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Ogden team on the road

 

March 21, 2018



Dr. James Ogden and a team of people from Goldendale are on a medical mission in Cambodia. These are the first in his series of reports from the trip.

March 16

We all arrived safely in Phnom Penh. The flights were good and on time. The accordion that I took was slightly too big to go as carry-on, so they let me check it as a super fragile extra caution needed item with several red labels. It got here safely, and I have played it several times already.

We had no hassle in customs, but Shirley’s suitcase with a red bandanna was not at baggage claim but one was there, unclaimed, also with a red bandanna. We filed a claim, and a few hours later, we got a call that Shirley’s suitcase had been found, so we had a nice Tuk Tuk ride to the airport to claim it. I think the owner of the unclaimed suitcase took Shirley’s by mistake and didn’t check the label.

Yesterday and today, Dr. Garnett, the dentist, and I saw patients all day. Dr. Garnett saw 25 or so each day. The dentist and his assistants were busy, but I don’t know how many they saw. I had 68 yesterday and 58 today. The patients were all easy to work with, and most thanked us profusely as they left. It is nice to have good quality reading glasses from RestoringVision and such a good selection of quality brand new eyeglass frames donated by YCC import company in Pullman, Washington. All of the patients who need eyewear will end up with new goods.

Our friends Rath and Kunthea, young women that we met on our first trip to Cambodia, made the local arrangements for this year’s project. This is Rath’s home town, so a lot of people here know her. There seems to be a lot of community cooperation regarding our clinic project. The school is providing space for us to work, and the police have an officer watching the building at night to protect our equipment and supplies. The hotel is giving us rooms and two meals at much-reduced costs. It makes me think of how many people and entities worked together to put on the turkey dinner and program for the fund raiser last week that made this medical, dental, and optometric mission possible. Nice to see community cooperation on both sides of the Pacific.

Dr. Garnett left to go back to Phnom Penh this afternoon. He is to make a presentation at a medical study group there on Saturday morning. Our friend, Kosal, whom I met in 2007, and is now a doctor on staff at the Russian Hospital in Phnom Penh, invited Dr. Garnett to speak at the event. Dr. Garnett plans to fly to Vientiane, Laos, where he will do some more medical teaching there before returning to Cambodia and meeting up with us next weekend.

Last evening at dinner, we met the pastor of the church that we plan to attend on Sunday afternoon. He has recently started a new church nearby and brought his assistant who does the music along. David and I did some playing and singing with the accordion after dinner, and I think we will do some playing at church as well.

We have a full day of patients scheduled for tomorrow, so I am going to call it a day.

Until next time.

March 18

At Saturday ‘s clinic, we saw 25 people from a village 70 kilometers away. They all came together in a van and were the nicest and most grateful people that I have seen on mission trips in recent history. I think that all of them stopped to thank us on their way out. We had 63 patients yesterday, and there many with cataracts. We also saw an eight-year-old girl with a lens correction of 8 diopters of hyperopia and had never had an eye exam.

Sunday, morning, we drove out to a school that Betty Zesiger has sponsored since 2016. Prior to then, there was no school in the area and most kids could not go to school. There were about 70 kids who came today. The school goes from grades one to three at the present time. David and I played some music with the accordion and harmonica, and we passed out water and a kind of sweet rolls that are a real treat to the kids. We also gave each student a kid pack that were donated by the Goldendale United Methodist Women. It was like Christmas out there today.

The school is a simple pole building with walls and roof made of corrugated metal. They have school only in the morning, since it is too hot to be inside the building in the heat of the afternoon. In the rainy season, they sometimes cancel school because the rain makes so much noise when it hits the metal, the kids can’t hear the teacher.

At 2 p.m. we went to church at a newly planted church. David and I were asked to play music before and after the service. There was a big group of young kids and about seven or eight high-schoolers as well as about a dozen adults. It looks like they are off to a good start.

Tomorrow it is back to clinic every day this week. We hope to close at noon on Friday and drive back to Phnom Penh.

Until next time.

March 20

Our patients on Monday were easier than the ones on Saturday. Most were younger people with fewer eye health problems. We did not see as many cataracts. Many of the patients were teachers from the local schools as well as schools in outlying areas. The youngest teacher was 23, and the oldest was a 68-year-old man who teaches a class of first graders. We saw about 60 patients on Monday. It is obvious to me that the teachers, police, hotel staff, and other people from this community are glad to have us here. Everyone has been friendly and eager to help us anything we need. Rath said that the community leaders were reluctant to allow our project because another group arranged a clinic similar to ours a while back, and then did not show up as planned. The village leaders are getting a lot of good feedback from the patients, and Rath said that they want us to come again another time.

When we got back to the hotel yesterday afternoon, there were four 20- to 30-something German guys staying for the night. I got to use my 52-year-old high school German class and got a conversation started. They spoke English, so most of the visit after that was conducted in my mother tongue. I asked if they were singers and told them that I had an accordion. I played some German tunes for them while they continued drinking a lot of beer. I was disappointed that they did not know any of the old German songs that we sang in German class. Sad that young people don’t sing them. Same thing is happening in our country.

Today, many of our morning patients were upper middle age farmers whose bodies showed the effects of years of hard physical work. Most looked older that their stated age, and quite a few had cataracts. Some had difficulty walking. One 72-year-old woman, who looked ten years older told us that all of her children had been killed during the Khmer Rouge holocaust in the 1970s and that she and husband are alone.

We saw a woman who had cataract surgery on her left eye 30 years ago before intraocular lenses were available. The +12.00 Diopter lens was so crazed and scratched that she could see nothing on the visual acuity chart. I hand neutralized the glasses since I could not get a reading with the lensometer due to the non-transparency of the lens. Turned out that the prescription was unchanged, and with a clear trial case +12.00, she could see 20/60, which made her really happy. She was also excited to get to choose a new frame for her new glasses.

We saw several people who had undergone cataract surgery in the past but still had poor vision. One of these was a woman who had a corneal scar completely covering the pupil of the right eye. There was also a scar covering one quarter of the nasal side of the left pupil. I could not get a decent retinoscope reflex, and no lens that I tried made any improvement, so I thought I could not help her. She came back with what was left of her last glasses, and it was about +6.00 Diopters. I used that as a starting point and was able to get her to 20/100, which, to her, was a huge improvement. I should point out that lens powers are measured in units of Diopters. The smallest lens increment change that most people with normal vision can notice is 0.25 Diopters. Twelve and 6 Diopter corrections are huge.

We have two full days and one half day of clinic. We still have a good inventory of sunglasses, reading glasses, medications, and new frames that I think will be enough to last until we are finished.

Until next time.

 

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