Healing hands for Vietnamese feet

June 18, 2017 - 09:00

Ha Nguyen spoke with Mike Strauss, who has joined eight others from the US, Netherlands, Australia and Turkey as well as 170 Vietnamese surgeons to perform surgeries on 100 disadvantaged patients suffering foot and ankle deformities in seven northern localities.

Impressed: US surgeon Michael Strauss volunteered to conduct surgery on foot and ankle deformities of disadvantaged Vietnamese.
Viet Nam News
Michael Bates, Director of Development, American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS), said he was confident all of the AOFAS surgeons attending a recent medical seminar in Ha Noi will return to Viet Nam on another humanitarian mission. Ha Nguyen spoke with one of the doctors, Mike Strauss, who has joined eight others from the US, Netherlands, Australia and Turkey as well as 170 Vietnamese surgeons to perform surgeries on 100 disadvantaged patients suffering foot and ankle deformities Dr Mike Strauss in seven northern localities.
Inner Sanctum: What is your impression of your first visit to Việt Nam?
I first visited Việt Nam 47 years ago with US Navy salvage divers. At that time I had almost no contact with the Vietnamese people themselves. Subsequently, living in southern California, I have had innumerable contacts with Vietnamese doctors, nurses and others involved in medicine. My impressions are that these contacts and associations have been  extremely positive. In particular, the high intelligence, motivation and desire to serve are among the characteristics I have observed.  
Now that I have returned to Việt Nam and have the opportunity to visit Hà Nội, I am impressed by the contrasts. On the one hand, when we were driven through the "old" city, I saw vendors, large numbers of motorbikes, and buildings that reminded me of the country 47 years ago. But we also saw modern buildings, ultra-deluxe hotels, multi-lane freeways and beautiful parks. When landing in Hà Nội, I appreciated the well maintained green fields and the utilisation of the land to its fullest. 
Everyone - from doctors, other medical personnel, Vietnamese in the hospitality trade have been extremely gracious. They seem very sincere in wanting to learn and help make my experiences during this visit memorable.
Inner Sanctum: What do you think about the seminar on Foot and Ankle Operations jointly held in Hà Nội by AOFAS, the Mobility Outreach International (MOI) and Việt Đức Hospital ?
The seminar was very good.  I was pleased to see how large the attendance was and the attentiveness and respect shown to the speakers. The subjects were very focused on foot and ankle surgeries.  I was pleased to have the opportunity to share my personal experiences on the chronic exertional compartment syndrome and on minimal invasive surgeries for foot and ankle. My one disappointment was that the power point slides I prepared for my talks were not reproduced for the programme handout, nor were my slides translated into Vietnamese due to technical details. Hopefully, this can be rectified. The information I generated will be e-mailed to all the conference attendees and perhaps published in Vietnamese medical literature. 
Inner Sanctum: What is your impression of operating on patients with foot and ankle deformities at the Ba Vì Orthopaedics Rehabilitation Center in Sơn Tây Town ?
I was very nervous about the orthopaedic challenges that might face me at the Ba Vi Orthopaedics Rehabilitation Center (BVORC). Fortunately, I have had extensive experience managing analogous foot and ankle challenges in adult diabetic patients. I brought special external fixator equipment with me so I had the opportunity to operate on severe deformities.
At BVORC I observed even more severe deformities in children with club feet. Fortunately, I employed similar techniques including external fixators that I use for my American patients with  truly remarkable surgical corrections. Equally, important is the post-operative care. I left detailed post-operative care instructions with the BVORC orthopaedic director, Dr Cao Mạnh Hùng, and plan to communicate with him via e-mail on a weekly basis to ensure that the outcomes continue to be as good as they were when we completed the corrective surgeries.  In addition, our communications will be a way to offer recommendations should he have questions.
I was truly pleased that Dr Hùng spent every minute with me during these surgeries so that he will be able to continue this type of work.  We used the external fixator equipment on five patients and left the remaining equipment with Dr Hùng.
An additional comment about BVORC was that I was truly amazed how efficiently the patients were managed by the operating room personnel. Thanks to their efficiency and the expertise of the anesthesiologists we were able to do eight operations in one eight-hour day. I think we Americans could learn something about efficient use of operating room time from my experiences at BVORC.  
Inner Sanctum: How was the operation and how was the collaboration between the US and Việt Đức surgeons.
I was very impressed with the skills of the orthopaedic surgeons with whom I worked last Friday. I think I learned as much from them as they hopefully learned from me. For most of the surgeries I provided advice as an observer. I believe that I and the other visiting orthopaedic surgeons’ major contributions to the Việt Đức orthopaedic programme was our pre-operative evaluations and the recommendations we made for surgeries. The Việt Đức orthopaedic surgeons seemed more than adept at doing the surgeries based on our pre-operative recommendations.
Inner Sanctum: Could you tell us in detail about difficult cases that you and Vietnamese surgeons have faced while operating on poor patients with foot and ankle deformities in the BVORC and Việt Đức Hospital ?
I have only had the opportunity to see patients in a pre-operative evaluation clinic at the Việt Đức Hospital. Problems ranged from mild, where only advice was needed, to very severe where we recommended amputations. I was impressed by how dedicated the family members were. The Vietnamese doctors at the clinic were knowledgeable and able to provide concisely the patient’s histories and their imaging studies. It was particularly satisfying to me to be able to collaborate with the Vietnamese orthopaedic surgeons at the clinic.
At the BVORC I saw some of the most severe residuals of club feet that I have ever witnessed in over 45 years of medical experiences. 
Inner Sanctum: How did you share techniques and skills with your Vietnamese colleagues
Of particular satisfaction to me was the opportunity to share and implement the information I presented on minimally invasive foot and ankle surgeries from the orthopaedic conference with Drs Hùng and Tuấn at the BVORC. 
The highlight of this sharing was the opportunity to correct extremely severe club foot disorders with minimally invasive surgeries and temporary applications of external fixators to maintain corrections.
Inner Sanctum: What are the impressions you have gathered during your brief stay in Việt Nam ?  
Positive on all accounts. They reinforced my impressions of the motivation and dedication of the Vietnamese medical personnel with whom I have worked in the USA. In addition, I want to maintain close communications with the doctors I have worked with in Vietnam in order to obtain follow-up on the patients for whom I helped care. Finally, I would be pleased to return to Việt Nam, directly observe follow-ups of the patients on whom I operated and help Vietnamese orthopaedic surgeons with additional surgeries. — VNS