Category Archives: Vietnam

Visiting The Blossom House – 2017

As a continuation of our mission in Vietnam, several of our CSI volunteers returned for a second visit with the girls at The Blossom House in Hanoi after completing a successful surgical week in Thanh Hoa. The Blossom House is a foster home for girls aged 5-18 years run by Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam. HSCV is a non-profit organization founded by Minnesotans Chuck DeVet and his daughter Annetta. The home provides holistic care for girls from families living in extreme poverty.

Our workshop about self-esteem, self-confidence and career dreaming was a hit. We had great conversations and questions, with a focus on positive self-image and self-care. The girls really enjoyed writing positive messages about themselves and their peers. As much as we would like to be the the most exciting act in town, the highlight of the afternoon was a personal video made by Vietnam Idol Kids finalist, Jayden Trinh Jesudhass. The video is a gift from Jaden and his mother to CSI and The Blossom House.

Con Nguyen, CSI Board Member and volunteer, also did an interview with a radio station that highlights CSI’s work in Vietnam. It will air on SAY ME Vietnam 105.4FM on March 29th in Vietnam, New Zealand and Australia. It will be available for podcast soon after the broadcast. We will provide a link when it becomes available to us.

Saying Farewell – Thanh Hoa 2017

We’ve completed our work in Vietnam.  This week we performed 30 urology surgeries and participated in tremendous collaboration and shared learning, all for the beautiful children and families we serve!  A special thanks to our amazing team – nurses Dody Barr, Amy Pedersen, Laura Peterson, Ana Vazquez Rojas, Barb Wiemann and Norie Wilson; anesthesia providers Natalie Brunk, Anton Rohan and Behnoosh Shayegan; surgeons Yuri Reinberg and Donald Nguyen; pediatrician Dave Tetzlaff; biomed Leon Randall; logistics/medical records Conrad Nguyen and Stacey Brown; IPSAC partner Father Joseph Dao Nguyen; and our incredible translators. Small, but mighty, this team has successfully concluded our multi-year commitment with our partners in Thanh Hoa.

In our four trips to Thanh Hoa Provincial Hospital, nearly 100 volunteers served more than 150 children and families.  We collaborated with dozens of hospital staff – sharing information and working together to increase their skills and confidence to perform more surgeries and provide supportive care to their community.  You know what they say, when you volunteer, you often get more that you give – these children, families and our hospital partners have given us far more than we gave – thank you Thanh Hoa!

From PACU nurse Laura Peterson:

1 day of screening and 4 days of surgery.
Just like that, it’s a WRAP!
So many emotions walking out of Thanh Hoa Pediatric hospital a few hours ago, knowing I’ll never see these faces again, or walk the mile back every afternoon to the hotel. I’ll never prep another kid for surgery, use a translator for 100% of the process, watch family wait on the other side of the glass doors, or see sleepy little eyes wake up from anesthesia.
Not these kids anyhow.
This trip was something special. Something I can’t quite yet find the words for.
Someday I will.
This week was put together perfectly. Everything went without a hitch, and a huge credit needs to be given to our translators. They were AWESOME. So many thanks to these guys for the last week of work they did for us.

So, so many thanks.

See all the photos from our 2017 trip to Thanh Hoa here.

Complex surgeries and happy kids! – Thanh Hoa, 2017

We had a fabulous second day of surgery. There were zero complications, plenty of happy kids and grateful parents.

Looking at our collections of pictures, you don’t see the anatomical change of a urology surgery. What you do see is the smile after a parent or child looks under their cover to see a penis that wasn’t before visible, or an opening where it finally belongs. They can feel like other kids, maybe for the first time. A 4-year-old told me “I hope you fix it”– well, we did!

The Vietnamese culture is beautiful in the way they value family. It is common for not only mother and father (Ma/Bo) to be there for their baby’s surgery but both grandmothers (Ba Noi/Ba ngoai), as well as uncles and aunties (Co/Chu). After 3 collaborative missions to this site, my Vietnamese is improving with help from the local team.
-Stacey, Medical Records and Logistics

Drs. Donald Nguyen and Yuri Reinberg are the urology surgeons traveling with CSI this week in Vietnam. Most of the surgeries they will perform on this trip are complex urological procedures, mostly for young boys. Sometimes these are “redos” from previous surgeries that were not completely successful for various reasons. Both surgeons are working alongside local urology surgeons. They collaborate and share knowledge throughout the surgical process.

Donald reflects on how “spoiled” we get in U.S. hospitals – “we can do everything with the most skeleton back table with the simplest instruments and sponges! We are using modest, but classic, equipment. Side-by-side OR tables that were classic in olden days, like at Boston Children’s where Hardy Hendren, considered by most as the grandfather of Pediatric Urology, would operate on two patients at the same time, going back and forth between the tables.”

In Thanh Hoa, Donald and Yuri are working in one operating room, with two tables. It’s busy, and interesting. There are endless opportunities for learning, as the room is filled with CSI and Vietnamese surgeons, anesthesia professionals and OR nurses.

From CSI nurse, Laura Peterson:
Each day gets a little more familiar than the last. You start to connect with these kids, their families, their stories. You learn where they came from, how far they traveled, if they have siblings, and get a better appreciation for the life-changing surgery the day will bring.
It feels like we aren’t doing enough, but in this culture surgery means the WORLD.
Each family asks us to make their child “perfect” {seriously}. And the first day I was confused- WHO CARES if he/she is perfect?
I don’t get it.
But without surgery – they would be shunned.
Because of Children’s Surgery International, they will get to hold jobs, have a family, and “become something”. A normal part of Vietnamese society. {I hate the word NORMAL but it’s the best way to describe this}.
Now I get it. Let’s go day 3… time to give these kids the WORLD.

See lots of photos from the day here.

First surgical day – Thanh Hoa, 2017

This marks CSI’s 4th surgical trip to the pediatric Provincial Hospital in Thanh Hoa, Vietnam. We are pleased to have developed ongoing professional and collaborative relationships with our professional colleagues in the hospital. We want to thank our partner, IPSAC (International Pediatric Specialists Alliance for the Children of VietNam), for their ongoing support.

CSI’s multi-year commitment to Provincial Hospital has allowed our surgeons to follow children over time, providing critical follow-up care for urological as well as cranio-facial surgical care. We place a high priority on education and collaboration with local health professionals. By sending volunteer teams on a bi-annual basis CSI surgeons, anesthesia professionals and nurses have an opportunity to build on previous learning.  Our goal this week is to complete these final urology surgeries and to ensure that our Thanh Hoa partners have the skills and confidence to provide surgical care for even more children in their community.

From CSI volunteer nurse, Laura Peterson:

Meet Bach. He had quite the day.
Today he learned how to blow bubbles.
Tried orange Sunkist for the first time.
Learned a secret handshake.
Mastered the Mickey Mouse iphone game
All between having surgery, and waking up like a champ.

He became the first kid here to make me cry. In a good way ?.

Mission work is a strange thing. You do so much good, but it never feels like ENOUGH.

But those bubbles? To him, they were more than enough. Perspective came today — in the form of this 3 year old, one dimpled cutie pie.

View more photos from the trip.

Screening Day – Thanh Hoa, 2017

What an awesome screening day! From bouquets to fist bumps and kisses, we were warmly welcomed by hospital leadership and families. Turnout was great, and we screened nearly 60 patients in less than six hours. Strong collaboration with the CSI team and local hospital staff resulted in low wait times for children and their families and a smooth-sailing screening day. Thirty children are scheduled for life-changing urological surgeries this week. Many patients returned from previous missions for follow-up and got a clean bill of health and are doing very well. What a treat to see familiar faces.

The OR and anesthesia team worked hard today getting prepared for the first surgery day tomorrow. You can imagine what goes into setting up a pediatric operating room. Thanks to well-planned packing from Minnesota and expert CSI team members, they make it happen!

Some of the CSI team members attended a local church this evening. They were recognized as guests and foreign health workers during the two-hour Mass and were even treated to a home-cooked meal by the church caretaker. All the food is grown/raised in their region. Spicy ginger beef with cabbage and scallions, crab, minced vole (not mole, even smaller guys) on rice cakes and clam soup. A great way to prepare for the first day of surgery tomorrow!

Musings from CSI volunteer surgeon, Dr. Donald Nguyen:

I am doing it, finally, taking a plunge into a vast unknown adventure. I am going back to Vietnam on a surgery mission trip to lend my skills and trade to help children and babies with urological conditions in the country where I was born!

In the much larger scheme of the universe, my contribution to solve the healthcare situation in Vietnam probably amounts to a tiny sliver of hope for these children where their country’s health care expenditure is minuscule compared to the US. But I must, even when it’s only a few babies in a week’s time that can receive an operation that may affect them and their lives positively.

There will also be children and parents who will be met with utter disappointment and hopelessness because a mission team can only do so much without a high technological and extensive post operative care that these far advanced and complex cases require.

Because of the multi-year commitment of CSI volunteer teams, along with the implementation of strong teaching initiatives, we are encouraged that more Vietnamese children will continue to receive high quality surgical card from local surgeons, pediatricians and nurses.

For more photos – click here.

Travel days and safe arrival in Thanh Hoa, Vietnam 2017

Thank you, Children’s Surgery International for another adventure to Vietnam, where we will be performing urology surgery on children in need.

Our team traveled from various starting points around the globe. We all met up in Hanoi and then took a bus for an additional four hours to Thanh Hoa, Vietnam. The long air journey was filled with excitement, plus a couple of calls to duty. Both flights heard pages overhead “is there a doctor or nurse on board?” Nurses Ana and Laura helped a dehydrated hypertensive woman by starting an IV and administering fluids and medications. Our new CSI colleague, pediatric urologist Dr. Donald Nguyen, didn’t hesitate to help a woman who had fainted. He performed vitals and assessment in a dimly lit airplane aisle.

Hanoi is a busy, interesting city. We awakened to fog, bustling streets and a loud monotone voice broadcasting announcements through the streets. After checking with our local guide, he confirmed our thoughts – each area of the country is split into districts, and the government gives instructions every morning through loud speakers located on most street corners.

Our team was also joined in Hanoi by IPSAC’s Father Joseph, Thanh Nguyen and our highly skilled translation team Hoàng Tuấn Khang, Joey Do, Minh Hang Hoang (and others). We breathed a sigh of relief that we finally arrived and can really get this mission started! We can’t wait to meet our patients, their families and see our local colleagues. We will try for some sleep, and we will be ready to start seeing kids and families in the morning!

By: Stacey Brown and CSI Vietnam team.

Fall Vietnam Mission Completed

Our fall Vietnam mission is complete. With the support of our mission partner IPSAC and the Provincial Hospital leadership and surgical, medical and nursing staff, we were able to successfully perform 24 urologic procedures on children in need. In addition to these surgeries, knowledge was transferred at all points in the continuum of care – from the bedside to the conference room. We collaborated to do screenings, provide pre- and post-op care and family education and, of course, hands-on training in the OR. On our last day, we did a workshop on optimizing surgical outcomes with a multidisciplinary approach. It ended with a good discussion illustrating the differences between our healthcare settings and the impact resources have on patients and teams. We were also supported by a very committed and helpful team of interpreters all along the way.

The children and families we encountered this week were absolutely amazing. It was especially touching to see how children and families supported one another, even though they may not have known one another prior to coming to us for surgical care. One father helped a pregnant mother by carrying her child for her. They supported one another with encouraging words and friendly smiles. They worked together like one big family, challenged while being far from home and stressed by the prospect of their children needing surgery, but all on a similar journey.

Even the children offered encouragement to each other. Our last case of the day on Thursday was the special little boy pictured in the photo. Because eating and drinking prior to surgery isn’t allowed, the other children waiting for their procedures were hungry and thirsty. He helped to calm and distract them by blowing bubbles, offering them toys and playing with them, all with a huge smile.

After leaving Thanh Hoa, most of the CSI team spent an additional day in Hanoi where we visited Blossom House, a foster home for girls aged 5-18 years run by Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam. HSCV is a non-profit organization founded by Minnesotans Chuck DeVet and his daughter Annetta. The home provides holistic care for girls from families living in extreme poverty. Learn more about HSCV at Our friends at HSCV provided us with critical logistical support and translation services for our medical mission in Thanh Hoa, so we were grateful to be able to, in turn, provide support and information to the girls at Blossom House.

Our team offered a workshop for the girls titled “Take Care of that Temple,” with a focus on positive self-image and self-care. The girls really enjoyed writing positive messages about themselves and their peers. We also discussed and demonstrated the importance of hand hygiene, which was identified as a strong need and was well-received. We hope to continue to partner with HSCV and visit Blossom House on return missions to the region.

Thanks to Dollies Making A Difference, we were able to leave some sweet hand-made dolls with the girls. The girls so appreciated the gifts.

Surgeries, Education and Children’s New Year Celebration

It has been a very, very busy few days for our Vietnam team and local partners! 51 children were evaluated by our surgical, medical and nursing teams during screening. 25 of those children will have surgery this week. Because of the continuity that we are able to provide with return missions, many of these children are returning for planned surgical follow up.

Today was eventful, and ran smoothly thanks to an incredibly flexible team. Our second CSI urologist, Dr. Alonso Carrasco, arrived this morning. Several surgical cases were completed. The most complicated of the day was a 7 month old infant girl who required a partial kidney removal and surgical repair of the ureter. She came through the procedure like a champ! We are grateful for the many opportunities for education and collaboration.

Tonight we attended a hospital celebration of the mid autumn festival (children’s new year). We were asked to do something special for the hundreds of children and parents who attended. CSI volunteer, Leon Randall accepted the challenge to lead our team in a performance. Our rendition of the classic “Heads, shoulders, knees and toes” was a huge hit! The crowd joined in and we had a blast. What a special time to be here working with our partners for the children of Vietnam.

Screening Day Completed – Surgery Schedule Set for the Week

Screening day is complete and the surgery schedule is full for the week! This is the time to meet prospective children for evaluation, review medical records, and assess the children’s current health status and readiness for surgery. As the photos show, the CSI team is partnering with IPSAC and local Vietnamese surgical and medical staff to make the most of our time onsite.

The surgical focus for the week is urological, with an educational focus on evaluating and implementing ways to improve surgical outcomes with a multidisciplinary approach.

The children couldn’t be sweeter, and proud families anxiously await life-changing surgeries. More later…..

The Team has Arrived Safely, and Ready to Work!

After extensive travels, including 4 airports and a very long bus ride, CSI’s team of volunteer surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, pediatric nurses and support staff have made it safely to Thanh Hoa, Vietnam!
We were welcomed with open arms by friends both old and new. We are fired up and ready to work this week for these beautiful kiddos on the other side of the world. Keep watch for news to come – screening day is tomorrow. Now for some much needed sleep…..