"Thank you for lifting my burden."
— Dr. Lam Bui
"Praise be to the God.., the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
Our thirtieth international team traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam April 6-17, 2011. The team included:
We regret Dr. Mark Glasgow, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, had to cancel his trip as he was driving to the Denver Airport to join the team. He was called away when his wife experienced an emergency. We missed him and hope he can join us on another trip. She has since delivered a healthy baby daughter and all are doing well.
On April 9 the team screened prospective patients with congenital and growth deformities, tumors, and facial injuries at the Odontomaxillofacial Hospital (OMFH), Saigon District, and the National Hospital of Odontostomatology (NHOS), Cholon District. The patients came from Hanoi, the Central Highlands and Phu Yen Province, and the Southern Provinces nearer to Ho Chi Minh City. One patient came from an orphanage eight hours away, having been rejected seven times by prior teams, but on whom our team operated successfully to close a large cleft palate.
On April 11-12 the team operated at the OMFH. Despite a national holiday Dr. Le Thi Viet, Dept. Dir., and her surgical staff offered to work during their vacation time instead. They performed three pediatric cleft cases and assisted our team with the other 12 cases, for a total of 15 surgeries. Many had compromised airways whose surgeries would have not been possible without the Face the Challenge fiberoptic intubating scope and brand new Verathon Ranger GlideScope System, purchased from donor funds. This equipment allowed the team safely to visualize and establish the airways.
On April 13-14 the team joined the surgical staff at the NHOS directed by Dr. Lam Hoai Phuong. They did five technically advanced cases either involving jaw or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) tumor removals and/or reconstructions using titanium bone plates and/or hip or rib grafts. Dr. Robinson continues to teach more of the surgeons bone harvesting techniques, which they are now mastering. Such skills are essential to help many patients with facial reconstruction needs there now.
Sadly, more patients are arriving with advanced tumors, such as the aggressive benign "ameloblastomas." They are seen at the rate of two/week at the NHOS. Thankfully, these difficult surgeries all went well without complications. Dr. Lam Bui Huu commented regarding a few of the patients with advanced needs on final post-operative rounds, "Thank you for lifting my burden."
On April 15 at the NHOS we held the Eighth Facial Surgery Seminar where about 85 surgical and anesthesia professionals attended. Dr. Robinson presented on Bilateral Sagittal Split Osteotomies (BSSOs) to reposition the lower jaw. CAPT. BC Shauver, CRNA, nurse anesthetist did an excellent job presenting on administering anesthesia for the facial surgery patient. And Gabriela Stoeger-Stevens, BSN, RN spoke about pain assessment and compassionate pain management in the post-anesthesia unit. The Vietnamese are eager to learn and we are glad for the chance to teach with each surgical mission now.
We were also surprised and pleased that Dr. Lam Bui Huu recently succeeded in translating into Vietnamese the book Dr. Robinson wrote about orthognathic (jaw) surgery in 2006. We are gratified to know more surgeons are using this translation as a reference in Vietnam.
Ginger's Breast Cancer Diagnosis: A week before the team departed for Vietnam, I was diagnosed with breast cancer after an annual mammogram. It was considered Stage 1, Grade 1 (no spread, slow-growing) and the general surgeon and oncologist both encouraged me to travel with the team as planned. Thirty-six hours after the team returned I had a "lumpectomy" and four sentinel lymph nodes removed and recovered fine.
One of the nodes had a 1.9 mm "micrometastasis" in it; an unexpected spread that occurs "only 5% of the time" after this initial diagnosis. So the treatment will need to be more aggressive, involving chemotherapy as well as the originally planned radiation. I underwent my first chemotherapy on June 2 and will have six treatments through mid-September. Five to six weeks of radiation begin in October.
The April trip gave me greater empathy as we screened and operated on patients with their own tumors. I knew their uncertainty mixed with hope for treatment and healing. And I was glad our surgical team could help as many as we did and trust many more will be helped in "their troubles."
Through my own unexpected experience, I am thankful to receive God's compassion and comfort from others who care. As with friends and loved ones here, the Vietnamese surgical staff members and a patient encouraged me:
"May today's pain lead to tomorrow's strength." — Your student, Dr. Nguyen Minh Tri', Saigon, May 26, 2011
"I was so impressed and touched by the way you treated me and others during the time we were your patients. You've not only 'renewed' our lives but taught us lessons of big love." — "Mowgli" Pham, June 15, 2011
We are confident God will see FACE the Challenge through this time and look forward to our thirty-first international team returning to Vietnam next Spring. THANK YOU!
So that we can comfort,
Ginger, along with Randy
Randolph C. Robinson, MD, DDS
Ginger H. Robinson, BSN, RN, and our Boards and Surgical Teams
Since 1993 Face the Challenge surgical teams and their associates have performed 1,105 free facial surgeries. As always, we are grateful to our supporters who make these trips possible.
We remain an all-volunteer humanitarian non-profit organization. Donations are 100% tax-deductible and all go toward surgical efforts. There are no paid employees. Donations are gratefully received by check or PayPal at: www.facethechallenge.org
Online Slide Show, April 2011: Click Here
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