From Thighland to Thailand

February 27, 2019

Thailand 7.4

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:24 pm

February 27, 2019, Wednesday

Happy Birthday to Lynelle, Lynette, and to my sister Sandy!

FYI: Sometimes I’ll need to post the text first and then upload photos later since the uploading takes a long time so please check again for more photos that get posted. You can double-click on the photo to enlarge the photo if you want to see more detail. Thanks for reading and we appreciated your prayers for those who we serve so that they can appreciate God’s glory and for the medical team’s safety, physical and mental health.

Last night was interesting. The lights in the hotel flickered momentarily and we looked outside wondering if there was a blackout in the city like in 2017. We looked down the hallway and it appeared that smoke was bellowing out of Bill and Gail’s room. Oh no, some thought a fire, but no fire alarm. The “smoke” was steam. Bill was using the sterilizer and overloaded the circuits and his room lost power. Bill was exasperated. So Bill said he had nothing better to do during the repair so he got out his lantern and computer and finally got around to reading my blog that he assigned me to write but hadn’t read. I’m glad to help you with your boredom Bill I knew that the pressure was mounting and Bill would eventually blow his fuse.

Today we traveled to the Chiang Rai International Christian School ( where three of the youngest children of Ghan and Luka go to school. The school’s motto is “Serve the servant” by helping support missionaries and servants to live in Thailand. The staff is comprised of these volunteer missionary teachers from around the world. There are 207 students with a 60:40 female:male ratio. The student population includes missionaries’ children and others from Buddhist families who recognize the quality of the education for their children. Most of the patients we saw today were of the volunteer staff as well as a few students who wanted wellness examinations. But these examinations allowed us to interact with some particular patients who just wanted to be heard. Their hearts may have been hurting more than their bodies’ ailments and this gave them an opportunity to speak to those who would listen. I saw a patient for a wellness exam who had no complaint but when I asked, “Anything else?” as I was getting ready to release her, she responded, “Oh, I was treated for depression.” After digging and prying her history of depression for most of her life I found that she was off her medications after trying about 6 different ones and had suicidal thoughts but responded, “I cry all the time but I would never go through with it.” I enlisted Chris Chow to talk over alternatives for treatment and advised her to go to the hospital and get back on her meds and she agreed to go seek treatment. We, as health professionals, feel we need to fix something but the fact that we spent more time listening than doing was more valuable than actually offering them medical advice. It allows us to reevaluate what is actually a success or treatment failure in our ability to use our skills. Though we think we are missing our tools at the airport to effectively treat the patient, God is using us, as individuals, as His tools to help them feel peace, comfort, and the love of God. Our measure of success and purpose is not always God’s measure and He sets the standard.

Lena was sharing that she saw a mentally challenged 23 year-old yesterday at the Akha village, that looked twelve who showed up to the clinic alone making no eye contact. She was scared clutching her arms to her chest. Lena just wanted to go up and hug her but just put two hands on her shoulders. She was thinking, “Do you know that there is a God that loves you and that you are never alone? God is always with you and loves you.” That goes for all of us.

There is a point, a lesson for me with this next story so please bear with me or just skip it if it looks too long. Okay, I warned you.

I have been reflecting way too much on skin tags. The first two patients I saw on this trip, at the Akha clinic yesterday, after traveling 36 hours and experiencing major jet-lag, giving up 3 weeks of work at home, packing my expensive delicate surgical instruments honed with German precision, carrying 30 lbs in two backpacks wherever I go, receiving vaccinations and taking medications to prevent catching a disease, and enduring a 2 hour bumpy winding road avoiding car sickness, and after setting up two containers of medical supplies, in this dusky, powerless building, this very first patient wanted his skin tags removed from his neck. Skin tags, really? As I was blinking rapidly into his eyes with my bladder reminding me I have to pee, I was thinking about how stingy I have to be with the limited number of sterilized instruments that I have to use for this clinic, let alone for the next two weeks if I can’t resterilize them. I was strategically contemplating my response of “They’re benign looking acrochordons, you know benign fibroepithelial polyps that don’t have to be removed from a medical necessity point of view. It’s a want and not a need. And actually, you can tie a hair around each one and strangulate it and they will just fall off. Here, let me show you (so I can save my instruments for more important uses)” … I thought. With a deep sigh, I said “Okay” animating my two fingers in a scissor-like fashion and the patient nodding his head enthusiastically agreeing to the procedure. I took out my $1500 2.5X loupe magnifying surgical telescopes and my $1800 headlamp that I had been protecting and reluctantly pulled out my delicate sterile instruments thinking I’m now down to three sterile scissors and forceps and removed about 10 skin tags. He sat there as I clipped them off with precise surgical precision without an anesthetic (the needle would hurt more), grimacing with each stroke of the scissors. He was overjoyed and brought his hands together with a nod in a thanking motion. Okay he’s cured. “Cut to Cure” is our motto. “Okay, next patient?” The same thing; skin tags! I was thinking “You’ve got to be kidding, I need my instruments for something more important.” What are we, SkintagsRUs? Yes, they’re unsightly, distracting and I recalled from another trip when I removed about one hundred tags from his neck and armpits from a man that was so self-conscious he wouldn’t date. So I was at least thankful there were only 10.

Now reflecting from the patients’ point of view. These have been bothering them for years with no tangible resolution, which made them self-conscious or uncomfortable rubbing and getting these nuisance tags snagged in clothing. They are not going away, in fact, they would get longer, bigger, and more noticeable with time, in addition to other tags that are starting to grow. So they may, indeed, end up with dozens of skin tags over the years. These two patients with hope in their hearts woke up early, walked miles in the dark to get here and be first in line, like a Black Friday sale, patiently waiting for the team to arrive unsure if we could help them. They would need to allow some guy who they don’t even know take a knife to his neck and he won’t move as a knife is placed a few millimeters from his carotid artery, hoping he won’t flinch. He’s going to be sweating and scared.

To him, it is as important as taking out something else that shouldn’t be there (cyst, lipoma, tumor) and I should not minimize his concern and economize my resources. This is not cosmetic surgery to them and, believe me, I know cosmetic surgery; that’s what I do for a living. In a brief moment in time, we have to develop a trusting relationship, and treat this individual with care and respect in the manner that I would want to be treated myself. I had to take a step back and remind myself why I am here and realize what’s important to them, and not me. To reiterate, it isn’t about me. Shame on me! These type of patients humble me and in the world of me, me, me, look-at-me selfies, and social media and how many likes and followers we can get, we/I need to recognize others physical and mental needs and treat everyone with respect that each of us would want. I have taught my children to RSVP their loved ones: Respect them, make them feel Special, Value them, and make them feel imPortant, a Priority. We are here to serve and respect and love one another. John 13:34 Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. The patients ultimately got what they have been so patiently waiting for but God is also using them, so that I can be more like Christ with a more loving and comforting attitude, strengthening my relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. God works in mysterious ways.

We met at night with Pastor conducting lessons from the Chapbook and Kane leading us in music. We grow closer as a team spiritually and emotionally. There are a lot of tears tonight. We continued this theme of how the team has been affected by the patients that we treat with what instruments that we have. Lynelle was sharing her frustration on how limited care she was giving with the make shift instrumentation which was below her own standard of care. We have our own personal standards, but God has His. We learn a lot about ourselves on how numbers of people treated and productivity is not the important measure of success but rather how we can just expose our audience to the wonders of God’s love so that we may ultimately glorify Him.

Admittedly it’s a little heavy duty thinking that I’ll have to sleep on it and have Lena explain it to me in the morning. After all, as I have said before: “Lena is the wise one, and I’m just the wise guy.”

Your humble servant,

Thailand 7.4

1 Comment »

  1. Thank you Mark for sharing! Praying!

    Comment by Kim — February 27, 2019 @ 9:11 pm

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