Vietnam 2017 by Derrin Jarvis
I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the 27 team members who traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in October 2017 to volunteer at the Odonto Maxillo Facial Hospital with the group Surgicorps International. The group was comprised of medical and non-medical volunteers with an aim to provide free surgical and medical care to those in need. This trip was Surgicorps International’s 15th trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Throughout the week the group successfully ran three operating rooms and completed approximately 65 plastic reconstructive surgeries on Vietnamese patients.
I specifically remember one patient, a young 13-year-old girl that had sustained severe burns from a propane tank explosion and my encounter with her. She had scars and contractures all over her face and arms, and barely half of a scalp of hair. I developed a habit of holding the children’s hands while they were receiving anesthesia; about to fall asleep and have foreigners who spoke an unknown language cut into their skin and alter their body. As I stood next to this little girl holding her hand, I noticed tears streaming down her face and a pure look of fear in her eyes. She began crying and withdrawing her arm from the anesthesiologist as he attempted to place an IV. Finally, an interpreter became available and told us that the small girl was saying the she was scared of the needle from the IV. I immediately felt an overwhelming rush of emotion, and felt tears welling in my own eyes as I realized that this was a normal thing for a child to be afraid of: a needle. But this little girl had sustained more pain and fear already than would be expected in any person’s lifetime. As she drifted off to sleep, I continued to hold her hand and held back the tears, being humbled by the strength within this small child.
I feel very lucky that I was able to lend my skills in the service of others as a part of Surgicorps’ mission to Vietnam. Unfortunately there are many people, like this young girl I met all over the world who have suffered more than most of us can imagine. As healthcare providers, we can make a massive difference in other’s lives. If you cannot travel to another country like Vietnam and volunteer skills, please consider providing a warm smile or a comforting touch to your next patient—it may make all the difference.