Beyond the Operating Room Surgical treatment and training in Vietnam

By Ana Luna, ReSurge’s Development and Communications Manager

In early March, I traveled with one of ReSurge International’s surgical teams for the first time. We flew from ReSurge’s Silicon Valley headquarters to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

As a non-doctor, I watched shows like ER, General Hospital and Grey’s Anatomy to help me prepare. Inundated with cable channel dramatizations of cutting, suctioning and suturing, it was easy for me to imagine doctors performing surgeries. However, picturing ReSurge’s volunteer surgeons, nurses and doctors in the dynamic Ho Chi Minh City landscape, was more of a challenge.

Sensing my uncertainty, on the first day, Team Leader Dr. Bill McClure explained,

“Every trip is unique. We are blessed to be given this opportunity to help so many patients and families and share our knowledge and expertise.” As a longtime ReSurge volunteer plastic surgeon (This Ho Chi Minh City trip was Bill’s 43rd Trip with ReSurge, his 13th in Vietnam.), Bill’s perspective carried substantial weight.

Still, I wondered, “Shar[ing] knowledge and expertise,” what does that really mean? More specifically, what does sharing knowledge and expertise look like when you are working in a foreign country, namely Vietnam?

For ReSurge, sharing knowledge and expertise spans across the operating room. I saw pediatricians, anesthesiologists, nurses and surgeons all engaged with hospital staff-sharing ideas and techniques.

ReSurge's Surgical Team collaborates with local hospital surgeons to provide high-quality care

At all levels of patient care, I saw a melding of cultures, languages and experiences.

For many ReSurge team members, this is their favorite part of the trip. The building of multicultural relationships, while transferring information. This is the reason they keep coming back.

Recovery Nurse Cynthia Melinski explains, “I have been going on trips since I was 26! Sharing what I know and what I have learned in my career is what I love doing. I feel good knowing that [me] training others means I’ve changed a life.”

One life that was transformed was 10-year-old Jol. To reach safe surgical care, they left the lush mountainous landscape of North Vietnam. In total, Jol and her older brother traveled more than 12 hours. Jol possesses a congenital anomaly known as finger syndactyly, in which her fingers are fused together. ReSurge Surgeon Dr. Jorge Palacios performed a thumb liberation to correct the first and second web in her left hand.

Pediatrician Dr. David Norton discusses Jol's condition with her older brother.

When ReSurge first met Jol, she hardly spoke a word. Following her surgery, she loved playing with other children in the recovery room. She enjoys drawing and is so excited to go home to teach her sister her new favorite game, ‘thumb war.’

ReSurge International shares their passion for transferring knowledge through training with Ronald McDonald House Charities. This Vietnam Team Trip was made possible by RMHC’s continued commitment and support. Thank you RMHC!

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