|Sea and sky: The dock at Song Tu Tay Island in Truong Sa Archipelago. — VNA/VNS Photo Trong Dat
Amid the huge waves of the East Sea, army doctors care for the soldiers and civilians living on Viet Nam's sovereign waters every day. Despite constant challenges like equipment shortages and a lack of medicine, they persevere in saving lives. Truong Phong and Trung Hieu tell the story of these generous medical practitioners.
Fisherman Le Van Co, 35, said he would have almost lost his right hand had he not received timely treatment from the doctors in Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago.
The doctors, about whom Co refers to, work in the clinic on the Song Tu Tay Island. The clinic consists of a row of spacious and airy concrete houses, with their doors open to receive the sea breeze.
Co, who came from the Ly Son Island District of the central province of Quang Ngai, rests on a bed with a white bandage wrapped around his right hand.
"If I hadn't arrived here and met the doctors promptly, I would have lost this hand," he said.
A few days ago, when Co was fishing in the sea, 150 nautical miles east of the island, his hand was cut and he lost three fingers because of his own carelessness.
"There was a lot of bleeding. My brothers on board helped me stop the bleeding and then we came to the island asking for help," he said. "Fishermen who fall sick while working at sea often come to our islands for help. The doctors here are very kind."
By the time he arrived on the island, Co had lost a lot of blood and fainted.
Immediately, Dr Nguyen Van Phuc, head of the clinic, and others treated him. "The soldiers and the people on the island cared for me so much. Whenever I was awake, some soldiers would come to visit and encourage me. They gave me meals. I didn't have to pay for anything," Co said.
After several days of treatment, Co was allowed by the doctors to return to the mainland.
"Either way, I continue to fish, not only for my livelihood, but also to protect the national sovereignty on the sea," he said.
Co has 17 years of fishing experience in the Hoang Sa (Paracels) and Truong Sa (Spratlys).
That's why he understands the importance of the military doctors on the island.
"Without the military doctors on the islands, we would not know how to handle it if we fall sick at sea. Now, we have peace of mind while working," he said.
Other fishermen like Co are also very grateful and touched by the feelings of the soldiers and the people on the islands.
Dr Phuc said a soldier's mission is to preserve and protect national sovereignty, but doctors like him also have the additional task of giving medical treatment so they have to work harder.
"When we had just arrived here, we found it difficult due to lack of equipment and medicines which are not as sufficient as in the mainland. Moreover, in addition to caring for the soldiers, we also care for the people living on the island and the fishermen. So sometimes we lack drugs, but we are trying to accomplish our assigned duties," said Phuc.
We visited the Nam Yet Island, while the clinic was treating officer Nguyen Dang Tiep after his abdominal surgery. While the other soldiers communicated with the visitors from the mainland, Colonel Trinh Quoc Hung treated and talked with Tiep.
Hung said the clinic basically had enough equipment and medicines to treat common ailments. For emergencies, they have to transfer the patients to the mainland.
"The responsibility of the doctors here is much more because our staff are few and we are responsible for taking care of the soldiers, the residents and the fishermen working in the sea," said Hung.
|Medical treatment: A military doctor works on Song Tu Tay Island, caring for both soldiers and local residents. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Vu
Captain Nguyen Xuan Phuong said the medical equipment on the island was not inferior to the mainland, and was even as good as that of a provincial hospital.
"We also have abdominal ultrasound and ECG machines and other facilities," said Phuong.
In addition to the good-quality equipment, Phuong said the officers, soldiers and the fishermen feel reassured as doctors working in Truong Sa have got good expertise from working in the major army hospitals.
"All the doctors here have good expertise in surgery, internal medicine, psychiatry and anesthesia," Phuong said.
Lieutenant Nguyen Huu Linh agreed, saying that within a short time, the military doctors on the island provided emergency care for two officers and a soldier who was out of danger. Two of these cases were of appendicitis.
According to Linh, in the last two months, five ships arrived in the Nam Yet Island, asking for medicines and help in dealing with two cases of fish poisoning and a work-related mishap.
"Both servicemen and civilians are treated free of charge here," said Linh.
Like the Song Tu Tay and Nam Yet Islands, the fishermen can also go for medical treatment to the other smaller, tidal islands which get submerged during high tide in Truong Sa. Second Lieutenant Vu Tien Truong, a military doctor on the Co Lin Island, said sometimes the medicines may not be enough, but they were always ready to treat fishermen.
"We mostly treat common diseases such as diarrhea and food poisoning. In addition, we also provide water and food to fishermen," he said. — VNS