From Thighland to Thailand

March 10, 2014

Thailand 5.15

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:21 am

March 7, 2014-Saturday


Thailand/Myanmar 5.15


We have one more half day to work at the AYDC at Luka’s compound and we’re used to seeing most of the villagers at these clinics and I was hoping to see more familiar faces but the crowd is small.  We enjoyed working in the new building that has ceiling fans and lighting that we are not used to.  In the past we worked in a small building shared by the dental and medical team while the optometry team worked outside in the hot humid air.  Now we had plenty of brand new chairs and tables; we were spoiled.  I mentioned that funds for the new building was donated by the Norwegian group ( run by director Knut Inge Bergem that support financially T-AMF and BCMlives (BaanChivitMai) for disadvantaged children, particularly, at-risk for human trafficking.  Luka happens to sit on the board of that group as the AYDC works with at-risk children as well. That organization started 25 years ago realizing that many children went “missing” and began rescuing at-risk children.  They have a youth hostel and house about 80 children in two homes with their youngest resident being an abandoned 7 years-old child. Knut happened to be at the night market and ran into Blah who knew Bill and when Luka walked up and said “Hi!”  You know that Luka gets around; he knows everyone. Knut found out why we were there and asked Bill if he could bring some of the children from the hostel so 5 youths received dental care today at the clinic whose foundation help build it.  How cool is that!  We also were able to treat many of the ADYC staff that often doesn’t get a chance to take care of themselves.


An American woman, who runs a foundation to help out the Akha youth brought in several patients to our clinic who were recently involved in a car accident near the Thai-Myanmar border near Mae Sai. There were six traveling in a truck sitting in the back and a drunk driver swerved into their vehicle, hitting them, forcing them off the road and wrecking the vehicle.  They went to the local emergency room for treatment and were here for follow up.  One passenger sustained a broken arm while another had a leg laceration that we attended to.  A young girl had a forehead and scalp laceration that required suture removal.  One of the passengers was a young Burmese Pastor, Abraham here to translate the bible into one of the dialects of Myanmar.  He had the more serious lacerations to his face.  Sutures were in the lips, eyelids, scalp, and forehead. His black eyes were slowing resolving.  For a handsome man, the forehead was not a pretty sight.  His forehead was mangled and sewn piece meal back together.  There was an abraded flap of skin tissue that was puffy, discolored, and dusky (poor circulation) and it didn’t look like it was healing properly and the skin edges were uneven.  It’s risky to open up wounds so soon since an infection and occur, but I took it apart anyway to keep the skin from dying, and proceeded to remove hair, glass, and blood clot still into wound which went all the way down to bone.  A nerve appeared so he may have some permanent numbness in his forehead.  I did the best I could to clean it up and getting the skin edges together for improved healing and ultimately a lesser scar, but there will always be an emotional scar.  Other areas of the face seemed to be healing well and the sutures were removed.  Being a Burmese Pastor, I asked him if he knew of Adoniram Judson, one of the first American Baptist missionaries to Burma, and he nodded without hesitation, and was well informed of his history.  It was remarkable what Mr. Judson did for the Burmese people translating a bible into Burmese and writing the first Burmese-English dictionary.  Two hundred years later, a young man is risking his very own life trying to translate the bible into other dialects to spread God’s word in the land that’s mostly Buddhist and continues to perpetuate Judson’s efforts.  That’s remarkable; that’s a miracle.


Except for Jen and Ali who will be staying here for another 2-4 months to continue helping Luka, Ghan, and the T-AMF/AYDC efforts, this is the medical mission’s team’s last day in Thailand for a long time.  Missing our children is a no-brainer for Lena and I as well as the “aunties and uncles” that they are so close to.  Uncle Bill is one of her favorite uncles since he gave her about 3 bins to bring back about 200 fragile Thai lantern party favors for her wedding.  (I guess I have to invite him now.  Okay, let’s see, Gail and a plus one.)  But we will see them face to face in just a few months, and in just a few days on Facetime.  That is so easy, almost too easy in this day and age.  What is not easy is to come to grips that we may not see some of the close friends that we have developed relationships with ever again.  Certainly, the patients of Mywit Wa, our ox cart driver, tour guides, van drivers and even Wendy, our receptionist, cook, janitor, laundry coordinator, at the Golden Triangle Inn that we have known over the past 5 trips here (8 years).  She always greeted us with a warm smile and “Sawadeeka.” 


As we departed the Golden Triangle Inn, perhaps for the last time, gathering our belongings, we reminisced about the good times here and how is played out as a headquarters for our mission trip.  As Gail looked around her room for possibly the last time, (since the GTI might be sold and torn down) the ceiling light bulb in the middle of the room went “poof” and the light went out and the room darkened.  Our spirits in our hearts go “poof” when we leave and the spirits in the eyes of the patients go “poof” when we leave.  Our highs become lows, our bubbles burst, the candle grows shorter and the flame slowly dims until there is darkness.  We can keep that flame of hope flickering in their eyes with continued support in further mission trips and funding of their projects.  We hope that other organizations and churches can continue their support or start getting involved; the more the better.  It was great to have a joint effort with the Sanger and Fresno churches working as a team.  We don’t have to do it alone.  It’s all about teamwork.  We had two very different religious groups, Christians and Buddhists, with different beliefs work together and many different cultures and ethnic groups working together.  Our mission team went, and you went with us.  The home churches, friends, and families prayed for us, and felt our pain and joy, and I hope through this journal it brought you into the action even though you can try but can’t imagine the needs or pain of those we served.  Thank you for supporting YOUR mission team and for allowing this opportunity for the churches to do what is commanded of us; that is, to serve.   


Where we go from here is up to God.  How much we support Southeast Asia as a medical team or more financially for projects will be decided after we determine the needs of the people we want to serve.  I hope that others get involved because the more, the merrier. 


Before I sign off on my final entry (I will try to post photos afterward when I’m home from the 70 GB of photo/video) I would like to tell you about my last patient that I treated today.  I have known her for 8 years; her name in Lin.  I first met her when she was about 10 years old.  It is one of the daughters of Luka and Ghan.  I saw this life-threatening lesion on her shoulder that’s a large congenital nevus about the size of a quarter.  It had multiple dark black and brown spots over this bed of tan pigment.  It looked nasty since some of these individual lesions can develop into a malignant melanoma over the years.  I was concerned for her then, and I am concerned for her now.  Left alone, in time, there’s a good chance that it would turn into cancer.  This is not your typical  “Excuse me, can you take off this mole?” moment.  Now it is larger almost 2 inches in diameter and has some areas darker, speckled, and irregular, which lesions are more prone for malignant change.  Due to its location around a joint and because of its size, it is difficult to excise without resulting in a very long scar and in a patient that tends to keloid.  She received some laser treatments done in Chiang Rai to no avail.  So after evaluating the lesion I decided that the best of both worlds (smaller scar and eventually resect the entire lesion) was to stage the resection.  First remove the areas that have the most potential to become cancerous and leave a scar, that might keloid or not, within the lesion which will come out anyway in a later surgery. This would give her a fresher scar that won’t widen as much (less tension on closure) or be as long as much compared to trying to remove it at one fell swoop.  Decision made.  Hmmm, this is a classroom.  There is no operating room.  There is no bed, just a laminated hard table, but it will do.  There is no pathology.  We wrap a piece of plastic around a sleeping bag for a pillow.  There is no gown so she sheepishly pulls down her right sleeve of her T-shirt to exposes her shoulder and chest.  She is scared and she calls out for her mother.  Lin is crying.  A crowd of about a dozen surrounds her on one side of the table to help hold her down and not move.  Her mother holds her hand. Lin is very popular amongst her friends and this tight knit community, after all, she is their leaders daughter and has seen her grown up.  There is no anesthesia equipment or sedation.  I only have local anesthesia and she gets stuck several times to that I can numb the area, jerking her body writhing in pain at each needle stick.  My daughter Allison, with no medical training, helps me in the meantime, until help arrives. Fortunately, Ali is not afraid of blood, and helps me get Lin ready in the meantime.  (“Dexter” is one of her favorite shows and she enjoys the “Twighlight” saga with Bella, Edward, and Jacob so she is use to blood and guts so this is nothing to her.)  Where was I?  Linh, a nurse at Childrens’ Hospital, is used to working with pediatrics, and has been a great help to me on most of the surgeries on this trip and learned to “assist” with surgery.  She brings comfort to Lin. I put on my 2.5 power surgical loupes that begin flashing as the battery runs out and use my Surefire camo pattern headlamp for lighting. I don’t have all of my plastic surgery specialty instruments but disposable grade instruments.   This is as good as it’s going to get.  It’s backwoods medicine with our very own MASH unit: hill tribe edition.  As we work with this life and death surgery, the rest of the team has lunch.  How can they eat at a time like this?  After I place the drapes to partially cover her face, her friends distract her.  A short stroke of the #10 scalpel blade nicks her skin without a response. I am good to go.  I excise around the premarked pattern that will encompass the central half of the lesion all the way to the fat and resect the football shaped specimen.  It’s bleeding so I hold pressure to avoid a hematoma.  I reach the OMG stage when the wound opens to 3 times its size due to the elasticity of the skin as someone wipes my forehead sweat away so it won’t drip into the field.  They don’t know that my hands are dripping under the latex gloves, as I often need to shake hands.  My suture is limited and the needle holder barely adequate but I refuse to use a stapler or super glue.  The wound slowly comes together as a layer the sutures in and I am relieved, though I hope that it won’t break open under tension, develop a blood clot, or get infected when I leave.  The sutures will dissolve and hopefully leave a thin scar to resect later with the rest of the lesion.  The round lesion is now oblong. I cover it with tape butterfly stiches as well to give it extra strength.  Lin attempts to peek at it and then is relieved that it is over.  By now she is brave and smiling and wants to see the specimen and takes a picture with her phone crying out “Eweeeww in Akha.”  (I think it was Akha.)  We make do with what we have and the surgery was a success.  The patient made it.  It was touch and go for a few moments.  There is no follow-up so I leave her with antibiotics and pray that it heals satisfactorily and doesn’t break open.  We treat, God heals.  All of us have something in common. We do with what we have.  God knows what we need.


Lin still has premalignant lesion, albeit, half the size still present.  Time is ticking.  Now, we have to go back to Thailand, to resect the remaining premalignant lesion.  Everyone reading this, we need your support.  Our work is not done.




For you number crushers the final rough estimate for the number of patients treated by the FCBC medical mission team and by the wonderful Myanmar physicians, who worked by our side with unequaled stamina and dedication, are:



Myit Wa, Myanmar:           3411 patients (26 hours in 2 ½ days)

Yangon, Myanmar               202 patients (6 hours in 1 day)

Chang Rai, Thailand           272 patients  (9 hours in 1 ½ days)

Chang Khong, Thailand:     557 patients  (11 hours in 1 ½ days)


Grand Total:                      4170 patients seen (give or take a few)


We say farewell, but not good-bye to our colleagues and friends in Myanmar and Thailand who has made this mission effort a success and precedence for future mission trips.  We have established relationships that we hope to be long lasting.  I am proud of the mission team and I thank you for the privilege to work along side of you.  Thank you to the congregation of the First Chinese Baptist Church and Sierra View Community Church for your financial support of this mission.  Thank you Pastor Jack for being our spiritual leader and keeping us mindful of why we are serving and how we can bring others closer to God, while becoming closer to God ourselves.  Thank you Dr. Bill Ho for coordinating the mission trip and for your patience.  You are a good man.  My wife, Lena, and I leave Thailand leaving behind our beloved daughters Jennifer and Allison, whose charitable hearts and unselfish desire to help others by sacrificing their time, money, and efforts, and by enduring discomforts and inconveniences working out of their comfort zone, and by leaving their loved ones behind so that they may serve God and humanity.  We are soooo proud of you and love you so whoa whoa whoa muuuucccchhhhhh!!!!!!!  You are an inspiration to us all.  I hope that God will bless you deeply as He has for your mother and I.  We miss you but will see you soon.  Bye-Bye sweethearts-daddy’s little girls.






March 9, 2014

Thailand 5.14

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 6:11 am

March 6, 2014-Friday


Thailand/Myanmar 5.14


This morning Pastor Jack needed to get his Children’s Time fix out of his system and so instead of doing an adult song, he made us do the kiddie song: “Deep and Wide” song with all the hand and feet movements.  I guess we need to “shake it to wake it” moments.  Some just stood there faking it in their action poses when Pastor would see you.  It was a sorry sight.  I wonder what the foreigners thought of us, silly Americans, perhaps?  Definitely. What do the lyrics “There’s a mountain flowing deep and wide” mean anyway? I dun no.  Later we were to find out.


Our devotion this morning we discussed our high points and low points and what we found out about ourselves.   We talked about working as a team and working with new members since it was the first time for Lisa, John, Chris, Ron, and Ali with this team and having Vicki and Jen back on the team continued to feel like family for all.  We felt very comfortable working with each other and picked it up for others when we weren’t at our best of health.  We had set backs starting in the beginning at customs, loosing our compressors from the get go, half the team getting sick, and rough travels. So it was apropos for us to do some team building exercises, further bonding, and other mushy stuff.


First we toured what is essentially an outside museum and acted like tourists visiting the “Black House – Baan Si Dum.”  There is a Chiang Rai Artist Thawan Duchanee, a pretty famous local guy, with a bent for dark themes.  There are large eclectic house size buildings that are filled with odd and unusual objects.  Skulls of animals, horns, and snake skins (very long like Burmese Pythons) arranged around tables and chairs are in the first building.  He also likes very large phallic woodcarvings for some reason, picture a big club or baseball bat or one made into the handle of a slingshot. Both genders of the team really seemed to like handling, err, “examining” these pieces of “art”.  Frankly, it made me seem inadequate.  There were things from huge gongs to shark jaws and horns and beautiful pieces of wood furniture carved from massive pieces. Huge meteors like rocks were on the grounds along side of an owl and python in a cage.  He either designed a lot, or he’s a collector, or maybe just a hoarder.  We appreciated the quietness of the park like surroundings.  Rumor had it he was actually sleeping in one of the houses, as there was security around one of the buildings that didn’t let us in.  Several ethnic people were taking photos around this piece of living art.  There was a man, very statuesque appearing, where flocks of tourists where coming up and taking a picture of him.  His hair was a white, moustache white with a white beard.  He appeared unassuming, yet, very politely nodded yes when asked it they could take a photo with him or of him.  One mother brought his child up to him.  Hey, that’s Pastor Jack!  He thinks, they think, he is Santa Claus.


After that, Luka said, “Do you want to go on a hike?”  Most of us, feeling adventurous, said, ”Sure, why not?”  Considering that we’re just a group of office workers and paper pushers the thought of us trekking into the jungle was exciting, Some members said they wanted to just chill at the Golden Triangle Inn (what you travel 40 hours so you can read a book?) but, I think they were scared.  So us brave souls got to feel like Indian Jones and take this treacherous adventure to the famous waterfall of Chiang Rai:  Khun Korn Waterfall.  I’m sure lives have been lost or people lost in the jungle but good thing we have Luka, our tour guide and Ron our outdoorsman to keep an eye on us stragglers.  Oh yeah, Bill he keeps a current head count. For Luka, Khun Korn waterfall holds precious memories for him since he took his wife, Ghan, on one of their first dates there. He wanted an excuse to hold her hand by helping her up and down the steep terrain.  Rumor has it that he fell head over heels for her, and proceeded rolling down the path, and over the embankment face planting into the mud.  I guess he made a lasting impression, in the mud, that is.  From the gate we had to hike 1.4 kilometers; that doesn’t sound far, no problem we thought, but it was a struggle crossing the path of snakes and bugs, like the dreaded bamboo worm, fighting off malaria-carrying mosquitos, water hazards, and spider webs, and that was just getting out of the parking lot!  It took 45 minutes of up and down (mostly up) gaining and loosing altitude, slipping on dirt and mud, traversing rocks, tree roots, with Ron, felling like Bear Grylls, hacking away with his pocket knife, with machete-like motions, to make a path, cupping his hand yelling’ “We’re almost there” for encouragement.  I really think that Ron could have his own outdoors adventure reality show himself!  He actually was jogging up the hill and jumping down the steps when most of us were crawling.  There were some slow pokes, names, which I won’t mention, but it wasn’t me, even though I was last.  I had some Gopro technical difficulties I had to deal with and the only shoes I had were my Disneyland ½ marathon shoes.  I see Bill whisper to Ron, “Make sure there are no stragglers.”  Half way up some of the team got enough fresh air and had enough sense to turn back.  Been there, done that and “I’ll just watch the video” attitude.  Besides, they prefer their aerobic activities back home like golf (especially when driving the golf cart).  Well it was a good thing because I left the nitroglycerin pills and the AED behind.  The distance markers were not encouraging, first 800 and then meters.  Then I realized it was meters and not feet!  The sounds of the falls in the distance and the other team members heckling were the only encouragement.  I was not going to be left behind.  Finally, I see the falls breaking through the jungle not far in the distance.  I think I hear Pastor singing, “…There’s a mountain flowing deep and wide.”  As I huffed and puffed with my 20 lb. backpack on, there is a silhouette of a figure stooping and looking over the ledge to the waterfall.  It’s Ron yawning and looking at his watch thinking, “It’s about time, what took you so long?”  The guy can be intimidating for an “older” man.  I was just enjoying the scenery.  He doesn’t realize that I was watching out for him.


The members who made the climb are playing in the water and taking pictures as the mist and cool breeze flows into their faces.  It was an experience to appreciate God’s creations and beauty.  Some wanted to go skinny-dipping in the base of the waterfall but they were afraid I’d identify them and post a photo of their derriere.  I actually did find some loose underwear but no one claimed it.  After plenty of Kodak moments we return down the mountain, which is slightly easier than going up.  Ron makes sure everyone is accounted for and he’s having a grand ole time hopping and jumping down the steps.  I’m sure those of you that know him can picture his “energy.”  Now this is for real.  He happens onto a vine and starts hanging from it doing his best Tarzan imitation.  “ahhhAHHahhAHHahh!!” No lie, I have a photo of it.  Dar, I would like to know what happens when he beats on his chest at home.  We mad it back to civilization with the proper head count. Okay, enough of this boy scout stuff; we already went camping in Myanmar, so we headed home.


There is not a lot of nightlife for us but the night market is a hit with the women and fun for the men as well.  The men do go along to protect them, but mostly to carry their goods.  (I think I’m a pretty good shopper myself; I got a free plastic carry-on suitcase made in China that Lena loves…even though I had to buy a watch, because mine broke, to get it.)  The women sweet-talk Bill into giving them bin space for their souvenirs.  Funny, I have to buy bin space from him.  They buy for the staff, their friends, their family, and some for themselves.  Some try to bargain just for the sake of bargaining but others feel guilty since these people are supposed to be “poor” and pay full price without bargaining or using the “walking away without buying something so the vendor chases you” technique. But they must be pretty good businessmen themselves; they got you to buy something you really didn’t need, didn’t they?  It is interestingly a zoo and packed with locals and busloads of tourists arrive like Black Friday.  Street vendors line up and down the alleyways and the women can’t get enough of the night market and go back night after night.  It’s something about that place…


It’s pretty bazaar 😉  Mark



March 7, 2014

Thailand 5.13

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 11:14 am

March 6, 2014-Thursday


Thailand 5.13


This morning, Pastor Jack, had a nostalgic moment and thought we might need more exercise and proceeded to play the “chicken dance” on his phone (yes I got it on video) while engaging my daughter in some moves that I actually might utilize at the wedding during the father-daughter dance.   She’ll probably not approve of it.  You know Jen. 


The team was going to see a prison today but for some reason, due to activity there (breaking rocks or making license plates) they were too busy to see us.  In the past mission trip we were able to see a number of patients living there and it was a unique experience seeing them confined to these walls, this home, with limited access to very little. The prison is all that they had and in some cases it was a life sentence. Once you’re inside a prison it is an eerie feeling because, you wonder what happens if you can’t get out.   The people that we have served over the past two weeks are also prisoners of their circumstances, such as poverty, starvation, limited or no health care, and loneliness. They can’t get out.  I feel that sometimes, we Americans are prisoners too, POW: Prisoners of Wealth.  We need to have this and have that, and we can, because we do indeed have.  We have our comfort zone and not until one gets uncomfortable and see those who don’t have will our hearts soften.  Participating in charitable organizations and giving back by serving make us aware of the needy and using our wealth to the benefit of others less fortunate allows us to attempt a prison break. God does not condemn the wealthy, only how we use our wealth and what our priorities are.  How can you make sure that you stay out or get out of prison?


We learned more or Luka’s ministry.  T-AMF started in 1995 to help the poor, orphaned, and youth at-risk (i.e. human sex trafficking). The team visited a nearby school, which many of the students from the AYDC attend.  It is one of four destinations in which the bus, that FCBC donated, travels to 5 days a week transporting students.  Another vehicle takes the children to two other schools.  We saw children in the classrooms where they learning English and they counted numbers and also recited the alphabet to us.  Interesting on the wall listed some words starting with certain letters; “Jesus” was the example for “J”. The team was not too successful is teaching our “ABCDEFG” song since no one could agree how it ended “tell me what you think of me’ or was it ‘now I sing my ABC’s.”  We only knew the words “ABC etc.”  How sad.  So the dental team decided not to teach ESL but to do what they do best and that is dental education.  Vicki and Lynelle handed out toothbrushes to the students and took out a tooth model and showed them how to brush their teeth the right way.  I guess I’m doing it the wrong way since I didn’t recognize what they were doing.  And what is dental floss?  The children were all glad to receive the toothbrushes and they also used it to scratch themselves like their foreheads.  There were sayings or proverbs posted around the school.  Some of my favorites were:

1. “Knowledge makes humble. Ignorance makes proud.”

2. “Who never made a mistake never mad a discovery.”

3. “Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have.”

4. “Well done is better than well said.”

5. “It’s not knowing what to do, it’s doing what you know.”



Then we went on a tour of Luka’s compound, headquarters of the T-AMF (Thai-Akha Ministry Foundation) and the AYDC (Akha Youth Development Center).  We met the members that support the ministry and they told us of their involvement.  Jennifer and Allison have been volunteering there for the past two months and you can follow their blogs and photos at and .  They are helping with website development, grant writing to help funding, accounting, biographies of the students, and teaching English, amongst other things.  FCBC has been a proud sponsor for TAMF and AYDC as we have developed a relationship with them over the past 10 years.  We have been involved with helping them with a Bull ministry to help populate the cow population for the Akha families.  In California, great cheese comes from happy cows.  We’re hoping great calves come from happy bulls.  Now there are 100 cows.  We helped purchase four acres of rice field so that they can feed the 100 children and staff in the AYDC, which houses and feed the village students during school 10 months of the year, and the teenagers from BYF (Baptist Youth Fellowship) came over one summer and built the barn (also funded by FCBC) that houses the harvested rice.  Right now their rice crop can only provide rice for 5 months due to the limits of water available from their existing irrigation pond that doubles as a catfish pond.  At least $2000 is needed to excavate adjacent dirt and build a dam to hold more water in the pond so that 1½ -2 crops of rice per year can be possible.  Purchasing more acreage for farmland would help with the production of rice fields.  There is an adjacent field next to the rice field, currently growing tobacco that is for sale for about $39,000.  What a waste of money; that entire product is going up in smoke so it would be nice to purchase it and change it into a rice field.  Purchasing the rice field and building a dam would help feed the mouths of the students all year round.


Two years ago, FCBC raised over $45,000 to purchase a bus/truck to replace a dilapidated school bus, which transport the school children to four different schools and help transport goods to and from the center.  We got to ride in it this time and noticed the difference; our lives were not at risk. 




Projects that are in the works and hoped for the future are:


1. The church was expanded for more space but the classrooms need to be constructed for a school to teach grades 1-4.

2. The hostel managers take care of the children and their room needs to be completed (only a roof and foundation exist).

3. There is a tea ministry where 7-8 crops of tea are harvested and sold to help support the costs of operation of T-AMF.  However, a large building that was supposed to be a factory for processing the tea was built but the equipment costs were too much, so now, there is a desire to remodel it into a library and reading area for the children, along with a storage are for the tea and tasting area for prospective buyers.

4. AYDC dormitory to be remodeled into a 2-story structure.

5. Establish a water purification business to make bottled water for sale to support the Akha villagers.



Many donors throughout the world help or have helped T-AMF:  

1. H.O.P.E. Church from Maryland helped with a learning center at Huaisan Village Church complex with further funding needed for the classrooms on the ground floor. 

2. Christian Alliance, which started with T-AMF in 1995, helps provide funds for operating costs.  

3. A church group from South Korea helped fund the cow ministry and funded the building of a church in Baam Huaikeelet and Baam Tamluang Akha villages.

4. A local charity from Norway that established a program for at-risk children in Thailand donated money for a new learning center building at AYDC.


If you are interested in helping funding projects please contact First Chinese Baptist Church write directly to:


Mr. Luka Cheurmui, Administrator

Thai – Akha Ministries Foundation (T – AMF )

P.O.Box 66 A.Muang Chiang Rai 57000 Thailand

Phone: ( 66 ) 081 960 5805



What’s in your wallet? 


We visited some of the homes in the Akha Village.  Luka’s brother, Joe, was our host and showed brought us fresh papaya, bananas, tamarind, and taro and poured coconut milk right from the nut.  Lihn, Andy, and Kane were jammin’ on the drums.  I think Linh bringing one home.  Luka demonstrated using a bird catcher that the villagers’ hand make and use this live bamboo worm or caterpillar as bait.  Kane almost lost his finger in the demonstration.  Fortunately it was just a flesh wound.  I tried it out and got worm guts on me, as the worm didn’t make it.  Then Joe’s wife brought us out freshly fried bamboo worms for us to eat!  How can we say “No thank you?”  It’s like caviar to them.  In the mean time, Vicki grabbed some toothbrushes from her backpack (she’s always ready) and worked her way down the road and approached families hanging out side. “Avon calling!”  “Fuller brush man!”  “Mary Kay Cosmetics!”  No takers.   I’m surprised that they didn’t shut the doors when they saw her coming.  Well, some houses didn’t have doors to shut.  But her smile is what got their attention and as she approached them she found a way to communicate to them to give them toothbrushes; a simple toothbrush that we take for granted.  She said, “When you have something to offer something it opens the door to show that you care despite the language barriers.”  Likewise, Andy uses food and candy and when he gave out one candy bar to a child at the school that we visited, and then another came, and another.  When Jennifer was taking photos and giving them out to the children and patients in Myit Wa until 10 p.m., they were smiling and gathering, and then crowding to have their pictures taken and then were overjoyed to receive the very first photo that they possessed.  John commanded the attention of a Burmese crowd, “a sea of children” per Lena, making Origami animals, birds, boxes, and other objects out of simple pieces of paper.  They were amazed at what could be made and brought smiles to their faces. There are different ways that our presence may be remembered through our actions and these selfless acts of kindness.  As Christians, we want to leave the essence of God’s love.  If we can do that, our mission has been successful.


March 6, 2014

Thailand 5.12

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 1:52 am

March 5, 2014-Wednesday


Thailand/Myanmar 5.12



We try to utilize our sensitivity training that Pastor Jack has reminded us about when traveling to foreign countries.  He spent one morning with his Chapbook underscoring the importance of attitude. We often have an agenda and we might appear impatient, abrasive, and impersonal during our clinics when we set up, conduct business, and pack up. He asked us if we have been demanding, grumpy, bossy, caring, joyful, humble, flexible, friendly, or rude.  Yes to all.

We sometimes don’t display our enthusiasm or friendliness to others who help us or to our patients and while we Christians are all under a microscope we need to appear like were having a good time, whether or not, we are.  We’re having a GREAT time, right team?  So we will take time to smell the flowers.


We continued to see patients from Laos and Thailand, many of which had crossed the border.  More carloads are coming in from further distances but many have walked here as well.  Most of the patients have common complaints of wear and tear on their bodies.  Since they are manual laborers, joints and backs wear out so we try to explain ergonomics and posture along with strengthening exercises.  They are tough and when you feel their shoulders or knees during their range of motion no only can you hear the grinding of bone on bone joints, you can certainly feel the grating and discomfort and pain.  What are we supposed to do, tell them to retire?  Work is their livelihood; there is no state subsidy or workers’ comp vocational rehab.  If they don’t work, they starve.  They just want to feel comfortable so we give them steroid injections and ibuprofen, lots of it.


Optometry clinic gives out a lot of reading glasses.  Many workers sew and need to see up close.  Many of them don’t appreciate clear vision until they realize how good it can be and how they can now continue their craft. 


I saw four otherwise healthy guys today who came together for the same treatment.  They just wanted to get a refill on their medications.  I asked what medication they needed and they said it was for worms.  I was wondering what they had in common.  As we all know at home: completely cook pork to avoid worms such as the tapeworm, which is a parasite.  Did you know that some people actually eat it on purpose so that this “Tapeworm Diet’ helps them loose weight?  Gross.  Well, apparently raw pork is a delicacy and they are willing to risk the chance of getting a little, teensy, weensy, worm for the sake of a brief moment of ecstasy.  It reminds me in Japan of the puffer fish.  Eat a little and you get a little “tingle” worth eating from the neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin.  Eat a teensy, weensy more, and its your last meal, ever.  They really didn’t seem to care as long as their was medication to cure it.  Fortunately I had Internet access and I search Google images for tapeworm and showed them what was growing inside their bodies.  “Oh”, Ooh!, OOHH!!, OOOOOOHHHHHH!!!!” they said in unison.  They were shaking their heads and I hope that they were grossed out.  I should have touched their bellies and pretended I felt worms moving and say “Do you feel that?”  But, I was trying to display more sensitivity per Pastor Jack.  I would have rather done the latter to get my point across.  Wouldn’t it have been hilarious?  Okay, sensitivity. 


Speaking about sensitivity:



I have said it before, I am not a reporter, an English major, nor a professional blogger and I have been “recruited” (since no one else volunteered), to be a representative to record our events, as I see them, and to avail this information to those desiring to follow our perilous journey.  I do take this responsibility seriously because I know that this and each subsequent communiqué may be the last time you hear from us in the event that we are captured by Somali pirates, thrown in jail for religious persecution, drowned from a sinking boat, crash landed, or from other means by which we are called to heaven.


I will attempt to get the details of the events correct, names correct, and “report”, no relay, this information as factual as I can, while rushing to get this blog out to you in the wee hours of the night.  So, unless I intend to distort or exaggerate the truth or actual occurrences on purpose through innuendos, or stir apparent controversy with sarcasm for the sake of adding some, zest, as it were, to illicit a “yearning for more” or cliff hanger, to avoid a monotone affect (I have, indeed, “toned it down” over the years) I will continue to write whatever pops into my mind at that time.   I am not hear to “swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” so forgive me God.  Some of this may be hearsay or gossip, but most of this is through my personal experience and interpretation of the events. This blog is most understood by those who know me, and my attempts of humor, although I’ve been told to keep my day job, and if I hurt anyone’s feelings please forgive me since God already has.  If this blog bothers you, please stop reading it.  It is my viewpoint and not a documentary, and for selfish reasons, it will help me remember my experiences as a mission team member over the past decade and how I enjoyed those experiences with unique and wonderful people and had the opportunity to work with unselfish, caring, and gifted people and professional colleagues, with a common purpose: to serve God with the best of our God-given abilities.  To Kelley Quan and whoever else is reading this, thank you for your attention.  I hope that you don’t miss the aroma or flavor of the soup by biting on the peppers. 


What the clinics try to address are factors that are most important to the patient’s quality of life.  Dental addresses the necessity of eating and nourishment.  Eye addresses the need to see what they are doing to work.  Medical addresses the ability to work. Those basic needs might be taken for granted with higher socioeconomic status.  For some of the patients at the bottom of the totem pole these are life and death issues and not simply just quality of life. 


Take care.  Yes, take care of yourself.  Mark




Thailand 5.11

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 1:51 am

March 4, 2014-Tuesday




Thailand/Myanmar 5.11




From the Golden Triangle Inn, we traveled over 2 hours (only 60 miles) to the Changing Life Center to the Laotian border overlooking the Mekong River where many patients cross the border, legally or not, by foot, swimming, or other means to reach our clinic.  We have been here twice before as it slowly has developed.  It was great to see our old friend “Phonekeo”, as we call him, who moved from Fresno several years ago to run the center.




I plagiarized this next paragraph from Thailand 4.5 from an earlier post in 2012 for the sake of detail:




“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 helped build this center for training lao pastors across the Mekong River.”




This compound has very nice facilities sprawled out overlooking the Mekong River.  Robert and Chris Davis are resident missionaries from Washington state, working with Pastor Phonekeo, are our gracious hosts making sure that we are comfortable and fed.  They even have a snack and a java station to reenergize us throughout the day.  The compound houses children from outlying villages that are unable to afford school, room, and board so, they are sponsored by the Mennonite Foundation so that they can go to a school down the street.  Lay people as well as pastors are trained by Pastor to that they can spread the word of God through their own personal experiences.




The clinics are a little spread apart but it is welcomed since we are used to sharing cramp quarters.  The dental clinic is outside overlooking the Mekong River with the medical and optometry clinics are housed in a nice well-lit AC building.




The optometry department had a returned customer.  They saw her 2 years ago.  She is this cute little ole lady.   I say that with respect because sheis 72 years-old, is only 4 foot tall, and about 60 lbs. tops.  She has an enucleated eye due to blood in her eye so they removed it.  She came for new prescription for her glasses.  As she sat there patiently, I couldn’t help but stare at her because at her diminuitive size, everyone looked like a giant in comparison.   She just stared and wouldn’t smile even when making eye contact.  I motioned to her if I could take her picture and to see if she would then smile.  She nodded yes, but still no smile.  Well, I thanked her, and then I printed a photo of her and gave it to her.  She looked surprised and then she smiled, and then she chuckled, and then she covered her smile while shaking her shoulders laughing.  I asked one of the interpreters why she was laughing and she said that this is the first time she ever saw a photo of herself and she was beside herself.  She put her hands together (prayer-like fashion) and nodded toward me giving me a “Sawadee” (thank you!) then returned to stare at the photo smiling.




One of my first patients for me to see brought in an old X-ray of his head showing a bullet or rifle fragment still lodged in his head.  Twelve years ago he was shooting the rifle and it blew up and the projectile went through his right forehead and passed through his brain lodging in the occipital (eyesight) portion in the back of the brain.  He essentially sustained a stroke and had a right-sided neurological deficit and walked with a cane and a limp.  He was told in a Laotian hospital that they could remove it for $3000.  Last year he became a Christian and heard that we were coming so he traveled to this clinic.  I asked him why he came and how could we help him.  He knew God will help him and was hoping we could remove the bullet.  Pressure, no pressure.   Okay, God does perform miracles, not me, and I told him that being alive was a miracle.  Furthermore, removing the bullet would not improve his condition; only risk his life and further visual loss if attempts were made to remove it by anyone.  It could kill him.  I tried to explain with Luka interpreting, that I felt God saved his life so that he could be a witness to others and share his faith in God and we prayed for him.  Physically, we were also able to provide some treatment for his second-degree wounds that he sustained by spilling boiling water on himself and glasses to improve his overall visual acuity.  From a surgeon’s standpoint, I felt I gave him the best advice, but let his hopes down.  I have to realize that God heals in different ways.  A sign in Myanmar read, “We treat, God heals.”  How true.




After a relaxing day at the office some of the dental and optometry team walked down to wade in the river.  I am not sure if they wanted to be one nature, wanted to feel the soft mud squish between their toes, or see how the human body interacts with liver fluke’s life cycle.  Or did they want to experience the washing of each other’s feet as humble servants as Christ taught us? They were playing together like children and posing in the background.  Dr. Chu was lying on his side posing a la Burt Reynolds (but with clothes on) having a grand time.   After wading around they checked each other for leeches, worms, and snails and washed off the mud.  I don’t think I missed anything.




We gathered at night to reflect the mission so far and not only was it satisfying we look ahead to serving again, particularly in Myanmar.  Several issues were clarified, including not addressing Sayadow Dr. Candavara Bhivamsa properly in my initial blog on “Thailand 5.4” which has since been amended thanks to a “hint” that I be more sensitive and respectful to those who are our hosts.   My apologies to Sayadow and whomever I might have offended through my arrogance.  In my haste to keep you folks connected, some inaccuracies or attention to detail have been overlooked and I will not use my excuse of typing when I am asleep at 3 a.m. as justification, I know that some of you will forgive me.




Several of you have wondered if we were able to bring in the medications into Myanmar.  Trevour Zin, Dr. Chu, and Dr. Ho spent about 8 hours at the airport after our arrival working with the Myanmar government, particularly with Customs, and while we felt that we had all the papers in order, some of the paperwork necessary to bring in medications into the country for us to treat the people of Myanmar, was discovered to have been misplaced after they were submitted, so it looked like we didn’t have our papers in order.  Several phone calls were made at “higher levels” and the government was very accommodating to process the papers and although it took awhile to make it work in a day, it would have otherwise required several weeks of processing so, we applaud the Myanmar government of expediting and allowing through all of our medications.  What surplus we had from those MAP boxes were left in the country for the Burmese physicians to use in their ongoing clinics.  I was told that earlier, another “mission team” brought in medications only to sell them once they got into the country so I can see how Myanmar needs to scrutinize each team because the fact that we were allowed into the country and to have to religious groups work side by side for a similar cause is truly a miracle in this day and age.




It was also clarified that during our second night at the Burmese clinic there was a misunderstanding on our part of why there was ongoing registration well into the night that would potentially exhaust the Burmese and American physicians.  Sayadow and our chiefs discussed the matter and there were no hard feelings and we carried on fine throughout the remaining time in the clinic.  In fact, Sadayow expressed that he would like us to return next year, if possible.




We want to continue our mission to serve wherever God calls us.  There will be conflict resolution and the political climate of each country may have an affect on the present situation.  God is in control and will make it happen if He wants it to.




As we retire for the night, Bill has been very considerate to the members who have been subject to sleepless nights due to snoring. I guess Lena and I, and some others that will remain nameless are the loudest snorers so he was forced to put the couples into separate rooms in the guest-house to seclude us from bothering others.  We were happy to accommodate the team and, yes, we missed you guys last night too.  This morning I actually awoke to the sound of crickets and not the sonorous rumbling of the male choir.  Now that’s music to my ears.



Make a joyful noise…or don’t make

noise at all.  Mark

March 5, 2014

Thailand 5.10

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 12:43 am


March 3, 2014-Monday


Thailand/Myanmar 5.10


It’s great having Allison join Lena, Jennifer, and myself as part of the mission team.  It is truly a privilege to serve on this team and while we are all volunteers, we work with the gifts and talents that God has blessed us with in order to serve Him.  His grace has opened the doors to Myanmar and to Thailand and the temporary hardships that the medical team has endured seem insignificant to those chronic health issues of those whom we have come to serve.   Think of the miracle that has already been done.  Just a few years ago it would not be possible for a medical team such as ours to be allowed in the country to and bring aid to their people and yet we were able to treat thousands of people.  Yes, thousands.  It was estimated that in conjunction with the Burmese doctors our team served about 3400 medical, dental, and eye patients in two and a half days, mind you, and yet it is just a drop in the bucket. 


We enjoy our stay at the Golden Triangle Inn as it is quite cozy.  No frills, but flushing western toilets with toilet paper and not-cold water to shower with and bottled water serve our basic needs.  The mattresses are a little softer than the floors of Mywit Wa and I’m glad I brought my Tempeurpedic pillow.  Oh, and Wi-Fi!  I’m so happy I can reach it from my room because last time I had to go out to the lobby late at night fending off those pesky mosquitoes with smoke bombs that seem to favor Chinese food as a delicacy.


We served at the Health Ministry clinic near the AYDC (Akha Youth Development Center).  Optometry department was short handed but quickly sprung into action in their air-conditioned penthouse suite with a view of the valley while the dental department was content with another air compressor (seems like everywhere we go they find a new compressor).  Lynelle was in heaven with her cush adjustable hospital-like bed that she could position instead of the usual leaning of the patient in a plastic chair.   The medical team is low maintenance and we get the ground floor open-air scenic view. Yeah, we’re outside.  Give us a chair and table and it works for us.  I salivate when I see a bed inside where I can do some minor surgery.  There are a lot of people there already in the waiting room.  It was nice in Mywit Wa where we just woke up and went to our clinic areas day after day that were already set up.  Each location that we go to now in Thailand require us to load and unload all the 25 bins from the bus, vans, or SUV’s, unpack and rearrange them in order for us to be somewhat efficient.  Then we have to have an area in which to work with adequate lighting, chairs, and tables.  It takes about an hour to set up and an hour to pack up but we get a fair amount of help.


We see some familiar faces and Luka’s mother came, not to be treated, but just to visit and give support.  Ella, Yosu, and their baby girl along surprised us.  Now she’s adorable! Sorry baby Jacob.  Congratulations to you both!  Some of the Akha patients look familiar, as we have treated them before.  They welcome our advice and as for the medical team we did more injections of steroids here at this clinic than all the others combined.  Kane thinks it was because with prior treatment, they got some relief, they knew what to ask for and came in pointing to the spot.  Most were farmers and still farming well into their advanced age.  What else would they be doing?  It’s like a hobby to them.  I got to practice all my Akha.  Okay, all I know is Gu long humma dee and jiep  (thank you and pain?)


Kane saw a widow for back pain and some psychosomatic complaints. All of her 5 children grew up and moved out. She was sad and lonely.  She did mention that was a catholic and Kane suggested that she read the bible for comfort.  Unfortunately, she was illiterate, so Kane prayed with her.  Then he stabbed her in the back!  Can you imagine that?  Oh, with a steroid injection.


We are working in Thai time.  Things move a little slower and our pace is very manageable.  Either that or we are used to seeing hundreds of patients in a day at this point and everything may seem slow compared to Myit Wa.


Some team members took a break and worked out in the back. There was an exercise area in the back filled with Tony Little’s Gazelle that Gi seemed fond of.  Andy was testing his deltoids and six-pack on the pull-up bar, while Kane was stretching his back in a traction machine.  Watching them was making me very tired.  Some members get up early for walks to stay fit while others loose weight by other means.  Wait, maybe I have got it wrong all this time and I thought it was a GI bug.  I wonder if we really have a team of bulimics and colonic cleansers instead?


The dental personnel got to mix it up by trading stations.  Bill did some hygiene (Lynelle had to check his work for “quality control”) and Vicki did some teeth cleaning in addition to cold sterilization.  Luka provided a compressor so the team is happy working in the 21st century making strides one tooth at a time.


One of the highlights of the day is to come together as a team.  We also meet in the morning at breakfast and go through the Chap book, exercise, and sing, while at night Pastor has us do bonding exercises.  Most of us are stinky and are really not interested in getting close to one another at this point.  Tonight we celebrated belated birthdays for Lynelle and Allison with Swenson’s ice cream cake.  Yummy!  Happy Birthday!


Night bazaar, here we come!  Mark



March 3, 2014

Thailand 5.9

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 11:44 am

March 2, 2014-Sunday


Thailand/Myanmar 5.9


We waved goodbye to Myanmar today and continued on our second leg of our journey.  We looked forward to getting to familiar grounds in Chiang Rai and to see old friends.  For Lena and I it was good to see Jennifer and we await patiently to see Allison, our youngest daughter.  Yippee!  My GIRL!


We got through check-in and customs with our 50 pieces of luggage and bins many overweight but we’re lucky they are lenient because they don’t want to spend the time waiting for us to repack or shift items around.  This makes Bill happy and also relieved (He and the Lowes spent hours last night rearranging things to meet the weight limits.)  We said goodbye to Dr. Kyin Kyin Oo and Dr. Chaw Chaw, some of the Burmese doctors, who said “farewell but not goodbye” and wishes us to come back next year to Myanmar.  Maybe; but no promises.


Myanmar left us lasting impressions.  The villages around Myit Wa appear to be economically poor by our standards but the people are friendly and full of spirit, fight, and have a great work ethic.  They suffer because of accidents and on the job injuries, accumulative trauma, such as repetitive stress injuries.  Everyday UV exposure and injuries lead to blindness, sometimes even at such a young age.  Smiles that developed as they tested their glasses and experiencing clear vision was priceless.  The children who received dental care do not display the typical fear toward dentists or needles from injections, rather exhibit a sense of comfort, perhaps relief, toward the health care provider.  I heard very little complaints or cries from what we were doing.  Maybe they accepted their temporary discomfort in exchange for their anticipated benefit.  The medical patients gladly accepted our advice and medications.  Even the vitamin shots were thought to be of great value to them.  They are grateful and appreciative as well as hospitable.  They accepted my “cut to cure” attitude even though I didn’t know exactly what I was cutting out, or getting into, but we all agreed that it shouldn’t be there, and, well, I’m here and you’re here, so let’s go for it.  The highlight for me was to make a young boy’s hand more functional and that at the end of the procedure he was able to do a “high five” instead of a “high four.”  My trust in the Lord grows stronger day by day especially in these situations. 


One of the eye clinic’s interpreters was a professor at a Buddhist University and Lena asked her “What do the villagers think of Christians coming to your country?” She replied, “You are welcomed because Christians are known to be missionaries that show love, compassion, and kindness.”


We left Myanmar with mixed feelings wanting to leave our personal health issues behind (no pun intended).  There is still so much to be done so I guess we have to go back.  Any one second that?


We got a warm welcome at the Chiang Rai airport with Ghan, Ali, Blah, Gi, Lin, and Wen (the one who wanted the baby doll that Luka had been carrying all over Southeast Asia in an Ashton Drake box.)  I’m surprised that customs didn’t spend more time examining this doll.   What is a grown man carrying a really ugly wrinkled smooched face looking baby Jacob doll (don’t tell Wen, ask Ming, he agrees.)  I really hope it wasn’t modeled after a real baby, otherwise I’m sorry for those comments to the parents.  I’m sure YOU think he’s beautiful. I’m surprised they didn’t think he was smuggling drugs in the doll.  But Wen was really excited as she already was carrying it with her like a proud parent.


Customs had to sample a few of our 25 bins, which made Bill nervous, but with Luka interpreting, we did just fine.  However, it was too bad for Ming and Luka, who traveled on a different airline and didn’t get their luggage yet.  Seeing the AYDC group was like old times.


We got to see the bus/truck that FCBC purchased for them for the first time.  It read: BY: FCBC, Fresno, CA, USA.  It was very nice and comfortable and, most of all, reliable.  It was very satisfying for us to think that it is safer to transport the children, rather than that old yellow bus. 


We approached our home away from home, the Golden Triangle Inn.  We are the last guests that are going to be here.  They may be selling it so we may loose our beloved little 2-star hotel.  Are we really, or am I being too sentimental?  After we found this out a group of foreign investors suddenly appeared.  Perhaps, the Akha can run it and make money to support the villages.   Maybe it can provide employment to some of them.  Can it somehow help support the ministry?  Hmmm…


While Linh battled back from her deathbed I think that she is almost 100%.  I saw some dried brown liquid on her pants but she claims that the flight attendant spilled coffee on her.  Yeah, right.  Well the “bug” finally caught up to Lisa and she will be out for tomorrow’s clinic at the Health Ministry.  Oh no; down to one optometrist.  Not good.  But we do define ourselves as a TEAM.  There is no “I” in team.  We have been able to step it up when we need to and to fill in where there is a void.  The Wu’s remain behind in Myanmar and Trevour Zin to visit family but gain Ali and the AYDC clan. We thank Trevour for his efforts, connections, and his family’s passion to help the people of Myanmar.  Without Trevour’s help this portion of the trip may not have been possible.


We are all good.  Mark

Thailand 5.8

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 12:59 am

March 1, 2014-Saturday


Thailand/Myanmar 5.8


Another day, another dolar (Spanish=pain)


Linh is our first casualty.  No show at breakfast.  Poor girl.  This trip is not making a good first impression for this rookie.  She can’t get out of bed.  Others, like Lena, Kane, and Mark Patton should have stayed in bed.  But Dr. Patton tranquilizes them so that they can, at least, get in the bus and they will wake up at our destination unbeknownst to them.   But most of us had a very moving experience with the GI bug.  It was cathartic and since many of us are FOS (full of uh stool, yeah, stool) it was a cleansing moment or two or three or four.


The team had brand new mission team uniforms to wear courtesy of Kane and his friend who makes the T-shirts, which read “Myanmar Medical Missions” with a cute origami elephant on the front. We stayed overnight in Yangon and made a short trip to the inner city and served at the Immanuel Baptist Church, an old and well established church.  Trevour’ Zin’s father used to attend this church, as well as Trevour as a child, and this church has a long history.  They appreciated that another Baptist church came and visited them in this mostly Buddhist country, but as I mentioned, Myanmar is the third largest country in the world with Baptists.  Call it camaraderie and bros in Christ because it can get kind of lonely here.  We asked them how can we help and what can we do for them?  They didn’t ask for money and they didn’t ask, really, of anything of us and were just glad that we came to help serve the church community.  It was the first time that a medical team such as this had served in the church and their parishioners were quite grateful.  They were quite accommodating and after moving around a few pews and setting up tables, we were in business.  


This patient population was a totally different class of people compared to Myit Wa.  Most of the patients were church members were fairly affluent and sustained the nice facilities of the church with their offerings.  Most of the patients had access to some form of health care and interestingly did not optimize their health care.  They had medications they weren’t taking and follow up appointments that they weren’t making.   In contrast to the rural villagers that want or need what they don’t have many of the patients that I saw had the convenience of a health care system but did not optimize it.  There is no insurance here but many could afford to pay for the office visits.  Many local doctors helped translate for us and helped with triage.  They are very well educated and only costs $1000 (US) for 6 years of college/medical school and they pay $1 a month for fees!!  What a bargain.


The chief complaints were in stark contrast to the villagers.  Here the complaints of minor discomfort affecting everyday living and not ailments that definitely needed treatment to make a living.  Some ailments could be avoided just by avoiding the offending activity in the first place.  Kane had a diabetic patient that would refuse to see her doctor because he would only tell her to stop eating so much to get her diabetes under control.  “But I like to eat” was her response.  I had a patient that gets gastritis after eating spicy foods.  This has been going on two years.  But he likes to eat spicy foods.   I had a lot of patients with extremely high blood pressure that would put them at risk for heart attack and stroke but were not taking their antihypertensive medications.   We spent time educating what the “silent killer” could do to ones health. One of my patients actually came for a follow up for his prostatectomy for prostate cancer that was performed with Da Vinci robotic surgery at Northwestern University in Chicago but he didn’t want to go back for his follow up and wanted to know what I thought.  Several came to just get a physical exam but curiously refused the rectal exam when I put on “the glove and pointed my finger”.  It was hard to get the female translator to say, “Bend over.”  They just kind of waved me off.  I just wanted to be complete. 


The pace was better as the medical and optometry team were recovering from their maladies.  The dental team obtained a new compressor and was back in business after doing some retrofitting.  The sound of high-pitched whining was music to their ears.  They were in production line mode once again.  The optometry team chose the nicest place with great lighting and natural air conditioning and the grinding team of Pastor, Mark, and Ron reminded me of “See no evil, Speak no evil, and Hear no evil” and I even got them to pose for that.  I definitely need to post the photos.


David Chow left most of the work to his son, Chris, in the pharmacy department because every time he moved he got nauseous.  (He ended up sitting outside on a stairwell with his head slumped over for hours.  I thought he was meditating.  He couldn’t seem to figure out why this queasy feeling and this awful smell wouldn’t go away.  It turned out he had been sitting over a sewage system passing under him.  Other members took five resting in the pews but overall it was a good turnout for the patients and the mission team sucked it up and with God’s strength and for his glory we were able to share fellowship with our Christian brothers and sisters in this foreign country.  Pastor pointed out that not only were we Christians coming together in another country, we were also Baptists.  That was a great feeling.

A miracle happened today.  Dr. Patton was going through the inventory and found two extra stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs from the MAP boxes to give to someone.  He heard that there was a mobile medical team that was leaving that night for Mandalay to set up a clinic.  He thought that they might have some use for them and approached them and asked, “We have 2 stethoscopes and 2 sphygmomanometers, can you use them?” The coordinator looked at him with a look of amazement and asked Dr. Patton, “Did God tell you to do this?  Apparently, the local team had ordered medications and 2 stethoscopes and 2 BP cuffs which didn’t arrive with the order, and here, just a few hours before their departure, they are presented with 2 stethoscopes and 2 BP cuffs.  Caught off guard with the puzzling question he responded, “I don’t know; I’ll have to ask Pastor Jack.”  Pastor Jack explained that God sent us to Myanmar.  God sent us to Immanuel Baptist Church and we had these things to give to you, which you needed.   So yes, God sent these.  Perfect timing.  Keep the faith.


Pastor summed it up, “Buddha is good, God is greater” Mark


March 1, 2014

Thailand 5.7

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 10:45 pm

February 28, 2014-Friday


Thailand/Myanmar 5.7


upchuck, barfing, the runs, Montezuma’s revenge, tossing cookies, having a blast, blowing chunks, the trots, hugging the throne



We don’t need alarms here in Zalun.  A large loud speaker blaring music at 4 a.m.  was a rude awakening for some.  Others, unfortunately, were already awake throughout most of the night.   That Burmese banquet last night cost us dearly.  Nice cuisine, plenty of food including exotic dishes.  Not so nice affect.  It was food to die for and we almost did.


I was wrong (imagine that?)  The flashlight is not our most valuable tool.  No, the toilet replaced it.  HALF the mission team was stricken with nausea and vomiting, traveler’s diarrhea, flu-like symptoms, and intestinal cramping.  Hydration is a problem when things come out from both ends and you can’t hold anything in.  Please don’t try to imagine it.  We can hardly eat anything.  Gail brought in bananas.  I thought they were to plug us up.  I was informed that this was part of the BRAT diet for diarrhea: Banana, rice, apples, toast.  I still think that is still more effective as a plug.  Some nearly needed an I.V. since they couldn’t hold down liquids.  We were not going to enjoy a four-hour trip over bumpy roads in a cramp bus without a bathroom.  “Oh crap” would be apropos.  We needed a pit stop and everyone lined up and we weren’t shy; it’s a good thing were family.  We never appreciated a squatty potty more than now.  You have not seen a sadder mission team, even worse than not getting Economy Plus seating.  Some looked pale, some couldn’t wait for the pit stop and vomited in the bus, while some wanted to just roll over and die.  To make matters worse, we crawled into the bus wanting to sleep and have peace and quiet since most of us did not get much sleep the night before.  Then our gracious host begins to play loud music video a la Miley Cyrus of some festivity, which is pounding our ears that we might enjoy watching during the bus ride.  Where did I put my earplugs?  Bill tries to politely ask the host to turn the music down since we would rather hear him speak (like his previous guided tour).  He says proudly, “Oh, Okay” and THEN GRABS THE MICROPHONE and becomes louder than the music!  Thank God I found my earplugs!  We are miserable; we look pathetic, heads are hanging out the window.  It’s a good thing we wouldn’t be seeing patients today.  No way, Hosea.  If they saw us, they would have wanted to help us rather than vice versa.  This is an occupational hazard and the risk of traveling to foreign countries.  No, we were not overindulging and we were not gluttons for punishment but our American GI flora met its match.   Ming and Luka did just fine, thank you.   Fortunately, Dr. Patton had meds for traveler’s diarrhea and cramping at hand while Kane shared his antiemetic medicine, though he was one of them who needed it the most.  Our energy was sapped.  There were going to be casualties.  Vultures are actually circling the bus flying overhead.  Is that our hotel in the distance or an oasis?  The 7 Mile Hotel was sight for sore eyes when we arrived and home in bed for the next 18 hours. 


Curiously, the medical and optometry team were the ones most stricken.  I don’t think we were sabotaged by the remaining clinic, which will remain nameless, but

they seemed to be beaming their Ultrabrite Toothpaste smiles as not a single one of them were sick.  Something was making them cheerful.  Were they jealous because we saw more patients than them and we had to set them a quoto?  As the rest of the of the team was writing their last will and testament, the others went on a more personal (smaller crowd) guided tour of Yangon, seeing what I am told the “Famous Pagoda that you HAVE to see if you ever visit Yangon; you better not miss it.”  Well, then, send me a postcard.  They traveled to Scott’s market, a bazaar type flea market, and I suppose that the other team was glad that we weren’t there counter offer something they wanted to buy for themselves.  Call me paranoid, but I swear there was whispering and giggling at the banquet table by those guys.  Maybe my dehydration is making me delusional and I can’t be responsible for what I am writing at the moment.  While most of us slept or sipped on sugar water while sitting on the john recycling our Tucks pads asking for refills for toilet paper (I think the hotel thinks we were stealing the TP and they would be right), the rest of the team had a nice American style dinner and when they came back innocently said, “Hi guys! What are you up to?  Have fun today?”  I DO have to admit that they are the ones that exhibit the best hygiene donning gloves and masks with each patient.  I thought its because they had bad breath. We need to get back to the basics.  My bad.  


I’m sorry that the blogs have been delayed since the Internet was not available until we came back to Yangon and I have been trying to post the earlier ones first.  For those waiting for photos, I’m sorry, I barely get these blogs out. I am struggling on my deathbed, at the moment, so if this is the last blog I ever do, it was a pleasure.  I stink from both ends and I’m reeking with sweat.  Who said being a plastic surgeon is glamorous??  Please pray for your teams health and recovery.  We still have a lot of work to do.  I hope that God is not done with us yet. 



I have to go (literally).  I’m pooped!  Mark


Thailand 5.6

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 10:38 pm

February 27, 2014-Thursday


Thailand/Myanmar 5.6


Bruised, Battered, and Blessed


Happy Birthday Lynelle! And to my sister Sandy!


The physical stress is taking a toll on our bodies.  Most of us miss our Tempeurpedic foam mattress and pillow tops.  The jostling around in the ox cart is evident on bruising on some bodies.  Headaches, backaches, and insomnia from lying on the floor are common but in comparison, these discomforts are nowhere as significant as the ailments and maladies that the barefoot peasants bring to us.


There were discussions between Sayadow and our chiefs and it was agreed upon that Dr. Chu, Andy, and Linh would triage the patients and to set the pace for today.  This ultimately settled the discontent of being overwhelmed.  Because, I was involved in most of the surgeries, I saw fewer patients than my colleagues and I felt bad that by the numbers, I didn’t or couldn’t see a many as them because some procedures take longer than others (prep, numb, cut, bandage).  Kane said that, “I would see 40 patients just so that you can do just one surgery.”  Okay, I’m not that slow, but thank you Kane I appreciate the team effort.  Dr. Patton, our resident family practitioner was our “go-to guy” for unusual presentations and his comforting words could be felt despite the language barrier.  Being fluent in Burmese made communication very easy with Drs. Chu and Wu and the patients seemed very comfortable with them and more personal.  Dr. Wu even performed unique treatments such as thermal acupuncture.  Kane continued his gentle approach to the patients and also did some surgical procedures.  The clinics functioned at a more tolerable pace. 


I don’t even get to leave our area much to wander over to the eye clinic and dental clinic so I apologize that this journal is more from the medical viewpoint.  It’s impossible to be a roving reporter and photojournalist.  So I am thankful for Jennifer to take a lot of photos to document our experiences.  All patients have one thing in common with regard to wanting to improve their health.  All the team members have a desire to do whatever they can to bring hope from despair to the patients and God has equipped us with a caring heart to search for those answers.


It is our last day and we do want to treat those that have come to the clinic.  Some just couldn’t be treated but by all accounts, it is estimated that 2000 patients were seen.  Some estimate 3000. Whoa!  In the last mission trip, 2500 patients were treated over a two-week span.  This number covered 2 ½ days!  I told you we were swamped.  That may seem a lot but like I said swarms of people came and it would not seem unlikely.  Five thousand fliers went out to families with an average of 5 people per family; that’s 25,000 potential patients. It certainly seemed so.  Bringing sight to the blind, improving the quality of dentition, which is essential to eat and relieve decaying teeth and abscesses, and improving the health and quality of life to these patients, were our goals.  By God’s grace and mercy, I think the mission team truly met them.


At the end of the day there was a ceremony and thank you from Sayadow to the team.  Words of kindness were exchanged.  A monetary gift from the mission team was presented to Sayadow, in part, for providing a generator, comfortable living quarters, real toilets, a shower, etc. in preparation to our arrival.  We sang some songs, one an old Christian song singing “Halleluiah!” and another one “See you in one year!”  Was that an invitation? We took pictures with our interpreters and new friends, packed up, and departed for our next destination.  Tears were shed.  Hugs prolonged.  No one was eager to leave.  Leaving friends and the people that need you here for at least another month or two left some emptiness.  Little kids lined the path waving good-bye as we returned to the river saying, “I love you!” in English.  We were both charmed and touched.


Now the hard part: going back from whence we came.  Okay, we have to think positive.  Think Disneyland, the happiest place on earth, because it aint here.  “Oh goody! We get to ride the jetty again, almost sinking was fun!”   “Whoopee!, we get to go on the ox cart ride.  Look mommy, why is that big ox jumping on that other one?  What’s THAT thing?”   Not being able to breathe or see in this dust reminds us living back home in LA, any way, “It’s not that bad!”   Then river crossing #2 is like the Robinson Crusoe ride, but didn’t he get stranded?  And now back to Zalun for an overnight stay and then we will take the 4-hour bumpy bus ride back to Yangon but we ARE going to enjoy the scenery this time, aren’t we?


Attitudes change.  Hearts soften.   Initially it went from “I don’t know IF we will come back here” to “When CAN we come back here?”


I have also noted my blogs are becoming more sober, I mean somber.

Attitudes change.  Mark




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