From Thighland to Thailand

February 29, 2012

Thailand 4.12

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 12:27 am

Thailand 4.12: Day Off

February 28, 2012-Tuesday

There is not much to report as we left Chiang Mai to return to Chiang Rai.  Our trip to Chiang Mai served several purposes.  One to continue to treat patients that may not have access to health care, or to give an opinion on current medical conditions, or to have the convenience of a clinic setting.  We are also ambassadors for God and to demonstrate Christian giving, witnessing, and sacrifice for the betterment of those in need.   In other words: servitude.  As mentioned earlier, it was an opportunity for Luka’s brother’s church to become more involved with the public school and establish a presence in the area.  The impact of our stay was evident by a comment from the director as we were leaving: “Your God shines through your people.”  Pastor, in a rare moment, was lost for words.  We hope to continue to shine as God’s witnesses.

As we wound down the evening Richard explained how over the past four trips to Thailand has affected him.  As we know he was paralyzed in the Vietnam War as a combat marine and received, not one, but two purple hearts.  He felt that his survival and recovery to be able to walk again from his wounds meant that as payback to God and for gratitude that he would do whatever he could do for those in Thailand.

Reflecting on our 12-hour day he said, “You had to work hard on a day like today and have to reach deep inside to understand the whole attitude.”  Heavy duty.

We will be traveling to the Paamee village near the border of Myanmar where Ghan, Luka’s wife, grew up tomorrow.   I still remember the last time when we drove up the mountain how I saw a mother with her three children walking along side her as the cars passed her by and thinking, “oh, how cute!”  About two hours later they arrived to our clinic, barefoot and all, for medical care.  That is determination and the desire of the people that feel it’s important enough to have these clinic available to them and will climb mountains, cross country borders, and cross rivers to come to our clinics.  There is so much work to do and so little resources.  I am proud to be a part of First Chinese Baptist Church with their emphasis in overseas missions.  We need to continue our efforts and we hope to develop a yearly medical mission trip in the future.  We thank you for all of you who have supported these trips so far and for all of you for your continued interest in our endeavors.

I leave you with a few more photos of our trip to the Huaisan Akha Village.  Have a great day-Mark


February 27, 2012

Thailand 4.11

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 7:42 pm

Thailand 4.11: Weak too

February 27, 2012-Monday

Happy Birthday Lynelle Win!  What a partier! She had a surprise birthday cake to celebrate.  Too bad she had to work on her birthday but she gets tomorrow off.  Don’t worry Tom; you don’t have to buy her anything for her birthday because she already did.  Bill, Lynelle needs her own bin.


The Akha children need your help!  It has come to the attention of the Medical Team International that the Akha children of the Akha Youth Development Center

(AYDC) are in dire need of transportation.  Currently they have a 50 year-old bus that needs a new transmission and the engine requires that water be added before each use due to an unidentified leak.  The bus is the same one that your beloved medical team was transported in from the airport and I unfortunately received an unwanted total body massage since my blessed assurance was sitting on the transmission shroud during each of the 327 grinding gear shifts and double clutching.

Pastor Jack tells us the story of when he had to bus the Hmong children around and had an old rickety bus that fit more than the recommended number of children in it.  When a police car was nearby he would tell the children to “Pray!” and they would quickly duck their heads out of site of the window so they wouldn’t be seen.

These children need safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation.  Pastor, Richard, Bill, and Luka have looked into a Toyota Hino truck that can be converted into a “bus” with three rows of benches that can fit about 50 children.  There are 100 children at the Akha Youth Development Center that need to be taken to school.  The truck can also be used to transport produce that the AYDC make for market to raise money for the center.  We would not want our own children to continue to ride in an unsafe vehicle but that is all that they have.  The cost of the truck given discounts by the factory is still $50,000.  Many of us have vehicles costing more just to transport 2 people.  They need to transport 50 at a time.  Please consider contributing to a new school bus.  Their way of transportation is still below our standards by cramming in so many children.  Remember the photos previously posted showing about 25 children getting into the Toyota van.  Pretty funny…until you think about it.  Please send your donations to First Chinese Baptist Church, 6080 N. Angus St., Fresno, CA 93710.  Thank you for your consideration.

Early to bed and early to rise as we got ready for our nearly 12  hour work day.  We came to the Kaliwalittayalai  School which one of our interpreters Blah went to.  It’s a public school and had a nice auditorium where we set up house.  We prepared for the onslaught and fortunately it was just a steady pace throughout the day.  Bill tried to scare us but we are veterans and don’t pay attention to the clock, just our stomachs.  Frankly, it was a little boring (maybe we are too efficient) and we might have to cut the fat.  So that is exactly what I did.  I cut a 3-inch lipoma (fatty tumor) from the side of a patient in our makeshift exam room/operating table behind some chairs just from view of the public.  Here in Thailand they don’t like excess fat either.

The patients kept coming and coming like a Tsunami, wave after wave to the optometry dept.  They managed to see 145 patients by themselves and were running out of lens glass to make certain prescriptions.   Another record.  Dental saw 98 while medicine saw 108 for a grand total of 351 patients seen.  Dental may have had a few more under the radar.  We are just plugging along and we are proud of the team’s dedication to work until 8-9 pm.  Please thank them for their hard work when you have a chance.  We have a lot of support from the hosts as well that keep us hydrated and fed and cool.  Even a young teacher at the school paid a little extra attention to my wife, Lena, letting others know how grateful he was for her, um, assistance.  I think he took a liking to her (Do you blame him?) and two other teachers said that he liked her and he was hanging around just a little too long.  I don’t know if he wanted to give her that ole special Thailand hospitality, but it sounds like she was being hit on.  Maybe I’m just too possessive but “Whatever Happens in Thailand” ain’t gonna happen in the first place!  Lena, you go girl!

Now this is a good point.  See this is a public school and Luka’s brother is a pastor and has a church in the surrounding area that he would eventually develop stronger ties to the community and to the school.  He visited us while we were there and our presence may have helped with the relations with the school.  After we wrapped it up at the school the shopping squad hit the night market once again.  Bigger than Chiang Rai and higher end.  It made the women pretty happy.






Needing some sleep-Mark

Thailand 4.10

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 5:37 pm

Thailand 4.10: Day of Mourning

February 26, 2012-Sunday



We started our morning with a church service at the Akha Village Church.  It was a service not unlike those at home except that we had TWO sermons, one in Akha, and one by Pastor Jack on “Don’t be afraid, Just Believe.”  It was actually quite good as it kept most of us awake.  We, collectively, can all relate to that message.  During the worship some came forward to be prayed for and others sang in their traditional Akha attire.  Our singing practice paid off.  Move over Von Trapp family.  We have a new gig.  We sang in tune (those off tune were asked to lip sync) “How great thou art!” thanks to the tireless efforts of Conductor Kane.

Visiting the church was a touching experience.  This is our fourth trip to this area and we saw old friends and old patients recognized us.  It was hard leaving them again; indeed It was sad.  One figurehead that was obviously missing was Luka’s father, Ah Tsa .  It even brought tears to his widow speaking about it as she clutched Pastor Jack’s hand tightly.  The Akha showered us with gifts that we felt we didn’t really deserve.  But it was more of a demonstration of their hospitality and generosity that was so readily apparent.  After the service we took a solemn stroll several hundred yards uphill to the cemetery to Luka’s fathers gravesite.  The cemetery was nearly covered with tree leaves with only the crosses sticking out of the ground signifying the influence of Christianity in this village.   Just as we were leaving, one elder, Apai, said, “Please come back before I die.”

Our next destination is Chiang Mai, a large city 2 hours south of Chiang Rai.  We will be visiting a school there and anticipate a 10-12 hour day working well into the evening.  May God grant us rest for our souls/soles.  So to prepare for the next day we visited the Floral Garden Expo in Chiang Mai first since we had the energy.  It was kind of an Epcot center-Disneyland type environment of various countries and well, garden variety, plants and some exotics, without the long lines or expensive foods.  Nice orchids; I wonder how they keep them alive.  One sign said “Don’t smell.”  Nobody wanted to find out what would happen if they DID smell one.   I found a figurine that had the exact, same pose that Richard was in as described in a previous blog.  You will recognize it when you see it and just superimpose his face and you will see what I saw.  Some  other team members (Allyson and Diana) had enough energy to go to the night Bazaar afterwards and shopped until they dropped.  I must have gotten ripped off since I bought this toy for 30 Baht and an interpreter got the same for 20 Baht.  She said, “That’s sooo saaaddd!”

Five necessities we miss:

  1. Flushable toilets with seats so we don’t have to squat
  2. Electrical outlets with more than one plug-in
  3. 2-ply toilet paper in public places (Lens paper don’t cut it)
  4. Hot water for showers
  5. Starbuck’s coffee

Let’s see how week two goes…Mark

February 25, 2012

Thailand 4.9

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 5:20 pm

Thailand 4.9: We are all God’s children

February 25, 2012-Saturday

Happy 21st Birthday Lindsay Lowe! We hope you’re having a great time in Germany and Austria or wherever you may be.  Dad says enjoy Vienna!

 We traveled to the Khaodee Church (Good news) orphanage in Maechan about 45 minutes north of Chiang Rai.  Many smiling children and adult villagers greeted us.  There are about 100 orphans here but only about 9 staff members.  Many people from the surrounding area came as well to this clinic for treatment.  A missionary team from Hawaii comes every year so some of the adult women were giving us the “Hang Loose” sign with the pinky and thumb extended.  I got them to extend the finger and tried to teach them “I Love You” then pointed towards the sky to say God and Jesus loves you.  I think they got the idea.  The buildings and grounds were nice.  We had a large work area but, unfortunately, throughout the day it was like working in an oven.  There was a clay roof with no ceiling and the hot air began to descend to our level. The outside temp was 91 degrees so it was about 100+ indoors with little ventilation.   Fans made it feel like a hot blow dryer.  The hosts were great and fed us well.   It’s hard to relate to giving up a child when you cannot raise them yourselves. (Although I have to admit that I thought of giving up one or two of my own from time to time!)  I even saw a pair of beautiful twin girls that were orphans.  There is a great influence being raised in a church-run orphanage.  One of my youngest patient wasn’t even two years old but he would put his hands together and pray or greet me with “Sawasdee.”  His mother and him live at the orphanage since she can’t do it alone. There was a patient who was in the eye clinic that said that she died at a young age and came back to life but was left cross-eyed.  She wanted to try to improve her eyesight but that’s how she was left and there was not much the docs could do for her eyesight. Most of them seemed happy and content.  The children live in dormitory type buildings and they work together helping us out with moving our bins, moving tables and chairs, and even washing the dishes after our meals.  They have a great work ethic at such a young age. They were grateful for us to be there and surrounded us in a circle at the end and prayed for us and thanked us.  Sometimes we may feel sorry for them but Lena felt that they are probably more at peace than most Americans.  I’m starting a photo op ministry.  I do get a charge when I see a child’s smile after I give them a photo of them or with their friends.  It may have been the first time that they have seen a picture of themselves. Daily tally:  272 Patients

  1. Medical:    116 Patients
  2. Dental:          73Patients
  3. Eye:                  83 Patients (A record so far!)

Tomorrow we go to church at the Huaisan Akha Village Church where we had our first clinic.  We have the honor to see a song during the church service.  I am worried because it is written in Psalm 100:1, “Make a joyful noise unto the world.”  I am not so sure we are too joyful but the noise will be there.  However, there is hope.  Kane led after during dinner as we practiced “Shout to the Lord.” I hope that at least puts a smile on God’s face.

1131 Patients treated so far and counting-Mark


Thailand 4.8

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 12:02 am

Thailand 4.8: Picture Worth 1000 Words

February 24, 2012-Friday

Quote of the Day:  “I’m having a Blast! during what you love with people that I love”, Cindy Wu

Happy 20th Birthday Allison!

I’ve missed my youngest daughter’s birthday once again because of a mission trip.  It’s one of those “I’m a terrible father moments.”  I am sorry but I’m not sorry, you know, because it’s for God.  I know that she understands.  That’s my girl!  20.  Hmmmm…how time flies.  So much work, so little time.

We are not all work and no play.  Well we didn’t really play but on this seventh day  (Time zone adjusted) we rested.  So far we have treated about 850 patients in 4 days.  We are pretty happy about this number and bill thinks we will reach 2000 easily.  “Easily” is a relative term.  For those who have followed the blog I appreciate it so I will give you a rest today reading and try use few words.  I will let the pictures explain.  No, we’re not having too much fun.  Just recharging.  We have long days and nights still ahead to reach 2000.

Okay, I woke up to finish this blog and was just going to post some photos.  I had one thought that maybe God was talking to me.  Let me explain.

I am very proud of my son, Steven; his nickname is, “Myson.”  His only reluctant to come on this trip was the peanuts.  Yes, the peanuts.  He is deathly allergic to peanuts and probably many other allergens.  Tested against 100 allergens, he was allergic to 96.  “I’ll just eat rice”, he says.  Everywhere we go and eat he prefaces ordering with the question, “Are there peanuts?”  He has a peanut paranoia, and rightfully so.  Well, he has brought his talents and skills with a passion of photography and filmmaking to tell you a story in a documentary that he is assigned to do.  He majored in visual arts and would eventually like to teach and, not necessarily “Make millions” filming blockbusters.  I say go for the latter.  I admire his eye for that perfect Kodak moment and how he approaches capturing it through the lens.  He has grown up to be a responsible young man.  He is polite, friendly, and prays before each meal.  That’s my boy!

As a father I want him to be proud of me as well.  A few years ago when he had an allergic reaction, he was itching all over and getting a rash and wasn’t responding to the usual OTC medications.  I had steroids and epi-pen at the house and prescription antihistamines. He wasn’t in any danger but he was very anxious and concerned.   “Dad, I want to see a REAL doctor”, he says in a raised and assertive tone.  “Okay, son, I’ll take you to the ER.”  $1500, steroids, and an epi-pen later, he felt better.  That was Fresno.

Here in Chiang Rai he gets to see “His dad in action.”  I was tending to a human bite wound of the mother-in-law whose thumb was bitten to the bone and tendon by the unfaithful daughter-in-law while she while trying to break up the fight between her and the husband who caught her cheating and confronted her the night before.  Human bites are a medical injury that needed debridement, irrigation, and I.V. antibiotics.  So I spent some time tending to this wound and felt that it was fortunate for the women to have and gotten it treated in a timely manner.  Untreated, waiting even a day, could have been very serious and develop into a rip-roaring infection.  I used to treat these a lot.  Someone said to Steven, “Go film your dad treating that bite wound.”  He caught the moment I was putting on the Band-Aid over the thumb and said, “That’s it?  It’s not even film worthy.”  As I removed the dagger from my heart I was thinking that I saved the women’s Thumb from falling off.  Ai-Yah!  I can’t even impress my own son.

That’s why I felt to add this to this previously intended “short” blog.  I should not be concerned about impressing my son, my wife, my colleagues, my friends, or my patients.  I need to focus on if I am impressing my God.  And even “impressing” may be the wrong term.  I should just try to make him smile once in a while because I can’t picture God smiling too much these days.  So the question is for you and for me, “Did you make God smile today?’  I know I definitely make him laugh and shake his head.  But, if we are to be like Jesus, I want him to say to me, “My son, I am well pleased.”

Today, try to put a smile on God’s face, here’s some photos to put a smile on yours-Mark

Mr. GQ and his better half.

Hole in the wall gang.

Our mark left on large rock at Indigenous Festival.

Like father, like son.

The swinging' Pastor

Hole in the wall gang

Yonnie and friends.

Andy finally passed his kidney stone.

February 24, 2012

Thailand 4.7

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 1:16 am

Thailand 4.7: Miracles

February 23, 2012-Thursday

Happy Birthday Cindy Wu!

Our morning began with a health crisis of one of our own. Andy was taking one of his usual morning strolls and felt a deep pain in his side. You know, one of those “getting old aches”. He thought he pulled a muscle. It was an unusual pain, one that he had never experienced before. Most of you know that Andy is a pretty tuff guy. At least he acts like one but Diane says he’s a pussycat. He felt this wave of pain going down his flank (muffin top area for those of you who can relate). It is an unbearable pain for which most need narcotic (opioid) injections, like morphine or Demerol. The closest we had was vicodin but that doesn’t work with Andy. I even tried to contact my Betelnut pal for pure opium, but she says that she doesn’t deal anymore. Good for her! With Kane at his side and after some Zen-like meditating and using the Lamaze breathing technique, “Hee, hee, hee, who” Andy emerged from his room sweat dripping from his brow. The crowd roared, “An-dy! An-dy!” He “only” had the pain for a few hours as the stone eventually passed down the ureter (tube connecting the kidney to the bladder) as large stones that bulge could take a long time, even days, to pass as stones often gets stuck and the muscles of the ureter try to propel it down this narrow diameter tube, wave after wave of peristalsis. Doug Owyang quoted Jay Leno, “Passing a kidney stone is like given birth to broken dishes.” You get the idea. I’m waiting for his stone to pass so I can post a photo of it in the next blog. Andy says it reminded him of the song “Rolling Down the River”.

As Kane commented It was truly God’s blessing that for those of you who have not experienced a kidney stone (I can relate) he passed it into his bladder in a relatively short time. Now Andy could have stayed in bed the rest of the day but he is a trooper and wanted to take his post in triage. It would have been a tight bottleneck without him. I pray that the rest of the trip that he’s doesn’t get stoned again.

We got detoured today and instead of going to a prison due to logistical changes we went to the Huaisan Public Heath Center with is along the way to Luka’s village. He must have connections because he only has to make one call the day before to send “The Word” for patients to quickly gather. The facility was a fairly nice medical clinic, albeit a little cramp but we always make do. The dental clinic worked in one corner in their “open Air” suite and in the other corner we had the pharmacy. In the corridor the eye clinic sat up shop and rumor had it that there was already 100 patients lined up for just their clinic alone. Pastor Jack joined the lens grinder team due to his “Axe grinding” experience. The medical docs were enclosed in the administrative wing with fairly tight quarters.

Daily Stats: 200 patients
1. Medical: 79 patients seen
2. Dental: 71 patients seen
3. Eye: 51patients (or 102 eyes) seeing (see that coming?)

Lisu tribes woman

Case of the Day:

We are medical missionaries. We have a unique opportunity to evangelize and to care for them spiritually as well as physically. Some can do it better than others. I know sometimes I have that I can have that “get ‘em in and get ‘em” out attitude just due to the number of patents that we have to see. “Next!” but Kane has a knack to look for an opportunity to share the gospel. That’s just one of his gifts. I was eavesdropping on his conversation with a patient in the next room (It’s not my fault, I mentioned it was cramped space.) I was trying to get pointers. A patient came in complaining of your typical back pain. “Get ‘em in, get ‘em out.” Then he probed into her past medical history and she already had a total knee replacement and needed another one in the opposite knee. Then she complained about other body ailments and that she felt that her body was breaking down, that she looks fine on the outside but that she can’t fix her body. Kane explained to her that he is a Christian medical missionary and he took the chance and asked her if he could pray for her. She said, “Yes.” Fortunately, Ghan, Luka’s wife was translating and could relate to what Kane was about to say. “Are you a Christian?” he asks. “No, but I went to church once.” “Have you heard the Christian gospel?” “No.” “God didn’t plan for our bodies to break down. He intended for us to have perfect bodies.” Kane then proceeded to explain that because of the downfall of man we are punished for our sins and that our bodies will suffer because of that and when we go to heaven our bodies will be restored. Then the patient added that her husband had been cheating on her for years and had recently left her for the mistress. Kane explained how if the husband knew Jesus that perhaps he would have emulated him because Jesus taught us how to love and respect one another and things may have been different with Jesus in her life. Kane offered her to pray for her and although it would not cure all her ailments it could give her hope to cope with her suffering. Furthermore, in Revelations, it is written that there will be no more pain. No more suffering. No more tears. Wow! How’d he get through the New Testament in 20 minutes? He was hoping to encourage her to go to church again for support and further discovery.

Now as this was going on, in the next room Doug was with a patient and they, too, could hear the whole thing. I wasn’t the only one eavesdropping! You could see them looking at each other’s wide opened eyes in amazement. Doug had just treated the patient’s migraine with an injection and her headache was gone. It was the first time that she ever had relief of her headaches even after going to another clinic time after time. She was, in fact, experiencing her own miracle right at this moment. The patient then turned to Doug and asked him, “Will you pray for me?” Whoa! Heavy duty man. Pastor doesn’t believe in coincidences and that this trip alone could have been to bring just one child to Christ.

We had a nice celebration for Cindy Wu’s birthday today as the innkeeper had a Jell-O-type birthday cake, watermelon, and mango spread just for her. It was very generous and the whole staff at the Golden Triangle Inn has been very hospitable. After our dinner and devotion which covered what you read above (we do contemplate and reflect each evening and cools our jets) we had an enjoyable night at the Colors of the World festival which had a gathering of several dozen ethnic “Indigenous” tribes from around the world. A single Tee Pee was even their representing the American Indians as a whole. Many unique foods were tried but we managed to avoid the roasted cockroaches. We can get them anytime in our bedrooms. Thanks Bill.

Looking forward to a day of rest tomorrow-Mark

February 22, 2012

Thailand 4.6

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:09 pm

Thailand 4.6: Wake up call

February 22, 2012-Wednesday

Bob Wu made an interesting comment that my journal writing has been, say, more subdued than in the past.  Perhaps it’s been that I am being more polite and writing more facts and recounting experiences and reporting rather than commentating my “feelings”.  Personally I like writing with more feelings and passion but I have to remind you that my wife is accompanying me this trip so I am trying to behave myself.  Please make a comment at the end and tell me what style that you prefer.  I would like to keep the readers attention and perhaps entertained so it wont be so boring.

Sight for sore eyes vs. eye sore:

Sight for sore eyes is seeing the last patient of the day after going nonstop.   I want you to close your eyes and picture that old Burt Reynolds pose for a women’s magazine lying on his side with his hand propping up his head with strategically placed hands.  Provocative isn’t it.  Now picture Richard, hand on his head propping his head with a sheet strategically placed over his belly with this grin on his mouth.  I was afraid to ask whether or not he had anything on underneath. That’s an eye sore.  That is why I slept in another room otherwise I would have had nightmares.  I wish I had that camera…

We have real early birds.  Larry’s was up at 0400 surfing the web. Bill was up since 0300 trading stocks in the wee hour and has a software program to alert him of opportunity to buy/sell.  Its just to much work but I guess its worth it to him,   No, I know its worth it because he’s already in retirement.  “Gold is going Up”, he says.  too bad the only gold I own is in my mouth.  Now I know why I’m not rich.

The women came out of their dorms  ready to go for a stroll but came into our building so they wont’ disturbed those still sleeping in their building.  What about those that are still sleeping in our building.?   Gail, Lena, and Lynelle followed by allyson came in literally walking right over steven who was sleeping on the floor in the middle of the room.  They treated him like he was the door mat.  Poor steven so bill and I drug him over to the side of he the room lest he be furthered disturbed.  I don’t like to talk at 5 am but the girls always seem to find something to talk about.

Since we were all eventually up early we got prepared for breakfast.  Already the Lao school kids who come from the villages were ready to take a van to school.  A van half full already came to pick them up and the dozen kids standing in line eventually piled into the back of the van one by one.  The Lao are really efficient; they can fit 25 kids in one van. But interestingly their van doesn’t bottom out compared to the van carrying 12 of us Americans.

We had a very productive day today and had to turn back a few patients who travelled to see us.  We felt bad since many came from Laos across the border.  We treated many physical ailments but Kane treated a number of patients spiritually by praying for and with them for their physical and emotional healing.  Kane has that gift of compassion and patience and takes the opportunity to evangelize whenever possible.

Daily tally: 287 patients seen

  1. Medical: 160 patients
  2. Dental:      65 patients
  3. Eye:            62 patients

Top 5 ailments I’ve seen in missions:

  1. joint pain
  2. back pain
  3. numbness
  4. hand pain
  5. heartburn

Top 5 helpless moments treating patients:

  1. Arterio-venous Malformation of the face
  2. Infant Cleft lip and palate
  3. Bone pain in my whole body
  4. Symptoms changing when there is a full moon
  5. HIV

Top 5 Treatments I wish I could honestly suggest:

  1. Change jobs
  2. Don’t sit on the floor and don’t stand
  3. Drink alcohol
  4. Get a Thai massage
  5. Eat better




We pack our bags after feeling satisfied and productive and say our good byes to our host Pastor Phonekeo and Directors Robert and Chris Davis.  However, I am a miffed at Bill.  Okay, I am po’d.  As you know I like to take photos for documentation and Kodak moment opportunities.  My photos are usually in the journal so I have to take more than enough photos.  I guess I’ve been replaced by Steven who gets free reign of the place and of people.  Bill let him take photos of the combined group with a dozen different cameras of several team.  But Steven wasn’t in any of the photos and since it was his first time I wanted him to be in at least one photo with the group so I quickly stepped out and said, “Just one more photo please.” he says NO!  We have to go! And reluctantly returns to his position and doesn’t’ smile.  Okay I took 30 seconds to take the final photo.  You can see his eyes roll up into his head.  So now we rush cause he wants to get back quickly and pack the bags and away we go.  We aren’t even 5 minutes down the main road and then the vans are pulling over next to the Mekong River.   I thought we had a flat or something.    People exit the other two vehicles en mass to take a photo of this bright boat travelling down the river.  I guess it’s a Kodak moment.   I see Bill and Gail checking out the right position for a photo with the river in the background and he’s checking out the lighting so that the sun would hit softly on his face to shadow out his bags and wrinkles and the two are combing their hair and posing and smiling like a honeymoon picture taking their sweet time.  I can read his lips through my van window saying “Take another shot to be sure.”  I was stuck in my van in the third row against the window opposite the door sitting next to Richard who was barricading me with his eyes staring at me saying ”you’re not getting out.”  Yes sir master sergeant!  So I missed that shot.  All I want is consistency Mr. team Leader.   I can’t wait to see the lovebird photo of Dr. Hypocrite Ho.  Oh, I thought you were in a hurry?!?

I think I’m being seduced by the dark side (I have even seen a star wars t-shirt on an Akha elder before) as I have been hanging around with the wrong crowd.  I had befriended an Akha elder the last few trips.  She’s the one who got me to try the betelnut plant that has an addictive drug that causes chronic users to get dark red/black teeth.  It gives you a little buzz but can be sedating as I had discovered.  I saw her again this trip and she greeted me with smiles, sometimes being a little too friendly, but I thought it was their custom and hospitality.  Now I am not so sure what her particular individual’s motives were.  I discovered through a reliable source that this 75ish year old lady just spent two months in prison with her son for using opium and peddling the drug.  No lie.  Really.  I’ve been comingling with a felon! Her own village turned her in due to the strict codes or laws that they have and so for her own good she was taken away and put in prison so that she could rehab and detox off the drug.  I’d like to see if I can get her on the Dr. Drew show.  I suspect, though not confirmed that she may have wanted me to, you know, deal for her.   Be the usa connection perhaps.  So I am, at least being cautiously optimistic and giving her the benefit of the doubt.  She’s a nice lady and always seemed happy.  I thought she was high on life but it could have been something else.  I’m glad she cleaned up her act.  Praise the Lord!

May the force be with you-Mark

February 21, 2012

Thailand 4.5

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 2:14 pm

Thailand 4.5: Heading for the border

February 21, 2012-Tuesday

Most of us are acclimating to the 90-degree heat and humidity and have recovered from jet lag.  We are dealing with the water shortage mentioned before by showering with bottled water.  I think I’ll try Avian next time to hydrate my sensitive skin.  last night we were treated to dessert by Ming with wonderful Mango sticky rice, my favorite!  Yummy, thank you Ming!

Today we traveled 2 hours to the Thailand Mennonite Brethren Foundation. It’s located near the border town of Chang  Khong situated along the Mekong River which separates Laos from Thailand. Our connection with this area is former fresnan Pastor Phonekeo Keovilay.  Born in Laos and imprisoned after the Laotian war he fled to a refugee camp where he was converted to Christianity.  He came to Fresno after training at San Jose Christian College to evangelize the Laotian population.  He felt called back to the Khmu tribe in Laos and as a missionary for the Mennonite Brethren Church, he help build this center for training lao pastors across the Mekong River.

The center is quite impressive and covers several acres and the buildings are only a few years old.  We set up house in the usual fashion and will be spending the night in separate male and female dormitories except those higher ranking couples who get to share a room.  I understand the lesser few will have to arrange conjugal visits. But most are too tired and the “headaches“ are for real.  The rest of us get to have a slumber party and pillow fights.  How fun.







Okay, stats for the day are 115 medical patients, 65 dental patients and 62 eye patients.  This is actually quite good since we only worked for about six hours starting just before noon.

One noteworthy patient passed out at the triage passed out from dehydration.  Andy has been salivating at the chance of starting an I.V.  A man with a history of diabetes came with low blood sugar and dehydration and collapsed in front of everyone.  Fortunately we had the supplies and I.V. fluids to successfully resuscitate him.  Andy Probably saved his life; it’s another day at the office for him.  We have many patients that we really can’t help like a patient who had a huge arterio-venous malformation on his face that was pulsating.  If we looked at it the wrong way it would have bled and that would have been fatal. Others like the patient with Hepatitis that we couldn’t treat or diseases that need a drug we don’t have need to have us spend time with them for the sake of caring.  Doug reminded me about patients just needing reassurance despite our limitations.

We are not expecting to treat a certain number and number crunching is not why we are here.   Quality outweighs quantity and sometimes patients just want to know that someone cares. Lena and Gail make the patient feel warm and their positions to greet the patients make them feel very welcomed.  The eye clinic continues to turnover glasses at a record pace as Mark Patton and Allyson grind away in their little corner.  It’s a dramatic change for most when they can immediately see a difference.

We cannot do what we do without all of our interpreters who have to interpret for up to three docs at a time.  They are greatly appreciated.

Top Ten things to do in Chiang rai in our spare time:

  1. Go to the day Market
  2. Walk with friends at 530 am
  3. Search for WI FI signal and surf the web
  4. Slap mosquitoes
  5. Count how many geckos are on the wall at any one time
  6. Read kindle
  7. Replenish drugs and dental supplies
  8. Eat mango sticky rice
  9. Call home
  10. Blog while everyone else is sleeping…

We are spending the night at the Foundation some sleeping on floors on pads sharing the room with up to a dozen people but it beats packing and driving back and returning in the morning.  Many patients are anticipated to cross the Mekong from communist Laos for medical care.  I hope that it will be worth their trip and efforts.  We hate to disappoint.

Got to go slap some mosquitoes-Mark

February 20, 2012

Thailand 4.4

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 3:41 pm

Thailand 4.4: On your mark. Get set. Go!

February 20, 2012-Monday

FYI: Please see or unless you are already here.

Today was our first work day and we travelled to the Huisan Akha Village about 30 miles away. This is where Jo Tsa raised Luka and his family. About 100 families now live in this hillside village and they were expecting us. many people greeted us with smiles and waved to us as we drove by their homes along the dusty dirt roads.

Typical home and Akha villagers.

Huaisan Village Church soon to be clinic

The team set up camp at the Church Building for the medical and eye clinic. A small existing clinic next to the sanctuary was used for the dental clinic and had a small room for minor surgery. We are fairly efficient now and got going quickly. It was great to see so many familiar faces since we have be coming here 2006. Some were children and young adults who are now grown up. Auntika or“A” as we call her in particular is well known to us is now married and in her first trimester of pregnancy! My betalnut buddy greeted me with a double hand shake and presented me with a bead necklace. Later she played a mouth instrument twanging aboriginal type music. Many of the team members were given shell necklaces as well but we had to remove them since most of us had an allergic reaction to them last time! It seemed so familiar here and comfortable like coming to visit family.

Many came with various ailments of decayed teeth and general body aches and pains. Many had eye pain or needed glasses. We realize that HIV is reaching this small Akha village. It may be due to some of the individuals are in contact with people from the big cities and bring it back up to the village. Many patients are manual laborers that work in nearby rice, tea, and cornfields and suffer similar repetitive strain injuries as well. Many were treated for the same ailments that were treated the last time we were here so I guess we didn’t cure them. We will try again this time.

Well, during our first day we encountered a few headaches. Getting the dentists to treat the anxious crowd in a timely manner was like pulling teeth, but they were aching to get to work done quickly. They know the drill. No blings.

The Eye doctors had some vision on how to set things up and watching them was a blur, especially Mark Patton, who was working in a dust cloud grinding lenses for the new glasses. It made us look cross-eyed. Optometrists are a compassionate group of docs demonstrated by their signs “Eye care.” Well, we care too. But the unavoidable clutter was an eye sore and cleaning up the mess was a sight for sore eyes. They worked so fast I saw double.

Adequate working space is a luxury and doctors like to be pampered. Well, the medical docs had some ill feelings since we were getting sick with the little area to work in. Every body helped as we shouldered the responsibility and treated the patients efficiently and quickly. Working with them was a little nauseating but we managed not to succumb to their desire for more room. We diagnosed the problem right away and tried to make adjustments. there was no cure and the space was just too anemic. The situation was terminal so we let things pass on. We should have known. Constantly bumping into one another was a dead giveaway.

David was setting up the pharmacy and because drugs were in short supply he was a pill and drug his feet. Dorothy was able to sedate him and was straight laced by telling him to chill out because she was Dunn with him. He was stimulated with their conversation but vented to her. It was cathartic.

On a happeier note, the budding Steven “Spielberg” Chin literally had his hands full with that video rig he’s toting along with a backup camera swung around his next. He’s always carrying and shooting video and even jumped from the van and ran ahead just to capture that special moment of our caravans coming and going and crossing the river. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have a story board in your head and try to capture those moments to place in the video. He’s a cross between an in-your-face reporter and paparazzi. I can’t wait for the documentary and the sequel.

We are either getting more efficient or it seemed fairly steady but work was not overwhelming. It proceeded with a leisurely pace for most. The medical and the Dental clinic finished early and done by 3 pm. The eye dept. returned to the inn by about 5:15 pm working constantly with 5 optometrists and an abundance of helpers to help people to see the light.

At dinner time our Spiritual Leader Pastor Jack led us with his Chapbook V: Our Journey… follow God…

He led us in prayer, devotion, and song. We will do this nightly so we can be spiritually fed by the word and not by bread alone.

talleys for the day.

➢ Dental Clinic: 41patients seen

➢ Medical Clinic: 60 Patients seen, one minor surgery

➢ Eye careClinic: 44 patients

➢ Casualites: one member Headache, several members car sick, half recuperating from jet lag, everyone bitten by mosquitoes,

Feelings for the day: Rookies

➢ Mark Patton: Worked hard, non-stop. Missionary kid, so he’s used to it.

➢ Steven Chin: “Oddly familiar.” Though seeing many for the first time it felt like family. It felt warm.”

➢ Lena Chin: “How exciting it must be for everyone and newbies felt welcomed. We have rhythm.”

➢ Allyson Farrell: It was exciting, enjoyable, and delightful to see when the patient could see clearly for the first time. Some eyes were opened. She felt appreciation even when we can’t do everything but the patient felt happy when we can do something.

➢ Dorothy Dunn: Although she felt ill by dinner time she felt better. “Coke was good!”

Quotes of the Day:

➢ “Sometimes we can’t do something physical for them but we can do something spiritually”-Diana Lee

➢ When urinated upon by a child who Lynelle was treating, Bill Ho exclaimed “That’s an Akha Baptism!”

➢ “It felt comfortable like coming to visit family.”-Richard Bruce

➢ “That’s Akhaward!”

Water saving measures at Golden Triangle Inn:

➢ flushing the toilets are only effective for waste settling at the bottom and for number 1. Toilet paper doesn’t flush down so we deposit TP in the trash.

➢ Doug is lathering his hair with shampoo and the water stops. Comes out to the lobby and says “No water!”

➢ Uncle Dennis and Dr. T were moved from one room to another due to lack of running water. Dennis is halfway showering when the water stops. Then he wonders if its running in the room he left. It is and he finishes the rest of the shower. He just chuckles as he crosses the lobby.

➢ Kane taking a shower and the water stops and stands there butt naked and waits for 15 minutes.

➢ Mark showering and the water stops, waits 5 minutes, hears air water coming and is excited until the ultra hot water sitting in the electric container gets blasted out onto my stomach. I’m glad I wasn’t aiming lower.

➢ Dusit anyone?

Lights out- Mark

February 19, 2012

Thailand 4.3

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 3:01 pm

Thailand 4.3: Love is Patient

February 19, 2012- Sunday

By now it’s Sunday, Thai time and we have arrived at our destination.  Last trip I “Journaled” while Jennifer “blogged”.  I am going to try to do a hybridized version, a Blogal if you will.  For those who just want the facts I’ll precede the detailed version with the cliff note version.  Those of you who want to get an idea then you can just get the bullet points. Those of you who want to feel what we feel can proceed to the lengthy, exhaustive, somewhat boring version but I would just like to say that it helps me to remember what we did when I try to recall our trip in my advancing age.  At least read the cliff notes so that when we converse when we come back home our feelings won’t get hurt if you ask “Haven’t seen you for awhile; you’ve been out of town?”

First the FAQs:

  • Why are we doing what were doing? We are suppose to serve. The great commission: Matthew     Go into the world and spread the news to all nations.
  • Is this an evangelical Mission or Medical mission? Primarily it’s a Medical mission to offer services to the needy but we will represent ourselves in a Christian manner hoping for opportunities to spread the good news.
  • Who are we? Medical Team International, First Chinese Baptist Church.
  • How often do you go? Every two years, Goal every year some type of mission trip.
  • Where are we going? Throughout Chiang rai, chiang mai, Golden Triangle near Laos border in northern Thailand
  • Who are we treating: Akha Villagers, Laotians, prisoners, school children, various other hillside tribal villagers.
  • How long are we going for? Gone 16 days.
  • Who’s going? Pastor  Danny Jack, Arlean Jack, RN, Sir Richard Bruce, USMC, Bill Ho, DDS, Gail Ho, RN, Lester Lowe, DDS, Larry Lowe, DDS, Lynelle Win, DH, Akira Tajiri, OD, Dennis Chiinn, OD, Allyson Farrell, OD, Diane Lee, OD, David Chow, PharmD, Dorothy Dunn-Chow, Jack Patton, MD, Mark Patton, Doug Owyang, MD, Kane Kuo, MD, Bob Wu, MD, Cindy Wu, RN, Andy alejo, RN, Ming Chong, RN, Mark Chin, MD, Lena Chin, MRS., Steven Chin. 25 in all.
  • This team is comprised of many veterans from FCBC, Tacoma, Washington, and Southern California.  Those that are new to this trip are Lena Chin, Steven Chin, Mark Patton, Dorothy Dunn-Chow, Allyson Farrell, and Diana Lee.  As the team advances in years the talents and skills need to be passed on. Drs. Farrell and Lee fulfill this hope for the future.  Allyson is Dr. Tajiri’s daughter and Diana is Gilbert/Dolores lee’s daughter.  They will be using the optical equipment invented and designed by Dr. Tajiri so that prescription glasses can be made in as quick as 15 minutes.  Lena, Mark Patton and Dorothy will be general helpers and work in whatever capacity they can as their Warm presence and efforts will be greatly appreciated.  Steven majored in visual arts and will be filming and preparing a documentary for use at home and for the American Baptist Churches
  • What is their age range?  24-85 years old.
  • What services are you providing? Medical Care, Minor Surgical care, drugs and vitamins, Dental care (Cleaning, hygiene, and restoration), Vision Care and Prescription glasses.
  • How many patient encounters do you expect? Over 1000-1500 Patients.
  • Who’s Paying? Self Funded by volunteers , Team members, and by FCBC mission fund.
  • Is it dangerous? Actually, yes.  But you can get a 2nd opinion.
  • Why is Mark Chin writing, again?? No one else volunteered.
  • Why are the entries so long?  I’m wordy, have diarrhea of the mouth, and there’s nothing else to do.
  • Do I have to read anymore of this? No, you can stop here.  This is not required reading.  But if you want to sympathize or empathize with us, or cry, laugh, get nauseated, scared, freaked out, feel our joy or disappointment and our humiliation, our passion, and be there in the action…Read on and stay tuned.

Two luggage missing!!

No party bus.

"Are we there yet?"

A boy and his toy! George Lucas Jr. in the making...

Now as my lovely wife would ask: What did you do, who did you see, what was it like?

  • Long hours, traveled 32 hours door-to-door from FCBC to Bangkok, to chiang Rai to golden Triangle inn.
  • Luka Chermue, founder of Thai Akha Ministry foundation and our host along with his entourage (Gi and Joshua) met us at Chiang Rai Airport with warm Embraces and enduring smiles.  They transported us with their school bus and 4 x 4’s to Golden Triangle Inn and then treated us to a nice lunch.  It feels like we were just there.
  • Unload, unpack, and unwind.
  • Shopped at the day market and Central plaza.  Definitely need more time to shop.
  • Lena, Steven, Diane and Allyson experienced their first tuk- tuk ride.
  • I found some great mango and sticky rice, two portions, didn’t have to share much.  I felt guilty… nah, not really.
  • Bob and cindy wu arrived separately to join the team.  Feels like family together again.  Missed them dearly.
  • We went to a nearby restaurant with our team and Luka’s team and their families.  About 35 people gathered to remember Luka’s father, Jo Tsa, who past away in 2010.  Jo Tsa was the first Akha villager who became a Christian and essentially had to leave his village due to his change in religion.  He took his family along with four other families and formed what is now known as the huisan Akha Village. It was a touching moment to share his memories through a slide show which included the last days of his life.
  • Jack Patton graciously introduced the team members and remarked that “It’s like coming home and seeing old family again.”
  • Pastor Jack, our spiritual leader thanked luka and his vision that he has with his ministry and how important it was to this team to be part of that ministry.
  • We Met Yonie Cramer, RN from texas who will be joining us during our stay.  She worked at the akha village medical clinic from 1998-2000 and this was a welcoming home for her.  We are glad she can join us with her experience.
  • We briefly celebrated Bill ho’s, Jack Patton’s, Lynelle’s, and Cindy’s Birthday and had some cake.  We tried to spank them but they ran too fast and we’re too tired.
  • A brief trip to the night bazaar yielded empty bags.  Yes, we really must have been tired!

Memorializing grandpa Jo Tsa

Luka, Mrs. Chermue and Dad Jo Tsa Chermue

Pastor recognizing and thanking Luka for his ministry

Kane Kuo's team shirts given to Luka

Happy Birthday to us!

First Chinese Baptist Church commits a generous portion of their budget towards mission trips.  Donations and fund raisers such as Food and fun support this cause.  Donations are always welcome, anytime. This is our fourth trip to Thailand as a medical Team (the youth group went last year to teach and help build and paint buildings).  All who go are volunteers offering their skills and talent to what has developed into an efficient and effective team that collaborates to see as many people and in as many cities that we can be at in our relatively short time frame.

Kane Kuo donated custom designed team shirts for luka’s and our team to wear with the Bible verse Luke 10:2  written in Thai:

“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”

God is calling you…Mark

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