Thuy-Tien Truong knows what it’s like to be without.
She came to the United States as a 17-year-old refugee from Ben Tre, Vietnam, without any money, without any housing. But not without hope.
“When I was leaving in a boat…I told God, ‘If you let me live, I will serve,’” says Tien. “Once I became a nurse, I realized this is a promise I needed to fulfill.”
Today, Tien—a cardiac nurse at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina for 23 years—is giving back to her native country what she never takes for granted. She co-founded Impact Health Vietnam, a nonprofit that partners with other nonprofits like Fairview to promote and support sustainable health care delivery and practices in Vietnam.
Tien is among many at Fairview who save and change lives, in Minnesota and across the globe.
Last fall, Impact Health Vietnam partnered with Fairview Medical Missions to send a diverse group of doctors, nurses, other employees, retirees and volunteers from across Fairview to Kien Giang General Hospital, Rach Gia City, Vietnam on a medical mission trip. There, they performed life-saving procedures and surgeries, solved immediate health concerns and brought equipment, supplies and training to nurses and doctors.
A second trip, to Ho Chi Minh City to provide pediatric cancer care and education to nursing and medical staff, took place in April. Another two-week mission trip to Kien Giang General Hospital is slated for Sept. 29.
Of the 24 people on the trip, nine were Fairview employees and three were physicians who practice at Fairview hospitals.
“We’re engaging Fairview employees, volunteers and retirees to use their time, talent and treasure to serve those most in need,” says Paula McNabb, RN, who works as clinical volunteer coordinator and in program development for Fairview Community Health and Medical Missions.
“Whether it’s locally or internationally, all of these programs in which Fairview serves people enrich us as individuals and speak to who we are as an organization,” she adds.
Michael Manoles, MD, a cardiologist who practices at Fairview hospitals and who is Impact Health Vietnam’s medical director, describes Kien Giang General Hospital as the only satellite heart center available for the local and regional population of the Mekong Delta Region. The closest hospital with a heart program is in Ho Chi Minh City, 150 miles—or six hours away by car.
“It is a very large hospital that serves a huge number of people. The physicians are very capable, but they are resource-poor. This trip allowed us to serve some very needy patients who otherwise would not be able to receive this care,” says Dr. Manoles.
We are helping them develop their cardiology program, including interventional cardiology and cardiac surgery. The new heart center at Kien Giang General Hospital will save lives and reduce the cost of care for heart patients in the area.
In Vietnam, there is only capacity to perform about 5,000 surgical cases per year. But there are 20,000 children waiting for surgery. A pediatric surgery costs about $5,000. Compare that to the cost of building a new house—$1,000—and the average daily income for a person—just $3-$5 per day—and it puts cardiac surgery out of the reach of most people.
“We find patients who are so late in their disease, we can’t perform the surgery or it’s an emergency,” says Tien. “So our work is to try to improve the health care system so they can better serve more patients.”
The group’s expertise helped save the life of a 3-year-old who badly needed surgery.
“We brought four ICU nurses from cardiac surgery care who were able to assist in the surgery,” says Dr. Liao. Complications after the surgery necessitated CPR be performed on the child.
“I believe that if Dr. Candace Dick and our nurses were not there, the child would not have made it,” he says.
The physicians focused on developing imaging programs, particularly in echocardiography; developing a regional interventional cardiology program; and developing a cardiovascular surgical program to perform bypass and congenital heart surgeries.
During the trip, the medical mission team:
“I would encourage any physicians or nurses who are interested in participating to do it,” says Dr. Manoles. “To be able to do what you do and use your skills in a different setting and see the impact on the patients is a very rewarding experience.”
Applications are being accepted for the next mission trip to Vietnam, planned for Sept. 29-Oct. 10, 2014 (plus additional travel days) to Kien Giang General Hospital in Rach Gia City.
In addition, Fairview employees, partners, volunteers and retirees who meet the guidelines may apply for a monetary grant to help defray costs of travel for this and other mission trips. For more information about the trip, or to apply, please contact Fairview Medical Missions.