For 14 days, 5,000 Laotians received free treatment and medical support from medical practitioners from Vietnam, as part of a volunteer project.
The regular volunteering trip involving Vietnamese doctors to Laos was halted for two years following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now that crossing the border is again possible, the young Vietnamese doctors made their way to the people of Attapeu and Champasak Provinces.
Besides providing treatment and drugs, the Vietnamese volunteers spent time holding professional talks with their Laotian counterparts.
Tiring, yet satisfying
The envoy from Vietnam set up 10 diagnosis desks on a given makeshift premise as part of their ‘miniature hospital’ initiative.
They provided service in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, and surgery in the neighboring country.
They also coordinated with local authorities to manage the flow of patients and welcomed a large number of them during their two-week visit.
At 8:00 am every morning, patients from poverty-stricken districts in Laos can be seen beckoning one another to embark on their own journey to see the Vietnamese doctors.
In Phouvong District, Attapeu Province, a woman named Me Xe, 57, arrived early in the morning with an aching head, pained arm, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
As the doctor gave her a thorough diagnosis and clear advice, the woman smiled, saying, “They gave me the pills. I will get well soon.”
Pixamay, 25, and her spouse, together with their two children, came all the way here following information from their local authorities.
When her first child got sick, Pixamay took him to a Laotian hospital, but it was not a fruitful visit.
However, as she took him to the volunteering Vietnamese doctors, they gave him a prescription.
To this, Pixamay showed great gratitude.
“Thank you, doctor,” she said emotionally.
According to Tran Duc Khanh, head of the medical volunteering project for Laos in 2022, despite the rough conditions of work and journeys, all of the members were wholly dedicated to helping the Laotians.
“The volunteers made it through a bumpy and muddy ride sitting on a truck along a lengthy journey," said Khanh.
“For a moment they were discouraged, but soon regained their passion at the sight of struggling local people.
“It’s tiring, yet satisfying.”
Most of the Laotian patients were diagnosed with acute respiratory diseases, or eye diseases such as conjunctivitis due to difficult living conditions, a lack of clean water, diets and living habits, including digestion, diarrhea and infection, said Nguyen Khac Thien Chuong, a doctor from Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.
Chuong immediately signed up for a volunteering summer working in Laos soon after he finished an overseas training program.
“The trip was meaningful. We hope to support and help the Laotians even more,” he said.
“The children here, however, stick to their parents, so we had teams of both internal medicine doctors and pediatricians provide what we call ‘household medical services.'"
Tran Thi Quyen Nuong, a midwife working at Hung Vuong Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, said, “The actual distance from a hospital to a poor area was too far.
"How could the people have gotten help in case of an emergency?”
Opening an obstetrics clinic
Lam Hong Trang, a doctor working at Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, could barely relieve herself from work at the obstetrics area of the volunteering medical camp.
Her daily patient count could amount to 40, some of whom required expert assistance from major hospitals.
“I wish I could do more and offer them even more help,” she said.
On her first day, she received 42 females in a rudimentary hut located in a remote mountainous location.
Due to their lack of amenities and finances, women in this area cannot get hold of tampons for use during their periods.
There is even a shortage of clean water for hygienic purposes.
Pregnant women seldom have their vaccination shots and do not have an extra supplement of calcium, essential vitamins or iron.
This is coupled with inconvenient traveling. Many of these mothers opt for home birth.
On her second day, she met with a case of severe pre-eclampsia. The patient had a blood pressure level of 140/100 mmHg and was suffering from headache, dizziness, and blurry vision.
“In Vietnam, such a case will prompt instant hospitalization to prevent high blood pressure and seizure, but the poor conditions here meant that the only choice for the patient was to be transferred to a larger hospital,” said Trang.
Many other severe cases require a transfer to a major hospital as well, because the staff members currently working here are not well-equipped to tackle these problems.
Trang acknowledged her empathy for the poor people in Laos.
Based on this trip, Lam Hong Trang, a doctor, figured out three initiatives to fight the current difficulties of the local Laotians.
Training and workshops can be provided, with high-qualified surgeons joining the trips to Laos and providing professional guidance for the Laotian doctors.
They also need some extra funding to take care of the facilities and supply medical equipment.
Finally, the management board can easily organize sessions for screening, diagnosis, checking, and providing opportunities for poor patients.
How amazing the Vietnamese doctors are
As an interpreter for Lam Hong Trang, Kay Thong from Phouvong Hospital said that she had learnt her lesson.
“The women here work very hard. They spend their whole days being stuck in the fields," said Kay Thong.
“Some of them have the faintest idea what a hospital is like.
“How amazing the Vietnamese doctors are.
"They can diagnose serious diseases, and offer medicine to the recovering patients.”