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Biting my nails in Saigon

April 4, 2009

I haven’t updated in a while due to various barriers;

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City last Sunday, and have been slowly getting through my shifts at Cho Ray hospital in the Chinatown (Cholon) district. I started out at a guest house in the backpacker part of town (Pham Ngu Lau), and met with various interruptions in power, locked gates, but always smiling faces.

“Hello, Moto!?” is as ubiquitous here as in Phnom Penh. Only, fewer moto drivers here speak English. Eventually they recognize my poorly pronounced “beee-enn vee-unggg cho raiii” as “please take me to the big hospital, you know, the one in Cholon?” All the doctors in the Emergency Department (where my placement is) laugh at me as I try out my newly learned phrases.

I’ve got to keep this short as I want to make dinner and take the dog for another walk. I’m pseudo-house/dog-sitting for the Canadian Consul to Vietnam. His lovely wife has a connection with the charity with whom I worked in Vietnam, and she graciously invited me to their home. It’s a beautiful house, full of ethnic treasures and family charm. Makes me a little homesick, but is so nice to have a friendly dog to hang out with and to be away from the hustle and bustle of urban Ho Chi Minh City.

There was a horrible case at work today. I’m still a bit too disturbed to write about it, and more disturbed that there is no “higher up” in the hospital that can lend an ear to my concerns. However, I’ll get to talk about it on Monday with the American (Vietnamese-born) girls who are also here on elective at the same time as me. And I think writing about it might be therapeutic, so, hold me to it.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenn permalink
    April 4, 2009 11:24 am

    That’s good that you’ve got someone to talk to.

    Looking forward to reading/hearing more stories šŸ™‚

    We miss you!

    • April 5, 2009 10:58 pm

      thanks Jenn, my head is cleared a bit and I’m hoping chatting with the girls tonight will help even more. See you soon!

  2. April 16, 2009 3:15 am

    glad that you have someone to talk too…online is a good place to meet neew people.

  3. Peter Nicholson permalink
    April 19, 2009 5:17 am

    Nice work, Jess! Bethune would be proud. Great letters, too. Congrats on going to Nanaimo. I’ll be heading to Halifax for GenSurg. I had to go through the 2nd iteration – scared the hell out of me. Super stoked about the end result though.

  4. Anh permalink
    July 16, 2009 8:58 am

    Hi there! I’m a med student from Sydney, Australia and am very interested in doing an elective at Cho Ray. Would you be kind enough to share your experiences there with me? My email ad is z3158037 at Thanks so much!!

    • July 26, 2009 9:19 pm

      Hi Anh,

      My elective at Cho Ray was in the ER. It was a decent elective – well organized as they are very used to having many students at once. You’ll see tonnes of moto traumas (neuro patients). They have a CT and MRI, and most of the medicine is fairly advanced though they don’t stock beta-blockers in the ER. Sometimes compassion is a bit different than what I imagine is practiced in Australia. I saw some hideously violent (inappropriate) intubations, and some pretty strange ways of dealing with the families of brain-dead patients on ventilators/bag-mask, but I also got to practice a lot of abdo ultrasounds, GCS scores, and suturing. Some of the staff speak English, but it depends on which shift you are on. Expectations are not high, but you can do as much as you’d like to do, and don’t be afraid to ask ‘why’ they are doing something – usually there is a good explanation.


  5. Anh permalink
    December 3, 2010 3:57 am

    Hey Jess, thanks for your reply which is really helpful. I started a Cho Ray ER elective today – it was my first day and I felt a bit directionless, hahaha. There are a couple of other med students from Australia here, inc one who speaks much better Vietnamese than me, so I’ll stick with her more next week.

    Cheers again!

    • December 4, 2010 3:26 am

      Fantastic. You might feel a little lost most of the time you are there – the language barrier is a big concern where it comes to being useful at treating patients. There were two Americans while I was there who spoke Vietnamese. They were a little more useful than I at histories, but I was able to share some medical wisdom; you’ll find your nice soon enough.

      Best of luck! Don’t get ripped off at Ben Thanh market, do eat some back-alley noodles, and enjoy!

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