Church donates medical gift to Vietnam

The Church recently donated a substantial medical gift to Vietnam "to lift medical care to another level" in the Asian country, reported Elder Merlin R. Lybbert of the Seventy and president of the Asia Area.

The gift will help surgeons perform microsurgery, a procedure that allows them to reconstruct body parts utilizing other tissues from the patient. Working under a microscope, surgeons sew small arteries and veins of the grafted tissue to the new site to keep the tissue alive.Elder Lybbert accompanied a group of doctors from the United States, several who are LDS, to Vietnam to witness their work. He is the first General Authority to enter the country since the war with Vietnam ended in 1975.

The doctors performed seven surgeries and conducted training seminars as part of Operation Smile, a non-profit organization that sends medical teams to developing countries to perform free corrective surgery on disfigured youth and children.

One Vietnamese young woman who had her heel cut off in a car accident four years ago was one of seven people who received treatment from the team. The wound healed with scar tissue over the bone making it too painful for her to walk.

Surgeons removed the scar tissue and then took healthy tissue from behind her shoulder and attached it to her heel. They carried a nerve along with the tissue so she would have normal feeling in her heel.

"This was a beautiful young lady who otherwise wouldn't have been able to walk," Elder Lybbert explained. "She had two previous surgeries and both were unsuccessful."

The Operation Smile reconstructive surgery team, led by Dr. Craig Merrell, president of the Chesapeake Virginia Stake, demonstrated the procedure to Vietnamese surgeons, sharing tools with them and teaching the doctors how to use the tools in the procedure.

"This training and the gift now opens the doors to these extremely talented Vietnamese surgeons to perform state-of-the-art surgery and life-transforming surgery to thousands of patients over the years," Dr. Merrell remarked.

"Just to see these patients with a smile on their face, to see them able to walk or shake your hand brings to your heart a good, warm feeling that we all seek in life. That feeling comes from serving and helping other people."

Elder Lybbert added: "This wasn't only a matter of treating a few young people, it was also a matter of training because the Vietnamese surgeons didn't have the instrumentality and know-how to perform the surgeries," Elder Lybbert continued.

The physicians spent 21/2 days training Vietnamese doctors and then performed surgeries with them for five days.

"When the team left, they were treated like heroes," Elder Lybbert continued. "They really were heroes because people had been treated that could not have been effectively treated before."

Dr. Daniel S. Sellers, an LDS physician from Salt Lake City, traveled with Operation Smile to Vietnam. He served a mission in Hong Kong.

"I've been on five trips like this and it's very gratifying," he said. "It's gratifying to use skills you've attained over many years without thought of compensation or reimbursement. It's a great Christian thing to do. People from these countries are so grateful for anything that can be done."

The visit allowed Elder Lybbert to establish contact with the country's top government officials as he met and spoke with them.

"The leaders we met with were very positive and friendly," he remarked. "I had a very good conversation with the minister of foreign relations and religious affairs. I think that we learned some things about one another.

"The meeting gave us an opportunity to correct some misinformation and establish a contact there. We've been invited back.

"Perhaps this will allow us to provide other forms of assistance in the future."

Elder Lybbert said there was a feeling of hope among the people. "They are very friendly and optimistic people. We were treated in a very kind fashion." - Sheridan R. Sheffield

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed