Information about the mission

Date :
December 25th, 2014 to January 17th, 2015
Location :
DONG NAI, MAISON CHANCE, HO-CHI-MINH-VILLE, DA NANG, Vietnam
Participating volunteers :
Paul Bourcier, sign language interpreter
Van Dao, 4th year student, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR)
Constance Deslauriers, 4th year student, UQTR
Dre Audrey Lessard, podiatrist
Sandrine Matte, student 3rd year student, UQTR
Dre Lina Nguyen, podiatrist
Dr Duy François Tran, podiatrist
Podiatrist in mission :
Dr Thanh Liem Nguyen, podiatrist and mission leader
View the photo gallery

Mission report

Made up of four podiatrists, three students in UQTR’s podiatric medicine programme and one interpreter, the team came home with feelings of pride and of mission accomplished.

Our volunteers’ generosity deserves mention: each participant absorbed all his or her costs, transportation, accommodations, food not to mention the time and energy they devoted towards the quality and success of the mission.

Consultations and treatments for people with limited means can be onerous. With average monthly incomes of about $100, Vietnamese do not necessarily have sufficient income to seek medical care. Without professional diagnostics and appropriate treatments, they make their own diagnostics and address their problems with homeopathic treatments. Those who actually see doctors expect medications or injections regardless of their actual health problem and, without those, do not consider that they are dealing with a good doctor. The team had to deal with this reality, educate and adjust to the expectations and practices of their host country. As well as offering treatments which provided medium to long term benefits, the volunteers were also able to provide short term relief by way of anti-inflammatory medications and cortisone injections.

At the organizational and functional level up until the very last minute, the team had to deal with the unexpected. Before leaving Montréal, it was understood that the team would treat patients in four different locations but, in the end, only three were available. This occurred when the administrative director of the local hospital was unable to obtain practice permits from the local authorities for the volunteers. This however provided an opportunity to explore the possibility of a visit later this year by another volunteer team.

Still, in the remaining three sites, at least 500 patients were evaluated and treated at no cost.

DONG NAI

The team began its work in Giao Xu Nghia Yen, Nhon Trach, Dong Nai, the native village of Dr Than Liem Nguyen, podiatrist, founder of Podiatrists Without Borders and head of this mission. This village, some 30 km north-east of Ho-Chi-Minh-City, is an agricultural community (farms, rice paddies, cattle, pigs, fowl, etc) with a population of about 4,000 people who frequently walk in bare feet or in flip-flops.

In the absence of a health centre, the parish priest authorized the conversion into consultation and treatment rooms of four classrooms normally used for religious studies and announced the team’s visit at the end of the Sunday service two weeks prior to our arrival. Word of our visit also spread from the local market to neighbouring villages thus allowing more people to take advantage of our treatments.

The team met slightly more than 350 people (70 percent women) with various problems. We diagnosed one person with infected larva migrans , dealt with five cases of plantar warts and three with ingrown toenails. Other problems we treated included plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, bursitis, metatarsalgia, neuroma, flat feet, arthrosis, secondary arthritis, gout, athlete’s foot, toenails with fungal infections, etc.

MAISON CHANCE, HO-CHI-MINH-VILLE

The next stage of our mission took us to Maison Chance, 19A Duong so 1, Kp 9, Pho Binh, Hung Hoa, Binh Tan district, a non-profit organization founded by Madame Tim Aline Rebeau, a native of Switzerland. Initially an orphanage, it gradually became a centre for rehabilitation and social reinsertion for low-income injured persons and street kids. We treated 80 patients many recovering from work or motorcycle accidents or from the after-effects of poliomyelitis. Many are paraplegics and rely on wheel chairs to get around. The majority of our interventions dealt with assessments and recommendations on the ergonomics of the wheel chairs in order to improve comfort and prevent pressure ulcers.

This facility also includes a primary school for economically disadvantaged children. We spent an entire day assessing and treating these children mostly for flat feet and tendinitis but also for one instance of plantar warts which required aggressive medication. Regrettably we did not have with us such medication and the patient will have to wait for the next mission to undergo this treatment.

DA NANG, CENTRE DU VIETNAM

To conclude our humanitarian visit to Vietnam, our team went to Da Nang, the site of the Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital. There we treated 70 persons, some elderly, adults and children. We addressed chronic wounds, one case of hip dysplasia and kids with club feet. We also assessed a 17 month old child and referred him to a paediatric hospital in Ho-Chi-Minh-City to further evaluation of his neurological condition. At that age, the child cannot stand up, has no strength or muscle tone and is also lacking the reflexes appropriate to his age.

In order to deliver various treatments, the team had to be imaginative and innovative such as attaching arch supports to the flip-flops worn by many Vietnamese in order to treat instances of tendinitis, bursitis, neuroma and metatarsalgia. Aside from orthotics and arch supports, the podiatrists also treated cases of ingrown toenail. These operations involved the ablation of the sliver of the nail which penetrates the skin, to kill the cells which generate this sliver at the root of the nail in order to prevent regrowth and permanently eliminate discomfort. Patients needing treatment for fungal problems (skin and nails) were supplied with antifungal and cortisone creams.


Aside from surgeries and treatments, the team also emphasized prevention and promoted appropriate footwear to avoid problems. Also, at the Maison Chance, Dr Thanh Liem Nguyen, using his nursing background, provided training on the safe transportation of patients to the personnel responsible for this activity.

Podiatrists Without Borders wishes to thank the volunteers, the hosts and the sponsors for their generosity. Without them, such a mission would not have been possible and the Vietnamese we met would have not had the treatments required by their health condition.

We wish to thank the following :

  • Apocom Équipement Canada Ltée

  • Clinique podiatrique Berri

  • Clinique podiatrique de Laval
  • Clinique podiatrique de Lévis
  • DARCO International

  • Distribution Favro

  • Ortholab

  • Pharmacie Minh Chau

  • Podo-logic inc.

  • Valeo Pharma (M. Nabil Maghraoui)
  • And anonymous donors.