On February 28th the ConnectMed International team led by Dr. Amanda Gosman, traveled the long distance to Ho Chi Minh City (former Saigon) in South Vietnam. This was our first trip to provide surgeries in this city of almost 8 million people. Arriving in the city, the team started the process of assembling our supplies and equipment and creating a CMI operating room and recovery area in the hospital that so graciously allowed us the use of their facilities.
Evaluation day was unique in the fact that we saw babies, babies and more babies; most under a year old. Compared to many countries that CMI works in, we do not often see so many infants with cleft lip/palate. These youngsters don’t always survive their first year due to severe malnutrition, and often times they are abandoned by their families because of this congenital deformity.
The first day of our scheduled surgeries had a beautiful moment to start the day off. Sitting on the bus it was suddenly surrounded by hundreds of butterflies. Someone said, “Close the doors, close the doors, we need to keep the butterflies off the bus!”
My thought was, “No!” Open the doors and let the butterflies in, just like our babies waiting for a chance at a normal life. These children, just like the butterflies, enter our lives for just a short, beautiful time. However, the impact on these children and their families, as well as the CMI volunteers lasts a lifetime. Twenty-nine babies, children and young adults now have a chance at a normal life.
With the help of local surgeon, Dr. Khanh Nguyen we were able to set up on-going speech therapy for several of the older patients in our mission to provide sustainable multidisciplinary health care. This is essential follow-up care that must take place for the successful outcome of palate patients by addressing their post surgery needs.
CMI team members are not doing this alone. Every ConnectMed International donor plays an important and vital role, allowing us to provide a chance at a normal life for the children we serve. Vietnam, we will be back, just like the butterflies, we will let these children in!