by Ha Nguyen
The mother of twelve-year-old Leu Cong Vinh could only dream that her son would walk again after he lost the use of his legs several years ago, but thanks to a team of US orthopaedic surgeons her dreams have come true.
Thai Thi Nu, from Hai Hoa Village in the central province of Thanh Hoa's Tinh Gia District, said her son broke his left knee when he fell from the branches of a tall tree in the forest near their home when he was only seven.
"After the fall, he couldn't walk very far and couldn't help in the fields. Even worse, he was often in a great deal of pain. We believed he would always live a hard life because how would a disabled rural man earn a living?" Nu said.
"We tried many types of traditional herbs and brought Vinh to district and provincial hospitals but nothing helped his knee until he was selected as the beneficiary of a free operation by a US surgical team," she said.
Surgeons returned from the US this year to evaluate Vinh's knee. They said his situation had drastically improved because now he can walk without pain as well as any other ordinary boy.
Dr Luu Duc Tho of the Thanh Hoa Paediatrics Hospital said "Vinh's knee has completely recovered because he was operated on by a very qualified team of US surgeons who used the latest technologies that allow patients experience less pain, less bleeding and a faster recovery."
About 300 local doctors and surgeons attended a workshop in Ha Noi last weekend which was jointly held by the Ministry of Health and the Prosthetic Outreach Foundation (POF) where a trio of surgeons, Judith Baumhauer, Saul Trevino and Naomi Shields, from the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) gave several lectures.
Local medical professionals were lectured and introduced to surgical techniques to fix knee fractures, the use of metal plates to fix bones, how to deal with ankle fractures in diabetes patients and the use of arthroscopic surgery in treating ankle fractures.
"I'm very happy with the surgical skills and professionalism of our Vietnamese colleagues at the Viet Duc Hospital and other rehabilitation centres in Thai Nguyen, Thanh Hoa and Dien Bien," said Shields.
She said AOFAS would continue this project with the POF for many years to come in order to help reduce the number of Vietnamese people suffering from deformities and clubfeet.
Dr Ngo Toan, head of the Viet Duc Hospital's Trauma-Orthopaedic Department and vice president of the Viet Nam Orthopaedic Association, told Viet Nam News that he appreciated the assistance the US surgeons have provided over the past 10 years, particularly the new technologies they brought to the country.
"Hip replacement surgery used to be very complicated, with large painful incisions, a lot of blood loss and a difficult recovery period that could last for up to a year. By using the Minimal Invasive Surgery (MIS) approach, the incision is perfectly centred over the hip joint and is quite small, usually only 7-10cm long," Dr Toan said.
This year the US surgical team, in co-operation with Viet Duc Hospital and POF-AOFAS, will perform 60 free surgeries on patients with lower extremity problems, most of them children in remote and mountainous areas such as Lao Cai and Dien Bien, bringing the total so far under the programme to 600. — VNS