ecomomy) to spare them the air that flows from First Class back.  Bill just says I can just wear a mask.   Even Pastor tried to ostracize me by pointing to a table that was reserved for me at breakfast time.  If you don’t hug me when I get back I’ll understand but if you see me irritated and deformed, please don’t ask, “What’s eating him?”

This is cool.  There is a Shaman, a witch doctor, that resides in the village.  Traditionally, he was handed down the duties from his father but really didn’t want to do it.  He was scared of demons and evil spirits and had the tools of the trade, such as, a spear or sword, a sacrificial knife, and other paraphernalia.  You definitely don’t squeeze the Shaman.  Well, he didn’t want to be a witch doctor any more and was afraid of burning these hand-me-downs in fear of the evil spirits; in fact, he wanted to be a Christian. The local pastor wasn’t sure he wanted to “exorcise him” so he called on Pastor Jack who, with Dr. Patton, Bill, and Luka went up to the local pastor’s home and laid hands on the patient and prayed with him.  Well, guess what?  Witch doctor be gone!! He prayed and he confessed his sins and accepted Christ as his personal Lord and savior.  The team took the things to be discarded and burned.  Later in the former Shaman, born-again Christian, came to the eye clinic with hopes of being able to read the bible.  Amazing Grace.

It’s hard to use measuring sticks as to what constitutes a successful mission.  The number of patients treated was a significant amount and perhaps the easiest to quantify: about 1910.  Smiles on their faces of those we treated, even somewhat hidden behind the dental gauze, or the typical bow with the hands-in-prayer-position with “kup koon ka or kup koon krup” and “goo long humaday” which is “thank you” in Thai and Akha, respectively is a reflection of he success of our efforts.  It’s amazing that they still thank us after we have inflicted some considerable pain or discomfort.  The warm and kind human touch with our very presence that we brought from half a world away showed them that someone cares for you.  And question will follow like “Who are they” or “Who was that masked man?”  Christians, they’ll say.  “What are Christians?”  Well, have a seat, and let me tell you a story that happened over two thousand years ago…

You would be proud of the team that you sent on how organized we were and how effective every team member performed in their unique position.  We all got along and strengthened our relationships with each other.  Developing relationships has always been emphasized on this trip not only with our overseas friends, but also between the doctor and their patients, between Christian brothers and sisters, between husbands and wives, and between this proud father and my special daughter, Jennifer. We opened the doors to Western civilization and Christianity in some parts of the world as representatives of First Chinese Baptist Church.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve God and for the support and prayers of FCBC and our friends and family.  We look forward to the next trip with equal enthusiasm and it won’t be soon enough.

Hey Bill, you’ve just completed a third successful mission trip to Thailand, “What are you going to do?”  “Im going to go to Disneyland!”  “And run a marathon on the West Coast and run one on the East Coast just to get a “Coast to Coast” Disney medal.”   I think I’m going to get you another “Goofy” medal, Bill.

Someone asked, “What will the future hold?”  We will know when we get there.

Medical Team International signing off…Proud to be humble servants of God.

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