Dr. Le Dong counsels, treats leprosy patients at the Provincial Hospital of Leprosy-Dermatology
Making friends with patients
On a sunny afternoon, I went to see Dr. Dong at the Provincial Hospital of Leprosy-Dermatology on time. As many people said, he was cautious about words and information on illness for the person he first met. Through the stories, I became well aware of leprosy and its sad memories.
Due to his and his family’s aspiration, after leaving the army in the Cambodian battlefield in 1983, he took the entrance exam of Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy and received a general doctor's degree in 1990. Afterwards, he worked as an unpaid volunteer at the Dermatology Department, Hue Central Hospital. In 1993, he was assigned to the Dermatology Station at 243 Chi Lang, Hue (Department of Health). His daily job is to examine and treat the patients with social diseases related to skin, and then following in his colleagues’ footstep, pioneering the prevention and control of leprosy in the area.
He said at the time when he first entered the profession, and before that, leprosy was a terrible, socially-prejudiced disease. After knowing of having leprosy, some people went home to commit suicide because they realized they could not live with social prejudices. The prejudice itself left a sad memory that Hue people cannot forget: the leprosy village survived apart from the outside through decades at the foot of Hai Van Pass...
As an insider, he did not understand why at that time leprosy was terrified by society. Meanwhile, according to the medical literature as well as his practical experience, leprosy is not contagious and not caused by heredity.
However, at that time, it was very difficult to overcome the erroneous psychology of society, so he rushed headlong into "making friends with” leprosy patients. Every week, apart from the work at the station, whenever free, he went to the facilities, met local officials with the desire to remove prejudices against leprosy. He went to the families with leprosy patients to eat, stay together, and give prevention advice to the point that many colleagues then considered his action to be "crazy".
At that time, "making friends with” leprosy patients kept him away from his wife, children and family. He was often present not only in plain but also in Nam Dong and A Luoi mountainous areas for communication and counseling to help people understand about leprosy. The more he went, the more anxious he was about the fact that even when the cases were cured, it was difficult for them to integrate into the community because of falling into disrepute as lepers.
Only after 1995 did the leprosy prevention and control program in Vietnam take shape and become a national health program. In the process of implementing this program, like catching a buoy, Dr. Dong had conditions to care for many leprosy patients.
He was present everywhere from the sessions of propaganda, counseling, medical examination and treatment at the Provincial Center for Social Disease Prevention and Control (at that time, the Dermatology Station became the Dermatology Department under the Provincial Center for Social Disease Prevention and Control) to the business trips the facilities to survey, help to treat leprosy patients, contributing to reduction in the prevalence of diseases among the people.
Recalling the old story, he said that before 2000, both leprosy patients and many people with skin diseases in the communes of Nam Dong District had "dodged" the medical facilities and only looked for the shamans to make ceremonial offerings. It was at that time that Dr. Dong knew by heart many names of villages in Nam Dong, devoted himself to organizing propaganda and raising awareness of leprosy for the people. The fact that Dr. Dong was present at Huong Loc Commune (Nam Dong) for many days to plead with the family of a 13-year-old girl having leprosy and not taken to school to treat her awakened, gave the confidence to the people here.
The hospital is seen as home
In 2014, the Dermatology Department became the Provincial Hospital of Leprosy-Dermatology; Dr. Dong was appointed as Deputy Director of the Hospital. He counseled the leaders of human resources training units and made an orientation plan of equipment investment to implement new disease treatment techniques and so on.
A big breakthrough was that he counseled the unit's leader to innovate the ways of serving patients. Besides, he boldly proposed devoting a whole department with 10 beds for leprosy inpatient treatment, without affecting everyone around.
Currently, in addition to management, Dr. Dong still comes to the clinics every day to examine, support, and hand expertise over to young colleagues for each specific case, especially leprosy patients. A friend of mine working at the Provincial Hospital of Leprosy-Dermatology said that Dr. Dong is the person of work. He often advises and reminds the young colleagues in any position to wear white blouses, to be interested in sharing so that patients can reduce their worries about illness.
Mr. C. in Huong Xuan Ward, Huong Tra being treated in the Provincial Hospital of Leprosy-Dermatology, confided: "Doctor Dong is a gentle person when visiting patients. Although there is a pain because of my illness, I am always encouraged by everyone and Dr. Dong to live better and more optimistically. ”
Excellent Doctor, Master, Dr. Nguyen Nhat Nam, Director of the Provincial Hospital of Leprosy-Dermatology said that the journey of leprosy prevention in the province is not as difficult as before. The community today no longer discriminates against leprosy patients as before.
Before 2000, the rate of leprosy patients managed in the whole province was about 1,500, but later on, the medical team operating in the program of leprosy-dermatology prevention and control gradually treated inpatients and outpatients according to multi-chemotherapy and rehabilitation surgery, helping patients to heal and integrate into the community. Currently, only 5-7 cases a year are detected in the province on average.
Director of the Provincial Hospital of Leprosy-Dermatology Nguyen Nhat Nam said: "The achievement of district-level leprosy treatment is a journey of health workers in dermatology and is particularly attributed to the silent efforts made by Dr. Le Dong for nearly 30 years."
Story and photo: Minh Van