From Thighland to Thailand

March 5, 2012

Thailand 4.17

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 2:25 pm

Thailand 4.17: It’s not over until it’s over

March 4, 2012-Sunday

It’s funny how the time zones are; we leave today and arrive yesterday.  How time flies.  The pace doesn’t get any easier even though we have finished this mission trip; we have to pack.  Some representatives of a particular gender are going back with substantially more than what she started with.  Those super shoppers.  The more you spend the more you save.  Some saved a lot.   We have a shorter door-to-door trip of maybe 26 hours, plus or minus.  This trip has been at total blur.  I have to go through my blogals to see what we did.  Really.

I forgot to mention that Steven, who had the responsibility of videotaping the mission, is developing a DVD for FCBC and ABC to help us to share our experiences with others.  We hope that it will inspire others to not only want to participate in these trips, personally or financially, so that ongoing missions can occur more frequently.  The American Baptist Churches (ABC) are  interested in using this video on a more regional or national level and FCBC is a church to emulate since it supports overseas missions and one of the top giving churches toward missions and sends teams overseas (China, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar) for healthcare and non-health care support.

Steven also had the opportunity to meet with and interview two ABC missionaries, Mr. Larry and Mrs. Jan Martin living in Northern Thailand.   God has called on Steven’s creative talents and education in the Visual Arts for this project.  They have asked him to also prepare a video for them so that they can communicate to others their mission in life. He has two weeks of video to go through and edit and create a video for ABC.  So Steven will be in post-production for several weeks even when we get back and the rest of us are done.  We look forward to being the first to preview it. No pressure.  No pressure.  Not only as a team member, but, as his dad, I just want to say that I am extremely proud of my boy.  His youthful insight has brought a separate perspective, which we have all enjoyed on this trip.

As far as winding down from this whirlwind of a trip, we stayed up late last night after a hard days work.  Our efforts for the mission did not go unrewarded, however.  We were treated to one of the favorite American traditions: the buffet.  Bill finally treated us to the Dusit Island Hotel dinner buffet.  We were ecstatic to go until we saw the surroundings of this beautiful resort and thought, “what could have been…”  We could have stayed here.  We could have had hot water, even running water perhaps, a TV, consistent WIFI, and room service!  Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.  If we only had that duong fundraiser,  Hmmm.  Maybe our moral would have been even higher then we could have been even more productive like treating 3000+ patients. I know, I know, be humble.  Yeah, that would’ve been awesome. Many of us worked so hard that we actually lost weight, even anorexic-looking.  So we reconstituted our bodies here at the buffet and replenished our stores of muscle and fat so that is why we probably will look a little bigger when you see us again.









Nonetheless, we gathered our mission team with Luka’s team for one last big hoorah.  Pastor and Luka conducted communion after giving thanks for one another’s support and gave each other well wishes.  We briefly celebrated interpreter Lin’s 21st birthday.  (So many birthdays this trip!)   It was a difficult long good bye and many tears we shed, even Andy.  Cry baby! (I’m sorry to be insensitive,)  I guess guys are supposed to have feelings too.  Hear that Richard?  Okay, I was crying too, but only because we didn’t stay at the Dusit.  Call me selfish, call me spoiled, but…Okay, God forgive me.  Thank you for the golden Triangle Inn.  Cozy and as Lena says’ “Good Enough!”

Some of us did last minute shopping at the night bazaars and we see vendors that we have met years before. There are literally hundreds of vendors, maybe one thousand vendors, on either side of the streets for blocks.  The shopper is focused on a bargain trying to save a few Bhat, but when you look at each vendor individually you may or may not realize that, for many, this is really their livelihood and only source of income.  This is their family business.  Some stare at you like they’re begging, begging for your business.  Then you are less likely to try to save 50 cents, even for just the fun of it.  I feel guilty after writing this.  Why did I write this? God must be telling me again to be thankful for what I have.

I’m thankful for our 12 year-old SUV with 170, 000 miles on it.  It’s still a lot better than that old rickety school bus that we had to ride it again from the inn to the airport.  I’m not kidding, you have to ride in it yourselves to see how bad it is.  We fit about 28 in this bus with Luka’s daughter sitting on the dashboard, the backdoor is open while we’re driving, and Bill is standing in the stairwell clutching the overhead rail bar holding on for dear life.  He looks scared. I asked him to take a photo from the front of the bus and he literally would not let go looking at me thinking’ “Are you Crazy?”  Well, I took photos from that position before so maybe I am.  Bill, you have to live a little.  Get out of your comfort zone.

So maybe that is what the message of this whole mission trip is for, aged bus and all: In order to serve God, you have to get out of your comfort zone.  You cannot be complacent. You have to take the step and evangelize and use your talents.  I think when God asks you to serve, you use your gifts and talents that He’s blessed you with and you use them for His glory.  I like to go on medical mission trips because I only have to serve every two years, right? WRONG!  Well, I have to take off three weeks and suffer lost revenue and risk my life and isn’t that sacrifice enough and reasonable enough?  NO!  Jesus didn’t just risk he life but he gave his life for God.  OMG am I being convicted and it’s in writing.  Where’s that “delete” button?  I guess I have been the only one impressed here.  It’s funny how God has been talking to me through my very own blog writing this whole time.  God, you’re sneaky, aren’t you?  I hope that in reading this blog, He has been talking to you too.

Get out of your comfort zone and hang on for the ride-Mark

March 4, 2012

Thailand 4:16

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:18 am

Thailand 4.16:  Mission accomplished

March 3, 2012- Saturday

!!!!!!!!!!!!!2386 total Patients seen!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am really glad that I am able to provide you with this blog since the team REALLY risked their lives today for our humanitarian cause.  We almost didn’t make it.  (Our children are glad we updated our will before for came on this trip.) We have done risky things before on these mission trips like travel during the monsoon season in rain and muddy roads edging the road just inches from falling off the cliff.  We traveled across rushing rivers hoping that our van doesn’t float over the waterfall 30 feet away.  We risk typhoid, malaria, worms, leprosy, tuberculosis, infectious diarrhea, sex-trade trafficking, and voodoo witch doctors.  But this was, unanimously, the worse, nail-biting, white knuckle, close-your-eyes, treacherous ride of our lives.  We rode in the school bus.  Twenty-one of us plus the driver crammed in the bus.  Usually there are about 60 children crammed into the bus and are bussed to school 5 days a week. It was scary.  Many did not want to go. We had no luxury vans today. We had to push members into the bus and then they tried to get out of the back.  Some of us took sedatives and Dramamine and had the barf bags as back up.  The bus is about 50 years old with worn tires, broken windshield and mirrors, with brake fluid on the dash to quickly add as needed.  The speedometer does not work.  Some, not all, of the fans are oscillating in place of AC.  The rust barely holds the sheet metal in place and we are uncomfortable with metal protruding through the seats, particularly to my recently injured tail bone, so I stand in the stairwell hoping the door doesn’t’ open.  I had the most room.  Steven straddled the tranny.  Those unfortunate to sit on the seats were squeezed in and they were meant for children about 50-00 lbs less than us.  We are about three times as large as them.  The engine overheated with this unusually large cargo.  My head hit the ceiling from time to time when we hit the bumps in the road.  Gi, the driver, waved the cars that were tailgating us to pass us as we were at a snails crawl up the steep hills.  We then enjoyed the gravity that helped pull the bus downhill as we picked up speed.  Some brave souls raised their hands yelling like in Disneyland.  We were lucky that we didn’t have to push the bus uphill.  The squealing brakes and the smell of hot brake pads gave us an eerie feeling.  Pastor opened up in prayer.  Bill yelled, “Where’s my seatbelt?”  Seatbelt, what seatbelt? We had memories flashing before our eyes.  We traveled with Godspeed and safely made it to the Akha Youth Development Center.  Until Lynelle, hit her head and fell while she was exiting the bus.  Cuckoo-cuckoo!  Folks, please think about raising funds for a safe new school bus for the Akha children.  Never mind about us, we have life insurance and travel insurance.  The children are not as fortunate.  I don’t want to have to use my and Lena’s insurance settlement to buy the bus.

Today was to be a slow day as we wind down at the Akha Youth Development Center.  We needed crowd control when we got there.  Adults even outnumbered the children at the center as they drove from neighboring villages coming in truckloads.  We saw 250 patients amongst the 100 resident children.  The children waited patiently but the adults were jockeying for position even yelling behind bars.  I can read their lips: “I was here first!”  Cindy, Yonnie, and Andy organized the triage and gave us a steady flow of patients.  Some repeat customers came from the Huaisan village and the school we visited the day before.  My excitement was taking off about 150 skin tags from the neck and armpits.  Kane had a patient showing off her kidney stones and one large one that she recently passed. Most of the children we see are either abandoned, orphaned, or the parents are incarcerated so the only home that they know is the AYDC.  Luka started this project in a grass house over a decade ago and has developed the center with two dormitories for 100 children and teaching facilities to help preserve their akha heritage.  This is the center where our First Chinese Baptist Youth group came last summer and help paint the tea storage building for the tea that is grown and harvested here.  The BYF also help build the rice storage shed where the rice grown on the field that FCBC help purchase.  They had harvested over 15,000 lbs from the field.  This rice helps feed the children and the surrounding village.  There are two fish ponds, one for Tilapia and one for catfish. They grow corn and have a large area for tea growing that they sell to help support the center.  A new bus/truck will help with transporting the produce and goods to market as well as bussing the children so they are in dire need of this multipurpose bus.  The Bull Ministry is also supported by FCBC and it was great to see the productivity from what our church help support.  We have also help fund and build a school in Laos.  All this has been done in the last six years.  Not to mention the four medical mission teams in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012. On behalf on Akha Youth Development Center and the Thai-Akha Ministry Foundation, thank you all at FCBC for your continued support.

Tea field

Tilapia and Catfish pond

Harvested Rice field FCBC help purchase then placed in shed FCBC youth built below. Rice in bags ready for use and distribution.













We leave friends and family.  It is Farewell but not goodbye.  Our tears are of sadness but of joy that we were able to make an impact.  We take away fond memories and hope to see our friends in the future.  We treated 2386+ patients in the past two weeks, traveled hundreds of miles, worked 9 days at 8 venues, from the border of Myanar to the border of Laos, and as far south to Chiang Mai.  The team has contributed countless hours as well as given unselfishly untold resources and sustained physical and well as emotional stress on this trip.  By the grace of God we accomplished our mission, even exceeded our own expectations having dug down deep with the strength of the Lord.  We could not have done this without God’s blessing upon us and we return from this trip full of joy and thanksgiving.  As humble servants we will answer the calling.  What is God calling you to do today and tomorrow?  I hope and pray that you will be able to see for yourself one day how God works through his people.  Thank you God for this opportunity to serve you.


March 3, 2012

Thailand 4:15

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 12:54 am

Thailand 4.15: Wax on wax off

March 2, 2012-Friday

Six things you need to know before you go:

  1. Dr. Tajiri tried to hypnotize Steven to help with his insomnia.  But Dr. Chinn who was listening fell asleep instead.
  1. A group of 4 vacationing Asian women at one of our pit stops approached Richard while he was sitting on a bench.  He graciously got up to allow them to sit down but they waved their hands “no” and asked instead if they could take a picture with them. Richard, who is quite photogenic, was  quite a celebrity.
  1. Don’t get a haircut in Thailand.   Steven almost did literally get his ears lower when the stylist nicked his ear and drew blood. I’m glad he got his hepatitis B shot. He does look a cute if not a little Thai.
  1. I am still the butt of the jokes especially when I fell on my behind today thinking there was a chair there.  I think Bill pulled it out when I wasn’t looking. Maybe Pastor.  Maybe someone I’m blogging about. My pride was hurt more that my buttocks thanks to the extra padding.
  1.  Yonnie was given grass jelly drink and felt something in her mouth and spit it out.  It looked like a leech.  Black and slimy.  She started gagging and ran to the bathroom to upchuck.  You can hear Cindy’s unique laugh then it turns hysterical when she calmly comes back and Bob spits out the same making it look like he had worms in his drink too.  Ghan’s was rolling on the ground too.  It just was the grass jelly.
  1. Contrary to belief, Bill is a nice and caring guy. It was nearly 11 pm and Allyson hadn’t returned from shopping.  This was about her 27th trip back to the bazaar.  He paced back and forth looking down the street and eventually went back to the dingy streets to look for her saying as he was leaving “Mark, I need your gun.”  I only had a flashlight, not even my Defender Surefire.  He took a deep breath and said hesitantly, “Ok”.   He returned15 minutes later genuinely concerned, “no Ally in the alley.”  As I continued typing I suggested that he check her room.  “I did!”  “Go check again.” I heard in the distance, “Tell me when you go on a date!”  He returns smiling and chuckling relieved.  “I guess she slipped by us.”  That is really surprising since very little gets by Bill.

The Sahasartsuksa school in Chiang Rai is great to come back to.  It was established by an American Baptist missionary, Cecil Rupert over 50 years ago in1959.  Some demographics:

  • 50 years in existence
  • 2339 students
  • 80% Hillside Tribe
  • 20 % Thai
  • 60% Christians
  • 30% Buddhists
  • 10% other religions
  • Luka Chermue’s alma mater

The children are so cute.  They remove their shoes and line up along the wall waiting patiently waiting their turn.   They bow politely with a nod of their tiny heads when answering questions affirmatively. We see lots of sniffles and coughs and colds and run out of cold medicine fast.  We saw ear infections and rashes.  Many of the adults I saw wanted lumps and bumps removed.  Apparently moles are not in this year.  The dentists do their usual cleaning and restoration but these teeth aren’t as bad as the villages.  The optometrist aid in reading and prescription glasses so the children can read and its helped alleviate some of the headaches they complain about.  I quickly get out of my comfort zone with these little crying kids.  They look like they’re afraid of me.  Frankly, I am afraid of them and those wide-eyes staring and glaring at me thinking “Don’t even think of touching me.”  Personally, I’d rather send them to Doug or Jack who are used to kids but there are too many and I have to carry my weight.   However, I just had the hardest case of the trip, maybe my entire career.  I couldn’t do it alone. The process took over two hours compounded by the limited space and in the makeshift OR table in the classroom. We work under harsh conditions.  It was a child, a crying child; a 4 year-old little girl.  This is why my patients are anesthetized back home.  No crying and no fidgeting and no talking back.  It took three people to help me and I had to eventually relinquish my position to Andy.  I was too exhausted to go on.  Thanks for bailing me out Andy.  I was humiliated. Even Steven held the little girl’s hand. It was the case of I.C. commonly known as impacted cerumen or ear wax.  I was hoping to pawn her off to Doug since he gave me prior tips about this ooey, gooey, smelly, yucky, sticky stuff but all he offered was “Good Luck.”  No sympathy from him.

Andy placed her into a jimmy-rigged papoose made of a blanket to wrap her up and for someone to hold her down snuggly since any sudden move around the ear drum could lead to a perforation and hearing loss and pain.  Steven paused from his shooting video to hold her hand.  It was Chinese torture on the first side and we were drawing a crowd.  I think some of the patients were scared off and the chairs quickly emptied.  Andy massaged her to sleep to calm her down.  As a pediatric ER nurse he has been here before.  Even Larry, the impacted tooth king, seeing the commotion came over to offer his services if needed.  We got out most of the wax on the first ear but EUREKA; we hit gold on the next side and we could see the ear drum.  She did great and her confidence was restored.  I didn’t want to tell her the old Chinese saying “No pain, no gain.”  It didn’t help when Doug was bringing over his trophies taken out of his patient’s ears and it seemed almost a competition to see who got the biggest plug.  Kane got in the act too.  Our efforts were visually rewarded.  YUK! We were just glad it was over with this poor child. It’s really a big deal when you think of it since they can’t hear with so much wax and it causes canal irritation and infections.  I think reconnecting a severed finger is easier than what we just went through.  Parents, go check you kids ear now or send them to Andy.  He does a great job.  All in all, the children are very cooperative and polite despite their reservations and letting strangers look into their mouths and poking and probing.

Some of the team went on a tour of the facilities and felt appalled at the living conditions.  Lena saw mops cluttering the bathroom and remarked that she couldn’t believe that this where the children bathe.   The children have to walk down a dark steep stairway just to go to potty. Thin mattresses covered the beds if they were lucky.  Even though that most of these children are villagers and are used to sleeping on mats on dirt floors at home, it is unlikely that we ourselves would want to or have our own children live like this.

We are proud to continue supporting this school year after year considering the heritage of the school and the commitment of that first missionary, Cecil Rupert that paved the road.  Where that road leads to rests on God’s plan.

D: 80


E: 74






March 2, 2012

Thailand 4.14

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 11:50 am

Thailand 4.14: Go to Jail, Do Not Pass Go

March 1, 2012-Wednesday

I am trying to keep up daily but sometimes I’m up until 3 am in order to get something posted. Besides, Bill’s a slave driver.  But this is the process:

Steps for Blogals:

  1. Figure out what to write or make things up
  2. Look and wait for that Kodak Moment
  3. Upload the text usually without proofreading
  4. Select from the daily photos and load onto computer
  5. Upload to which takes forever!
  6. Edit photo into blog

Soooo, I try to get the text up first and then I have to go through the process of getting the photos into the blog and this takes about 2 hours of uninterrupted wifi.  Then I have to add photos from time to time so please check for updates of the prior blog or two blogs for additional photos after the text is up.  I give credit to Jennifer Chin for the idea of adding the photos to her blogs last mission trip.  They add an invaluable look and feel to what we are experiencing.  Plus it gives you something to look at if you don’t want to read what I have to say.

Five ways Thais suggest you loose weight:

  1. “6 months?” – Golden Triangle Inn manager rubbing Mark Pattons’ belly
  2. “you look Bigger” – Luka slapping me on the arm.
  3. “You were fat!” – Lin telling Steven after seeing older picture of him on Facebook.
  4. Van ride with a team of 12 members bottoming out the shocks with an audible “Clunk” at every bump we went over.
  5. Offering Coke Lite  or Coke Zero before you even ask.

Admittedly we are larger compared to the typical Thai.  They tend to be leaner and shorter.  Villagers are even smaller.  However, as one patient told me, “It would be a shame to die of low cholesterol.”

Yesterday we made a detour from Ghan’s village through the back roads tip-toeing into Myanmar making a few team members with prior governmental connections nervous.  They were fine.  As long as they kept their heads down out of view and brown paper bags over their bobbing heads dodging these red laser beams.  We drove up to the Myanmar border and did a little flea market/bazaar shopping before our return to Chiang Rai.  One day we hope to return to Myanmar once again.  Kudos to bob and Cindy Wu for their continued efforts and multiple trips on their own to treat the children and citizens of Myanmar.

Back to work.  Today we went to the Thoeng District Prison.  I was wondering if thongs were part of the uniform.  No, but blue scrubs are!  So that is why we couldn’t wear our blue surgical scrubs because we might be mistaken for prisoners or one of them might try to slip out with our group.  I think we would know but we all tend to look alike.  When I think about it, many people wear scrubs back in the states thinking that the scrubs identify you in the health care field Like it’s a status symbol or something  especially if you’re wearing a stethoscope around your neck (You can buy those and scrubs anywhere).  We got a lot of stares wandering around the streets like were a group of smurfs.  No status symbol here.  It dawned on me that we actually look like a group of prisoners on a field trip.  It’s like seeing a group of orange clad individuals picking up trash along the highway back home except they wear blue here.  No wonder why people were avoiding us sans the beggars.  We need a color change.


We saw male and female prisoners.  Most of them don’t look like your typical thug with tats.  They’re pretty nice with sad stories some even subjected to what may have been injustice.   I ran the risk of embarrassing patients when asking them “What are you in for?” but it helps me to relate to them. I wasn’t prejudice but I saw mostly drug dealers, a murderer, and a pedophile.  This was odd.  Well when you see a five-year old felon, you have to wonder.  She had pink eye and was with her young mother.  They had been here about a week.  Apparently she fled from North Korea through China.  Then they traveled on the Mekong River through Myanmar and into Thailand.  Here she as intentionally got caught and after about a week they are processed and taken to the South Korean Embassy who will accept them and take them to South Korea.  If you get caught in China or Myanmar, you get sent back to North Korea.  It’s a novel way to see the sights of southeast Asia and get a free ticket back to the destination where you wanted to go in the first place with no charge.  Only the accommodations might be sketchy.   Good for them!

Drug sentences seem to outweigh violent crime sentences.  A 77 year-old man was sentenced to 10 years for killing his friend (With friends, who needs enemies?)  Another inmate was serving over 30 years for trafficking amphetamines.  He might get 20 for good behavior.  One girl started crying to Ghan when she asked why she was here.  She was only 32 and blind for 10 years and was incarcerated for 3 years and had many more to go.  How can a blind person commit a crime to be thrown in prison?  Well, her “friend” offered to take her to Chiang Mai to see a specialist to help her with her eyesight.  Her friend, unknown to the patient, put drugs on her to smuggle. The patient got caught.  Her friend did not.

I still don’t have the knack that kane has for evangelism.   The other day I had a patient who complained of knee pain and it hurt when he prays at the Buddhist temple.  I had the interpreter tell the patient that in my religion we don’t have to kneel, but he didn’t bite.   Today I told the patient who killed his friend that he is forgiven by our God even though his legal system didn’t.  He didn’t seem too impressed but someone was going to hook him up with the outreach minister at the prison.





Case of the Day:  A previous undiagnosed 50 year-old diabetic woman staggered into our clinic weak and dehydrated and near collapse held up by two people.   Her blood pressure was low and she was critically hypotensive and her blood glucose level was sky high, off the register.  Untreated she would be either in a diabetic coma or ketoacidosis.  She may die. She needed to go to the hospital but needs a referral by the prison doctor.  The doctor was not in.  He won’t be in until next Tuesday.  No one is on-call.  Then MTI jumps into action.  General Patton gives the command.  An I.V. is started by Dr. Wu and1500 cc of fluids quickly hydrates the patient and her BP is stabilized.  We need insulin.  We didn’t bring insulin.  “I’ve got insulin, but it’s locked up in the lockers!” cries Dorothy.  “Where’s the key?!”  It’s Dorothy’s own personal stash and she volunteers it for someone else.  She’s an inspiration.  (No one on the team volunteered their Viagra when a patient requested it before when he couldn’t go “Bump-bump”).  What if Dorothy needs Her insulin herself?  What will happen to her?   What if she runs out?  She goes to Swenson all the time.  That’s not even what she’s thinking.  She runs back to the locker.  The jail bars are between her and the locker. With two fists clenched around the bars shaking them she yells at the guards pointing to locker.  “I need insulin” She successfully retrieves the vials and syringes and gets the insulin.  She runs back to the clinic. “Give her 15 units!” yells Dr. Patton.  We watch and we wait.  The sugar level finally begins to register down from “HIGH”.   She will not die today.  Can we say that she was “Saved” today?  Thanks Dorothy for making a personal sacrifice.  And I thought I was heroic giving up my Atkins bar and Snickers bar to someone.  Way to go MTI!  We were not there by accident.

We had an Amber Alert:  Uncle Dennis went missing.  Auntie Sylva must be getting scared right now. The team gathered for our typical 6:30 pm meal and most of us were almost done.  Sorry Uncle Dennis but we didn’t notice you were missing until 10 to seven.  Only because some of us wanted second serving and wanted to make sure everyone had eaten first.  We were irritated that Uncle Dennis wasn’t there.  “Where’s Dennis?” we asked.  Ike saw him last.  Ike was sleeping when Dennis slipped out of the room.   “Did you see him?” “Where could he be?”  His room was checked to see if he was in the bathroom or the bathtub or if he had fallen.  We searched the grounds, upstairs, downstairs, and behind the walls and adjoining compound.  No Dennis.  Some searched the streets, massage parlors, 7-11, Swenson’s,

and the bazaar.  No Dennis.  Larry, Lester, and Richard spotted this shadowy figure against the approaching tuk-tuk’s headlight standing on the corner next to the coffee shop.  The silhouette looked familiar.  “Dennis!” they called in unison.  “Hey guys!  Going to dinner?” he asks innocently.  “Where were you, we were Worried about you when you didn’t show for dinner.”  “Isn’t dinner at seven? Heh, heh, heh.”

Ho, ho, ho.-Mark

March 1, 2012

Thailand 4.13

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 5:35 pm

Thailand 4.13: In the Hood

February 29, 2012-Wednesday

We visited Ghan’s old stomping grounds in northern Thailand in the Mai Sai area. The Queen Mother’s Project included the development of certain villages, such as the Paamee Village, for the Akha tribes people to “keep them off the street” so to speak.  Opium was a profitable, albeit, illegal trade near the Golden Triangle where Thailand borders Myanmar and Laos.  By creating homes and hoods then they would be less inclined to deal in illegal activity.   Hmmm…maybe if we gave the marijuana growers back home mansions in the central valley, they would quit growing pot farms in our backyards.  Naw, they still grow plants in the basements in the nice neighborhoods of Fresno and Clovis, even now.  Well it was a generous gesture by the Queen but by most of US standards the living conditions are substandard and a typical home here is made of concrete walls, corrugated roofs, and some dirt floors.  That’s the high rent district.  Other homes still have the bamboo sides and grass roofs with wooden supports. Some roads are paved with cement blocks and there is running water and sewage.  The views, however, are spectacular and could go as far as the eyes can see.  View lots in California would command millions of dollars just for the land alone. The rolling hills were apparent and lush green vegetation only spoiled by the haze from uncontrolled burning in the region.  Even the fruit such as watermelon, papaya, and mango are deeeeelicious!!!  It’s ripe off the vine and so sweeeeeet!

It took about an hour to travel up the winding hills and it may have seemed longer for those in my van, particularly those sitting next to me and behind me since I drank or ate something I shouldn’t have the day before.  I have been accused of having diarrhea of he mouth but this was not under my control.  I tried but despite Depends, Gas-X, Pepto-Bismol, and AC strategically blowing, pastor was pleading for fresh air.  Good thing he was sitting near the window.  I brought extra undies just in case.  When we arrived we took a breather.

Already, we had patients at our doorsteps from the village and from neighboring Myanmar who had traversed the jungles by foot walking over the mountains to come to the clinic.  Their determination was an inspiration to us.  It was a school day so we saw patients on the ends of the spectrum from very young to very old.  The fitness craze in the US has some merit but if you want to live long and maintain your six-pack in your advancing age I say take up farming.  We saw so many ripped 70-80 year olds who still work in the fields and are laborers.  They are thin, tiny, not frail, on the contrary, muscular.  They come to the clinic mainly complaining of pain. Pain all over, pain in their knees, back, hands, neck, and headaches from working.  They have typical repetitive strain injuries and worker’s comp type issues.  The difference here vs. USA is that these patients want to go back to work and put food on the table.  I admire their work ethic.  They are hard workers.  Sometimes they often have their own solutions.  One patient of Dr. Patton’s says that sometimes insect bites make the pain better or I take a little opium and that helps as well.   Back home some of my patients use marijuana.  Jack, Doug, Kane, Bob, and I have a steady diet of patients with a variety of ailments (Thank God no Leprosy patients!  Thank you Jesus!) and continue our poking and probing and steroid injections to get the patients back into action.  Jack had to make a house call later in the afternoon to a patient lying on her side barely able to get up due to a stroke.  We passed her going to the lunch at the head of the village house and she called out in akha, “Please come back because I am too weak to come to the clinic.”  We have a motto, “No man or woman left behind.”


The dental clinic continues to see impacted teeth, teeth ground down to the gum line, near edentulous mouths with only a few rotten teeth left.  The tooth fairy is going broke in these parts of the world.  We take it for granted with the access to dental implants, dentures, and restoration that keep our mouths sparkling white with Zoom whitening for an ultrabrite smile.  Sometimes teeth with severe carries have to remain or the loss of jaw structure might be compromised.  This leads to abscess and pain.  Only some teeth can be removed since there are so many patients and just a few patients can take up the afternoon.  If they removed all their teeth due to decay, the patient might not be able to eat and they don’t have blenders to make a soft or edentulous diet.  They don’t have dentures either.  Even George Washington had wooden teeth.  Lynelle admittedly has one of the messiest spots on the clinic floor with patients hacking and spitting their saliva and mouth rinse into buckets on the floor with frequent near misses.  The calculus build up is so thick she can carve her initials in it though she seems to hesitate since the drill bits get dull quickly.  The Lowe boys, Bill, and Lynelle have collectively over 100 years of experience  (Man, they’re old) and these teeth are not your garden-variety tooth decay.  Some of these teeth have not seen a toothbrush, mouthwash, or dental floss.  They don’t even try to clean the betelnut corroded black teeth.  They have to work outside when they can since potentially four drills and the air compressor scream that eerie, intimidating, and painful sound:  VRRR, VRRR, VRRRRRRRRRR!  Working inside with all those drills can lead to hearing loss for sure.  Many days are hot and humid and they are literally sweating and breathing their own bad breath for hours at a time behind those masks.  They are in dire need of neck massages due to wearing the headlights positioned in cramped postures without the luxury of multi-adjustable dental chairs.  They’ll have to come to my medispa to get their varicose veins fixed since they stand all day long.  Guess who gets to do the dishes all day long?  Richard.  He does some of mine as well.  Good thing he has gloves to protect from the caustic sterilizing chemicals otherwise he would have dishpan hands.  There backs must be killing them but they are not complainers.  I respect them a lot and really didn’t realize all this until I was writing this.  I even neglected to mention all their efforts in the past blogals since I don’t see or hear from them much.  They are just a productions line.  Kudos to Bill, Larry, Lester, Lynelle, and Richard and of course their very own multilingual translator and nurse Ming who continues to break down the language barrier.


The eye clinic has been so busy they are running out of lenses and they have to modify and adjust.  I suggested they just make monocles and the patient can close one eye and alternate.  that could even double the patients they can treat.  They didn’t like that idea.  They were to have brought 3000 additional lenses on this trip but they didn’t come in on time.  Keep in mind that two Octogenarians with over 100 years of experience lead the team of four optometrists.  Dr. Tajiri, if you recall, invented the system that is currently being used to grind lenses and make custom prescription glasses for each individual.  We have seen many patients wearing his glasses made on previous mission trips.  The newbies Allyson, his daughter, and Diana are going to inherit this technique to hopefully train others to use on subsequent and other mission trips so this is a very important in the field training mission as you can see.  Can’t you see the vision?  Don’t be blind to the fact that there are many out there that this will be useful for.  Watch and you’ll see.  Lena and Gail continue to screen the patients in a monotonous way and when I see them pointing their 3 fingers to form an E, M, 3, or W and shifting there hips that it’s just not some hip hop moves they are teaching because they sure do have rhythm.  Arlene is the doctor’s right hand man, er, woman and keeps going with the flow.  Pastor and Mark continue grinding away a dust storm even breaking one of the grinders and having to retrofit it to continue with the pace.  The affect of restoration of sight is indescribable.

Steven “Paparazzi” Chin is both the in-your-face and behind the scenes collector of precious moments and has already logged over 20 hours of video containing our memories of this trip and with interviews of several members of the team.  He will have a documentary to show to us in the near future but has a lot of editing to do when he comes back.

On the front-end triage by Cindy and Andy sees just about every patient.  One of the reasons that it may seem that we take so long to process the patient is not only the screening, BP, temperature, and pulse is taken, assessments and histories are being taken to shorten the interview process with the docs.  But the real reason why it takes so long is that the patients’ names have to be written several times by different people and their last names are up to 20 characters long!  Try writing the alphabet after each first name, which isn’t all that short either.  We might have to save time and just be impersonal and call them M2, E4, D5 or R2D2 and C3PO.

Nearly 200 patients were treated today and almost 1700 patients have be treated so far.  We are Medical TEAM International and I emphasize teamwork.  Luka and his crew of helpers and interpreters are an integral part of the team.   Praise the lord to allow us to work together efficiently and professionally for his glory!

We’re smokin’-Mark


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