Coming full circle

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” ~ Seneca, Roman philosopher, mid 1st Century AD (and Matchbox 20 😉 )

I am discovering that  my labeling some point a beginning or ending simply reflects an inability to comprehend this complex,confusing and amazing world’s ways. Sometimes…make that many times…the story keeps going long after we stop reading.  The plot turns, the characters change, and the book we originally “bought” shifts into a different genre.  Fiction can become first-person memoir. Tragedy can become comedy. Mystery can become romance, then return to mystery. And war journals can become peace stories.

I’ve been writing about that last one these past two years.

It goes like this:  In 1964, a young physician named Dr. Carl Bartecchi reluctantly entered military service.  He received a four-by-five inch Pocket Guide to Vietnam from the Department of Defense to help prepare him for his tour of duty as a flight surgeon. Fast forward 47 years.  Now, Dr. Bartecchi is helping “write the book” on emergency medical care in Vietnam. http://sites.google.com/site/bachmaihospital/bach-mai-newsletter/bach-mai-newsletter-issue-1

In short, there really is no emergency medicine system as we know it. Call 5-1-1 in huge cities like Hanoi  (like calling 9-1-1 here), and your odds are about 50/50 anyone will respond. If you do get help, it will be the most basic of care.

A host of people are involved in this effort–a new generation of physicians from Hanoi’s Bach Mai Hospital, specialists from the Mayo Clinic and some of my favorite physicians, nurses and educators from St. Anthony Central Hospital here in Denver. Critical care, neurosurgery, pre-hospital providers…these people are stellar. They go to teach, taking critically needed equipment and supplies and gaining perspectives that sometimes catch them by surprise.

I was interviewing a surgeon recently following her return from a related mission trip to Hoi An. She’s about my age, so the war in Vietnam was a definitive time in both our lives. Bringing together what was and what is can be a challenge, she confides.  There, the conflict is referred to as “the American war.” Seeing that “China Beach” near Da Nang is now a hot Pacific Rim resort area made her think, “This is how our D-Day soldiers must have felt returning to France 50 years later.”

I do not pretend to understand why the world works the way it does. I only know it’s a page-turner I can’t put down.

Photo:  Courtesy of Dr. Carl Bartecchi – flight surgeon 1964, Soc Trang, Vietnam

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