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August 14, 2007 > Local Sister's medical mission to Vietnam continues...

Local Sister's medical mission to Vietnam continues...

Submitted By Barbara Larner, O.P.

Sister Linh Dao's eyes sparkle as she relates that she has just returned from a 14-day medical mission to Vietnam, and the good that she and her team did continues!

Sister, a Dominican Sister of Mission San Jose, and 13 others held clinics for the poorest of the poor in the rural villages and in a leper colony. Sister Linh, a nurse, was born in Vietnam and educated in California, receiving her RN degree after study at the Ohlone College School of Nursing. She is very concerned about helping those who need vital medical assistance in her homeland.

On this recent mission, Sister met a 20 year old woman suffering from a serious disfiguring condition, and Sister felt driven to do something for her. Returning to the United States and her job as a nurse at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose, Sister spoke to one of the Board Members, a Daughter of Charity, about the Vietnamese woman's plight. The exciting news is that after Board consultation, the hospital will sponsor her to come for surgery to repair her condition!

"When I got this great news, I spoke to the young woman's parents in Vietnam and they were so very happy to hear that surgery is possible for their daughter," Sister Linh commented. "I need to find help with transportation costs for the father and daughter, but my parents will provide room and board for them while they are here."

Holy Rosary International Medical Mission, a Dominican outreach to bring medical help to third world countries, especially in Southeast Asia, was the group with which Sister Linh went to Vietnam. This group was founded by Father Francis Le, O.P., Antioch, California, of Holy Rosary parish. Father Francis was born in Central Vietnam, and Sister Linh is from the South. Both were delighted to go on this mission.

"Although I was triage nurse, nurse educator, and distributor of medications, I was much more a translator, often, because the doctor and other nurses needed some assistance in understanding the patients," Sister said. "I was glad I was able to help translate the medical terms so the doctor and nurses could take care of their patients."

A number of the children that were treated by the team suffered from malnutrition and parasites. The illnesses that had to be dealt with ran the gamut from high blood pressure to diabetes, to tuberculosis. One of the sisters was diagnosed with breast cancer and immediately went in for surgery in an area hospital.

The 14 person group consisted of a doctor, an intern, an anesthesiologist, a nurse practitioner, several nurses, a translator, a CPA, Father Francis, and some assistants. All of the volunteers paid their own way, at a cost of at least $2,500 per person for transportation and housing. Many of the team members were from Holy Rosary Parish in Antioch.
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Sister Linh said that in 1999 she tried to volunteer to nurse in Vietnam, but the communists wouldn't let her. "Today, the Communists seem more open to receiving help, and I was able to work as a nurse; however, the Communists followed us everywhere," Sister added. "I thought the people in 1999 were poor, but today they are much poorer."

The medical group wanted to serve the mountain people but the Communist government would not let them do so. They were able to help in rural clinics and to give medical assistance to a colony of lepers.

"Our group worked non-stop; each person worked with their heart and soul and was very concerned about the plight of the poor people," Sister said. "Each person paid for their own tickets and housing in hotels. I was fortunate to be able to stay in local convents. I am so grateful to the Congregation for paying for my costs on this trip."

The Holy Rosary International Medical Mission group received donations of medications from the Catholic Medical Mission Board. They also received financial help from friends and parishioners. Any funds left over went to the poor in Vietnam. Medications not used were donated to a local clinic there, also.

During her time in Vietnam, Sister Linh had the opportunity to visit an emergency room at one of the hospitals. "I was shocked," she said. "They had nothing by way of any medical equipment that they should have. I cried because it was such a contrast to the ER at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose where I work. I was also concerned that the nurses seemed to lack skills that they need. I am delighted that I have been invited to return in 2009 to teach the nurses the skills that will help them. The lack of appropriate training for these nurses makes me really want to go back to Vietnam."

This year there was the one trip to Vietnam, but next year, a trip to the Philippines and a mission to Vietnam are being planned by the Holy Rosary International Medical Mission. Volunteers, donations of medical supplies and, of course, money, are being sought. Their website is www.hrimm.org.

Sister Linh has invited the members of the Holy Rosary International Mission group to come to the Motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, to share the story of their visit to Vietnam. That will hopefully take place in the near future.

How did Sister feel about her time with the Medical Mission team? "The trip was a wonderful experience for me personally to see the amazing dedication of all the medical personnel and our helpers, and I learned so much about the desperate plight of the poor," Sister Linh said.

"The highlight of my experience had to be hearing the great joy expressed by the father of the young woman who will be coming for surgery at O'Connor Hospital very soon! He could not believe his family's good fortune; neither could I! God bless everyone connected with the hospital," Sister Linh added.

Father Francis said, "If it were not for Sister Linh, we never would have found the leper colony; and our nurses and doctor would not have understood the patients. And without her, we never would have been able to bring such joy to handicapped children that her stuffed animals brought! It was an honor for us to witness Sister's holistic approach to healing that she modeled for us all!"

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