29 remain / One family's journey for hope and healing

Story and photos / Don C. Stefanovich (see additional photos by Mark Samala in Galleries #3-#4)

Khe Phung Thi vomits into a pink, plastic shopping bag.

A fit of coughing and wheezing shakes the 78-year-old’s frail frame. Lai, her daughter, closes the bag when the spell has passed. Dr. Eugene Etzkorn delicately peels the bright red, black and yellow plaid scarf from her head exposing her steel-wool hair. His fingers trace her leathery jaw line down to her neck and examine her glands. His hand brushes aside a bright orange coat and his stethoscope pauses in several places on her chest. Between a brow furrowed with concern and thin lips offering a comforting smile, Dr. Gene’s blue eyes remain focused. The prognosis looks grim.

Edema bloats her feet. Osteoporosis erodes her bones. Hypertension assaults her arterial walls. Atrial fibrillation denies her body oxygenated blood. Malfunctioning heart valves strain to keep pace with the spasmodic beat.

Congestive heart failure is killing Khe. [ read entire story ]

New Hand, New Life / Plastic surgery gives a preschooler a chance at a normal life

Story / Melissa Hoon
Photography / Larissa Bahr

Ðăng Thi Ðung gazes at her 5-year-old son’s burned and deformed hand, wishing he could be able to write his name. She cradled him on the back of a speeding red motorbike as her husband, Son Văn Triêu, drove for four hours through narrow winding roads and muddy mountain passes to meet with a New York surgeon in the province of Bac Kan, Vietnam. 

Four years ago, as he was learning to walk, Húng Qúy Triêu trampled across the dirt floor of his family’s one room hut and fell into a pile of burning coals.  He used his hands to break his fall and burned his right hand, causing it to morph into a deformity that resembled a claw.

“Húng cannot write and is not as normal as other kids,” Ðăng says through a translator. “I would be very happy if he could have a normal hand and a good future.” [ read entire story ]

Western quality in the jungle /
         The Project Vietnam Foundation’s dental team is committed to providing quality care in order to eliminate oral pain for the children in remote regions of Vietnam – one tooth at a time.

Story / Keith Cousins
Photography / Lucio Villa

As the haze settles in for the day, a truck drives through winding dirt roads and arrives at the village of Nà Phặc in the province of Bac Kan. Tom Tran, a retired aerospace engineer, begins yelling orders for the unloading process. An assembly line unpacks dental instruments, sterilization equipment and additional medical supplies. Two volunteers remove a generator. In less than an hour, the Project Vietnam Foundation sets up a Westernized dental clinic six hours north of Hanoi.

Founded by Dr. Quynh and Chan Kieu in 1996, PVNF is a non-profit organization that provides medical assistance in Vietnam.

Tran and his wife Catherine Pham, a dentist, heard about Orange County-based PVNF and in 2005 joined the organization to provide dental care. Pham’s sister Bich Le, also a dentist, and her husband Thanh Tran, an electric engineer and Tom’s brother, also accompany team along with other volunteers. [ read entire story ]

Through the eyes of a daughter / A med student's experience

Story / MaryAnne Curry Shults
Photography / Johnny Le

Monica Kieu stood on a four-inch-high wooden box as she assisted the plastic surgeon graft paper-thin pieces of skin onto the four-year-old boy's hand, burned so badly that his fingertips permanently curled into his palm. This wasn't in the pristine conditions of an operating room in an American hospital, it was in Bắc Kạn in a mountainous, semi-rural area of northern Vietnam. She wasn't short; the surgeon just extremely tall.

Kieu had heard from her parents, the founders of Project Vietnam, that conditions at the hospital were poor but imagination had not prepared her for unequipped, antiquated facility.[ read entire story ]

Elderly seeks medical aid /
         Ng Thi Tham hasn't seen a doctor in 30 years

Story / Sophia Islas
Photography / Lucio Villa

The villagers sit in small plastic chairs as they watch Project Vietnam volunteers set up a medical clinic at the Truong Th-Thcs Thanh Mai school in Northern rural Vietnam. Adults and children fill in the chairs and clutch their medical record forms as they wait their turn for treatment. Among them is Ng Thi Tham, an 86-year-old resident of Bac Kan, who lives three kilometers from the school.

She is one of the many who hiked and rode motorbikes through Bac Kan’s mountainous terrain, making long treks in order to see the American doctors, optometrists, dentists and pharmacists of Project Vietnam... [ read entire story ]