Archive for December, 2010
Posted by Lisa Ryujin, MD (a third year Ob/Gyn resident from Kaiser Permanente Oakland serving a global health elective at Benh Vien Hung Vuong Maternity hospital in Vietnam).
The doctors and staff here have been extremely nice. Every day, we walk down to the can ti (cafeteria) and have lunch together. It is a rush of confusion, patients trying to get their meals, pushing to the front of the counter. The doctors are able to order and sit down, they are served and pay after they have finished. However this requires the ability to speak in the Vietnamese language. You can’t just point to the things that you want, as I have been doing in the city.
On Saturday, I was on call and since labor and delivery was so busy, I ventured down to the can ti. How hard could it be? It was my first experience trying to brave the system alone. I walked in and tried to find a familiar face, anyone I could recognize. No one. I guess on the weekends, the staff rotates too. I tried to go up and buy a ticket and stand in line with the patients, but couldn’t read anything on the menu, so I couldn’t order. I tried to order, the way that I had seen Dr. Trang do it this past week, but was unsuccessful. I tried walking up to the counter and pointing to food, but there were so many people that the person behind the counter didn’t notice me. I was so tired from the morning of work, I couldn’t muster any more tricks, so I skipped lunch.
This story isn’t directly relevant in my practice of medicine. However, I learned a valuable lesson, now I bring a pack of trail mix in case labor and delivery is busy. What was amazing is the reflection of how hard it is to wake up in the morning and brave the day if you don’t speak the language. I really admire our patients back in Oakland, who come and see me in clinic or in labor and delivery, who don’t speak English but still brave the system. They try to negotiate their care through AT&T translators, and make it work.
This isn’t my first time in a country where I didn’t speak the language, this isn’t even my first time practicing medicine in a place where I don’t speak the language, but I have had more independence and less guidance during this trip than usual, and I think that autonomy has really forced me to appreciate the things that I don’t even appreciate on an every day basis while practicing in the US.
The perfect harmony of traffic…
My first day at Benh Vien Hung Vuong Maternity hospital in Saigon, Vietnam. I have to say that it’s been an amazing couple of days. I flew in on Saturday at 1 am, and that day toured around the city to get familiarized with the areas near the hospital. Saigon traffic is organized chaos. It is beautiful in so many ways to watch the motorbikes dance in and out of the streets in perfect harmony. Given my awe for the motorbikes, I had to use it as my means for transportation to and from work!
Hung Vuong maternity ward is much bigger than I’m used to, 8 latent (early) labor beds, 18 delivery beds, no family allowed in the birthing areas. I even had an opportunity to go to the operating room, which are located on another floor, they have the capability (and sometimes do…) run 8 operating rooms at one time for cesarean deliveries. Midwives manage the labor course, doctors deliver the babies. There are different wards depending on your insurance, I’m floating between them all. With that many deliveries, there is no time to push with patients (which I really enjoy at Kaiser Oakland), and it feels that the patient gives birth and are immediately replaced with another laboring patient. They move them in and out of the delivery beds like magic. I feel like I’m always running…and yet I turn and watch the other doctors stroll beside me.
I’m arranging a teaching schedule so that I can work with the medical students on standard obstetric and gynecology care. It will be fun to have a class and to practice (or learn) my Vietnamese!
It’s been a crazy couple of days, and I have a lot to learn about practicing in such a busy environment, but at the end, I hope that I’ll just marvel at the miracle of being born.