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The Philosophy of Seeking Care in Vietnam – Dr. Van Gompel

Posted by Gabriel VanGompel, DPM  (a third year Podiatric Surgical resident from Kaiser Permanente, Hayward while on a global health elective in Da Nang, Vietnam at  and Da Nang Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital).

The past two days have been an eye opening experience.  From the moment of walking in the front door of Da Nang’s orthopedic hospital, the cultural aspect of the patients and staff has been obvious.  Patients line the halls waiting to be seen.   The physicians work tirelessly trying to accommodate the endless stream of patients.  The courtesy and respect perceived from everyone in the hospital give this place a warm homey feeling.

The pathology seen here is astounding.  There was a fair number of mal-reduced fractures most notably calcaneal and lisfranc injuries which presented to the clinic.  A number of these patients did not seek care after the injury and now presented complaining of limiting pain and deformity.  The cultural mindset of people seeking care for injuries is much different than in the U.S.  The walk-it-off mentality is very common.  If only the message could be spread for these patients to seek care immediately a lot of these painful deformities may be prevented.

The pediatric patients seen in clinic are both warming and heartbreaking.  The number of club feet and other deformities, rarely if at all mentioned in the literature, is never ending.  Many patients can be treated, but there are those who will not benefit from any type of treatment.  It is these kids that your heart goes out to.  They have made a permanent imprint on my heart.

It is a gratifying experience to use the knowledge acquired through years of training to restore these patients’ painful deformities back to a functional limb.  This is the stuff that made you want to pursue medicine.

Vietnam Showers Lead to a Perfect Night on the Town

After finishing surgery around 4:30 pm we headed out into the lobby and ran into a patient who had suffered a severe Pilon type fracture of her LEFT lower extremity.  She had been treated with an external fixator, but had no attention paid to the fracture dislocation of the ankle joint.  As a result, her foot and ankle were now beginning to appear deformed and she complained of swelling and pain with ambulation.  After our hall-side visit we instructed her to remain non-weight bearing until Friday when we will take her to surgery.  She should not have a problem with this as the wheel chair she was in looked like it was designed to climb a mountain!

As we proceeded outside we happened to catch a glimpse out of the corner of our eye of some dark clouds and what appeared to be rain off in the distance.  Paying it no mind we ventured out into the city of Da Nang toward a Spa which was only a few blocks away.  We Californians were ignorant to the fact that in the tropics tropical storms are very common and last only briefly, but deliver a massive amount of rain.  About half way to the spa we felt the first drops.  This soon developed into a steady downpour and then sheet and bucks of rain stronger than your shower head.  By this time we were sprinting down the street toward the spa.  Turning around we noticed Dr. Weinraub was missing.  We found out later that due to his sandals he had to stop at the first building he could to get shelter.  This turned out to be the Russian consulate.  Good timing as the consul car pulled up and its dignitaries walked in.   After essentially taking a shower in the elements we made it to the spa and were able to enjoy a perfect massage.

We then met Minh, an orthopedic resident, at his favorite egg-crepe place in the city.  We could not find this place again if we tried.  It was at the end of a narrow alley off a street you could never pronounce and would likely drive right by.  The food was amazing!  Chicken satay, I think… put in a rice paper along with veggies and peanut sauce made for one heck of dining experience.  Our trusted guide Minh also recommended we try his patented “Grenadine” drink.  This consisted of a local French style beer along with strawberry soda.  Delicious!  This day was one of those you won’t forget.  Thanks everyone.


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