Army physicians battle age to help the needy

After returning wounded from the American War during the seventies, many military physicians decided to continue their mission to help people in need.

Retired doctor gives free treatment for patients
Cho Ray Hospital doctor devotes self to the poor

Army physicians battle age to help the needy

Tran Van Dong, right, with his colleague at the charitable health clinic in Khanh Hoa Province. — Photo suckhoedoisong.vn

As a result, a charitable health clinic opened by the Khanh Hoa Veterans Association has been providing free medical treatment for thousands of poor and disadvantaged people.

Tran Van Dong, 77, head of the clinic, said there are 15 doctors and medical workers working at the facility. Most of them are veterans who experienced the horrors of the battlefields.
Now they all work voluntarily at the clinic.

In the spring of 1966, Dong volunteered to join the army in Quang Nam - Da Nang, eager to fight the enemy.

A year later, he was sent to the Hanoi Military Medical School to study to become a general doctor thanks to his dexterity and skill he displayed while bandaging his comrades on the battlefield.

Every night, images of people and wounded soldiers urged Dong to become a good doctor and go to Quang Tri Province, where some of the fiercest fightings took place.

"Determination can create miracles. I was also injured on the battlefield, but after patching myself up, I smiled and continued to fight," Dong told Sức khỏe & Đời sống (Health and Life) newspaper.

In 1980, he was appointed head of the military medical department at the Information Army Officer School.

Dong said those were the years he will never forget.

"I was living with my peers. They were like my family,” he added.

Going strong

In the evenings and weekends, he gives free medical examinations to disadvantaged people.

"Sometimes, he still tries to continue teaching in class while the wounds of war are torturing him," said Tran Van Nam, a colleague at the clinic, said.

 

A former health worker at Military Hospital 87, Duong Cong Lien, 73, said he joined the army in 1968, along with 27 other men living in Nha Trang. Half of them died in the war.

"I was luckier than my comrades. Many died during the war and many still face a tough life.

"This motivated me to start working at the clinic immediately after I retired. I will continue to do this work as long as I can," Lien said.

Dr Dong retired in 2000 after refusing lucrative offers to work for private clinics or hospitals.

Since then he has devoted his life to offering free medical care for poor people, Agent Orange victims and disadvantaged soldiers.

He said he will work until his health no longer allows him to.

About 300 people receive regular free examinations and medicine at the centre, which is paid for by various sources mobilised by the Veterans Association of Khanh Hoa Province.

Dong and his colleagues also organise free health checks for people in remote areas.

Nearly 10 years into his retirement, Dong is still busy.

He and his friends have helped people with disabilities enjoy better lives.

"We all tell each other that happiness is to live for others," Dong said.

Dong said the doctors and medical staff here are old. Some of them are no longer healthy enough to work, so they need a new volunteer team because many poor patients and victims of Agent Orange are still in need of help. — VNS

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