Ok it's time for sleeping on my hard wooden bed!!!
So Monday 24th November, at 0730 I began my month's work at the very welcoming 'Hospital C' Rehabilitation department in Da Nang. As I mentioned at the end of last week's blog, I had battled the an entire colony of ants the night before, and after overcoming that battle, I was then faced with sleeping on a very Vietnamese style bed - solid wood, no mattress! I was fortunate enough to have a pillow, and a fairly thick blanket, not to keep me warm, but to protect my hips from severe bruising! Needles to say I woke up with a failry stiff neck, back and hips. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but I was soon able to forget all about the bed, as I realised with no kettle, I would have to wait until the rice maker could boil water.. and there was not enough time for such a process! ( I went straight to the supermarket after work to buy a kettle!). I was soon sat astride my colleague's very large scooter (motorbike) that really wanted to test my patience as the engine liked to cut out any time I stopped withing the first 100 yards of starting it! This was also my first, (and very wet) experience of driving in a the rush hour traffic... ok, it's not quite Saigon or Hanoi, but Da Nang is Vietnam's 3rd largest city, and let me tell you, there are literally thousands of motorbikes driving around in the morning! It felt like the entire city was going to the same place I was. A good 20 minutes later I had somehow navigated my way to work, and I had parked my 'monster scooter' in the car... sorry 'bike park', and was walking into my new department. I was greeted by a sea of (22) smiling faces (and 8 physiotherapy students), and after a brief meeting, I was shown to my little OT (occupational therapy) room, with full view into the main physiotherapy clinic area. My OT in training staff member Hoai, was already preparing me some 'English tea', and I thought hey, "I'm going to like it here!" I was then presented with my own 'white coat' see picture below... (Me & Hoai)
Well so much has happened this week, that is both interesting and funny that it's hard to exclude any of the events of the week. I'll try and stick to the things that will hopefully offer everybody an insight into working in a Vietnamese hospital. Firstly, below is the Hospital...
Lunch was very kindly provided by staff members, for me for the first 2 days, but it was the after lunch activity that almost had me questioning my decision to take the job! So after a nice 'take-out' style rice, chicken, veg etc... I was ushered to the main room, where already there were three women (staff members) lay on the plinths, (a place where a patient lies on to receive treatment), covered in sheets sleeping! I was shown to a plinth and told to take a sleep... well, ok, I have been in this situation in stranger's houses here, but not in a work setting, and not on my first day.. so there I found myself sleeping with five female colleagues on my first day of work! Lucky you may think, but I assure you I was just worrying what they would think if the awoke, to found me either snoring or dribbling!!!! (no that I do snore of dribble... I was just thinking there's always a first time!) I was woken by one of the physiotherapists shaking me, and telling me I must return to work! This was quite a surreal moment, as when I was woken, I just saw this unfamiliar face, I couldn't really focus properly as there seemed to be big bright white lights everywhere! I though they might have smuggled me into some kind of strange laboratory! It's certainly one way to get to know your colleagues!!! I'd advocate a 2 hour lunch to anyone!!!!
Wednesday I had to present to the department, about my role at the hospital, this proved to be a tricky task, not simply because of the very short notice I had to prepare, but also trying to describe the concepts of Occupational Therapy, via translation, and to a professional audience, of whom some had never heard of my job. I spent as much time trying to find interesting pictures and make culturally acceptable jokes, that would not be 'lost in translation'. I must say my wonderful wonderful translator (Nga), made this process easier, and there was only one point where I found myself quietly chuckling to myself, at on of my funny comments, though no one else in the room had the slightest smile on their face! (My University lecturers told me off about trying to funny in presentations...) here's proof of the event!
Many of the patients I'm seeing at the hospital are stroke victims, or people who have had motorcycle accidents, and had major trauma. I have already met two women, who were involved in motorcycle accidents, and whose husband/boyfriend died in the accident. It's quite tragic, but with motorcycles the preferred form of transport here, it's not exactly surprising to find this situation. I want to mention just a little about the life of a patient and family member in a hospital here. The building itself is quite nice and clean, but the sight that greets me every morning is one that saddens me. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, here there is no nursing care to provide food, wash and dress the patient, or feed and toilet a patient if required. A family member/friend is expected to do this. So family members must basically live at the hospital, like the patient does. Sometimes the family member may well share the bed with the sick person. The other option is to take some kind of fold up bed, or sleep on waiting area chairs, and this is something I see each morning as I make my way to the rehabilitation department - families of patients sleeping, or just waking up after spending yet another night in the hospital waiting area, (which is not sheltered from the outdoors). I have seen a couple huddled together in a little bed under a stairwell, and it certainly explains the pieces of women's underwear I have seen drying in any of the toilets I have used at the hospital. It really can be a different world here! Oh and don't forget, you pay for your health care and stay in the hospital here!!!
On to more pleasant tales, Saturday afternoon saw young Khoa have his 8th birthday party. His adopted mum had invited us, well actually he probably invited us, he often joins his mum on some of our social outings!!! So we know him pretty well. Some of the other kids from the orphanage joined the rather large gathering at a local restaurant in Hoi An to celebrate. The highlight of the party, apart from the karaoke, and present opening... was the 'pin the tail on the water buffalo' game, though sadly for me adults were not invited to play! here are some of the key highlights of the afternoon!
Regards from Vietnam