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NEWS | June 10, 2014

Navy Medical Staff Treat Vietnamese Burn Patients

By MC2 Karolina A. Oseguera

A team of Navy medical staff used laser-resurfacing technology to treat a severely burned mother and her daughter at the Da Nang General Hospital, June 10, during Pacific Partnership.

"The mother and her daughter are both being treated by an advanced skin-resurfacing laser, a skin substitute and surgery to treat the residual effects of the burn as well as alleviate the skin contractures," said Cmdr. Peter Shumaker, the chairman of dermatology at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD).

Phan Nguyen Thanh Thao was burned at the age of three along with her mother. Over 70 percent of her body was burned which left her unable to walk. Navy medical staff first saw Thao and her mother aboard the USNS Mercy as part of Pacific Partnership 2012. This treatment at the Da Nang General Hospital has been the fourth interaction since then.

"The treatments that we will be giving her today are the same that we offer to our injured service members," said Shumaker. "We brought over four top of the line skin-resurfacing lasers that is currently cutting edge technology in the U.S."

The current exchange is with the department of plastic and reconstructive surgery of Da Nang general hospital along with three surgeons from the National Institute of Burns in Hanoi and the Navy medical team.

"The Vietnamese have skillsets that are not common in the west. We have been able to learn from them as well as bring some new technology that has greatly enhanced their ability to treat their patients," said Capt. Eric Hofmeister, an orthopedic surgeon at NMCSD.

Since the first treatment, Thao's functional movements have improved and she has regained her ability to walk.

"After seeing the doctors her body is much better and she is less itchy," said Nguyen Thi Hue, Thao's mother. "In the past I had to take a lot of time to care for her but now she can move around I have more time to make more money to take care of her in the future. I would like to send a sincere thanks to all the doctors who have given us such great help. I cannot imagine how our lives would be without their assistance."

Pacific Partnership is in its ninth iteration and is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Asia-Pacific region.

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