From Thighland to Thailand

February 28, 2019

Thailand 7.5

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:14 pm

Thailand 7.5

February 28, 2019-Thursday

Today was a thirteen-hour day but that’s why they call it “WORK”. The good news is that during the day, Ghan got a call from the head of the Dept. of Health and a meeting was arranged with Ghan to plead our case for customs to release the mission supplies which included medical and dental supplies, medications, optometry equipment and most important of all, the lenses, frames, and grinders. Ghan strategically brought cookies to the secretary to ensure a smooth interaction. The official wrote a letter for Ghan to take to the customs agent at the airport. Bill, Ghan, and Mark Patton met with the customs near closing time and they had to go through about 12 bins/duffels item by item and explain the need of each item. They were convincing enough to allow EVERYTHING through to Medical Team International is back in business at full force! Halleluiah, God is good! Thank you Ghan for your nice people skills and kudos to Bill and Mark for getting our equipment to the hotel.

The team drove for over an hour toward Ghan’s Pamee village, which is adjacent to Tham Luang village in Mae Sai area of northern Thailand near the border of Myanmar (kind of like Fresno/Clovis). We went to Tham Luang village church, which was recently built and I believe it is one of thirteen Akha churches in the area. The dentists got the fan-conditioned villa of course, the optometrists worked in the sanctuary, while the medical team and pharmacy were positioned on the open air veranda and worked on their tans as well. The limited budget medical team got a Little Nemo squirt bottle with a fan to help cool us off. The villagers are very hard workers and we saw a lot of musculoskeletal disorders. The dentists cleaned teeth and extracted badly decayed ones while the optometrists worked on collecting prescriptions for grinding lenses at a later time. There were a few patients that we couldn’t help such a young man with enlarged, fused, fingers (syndactyly, macrodactyly), an elderly woman who fell and fractured her femur that did not heal, and man with a facial cyst that needed surgical removal. We will see if we can treat him at the clinic when we get our instruments. It gave me a sense of disappointment for both myself and for the patient not being able to treat these patients. We offer hope but sometimes can’t deliver. I know that we can’t treat everyone and we should be satisfied that we helped many others, yet there is still an empty feeling. Thinking about tackling that congenital hand in limited facilities and resources has made the phrase “physician do not harm” restrain my temptation. The teams felt fairly productive and then took a tour up Tham Luang mountain for some cave exploration.

Tham Luang mountain’s outline against the sky resembles a woman laying on her back. Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non means “the great cave and water source of the sleeping lady mountain”. The cave where the Wild Boars soccer team consisting of a coach and 12 boys, were trapped in a flooded cave system for over two weeks last year. Their full story can be seen at and Gail has a book titled, “Miracle In The Cave” which describes their ordeal. Ghan helped support the rescue team by making and serving them food. Luka and Da helped with communications especially with the news media in answering questions. We followed the walking trail up to the mouth of the actual cave where the team was trapped which happened to be fenced off. All of the soccer team was eventually rescued but a former Navy Seal diver Saman Gunan died after he was bringing oxygen to the boys. A tall statue was erected in front of a memorial building, which had large murals on the walls. We continued up to another cave, Thampra Cave, and got to experience first-hand with flashlight in hand going deep into the areas of darkness, coolness, and dampness of a cave system to try to imagine the conditions that the boys had experienced. It was eerie yet exciting. Some visitors were meditating in the recesses of the cave. One of the boys rescued was an English speaking Christian who answered to the navy seal who first made contact with them. After the rescue, all but the Christian boy adopted Buddhism. He remained committed to his faith. Fortunately the survivors are doing well and I’m sure a movie will eventually be made.

We then travelled higher up the mountain to Ghan’s village. Her younger brother has a drinking water bottling factory and we got a tour of that and met Ghan’s mother riding her motorcycle. Her other younger brother has a boutique coffee café Ahpo Kafei where we stopped to have coffee and enjoy the view of Tham Luang while waiting for Mark Patton to arrive from the airport. Bill stayed behind at the hotel to prepare for the next day and his newly acquired tools. A nice Akha dinner at a restaurant finished a quite busy and rewarding day.

We will be going to Sahasak School tomorrow. It has always been one of our favorite spots. I’ll let you know how it went.


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