Health Report: 26 January, 2018

I had my Chemo therapy yesterday early, leaving Bainbridge on the 7:05 ferry. The visit and treatment were unremarkable. Blood was drawn, through my current port access and the nurse exchanged a new needle access to my Power Port for the reason that I am self administering IV antibiotics at home. They the tubing should be changed every week.

Dr. Picozzi came shortly afterward and did his usual exam and said my blood work indicated a go for Chemo treatment and that he would write the orders to get the process started. At that time I’ve not seen my lab report and did not know that my Cancer marker had risen to over 3200 unit.

Dr. Woolston, Infectious Disease Specialist, came to my infusion room and spent about 20 minutes consulting. Since my liver abscess is unapproachable because of its location, she and I both felt that until we distinguish radiographically, we have no idea of the efficacy of my current antibiotics. We know at presently that I am remaining stable with normal white counts and with no fever. The Flagyl oral medication must be taken about every 8 hours, three times per day and tastes exceedingly bitter. Dr. Woolston thought that I may want to switch to only IV with another medication with less broad spectrum bacterial coverage. I told her that as long as I am managing the current regimen, I’d prefer to stay this way, unless or until, I develop a sensitivity, and currently keep the other option as backup. I asked if there be any maximal dosage with what I am doing; she did not think that to be an issue. She totally concurs with my decision but was only suggesting alternatives for my discomfort and inconvenience with Flagyl. Nonetheless, we need definitive data to evaluate the status of the liver abscess. I told her that Dr. Picozzi was not planning the next CT scan until March. I said that at this point, over-radiation exposure is the least of my concern; I’d be willing to do weekly CT scans if that’d be helpful. She said Dr. Picozzi has to make the call, but she agrees and will be lobbying for me for earlier testing.

After arriving home, I wrote to both Drs. Woolston and Picozzi that I am firmly requesting that I get another CT scan at my next Chemo visit 2/8/2018. Hopefully Dr. Picozzi will make that happen.

Otherwise, I’m feeling well physically and am eating healthy. My energy level is now generally less, but on many days I still can manage to walk about one mile when Linnea ‘nags’ me to excise weather permitting. During this past month on two or three occasions I told Linnea that if the temperature was above the 50’s and not raining, I’d be considering golfing 9 holes with friends.
This report updates my latest my health status.

Again, you will never know my appreciation for all your cheering leading of me. Keep up your good work. Thanks to ALL !!!

Mexico Excursion:
Best of Times; Worst of Times

Shortly after I retired from active practice of ophthalmology, one of my best friends, Allen, and his fiancé were planning a pre-honeymoon celebration to visit one of his co-workers’ extended family in San Felipe, Mexico. The two men had worked together in Allen’s local construction company. Together they had tackled all sorts of small jobs, created larger renovation projects and even built several complete houses in Kitsap County. They had also done multiple renovations for me over long periods of time.
For about 3 years, Antonio’s wife and their four children lived in my three bedroom rental next to my clinic. I had met his parents when they visited on Bainbridge and had treated Linnea and me and several others to an amazing Mexican feast of the largest and most delicious shrimp I’ve ever seen or eaten.
Prior to Allen’s planned wedding in September, Antonio indicated to me that his expression of a ‘thank you’ and wedding gift to our mutual friends was to have them visit his home and meet other family members in San Felipe. He wanted me to help him drive so that Allen and his fiancé may have more time together. Though summer had begun and school was out of session already, Linnea was still working, completing her Guidance Counselor’s duties with the school district. I agreed to go along with great anticipation to serve as a co-driver. I had already met many of the Antonio’s large family and was looking forward to reconnecting with his Papa and Mama in their environment as well as meeting his other siblings whom I had heard much about. This Mexican family reminded me of cultural similarities to my own family and our background.

The departure date was set; we were to leave Antonio’s house around 10 am. He was also planning to tow a trailer of building materials and window supplies to complete his house in San Felipe. Linnea dropped me off on her way to work around 8:30 so that I might help with the loading; we found Antonio’s yard to be in total disarray: car tires and trailer hitch parts scattered about and luggage and clothing spread everywhere. I asked, ‘are we not to leave at 10?’ The response was, ‘We’ll leave when we leave! Cool it!’ I was totally astonished and inquired ‘how can I help?’ Antonio ordered me to move this and that and to pack the luggage while he was changed the tires and welded the hitch to the truck. Later, Allen and his fiancé also arrived to help. By noon, I contacted Linnea and asked if she’d get some lunch for all of us. Having seen what she had in the morning, she was not at all surprised that we had not departed. We took a short lunch break and continued working. After work, Linnea brought us dinner and was sent on a last minute run to Ace Hardware (6:59 pm right before they closed) for an essential tool. Ultimately, we left Bainbridge around 10 pm. Linnea suggested that we wait to leave the following morning but Antonio insisted that we leave then and that he preferred night driving. I slept in the back of the truck while the other two men drove. Apparently the truck was not in the best of shape because the oil pressure and the transmission lights kept coming on and it was making ‘serious mechanical noises.’ They drove fast and slow erratically. I just tried sleeping intermittently, expecting my turn later. When I awoke, it was during the middle of the night and we were near/at Junction City, OR, at Antonio’s sister, Nora’s, house. We awakened and surprised all of them, but they very graciously welcomed us and allowed us to spread ourselves about so we could rest.

The next day, Antonio announced that the truck’s transmission was burned out and needed rebuilding. He was referred to a man who ‘promised’ that he could rebuild it in about 20 hours and that the job would be completed in just one day. The car was handed over to him. To me, that man appeared to have been high on Methamphetamine.

The following day, when we went to pick up the vehicle, auto pieces were everywhere and the condition of the truck was a total mess, obviously useless. We wasted another whole day. We spent the night again at Nora’s house. The next day Antonio decided we simply had to acquire another vehicle, a used Ford 150 truck with a hitch. He found one at a car dealer and asked me to do his negotiation. The truck was listed for $3050. He said that if we could get it for $2200, it’d be good. I used all my Chinese bartering skills and got the dealer to agree to our price only to learn that Antonio didn’t have the money. If we were to continue our road trip, I realized later that I was going to have to lend Antonio the money to purchase another vehicle. An additional night was spent at Junction City.

The following day Antonio drove all around the neighborhood in his sister’s car while I enjoyed myself conversing with Nora and her family. I was having a good time. Suddenly, Antonio showed up saying that he found the ‘perfect’ truck, for sale by owner, and wanted me to go and negotiate once more. I phoned Linnea to transfer funds from our savings to my checking and came up with a $2050 as the balance in our account. The sign on the truck window said ‘Price $2500!!! NO Negotiation.’ We went to that house and I discovered that this truck was a very dear possession of the man who lovingly took care of it for years; he especially enjoyed taking his grandson hunting in the fall each season. But unfortunately his Diabetes had now disabled him so that he could no longer climb up and down into the vehicle. Furthermore, he needed money for continued medications, thus his reluctance but necessity to sell the truck. I shared my medical knowledge and advised him re: diabetes and offered him pointers in diet, neuropathy and pain control. But I also told him that I only had $2000 to spend right then and that I’d send him the remainder after I returned home from my trip. He provided the ownership paper, gave me the keys and said that the only defect he knew of was that radiator may need to be replaced very soon. We drove away with his prized procession.

After arriving back at his sister’s place, Antonio immediately ordered all of us to pack up and get ready to leave in 15 minutes. He hooked the trailer to the truck with all its contents and we drove away having said a short ‘good bye.’ Nora had already planned supper for all of us but that idea was totally disregarded much to my dismay.

We took turns driving at varying speeds and monitoring the water temperature gauge intently. I noted that the heat gauge acted erratically. I drove through the Oregon Siskiyou Pass into northern California. Expectedly, the heat gauge indicator went up very quickly while climbing uphill and rapidly cooled while cruising down hill. Antonio was very concerned about the truck overheating; he literally yelled and screamed at me whenever the water gauge wavered merely a quarter from his demanded range, even if there were large trucks hazardously rushing too close behind us! While I’ve often had unpleasant times with back seat drivers giving me criticisms, no one had ever shouted at, belittled or dictated my driving as I experienced that night! Moreover, I was afraid to give up the driving to him for I was quite certain that he was inebriated. If it weren’t for a desire to please my ‘honeymoon friends’ and as well as my highly anticipated joy of meeting the extended Mexican family, I was seriously thinking of stopping at the next airport and flying back home.

Finally Antonio made a remark that really ticked me off. He said, ‘Oh, that’s right, unlike us, you are a well to do doctor who has always driven new vehicles. You never had to drive old trucks; spoiled people like you never had to pay any attention or monitor how old used cars perform.’ Obviously he wasn’t aware of my background of being an immigrant pastor’s kid that definitely had familiarity with older cars; however, I never drove them on a 2500 mile trip. I didn’t respond to his statement, but remained silent and concentrated on the heat gauge. Three hours later, after having crossed the pass and eventually reached sufficient distance into California, I relinquished the driver’s seat and went to the back of the truck camper to sleep. I never drove that truck again even though I was listed as the owner.

Allen and Antonio drove non-stop and we arrived in San Diego mid morning. I had moved into the cab of the truck and was asleep again. My three friends went shopping choosing not to disturb me while I slept soundly. They locked the truck, closed the windows and left, unaware of the southern California weather. I was awakened by the heat, sweating like a dog, and noted the temperature gauge at the nearby bank was already reading 97 degrees. In the car it must have been 115+. It still puzzles me as to why I was unable to open any of the doors or windows and just had to wait for them to return. I contemplated breaking a window, but was fearful of Antonio’s temper. Luckily it was not too long before they returned. Truly, I had fears of dying of heat exhaustion!

Antonio went shopping in the little town and acquired sufficient quantities of his favorite beverage, tomato juice to be mixed with Mexican beer. He also got some Mexican Coke for me. By mid afternoon we set out fishing. The catch was abundant. The yellow tuna were all about 2 feet long and took the bait as quickly as we could put our lines into the water. Fishing was fun. After we filled our two coolers with fish we headed back to camp for the night.

The next day we returned to San Felipe. The sea was much calmer, but still bumpy, even sitting on cushions my bottom hurt the entire trip back. It was quite hot and large quantities of Cerveza Bienvenido a Corona with tomato juice were consumed; I drank my 6 pack of Coke. We all felt very free, having fun, telling jokes and laughing loudly. At times, Antonio was partying hard and carelessly fell into the water on several occasions. The water was warm and he was a swimmer. I was the only one scared even with a life jacket on. Eventually we returned to Antonio’s parents’ house and again Papa filleted our fresh catch and cooked them to perfection; we were well fed.

The following day, Sunday, was confirmation for one of Antonio’s nieces. He declared that we’d celebrate and have a big party that evening at 7 pm. The women cleaned the patio, the men scrubbed the grills, and the children decorated the venue with balloons and handmade signs. Mexican steak and fish were all prepared. Since Antonio was the leader of the pack, we all had to wait for him before we could eat. He finally showed up at 10; that was disappointing. I discovered that there was a Chinese restaurant in San Felipe. As my thank you, I invited the entire extended family of about 24 people and arranged a dinner to be served by that restaurant. The Chinese food was served very fresh but had no resemblance to any real Chinese food I’ve ever encountered. Nonetheless, the family enjoyed the meal and thanked me profusely. I invited them to visit me on Bainbridge Island and I’d serve them some genuine Chinese food.

By comparison, the trip back home was uneventful. Technically, I was still the owner of the truck but had no desire to keep it. Antonio needed it for transportation so we agreed on a project that he could do for me to work off the debt. Regrettably, that fell through and my friend Allen stepped in to finish the job, bringing closure to this memorable road trip. I have always remembered this journey as one of the best adventures I’ve ever had, and as well as one of my worst experiences of any road trips I’ve taken.

Karsten Solheim

Karsten Solheim (September 15, 1911 – February 16, 2000,) a Norwegian-born American was a golf club designer and businessman.  He was the founder of Karsten Manufacturing, a leading golf club maker better known by its brand name of PING, and the Solheim Cup, the premier International Team Competition in Women’s Golf.  He resided and grew up in Seattle in the Ballard neighborhood.  His father, Herman, was a shoe maker.  Later, Karsten became a mechanical engineer with a degree from the University of Washington.

Apparently, the family had property here near Suquamish and they spent many happy summer days here on this side of the water.  Karsten’s idea was to want to contribute this community in some way.  (At that time, before Clear Water Casino, the Suquamish tribe was struggling economically.  Thus, he constructed a small shopping area along Suquamish Way and opened a ‘fancy’ restaurant named Karsten’s, featuring local and specialty sea foods.  I often went there for lunch for their freshly concocted daily seafood and/or other kinds of chowders.  Often I’d sit and visit with Karsten since he was one of my regular patients.  His restaurant would feature week-end seafood specials as ‘all you can eat’ buffet at a ‘price loser’ cost of $16.95 for the public.  Customers formed long lines.  As it was by far the best eating establishment on this side of the water.

Once I introduced Mr. Solheim to my father and showed Dad all the photos Karsten had on display with the famous golfers, such as Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, and even Presidents’ Nixon and Kennedy.  Karsten asked if Dad and I played.  I answered that I was too busy and my Dad was too old.  Karsten  gave us his personal card and insisted that if ever we should take a trip south and visit his facilities in Phoenix that he’d have his staff fit each of us a custom set of his best clubs free!  I have always remembered fondly of this kind and friendly gentleman.  I appreciated that he respected me to treating his vision issues.

In the late 1997’s, his health began to fail and I lost track of him.  In 1999 his company was restructured and must have felt a fiduciary responsibility to not operate the restaurant at a loss.  They sold the establishment to Leo and Lena Ward who ran the place for only one year and closed what they had renamed ‘Doc Marlins’.  The place later was transformed into a school and now has become a part of the Suquamish Tribe property.

On our island, we have had for years held the biggest ‘garage/yard’ sale in the USA (if not the world) sponsored by the Rotary Club of Bainbridge.  As I was thinking more about retiring and picking up the sport of golf,  I couldn’t help but regret not heeding Mr. Karsten Solheim’s advice of getting a set of his clubs.  A few years later, at one of the Rotary auctions,  Linnea who was volunteering there called me at to say that there was a silent auction item of what she deemed a complete and almost new Ping Golf Clubs.

I hurried over, examined the clubs, and found them to be almost new and barely used.  For Karsten’s sake, this was my fate; as a tribute to him I have to get these clubs for whatever the price, besides, the contribution was for a good cause that we strongly supported.  The starting bid was $400.  I put my name down and called my brother Dan, who is a good golfer.  I asked how did the quality of Ping Clubs compare with others and what should be a reasonable price.  He told me that they are considered semi-fitted to individuals and run at that time about $1000 for the irons and extra for the ‘Woods’ which could cost over $500 more.  With this information I checked my bid frequently.  There was another man, about 6’ 3’’ also eyeing this set.  He kept on raising me by $5.  And I kept playing the game by raising his bid by $25.  Finally when the bid reached $700, frustratingly he asked me ‘do you know what these clubs are and how high will you go?’  I answered; I’ll be always going $25 more than you.  Out of exasperation, he walked away.  I bought the entire grouping for $700.

Excitedly, after coming home, I called my son David, and announced that I bought a set of Pings and would like him to start me off with some pointers.  David is a very good athletic and quite a decent golfer.  He said, great Dad, when can we play and what color are they?  Make sure that they are all the colored the same.  I asked what?  They are irons and are all silver metal color.  David said go see; there are markers on the clubs, Pings are semi-customized a golfer’s height.  For my size, I should be using RED or ORANGE.

I quickly ran to the garage and checked.  Surely enough, the clubs were all marked, with a green indentation.  I told this to David; he said greens are designed for people 6’ 2-3’’ and that I needed Reds because I was only 5’ 4’’.

That competitor probably did not know either, or if he’d explained that to me I would not have been so stubborn and stupid.  No wonder he was fuming, irritated and angry at me!!!  The clubs went back to the Rotary auction the next year!

Health Report: 12 January, 2018

Manager

Hematology, Oncology Clinic

Virginia Mason

1100 Ninth Ave, Cs-HEM

Seattle, WA 98101

January 5, 2018

Dear —–

Since October, 2015, my husband, Dr. Franklin Chu, has been a pancreatic patient of Dr. Vincent Picozzi. During these nearly two and a half years, we have been incredibly impressed with the professionalism, care and concern shown us by Dr. Picozzi, Dr. Helton, Dr. Gerbino, Dr. Woolston, Dr. Fatoohi, and the nursing and tech staff that support them.  Team Medicine with its motto of Each Person, Every Moment, Better Never Stops had served us well. Until now….

On December 20th, after 4 days in the hospital for a liver abscess, Dr. Woolston and Dr. Picozzi agreed that Franklin should not have his scheduled chemo on the 21st, nor on the following 28th, but rather after a scan and consultation, it could occur on January 4th.   The discharge papers stated that he would be contacted within one to two weeks.  Shortly after Christmas, Franklin began calling oncology to find out when his appointment was on January 4th.  He was repeatedly told that there was no availability, much to his disbelief and frustration.  Previously, in November, an extra week’s gap in treatment had generated a very robust growth in his tumors; to wait longer than the already four weeks’ treatment break could be life-threatening.  After much pressuring, Franklin finally received an appointment for a scan at 8 am on January 4th, followed by a consultation with Dr. Picozzi.  However, much to our anguish, the next available date for treatment was January 12th.  Since his last treatment had been December 7th, this made no sense.  How does the motto, ‘Each Person, Every Moment, Better Never Stops’….relate to a person with an aggressive metastatic cancer who is unable to get the timely, critical treatment he needs, despite his provider’s desire, just because of a scheduling issue?   Whether it’s a lack of available personnel, a lack of will to accommodate the current patient load or inept scheduling, none of that speaks well for an institution presumably dedicated to providing ‘Extraordinary service…Every patient. Every time.’  For us, this message rings hollow and borders on medical negligence.

My husband and I are more than frustrated; up to this point, we had been well served….we had not experienced a wait period for necessary scans or tests when admitted to the ER or the main hospital; there were no delays in chemotherapy. Procedures and treatments had all been conducted in a coordinated manner.

The delay is this case at this pivotal time could alter the quality and quantity of life for my husband.  I implore you to rectify this situation and put the patient first….’Extraordinary Service—Every patient. Every time.”

Respectfully,

Linnea Enz

 

We don’t know whether it was Linnea’s exceptional letter, ever praising of the Team Virginia Mason to date, or her final paragraph scathingly complaining about the limited holiday schedule that delayed my Chemo treatment to be 5 weeks apart, Nonetheless, the scheduler called yesterday morning and I was accommodated for therapy in the afternoon.  My session went well and my blood work was acceptable.  Again, the Cancer marker kept climbing, now surpassing 2000 units!!  Disappointing, though I’m reminded that it’s been 5 weeks since my last treatment.

With the pre-treatment medications, I slept through almost the whole session, came home on the 8:15 pm ferry, ate a little and went right to sleep again.  But I awoke at 4 AM, full of energy and vigor.  Later, after Linnea arose I told her that for the first time in quite a while if anyone had asked me to go golfing and the weather was warmer, I’d go!

Anyway, I used my mid night awake time to write a little more about my mission trips.  One can find them on the Newest Posts thread or just choose to read either Medical or Biographical threads.

Again, thanks for visiting and for your thoughts and prayers.  You do not know how much Linnea and I appreciate all of you.  Peace and Happiness and most of all Good Health in the upcoming Chinese New Year of the DOG!!!

Totally Unintentional Humanized Differences

Words we use and gestures we project at times come across with absolute and totally different intentions.

I returned and visited my first apprentice, Dr. Hwang, in Huili, a third time on one of my other trips to China.  I found him to have become a well respected eye specialist/expert in his local community.  ‘One MSI Mission accomplished.’  But a subtle meanings/translation of an ordinary comment struck me like a dagger in the heart.  I simply invited him to contact me if ever he came to USA for a visit that I’d love to show him and his family around.  He started weeping.  I asked ‘what did I say?’  He answered, that I should have known that more than anything, he’d love to visit me but that simply was an impossible delusion, knowing the meager salaries he and his wife made just getting by and putting aside a little for their daughter’s education.  (Doctors made less than $1000 US per month, and his wife, a head nurse took home a little more because her duties are more valued!)  He said that I should never have teased him like that!  How does one apologize?

On my first trip to Xichang Dr. Lee, the director of ophthalmology chose one of her best protégé to demonstrate to me how she’d been doing cataract surgeries.  They were all prepped and ready to go and escorted me into the operating room.  I immediately noticed that her gloves were most likely size 7+ and her hands were at most 5 or 6.  I blurted out that her gloves were much too big.  Dr. Lee immediately concurred and demanded her to change her gloves.  A second set was ordered and brought in.  She changed, but they were the same size as before.  I instantly realized that being so behind times that was all they had and ‘shut my mouth.’ with any further comment!

Linnea and I, together with other family members returned to China as visitors a few times.  Of course, she always stood out as an attractive Caucasian blond haired woman.  Many people, and not just kids, would hover around her and wanted photos taken.  On one visit, as we were boarding a tour bus, were waiting for others.  The bus driver said we had about 5 minutes before taking off.  I noticed a woman vender rushing over with a full bag of merchandise to peddle.  I asked to get off the bus mainly to pass time and have a chance to interact and practice my street Chinese.  She was negotiating $5.00 Chinese (about 80 cents $US) per faux silk table cloths.  In the tradition of bartering, 1 offered $3.00.  She went on and on explaining that she had a family to feed and how could I try to deny her.  She then asked how many would I buy?  We bantered for a while just for fun as others were returning to the bus.  Finally I also boarded the bus, not purchasing anything, and asked the driver to shut the door.  The woman held a pristine white table cloth high as her ultimate attempt to make a sale.  It got caught in the gears of the door and was totally greased.  Linnea looked at me and reprimanded me that I needed to reimburse the vendor and make it right.  I went down to pay her for the damage I caused.  She pulled out a bland new Sarah-wrapped duplicate and handed it to me.  I explained that I wanted to pay for the damaged one.  She retorted that her personal integrity would not allow her to sell me blemished goods.  I ended up getting 10 table cloth packages for $10 US dollars.

Let me relate another example of my bartering experience.  Linnea and I were meandering near the garden around our hotel in Quilin after breakfast one morning.  We noticed a woman peddling items among which were 3-4 inch decorative Love-balls that the Yi minority tribes used at their ceremonies.  I went and asked her how old she was?  She answered 96.  Then I asked how much she charged for the Love-ball?  She replied strictly US $1.50 each and 8 for $10, and unwaveringly warned me that she did no bartering for me or anyone else.  I then inquired, ‘how much do you have to make it for a worthwhile day?’  She answered $10 dollar a day made her content.  It was only around 9 am and the day was already 85 degrees with 85% humility.  I proposed to her that I’d take 2 balls and pay her $10 so she could return to her home and rest for the remainder of the hot day.  She retorted, ‘This is my competence, selling and interacting with people.  You just want me to go home and get ready to die?’  I gave her $10 and she insisted we take 8 Love-balls, and stuffed them in our already full luggage.

On another occasion, after visiting the Huili Gospel Church, we were often notified not to contribute any monetary fund via mission trips under the sponsorship of MSI, but having witnessed the massive crowd on Easter Sunday, I felt compelled to do something for that church.  I returned as a side trip on my own and told the people in charge that if they could set up a bank account with proper routing numbers, I was certain that I could spread the word and there’d be many American churches willing to help.  They all thought that this might have possibility and potential.  Wow, when MSI discovered my proposal, I found myself in real deep waters.  I never knew that that was such a BIG NO NO.

My final MSI mission trip to China was to Sichuan, HeQing.  It was definitely yet another different but totally memorable cultural experience.  The lead MSI long-term medical missionary was a German physician.  Though he diligently learned to speak Chinese and moved his family to live there, he had a difficult time to assimilate into the community.  And he seemed visibly to resent the acceptance and welcome I received as a stranger newcomer and ethnic Chinese.  Unfortunately there were multiple points of disagreements as I found myself more aligned with the local people and their concerns.  This created an awkward and untenable working relationship, especially with the hospital staff.  The locals seemed only outwardly tolerated them for their expertise, he was not promoting much of our Christian values.

I received many of requests to visit their institutions from the directors and doctors I interacted in Huili and Xichang, however, because I stopped paying my malpractice insurance premiums and thereby also gave up my hospital privileges, the Chinese government no longer allowed me to be issued visiting physician’s visa, rational being they don’t need 2nd class US doctors who cannot have a practice at home.

Racial and cultural differences are hard NUTS to comprehend understand and crack !!!

MSI-OPERATION EYESIGHT Sharing Light – Saving Sight

After our very successful mission ventures in Huili, the second phase of Operation Eyesight made its debut at the Liangshan Prefecture, Second Hospital, in China, Sichuan Province, Xichang, from November 1-24, 2002.  The Health Authorities ‘trusted’ us sufficiently to allow us to get closer to larger municipalities.

They allowed/‘invited’ us to send two teams to a much larger city than Huili, to Xichang, to launch the second phase of our Operation Eyesight.  At this hospital we taught 6 doctors, 3 male and 3 female.  One of our goals this time was also to teach them that if everything were kept clean and sterile as possible we could do eye surgery using the mobile trailer so graciously provided to us by Gansu Inc., another eye operation working in China.  The first USA team had 9 members.  The second team was from Hong Kong, with 8 members.

The two teams overlapped to ensure continuity of the project.  Our local consultants, Dr. Cai and his wife (Dr. Lu) joined the first team; Ms Amy Fan, MSI staff in Hong Kong, watched over the Hong Kong team.  We were also blessed to have the long termers (missionaries) in Xichang to support us during our work there.  Again, all members were gifted, creative, and hard working; we could not envision a happier affiliation!

The USA team gathered in Hong Kong after flying across international waters for more than 17 hours. After transiting in Hong Kong, the team flew to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, for another 2.5 hours.  The team was then briefed by the long termers in Chengdu before catching the evening train and traveled another 10 hours to reach Xichang, our final destination.

We arrived at the Xichang train station shortly before dawn.  After quickly unloading more than 25 suitcases of supplies from the train, we were astonished by the decked out local officials and ladies dressed in beautiful native costumes to be greeting us so early in the morning and presenting each of us a fresh bouquet of beautiful flowers.

All team members checked in at the MSI Hostel and our food (3 meals a day) was provided by the Liangshan Prefecture Second Hospital.  The accommodation was comfortable.  The food was fresh, delicious and plentiful.  We were hosted to special banquets on several occasions and participated in local folk music and dances.

We gathered each morning for a short devotion, then, after a quick breakfast, walked to the hospital to start our work.  The mornings were spent on surgery; afternoons were reserved to see patients, and have discussions & lectures with local doctors.  We gathered each evening at the hostel to share and reflect on the day’s events and have evening devotions.

On the fourth day of our arrival, an official opening ceremony was held at the hospital campus before Government Officials, TV broadcasters, reporter’s flashing cameras, guests, MSI and Hospital hosts and spectators.  Our leader, George Chin was given the opportunity to share about our long friendship with Xichang and emphasize why we were there: to provide up to-date-eye care to the people in Xichang and try to shift them from blindness into seeing.

Our goals of launching the second phase in Xichang were:
1.  To teach them how to treat and prevent blindness, through lectures, videos and discussion of various eye diseases.

2.  To try to evaluate the trailer and possibly start surgery in the trailer.

3.  Train the local eye doctors and nurses through surgery in the trailer and hospital.

Initially, we had requested the hospital to line up 30 patients for us as the first phase of our operation.  Prior to our arrival, the number had already soared to 115.  When news of our arrival got out, a further influx of patients came and the number rose to over 300. After discussion with the hospital and careful selection, we registered 241 cases.  This large number had come as a great surprise and we were ill-prepared to treat that many. During the short 12 working days, with the full cooperation of the hospital staff, we successfully ‘taught’ the staff and operated on over 100 cataract surgeries and carried out the same number of intraocular lens implants.  The youngest patient was a 3 year old and the oldest was over 80.  There were also cases of glaucoma which were successfully operated.  All cases were without complication and the patients were delighted with their newly gained vision.  The hospital administration and local authorities were very pleased and proud of our achievements.  Many were also moved by the love displayed by each team member.  ‘Preaching always, using words only when necessary.’

We decided to return the following year to set up the trailer.  After a formal evaluation conducted with the hospital administration, the hospital presented each member a souvenir tea set. We gave the hospital a large plaque as a token of our appreciation for their friendship and partnership in the project.

Before we departed Xichang, we gave them sufficient surgical supplies and encouraged them to complete the cases registered on their list, reassuring them that they now possessed adequate skills to accomplish the needed tasks to carry on.

The following year, I recruited and convinced two of my Bainbridge Island Bethany Lutheran friends, Allen Lang and Jim Rorhscheib to go back to Xichang with me.  They were instrumental in setting up the mobile operating unit and Dr. George Chin taught the local doctor in the trailer while I taught the staff at the hospital OR.  Again, we had a great and successful experience.  Everyone treated us sincerely, respectfully and warmly even though most of us had a profound language barrier.

Towards the last days of our stay, I asked if Allen and Jim were interested in getting a suit to take home.  We surveyed several shops and settled on getting identical dark virgin Australian wool material tailor-made suits for $42 for each of us.  The tailor asked me if he could charge the ‘foreigners’ a little more like $10.  I told him that though most Chinese consider the white people are all rich, they are all actually hard working people like all of us and just trying to get by.  I told him they are also volunteers on my team.  He agreed and we got our suits ordered.

As we were leaving town we went to pick up our suits, mine was finished except for needing the buttons to be sewn on.  The female doctor whom I had worked with was with us to wish us ‘goodbye’.  She was scolding the tailor for ‘cheating’ us and charging us too much.  I was also chatting rather loudly with his staff.  My two friends Allen and Jim thought we were arguing and volunteered to pay the tailor more.  He refused to accept their money and informed them that Chinese always talked like that and no matter the price, it’s always too much.  He tried to convince them that we were passing time just waiting for my buttons to be sewn.  We assured them that we were not in a fight!  Cultural differences!!

In the rush to board our train, we were not placed in our proper bunk-bed section.  I told the group that I’d go to the front of the train to get our assignment while they squeezed together and guarded our luggage.   While there at the assignment station, there was a large throng of passengers yelling at the station manager and at each other.  I thought I could not out yell them, and as a Christian example, I’d wait for the mayhem to die down before going forward.  After about ten minutes, I finally heard my name called and I raised my hand and moved forward.  When I finally reached his counter, the clerk admonished me for not being more proactive and that he’d called me three times and was almost giving my allocated bunks away!  So much for trying to set an example of patience.  Cultural difference, all over again!!

MSI Mission: China, Sichuan, Huili,— Continued

After posting my report to Huili, many other thoughts came back to mind that I also wish to communicate.  On the day prior to our departure, we had convened a final evaluation meeting for 3 pm in the afternoon.  Having finished the morning surgery around noon and treated to lunch by 1:15, I had an hour to do some sightseeing.  I hailed a bicycle taxi and had him show me the city.  He rode me around and proudly showed me all the new construction and new businesses coming and had me back to the hospital by 2:15.  I tried to pay him but he refused saying it was his pleasure to meet and speak with me.  He said they all know why I was there and that the whole town was grateful.  I walked along the street and stopped to get a haircut with a head message, again the hair dresser refused my money.  When I left the barber shop, my shoes were polished as new with a note, ‘thanks, xie xie.’  My team was organizing a party for that evening, so as I passed a woman roasting chestnuts and watermelon seeds, I asked her to get me 4 bags of each.  She asked when I would be passing by again.  I answered around 4:30.  She said she’s not giving me anything off the shelves, but would have fresh roasted ones for me later.

I attended our final evaluation meeting and was very satisfied by their heartfelt appreciation.  I then went to the cook whom I asked to acquire for me some Sichuan hot pepper and their unique pepper corn.  I have 20 cousins in Seattle and when asked what they’d like me to bring back, they requested these spices.  I was thinking of giving each cousin one lb of hot pepper and ½ lb of the numbing pepper corn, but due to missed communication the cook got me the quantities in kilograms!  In the corner of the kitchen was a huge pile of these spices.  She had a helper wheel barrow them to my hotel.  What was I to do?  How could I accommodate such a huge amount?  I decided to give away all my clothing except for one set of change collected in my backpack and proceeded to stuff the spices into the my largest piece of luggage.

I picked up my order of chestnuts and watermelon seeds, and again the woman refused any payment but showed genuine gratitude for my helping her town people.

My team was really talented and we had a great party.  It turned out that it was Dr. Hwang’s daughter’s 13th birthday and she had invited friends to her house, but we had them all come over and celebrated with various games and concluded with a huge cake.  She was most happy, surprised and embarrassed.

On our return flight we checked back to USA territory in Vancouver, BC.  Customs had us place our suitcases on the conveyer belt so the dogs could sniff the contents of each.  When they came to my luggage, the dogs all backed off and started howling and coughing.  The inspector came over immediately and commanded me to take my extra large bag to be inspected by the officer.  I was terrified.  Was this illegal?  Would they be heavily taxing me or accessing a huge fine?  I had only 30 minutes to board my plane, how long would they delay me?

As I move along my line, seeing every suitcase being manually inspected, I became really nervous.  Then I noticed that my inspector appeared to be an Asian.  As I approached him, he asked where I’d been.  I told him in Chinese I was on a medical mission to Sichuan, China.  So he responded in Chinese, so you must have brought back some spices.  I answered affirmative.  He then warned me to answer clear and loudly.  “Are there any fresh fruit or plants in your bag?”  I replied at full volume, “Oh no, nothing fresh whatsoever, only some dried spices.”  Then he said OK, ‘let us not open it, we won’t be able to put it back together’ and let me pass.  How do you spell RELIEF!!

I returned to Huili the next year.  Far in the distance, I saw Dr. Hwang pacing about.  When the bus stopped, he waited patiently and as I got off the bus, he hugged me enthusiastically.  Then we met the other staff of the hospital and were ushered into the hospital conference room to meet and greet.

That evening they held a welcome dinner for us.  Dr. Hwang sat at my left, and the hospital director sat at my right.  During dinner, the director said to me that he felt hurt and slighted.  I inquired why?  He said that when I got off the bus, I gave Dr. Hwang an immense hug like I really missed him, but only reached out and politely shook his hand.  I informed him that through our MSI organization that we Americans were told not to show any emotions and only to respond with politely shaking hands.  He reminded me that I was still Chinese and I should know better that among true friends, we don’t just shake hands.  I asked the photographer to take a picture of the three of us, Dr. Hwang, the Hospital Director and me having a massive group hug.

The second mission trip was equally successful as the first.  I am truly grateful to meet these wonderful people and to have had the privilege to be of service in my capacity to my fellow human beings in China, Sichuan, Huili.

Health Report: 5 January, 2018

When I was discharged from the hospital on December 20th, my diagnosis was sepsis due to leakage of bacteria from my liver abscesses.  I was treated with IV antibiotics and responded dramatically strong (as my usual responses in all my previous and frequent hospitalizations.)  Since my next Chemo treatment was to be 12/21, the Infectious Disease (ID) Doctor Woolston absolutely nixed that option.  In fact she insisted that I needed to be treated for my liver abscesses with IV antibiotics for at least six weeks for fear of causing septic shock if I resumed Chemo causing decreased in my immunity.  I told her that based on the rate of change of my cancer metastasis found at Hopkins when I was off treatment for only three weeks I’d be dying anyway.  In any case, after much discussion and consultation with Dr. Picozzi the two doctors agreed to go on two more weeks of home IV and oral antibiotics and reassess with CT scan and blood work.  That was set for 1/4/2018.  Linnea and I left the hospital assuming that all the arrangements were set.

Meanwhile, checking with the scheduling clerks throughout the holiday period, I was repeatedly told that I have no appointments set and that I could only be assigned on an as space available basis.  I told them that this is absolutely unacceptable.  They juggled feverishly and gave me the earliest CT scan as 4 pm Friday the 5th.  I continued arguing tenaciously; finally, they opened a slot for blood work and the CT scan for me at 9 am on Thursday with consultation with Dr. Picozzi afterwards, with the understanding that I’d be getting my Chemo treatment if the situation allowed that.  (Dr. Woolston, my ID was off on vacation!)  The decision was that I was stable enough to resume my Chemo and continue coverage with antibiotics at home as before.

Fortunately the CT showed little change, and all my blood work improved but my cancer marker rose to 1800!  Frustration set in when we learned that there was no availability for Chemo treatment that day – and that the first opening was 1/12th.  This seemed unbelievable that because of ‘scheduling’ my necessary treatment was delayed at least another week.  We reluctantly had to accept the next available Chemo infusion time, 1/12/2018 and insisted to be placed as first ‘on call’ for any earlier times.  This incident is my first encounter and first big disappointment with the Virginia Mason Team.  (Most likely others experience these types of frustrations often and that I have been just really ‘spoiled’.)

Meanwhile, Linnea has been battling a bad ‘cold’ and both of us have been wearing masks and using copious amounts of sanitizers and antiseptic wipes at home to prevent any spread and contamination.  Perhaps this delay of my Chemo treatment possibly could be a blessing in disguise.

Happiest New Year to all my reader friends.  Please continue your well wishes, healthy thoughts and fervent prayers.  I will update as I am able.