Huge Screening Day!

It is Tuesday afternoon here in Thanh Hoa, Vietnam. When we arrived at Thanh Hoa Pediatric Hospital (THP) for screening on Sunday three times as many patients were waiting to be screened as we had anticipated. Our partners here in Vietnam, specifically Father Joseph, who is a Jesuit priest affiliated with IPSAC in Peoria (, and THP, did a wonderful job of getting the word out that the team from CSI was arriving so that parents could bring their children to be considered for surgery. And come they did, from all over the country, many traveling very long distances to be evaluated.

Patients and their families were standing 20 feet deep waiting to be evaluated by the team. Logistics head/CSI Board member and Vietnamese-American Con Nguyen was flying from room to room managing the translators, patient flow and answering hundreds of questions. Nurses were preparing children for evaluation. At the end of screening day, surgeons Dr. Dave Vandersteen (Urology) and Drs. Rajanya Petersson and Christopher Discolo (ENT) had the difficult task of prioritizing and creating four very full surgical days. Many of these decisions were heartwrenching, considering so many families were hoping their children would be included.

It was a late night for the medical records team of CSI Partners Cindy Halverson, Johnine Adomitis and Kaitlin Nelson. They needed to create schedules, assemble charts and have everything organized for surgery in the morning. We brought medical record supplies for 60 patients, and ultimately screened more than 100 children, piecing together pages wherever we could get them. Thank goodness for that printer Johnine carried in her luggage all the way from the U.S.

Monday, Day 1 of surgery, started bright and early. Volunteer videographer Nolan Morice is recording, interviewing and snapping great photos of these children. Team members scavenged for sterilization supplies, gauze, gloves and other necessary supplies. Logistics co-lead Stacey Brown even got stuck in the elevator while transporting a giant cart of IV fluids. (No harm done.) Lora Koppel and Sally Lannin carried a solid steel fan up five flights of stairs to try to get some air circulation. Thankfully, Leon Randall was able to get the fan to work. Leon’s helpful can-do attitude is spectacular!

Pediatrician Erin Novak started having gripping stomach pain and was sent back to the hotel to rest. The crack PACU team of Dr. Bruce Ferrara, Anna Koppel and Mary Bye rose to the occasion and handled the post op/PACU patient situation, despite being one team member short. We scavenged empty offices, storage closets or restrooms looking for underutilized fans in an effort to get air circulating in the PACU. Bruce gave a big thumbs up once the air started to move.

The pre-op team of Nikki Lavin and Katie Houle readied patients for the handoff to anesthesiologists Drs. Raj Sarpal and Craig Smith, and CRNAs Lynn Randall, Monica Bultena and Michael Gotzsche. We had three or four operating tables going simultaneously. The OR wonder nurses Charlee Kimmes, Nancy Corcoran and Jessica Driscoll (on her first trip ever outside of the United States — what a way to get the passport stamps started!) are keeping things moving and sterile.

By early afternoon as patients came out of PACU, things started hopping in the ward. There is very little space in this area. Children are three and four to a bed with no air conditioning, and parents primarily are responsible for the patient aftercare. Floor nurse team of Patience Kankeh and Patrick Faunillan have their hands very full not only looking after our patients, but also using every opportunity possible to provide theVietnamese nurses with aftercare training.

Late in the day, team member Dr. Erin Novak returned to the hospital with severe abdominal pain. After evaluation and ultrasound, she was headed to the OR to have her appendix removed! Thankfully, our IPSAC partner Dr. Holterman (a general surgeon in Peoria) happened to be onsite and was able to perform the surgery within an hour. She very thoughtfully called Erin’s husband in the U.S. to let him know the surgery went well, and the outcome looked excellent. Erin rested at the hospital for an hour and walked back in the front door of the hotel just as 200+ Communist Party members in evening dress were gathering for a large regional meeting. The juxtaposition was almost humorous. This was a first for a CSI mission — we’ve never had a team member on the OR table. When Erin Skyped her practice partner Dr. Dave Tetzlaff, CSI Medical Director, the first thing he said was “did you take the appendix out yourself?”

Tuesday, Day 2 of surgery, we were ready at the crack of dawn as a complete team! Yes, even Erin was up and at ’em after a great night’s sleep under the care of nurse Anna Koppel, who stayed with Erin to monitor her medications and vital signs. Patients were gathered from various locations in the hospital and the process began again. Bubbles were flowing to entertain anxious children in pre-op. Grateful families were cradling their children. Wonderful handmade dolls and teddy bears donated by the volunteers of Dollies Making a Difference were distributed to patients in post-op as well as donated beautiful fleece blankets. Nurses Patience and Patrick are doing everything possible to teach, train and care for these precious children after they come out of surgery.

More tomorrow on some of the individual stories of the patients and the families we have had the privilege to meet.