From Thighland to Thailand

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


1 Comment »

  1. Wow! Only 300 left until you all meet the goal Uncle Bill had in mind. That’s fantastic! Praise God. Wow. The role you’re all playing in this kingdom work is astounding, really. I’m continuously amazed. Prayers and love from Fresno!

    Comment by Michele C. — March 1, 2012 @ 11:54 pm

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