It was at Quang Cong clinic where a breastfeeding mom left her 2 month-old son at home and came to the clinic with her little daughter, waiting for the girl to have a tooth extraction. They had been waiting for 3 hours. The girl insisted on waiting even her mom was trying to persuade her to come back after our little lunch break. She kept saying that she was not afraid of the pain, she was not scared. She just wanted to get the little teddy bear like all the other kids got after they went through the dental room.

The dental room was part of a larger clinic, which was divided into 6 stations: reception, triage, medical, dental, optometry and pharmacy. I was serving as part of a mobile clinic program by SAP-VN, stands for Social Assistance program for Vietnam.  The organization has been working in Vietnam since 1992 focusing on healthcare. After 21 years of operation (up to 2013), SAP-VN has served 40, 707 patients, built 278 houses and gave 414 wheelchairs all throughout Vietnam. SAP-VN had not returned to Hue since 2002, despite Hue being the hometown of many the organization’s core members. This year, SAP-VN was determined to serve in Hue, and as a result, partnered with the Friends of Hue Foundation for this medical mission.

A mobile clinic is a basic medical clinic which provides general health care to needy families and children living in poor and remote regions. Participating in a mobile clinic, i had the opportunity to work closely with and learn from the team’s medical professionals. They have inspired me to bring unconditional love and help to the poor and underserved. Furthermore, I was surprised to see how the elderly put up with their pain, mesmerized in the lovely innocent smiles of little kids, understanding for the long-waiting line of patients, absorbing the cheeky laugh from patients as doctors raised the tricky questions, feeling the grateful attitude from the crowd.

The outcome of this return trip of SAP-VN was beyond expectations. Our team with 54 volunteers and professionals had filled 5,706 drug prescriptions, examined 1,721  medical patients, dispensed glasses to 1,024  optometric recipients and  seen 622  dental cases. There were bumps along the road, but we all understand that frequent health care needs do exist, especially to the poor communities that are located in remote areas. I realized that a follow-up caring plan identifying patients requiring corrective surgeries and long-term care for their serious medical conditions needs to be considered. Hopefully, there will be more free health care clinics with a sustainable action plan in the years to come so that each trip won’t be “the first and the last.”

“As we reflect we were amazed and wonder how we were able to:

– tolerate working under the scorching sun at 37 Celsius degree heat with the intolerant humidity

– create an exam room for OB care with stage curtains and chairs.

– deal with two broken dental machines at the same time and ended up pulling 3.18 kilograms of decay teeth at one of the work site

– talk and listen to patients in the midst of chaos

– carry patients on your back and went through a few flight of stairs like nothing to it

– keep a straight face when you saw the dental team working under a wedding tent with pink ruffles

– wear an over-sized scrub top and thought that you were looking “marvelous” “ Susan Huong Le, Sap-VN, Hue, August 2014

Like every time I volunteer in a mobile care trip, the clinic always gets busier as of the end of the morning. Even being occupied by guiding patients from each station, from Intake to Triage, I still couldn’t keep my eyes away from this mother and daughter. They were holding hands together, hesitantly approaching the team with a hope to take a short-cut to meet the dentist. The mother looked like she nearly had a fever caused from clogged milk ducts. We couldn’t do much since everybody else had been waiting for hours. Understanding our situation, they then disappeared from my sight for a few hours and came back quite later in the day as we were very close to shutting down. The daughter got teary eyed. She thought her chance to get a toy now had slipped through her fingers. I introduced them directly to our organizer Trung, who happily accepted to see her.

The little girl smiled as she kept all of her teeth, and was rewarded with a doll and a teddy bear instead!