Fixing the defects
Waiting for his son outside the operating room, Mr. Phan Trien, 50 years old, from Quang Tri, was still nervous, partly worried about his son, partly anxiously waiting for his turn. His oldest son, Phan Th., 6 years old, had a cleft lip like him.
Upon hearing about the "Operation Smile" program carried out by Operation Smile Vietnam and foreign doctors offering free cosmetic surgeries, the elderly man wasted no time and immediately took his child to Hue. After undergoing a screening and the approval of the surgery record for Th., feeling empathic for the hardworking father, doctors encouraged the father to participate in the surgery alongside his child.
"Poor farmers rarely thought about medical treatment, so I have been living like this for many decades. It's hard to express, and I feel very inferior, but I prioritize my child's surgery and his ability to go to school and enjoy life. Little did I know that doctors would operate on both my child and me this time. I'm really happy! My whole family will be surprised when they welcome both my child and me back," he said.
Sharing the joyful mood after the surgery, Mr. A Minh L., an ethnic Gie-Trieng resident from Kon Tum, brought his son, A Q., for facial deformity surgery.
He shared: "We are just farmers, and we don't have the money for surgery. Every time my child faced the light and the crowd, he would shy away. My wife and I love our child, but we didn't know what to do. Today, my child received free surgery. We are very grateful for the program that has provided the opportunity for my child to return to a normal life like his friends."
This year's surgical program has exceeded the expected number of surgeries, with over 70-90 cases. Some cases came for evaluation late, and even adults were facilitated for surgery. In addition to covering all the costs for examinations and surgeries, patients also receive support for meals and partial traveling expenses..."
The initial screening number was set at 150 cases, but in reality, it exceeded expectations. Families came from various places across the country, carrying hopes of "healing" their children.
In the patient room, 11-month-old boy Nguyen Q.P. has now recovered and played with his mother after surgery. P. was born prematurely, and his throat was defective, making it difficult for him to swallow milk. While preparing for the new school year, hearing about a surgical program, P.'s mother, N.T.T.S., temporarily set aside her work at the school to embark on a long journey from Can Tho to Hue.
"I live far away, so I was prioritized for the surgery. The child's health has also recovered quickly. After the surgery, he played and could drink milk after just two days. He was born prematurely, so he suffered a lot. Today, the burden has been lifted, and I really don't know what else to say except to express my gratitude to all of you and wish you good health to continue helping many other cases," shared Ms. S.
Working together for the common good
The organization Operation Smile Vietnam has been working at the Dental Hospital in Hue since 2007. Each year, hundreds of chilren within and outside the province received free surgeries. This Operation Smile program also received support from the CMC Technology Group and experts from the EDA Hospital (Taiwan), as well as partner hospitals in the Northern, Central, and Southern regions of Vietnam.
According to Specialist II, Dr. Le Duc Thinh, Director of Hue Dental Hospital, each surgery costs between 4 to 8 million Vietnamese dong. However, there are things that cannot be converted into money, such as the goodwill and dedication of the experts, doctors, and volunteer nurses from both within and outside the country. This surgical campaign is also an opportunity for the medical team to learn and improve their skills.
Dr. Nguyen Truong Gia Bao, from the Department of Reconstructive Maxillofacial Surgery at Hue Dental Hospital, enthusiastically participated in supporting the surgical team for the first time, despite having to exert continuous effort to work alongside other experts. For Dr. Bao, who had recently joined the unit, this activity provided an opportunity to learn how to work as part of a team, gain expertise from experienced mentors, exchange cultures, develop soft skills, and expand relationships with leading experts in the field of plastic surgery.
Dr. Brian Cheng-Loong Liang, the Dean of the Medical School and the Head of the International Health Department at the EDA Group in Taiwan, shared: "We have been cooperating and participating in these activities for about 20 years. Although everyone is always busy, we work diligently and cooperate harmoniously. We are very happy and ready to collaborate on meaningful programs like this in the future."
To carry out surgeries for patients in various locations, there is a need for sufficient equipment and infrastructure to ensure the safety of patients. However, not every place the team visited had the necessary conditions.
With 30 surgeries conducted each day, the doctors had to borrow emergency equipment from Hanoi via air transportation. The team members had to be resourceful, adaptable, and work together to overcome challenges in the current conditions. Additionally, there was a transfer of techniques and experiences to local doctors through complex surgical cases. Not only just the improvement of their professional skills, the most meaningful aspect for those in white blouses is the opportunity to join forces in community volunteer activities.
Dr. Nguyen Thanh Thai, the head of the medical team from Operation Smile Vietnam, stated: "For over 30 years, we have visited many places across the country, including Hue. Children with cleft lips and facial deformities often face low self-esteem issues and psychological challenges, affecting both their families and communities. Bringing smiles to these children not only boosts their confidence but also brings joy to their families and instills hope for their future, allowing them to integrate into society. These children will become valuable contributors to society in the future."