Vietnam Week 4: Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanks to Ong Ut, we had the opportunity to visit the private Tam Duc Heart Hospital (Benh Vien Tim Tam Duc).

A few years back, Ong Ut had cardiac surgery at this hospital and has since become good friends with some of the staff. He asked his physician, Dr. Hiep, on our behalf to come in and observe for a day to which he readily agreed.

What a difference! After 4 weeks at Cho Ray Hospital where the environment is hectic and best described as a market, walking into Tam Duc was like a scene from back home. A well equipped and clean hospital with professional and polite staff and none of the patient crowds. I get it though… it’s a private hospital, a world of difference.

We were introduced to Dr. Hiep who explained how the day would proceed and then passed us over to Dr. Hung, who would show us around the ward. Dr. Hung was kind enough to ask us what we had learned in school so far, so that he could pick a few cases to support our knowledge. We had the opportunity to visit 3 very young pediatric patients. The first had a ventricular septal defect, the second with an atrial septal defect, and the third with a classic case of Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). It was really interesting to learn and hear the differences in heart sounds between the first two patients. In the infant with TOF, it was an eyeopener to see what cyanosis (“blue”) actually looks like in terms of clinical features, and I also saw nail clubbing for the first time. As you can tell, being able to see the simple things we learned in real life really made me happy.

After visiting these patients, we regrouped with the team of doctors as they did their morning rounds. We were then passed onto Dr. Phuong, one of the main surgeons of that day, who explained we would have the opportunity to watch 2 surgeries: the repair of TOF in an 8 year old patient and a triple valve replacement in a middle aged woman. One word – awesome! My first time watching anything like it… the dynamics between the surgical team, the role of the anesthesiologist, watching a person be put on a heart-lung machine (cardiopulmonary bypass), etc, was really… cool 😀

What wasn’t cool, was how I was feeling during surgery. Chills and skin sensitive to touch evolved into a full blown fever by the time we got back from the hospital. Annd… I spent the rest of the day in bed, praying that whatever I had would pass before I flew out to Hanoi on Saturday. 😦

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