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A behind-the-scene look at foreign doctors who spend vacations healing Vietnam

Monday, April 30, 2018, 07:37 GMT+7

Every year, droves of foreign doctors visit Vietnam to pledge their services and medical knowledge to mitigating the war wounds still plaguing the country.

Simon Mcmahon is one of these doctors.

In 2005, his father Brian Mcmahon asked him to join a trip to Bong Son hospital in the south-central province of Binh Dinh to provide medical aid to those in need.

Though reluctant and bewildered, he accepted the invitation.  He didn’t expect that it would be the first of dozens of trips to the Southeast Asian country.

In an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Simon shared that his father fought in the American War in Vietnam. 

After the war millions of Vietnamese were left impoverished and in need of assistance, particularly in medicine. 

Simon shared that his father felt that Americans owed Vietnam and that without America’s interference the country would be living in peace and harmony.

To atone for the atrocities of the war, the Mcmahons began visiting Vietnam to help the country recover in whatever ways they could.

Though old age has taken its toll on the other Mcmahon, Simon still visits the country to continue his father’s legacy.

Doctor Simon Mcmahon poses in front of Bong Son hospital, where his father once work during war time, in Binh Dinh Province, south-central Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Doctor Simon Mcmahon poses in front of Bong Son hospital, where his father once work during war time, in Binh Dinh Province, south-central Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The first group of foreign doctors to visit Vietnam came from New Zealand in 1963, when the American War was still at its peak.

Among them was doctor Michael Shackleton, who brought his family to Quy Nhon, the capital of the capital of Binh Dinh, to help heal native patients affected by the war.

The doctors were unbiased and did not take sides, rescuing whoever was brought in from battlefields or bombings, regardless of what side they supported.

The experience of working in Quy Nhon left the doctors with deeply imprinted mental images of patients screaming and squinting in agony, desperation, and loss.

Shackleton’s group used the devastation as fuel and inspiration to continue their mission, despite the difficulties facing white-skin, blue-eyed foreigners during the blazing conflict.

As time wore on, the group of doctors grew in size, and so did opposition to their cause.  

At one point, they were even banned by one side from rescuing soldiers from the other. 

That didn’t stop them, though. 

Following their conscience, they ignored the order and continued providing medical attention to anyone in need.

Commenting on the excursion, veteran doctor Margart Neave admitted that she was moved and impressed by the ability of humans to help those in need, even in the worst of circumstances.

The expedition eventually led to the establishment of the New Zealand – Vietnam Health Trust in 1997.

Since then, foreign doctors have been using their vacation to help with Vietnam’s healing process.

They partake in every field, from logistics, to providing equipment and examining patients. These doctors do everything in their power to ensure that anything within their power is carried out.

For Simon, that has meant 18 visits to Binh Dinh, where he rests assured that his venture to Vietnam is making a difference.

Deputy director of Quy Hoa state hospital Tran Nhu Buu Hoa has nothing but praises for his foreign colleagues

"They are not only experts, but also passionate doctors who will stop at nothing for the sake of their patients," Hoa said.

"I never see them complain nor scheme about anything at all. Everything they do, they do it out of their heart and goodwill. They are our sources of inspiration, both in their expertise and in the way they treat others with all their love".

The gratitude goes both ways. Simon said that every time he comes to Vietnam, he gets to learn and experience new things.

First and foremost, he said, it is the joy of relieving patients from their sicknesses. The second thing is the pleasant sensation of knowing "what you do brings happiness to others."

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Duy Khoi / Tuoi Tre News Contributor


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