Rotarians provide for complex medical
treatment to rural children
Rotary Club Eastern Seaboard
Chiang Mai and Mae Sot_ Rotarians from the Rotary Club Eastern
Seaboard, including President Steve Ryser, his wife Rotarian Toy and Project
Manager, Charter President Martin Brands, the project manager travelled to
Chiang Mai from June 14 - 16 to visit several patients that were being
treated or were being prepared for treatment at Chiang Mai’s Maharaj Nakorn
Hospital & Medical School.
The US$63,000 (Baht 2.3 million) project provides for complex medical
treatment to seventeen children. Out of fifteen children from the Mae Sot
region, thirteen require heart surgery, and two require reconstruction
surgery to their digestive tracts. One child needs extensive cranio-facial
surgery and one is in urgent need of treatment for burns, all of whom also
require extensive rehabilitation and physical therapy.
Funds for these projects came through the Matching Grants programme of the
Toy and Steve presented fruits
for the kids to the Supervisor of the shelter, whilst the younger kids also
received a teddy bear and the older ones a set of books and pens.
Kanchana Thornton, our Medical Partner from Mae Sot, who
prepares and coordinates the treatment for fifteen of the seventeen
patients, arrived the day before with a minibus full of kids and their
mothers. She makes such trips almost every two weeks. On arrival we met
seven of the patients and their mothers, five in the shelter and two in the
hospital. We met about 20 of the little kids who have now become known as
We proceeded to the shelter, which provides a place to stay for the patients
when they arrive from their home in the remote areas of Thailand.
There they are ‘prepared’ for hospitalisation. Their ‘in-patient’ stay at
the hospital is seldom longer than 1 week, even for cardiac surgery
patients. Their transformation from a very sick child to a normal healthy
child is almost immediate and a real medical miracle! After leaving the
hospital they stay for another few weeks at the shelter to monitor progress
and to make them strong enough to return home safely. After their return
home they need to come back to the hospital for quarterly or half-yearly
Later that afternoon went to the Chiang Mai Maharaj Nakorn Hospital &
Medical School, which is situated in a huge complex. With over 2,000 beds,
this hospital is comparable to the finest hospitals in Bangkok, such as the
Siriraj Hospital & Medical School, Ramathibodi Hospital & Medical Faculty,
where their cranio-facial patient would be treated and the Chulalongkorn
Hospital & Medical School, where the burns patient would receive treatment.
We were greeted at the Paediatrics Department by seven children and their
caretakers of whom two of them are supported by our project. Thanks to funds
provided for medication and food supplements they are now strong enough to
receive cardiac surgery in the very near future.
Twelve young patients of which
five are from our MG project. Notice that three others have a facial tumour;
they are helped by gifts from The Operation Smile Foundation in Thailand
She was scheduled to receive Tetralogy of Fallot surgery
on June 15 but this had to be rescheduled as the Cardiac Surgeon (a
professor) unexpectedly had to attend other business. She will now receive
her surgery on or around June 22, as will another one of their young
We spoke with Cardiologist Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rekwan Sittiwangkul of the
Department of Paediatrics and thanked her and the Cardiac surgery team for
the outstanding work they do. We noticed that in the back of her crowded
office, there were 2 Echoscopy units actively in use, forcing our visit to
be brief. She mentioned that Chiang Mai Hospital is looking for some Baht
2.5 million (around Euro 55,000/US$ 73,500) to buy a portable Echoscopy unit
for use in remote locations such as in the hill-tribe areas.
It seemed to us that Chiang Mai Hospital was the ideal setting to thank
Kanchana Thornton on behalf of The Rotary Foundation and our Sponsors for
all the dedicated and often difficult work she does for patients from the
Mae Sot area. We presented her with a Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary’s most
valuable award of recognition given to a person who vigorously works for the
good of mankind.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rekwan and a
specialist from Mae Sot Hospital visited Chiang Mai to learn more about
Echoscopy. Echograms are a perfect tool to discover heart (and other)
problems at an early stage.
Kanchana, born in Thailand but raised and married in
Australia, lives in Mae Sot with her husband, a writer and journalist. She
is tireless in her efforts to help children that are in need of complex
medical treatment. Very charming, but at the same time very purpose-driven,
she does not easily take ‘no’ for an answer! Steve, Toy and Martin expressed
their admiration and felt a sense of honour and privilege to have met her
and to present her with Rotary’s most distinguished recognition she so truly
deserves for her fantastic work!
On my way up to Chiang Mai, I made a detour and drove to Mae Sot in Tak
province to review the current status of Thongchai Muhamed, a 15-year old
mentally handicapped boy who walked into an open fire last October and
suffered severe burns to his chest and knees. He has been hospitalised since
the accident. After four skin transplants, his condition has visibly
improved but more work needs to be done in two main areas. First, there
remain two ‘open wound’ surfaces. As General Surgeon Dr. Somsak of Mae Sot
Hospital mentioned, skin graft options for this are limited. A burn
specialist contacted after our visit confirmed that skin graft is the only
proper method. This means a further hospitalisation until end of this year.
A visibly pleased Kanchana
with her new Paul Harris Fellowship
Secondly, and even more important, he needs
rehabilitation through physical therapy (PT) to eliminate the contracture of
legs and arms, caused (over time) by the burns. He receives PT, but only
tolerates minor efforts as they cause considerable pain. As we have seen in
other burns cases, PT is not too much of a problem for a mentally healthy
and motivated patient, but for Thongchai this could be too much of a burden.
A second specialist contacted after our visit confirmed that very small PT
steps are the only option. If this approach fails then – as feared by Dr
Somsak – he may not be able to walk again. Another concern is that he is
still very thin, notwithstanding a high protein diet and supplements. This
will hopefully improve after all the wounds have healed.
Thanks to funds raised by our Honorary Members Aad and Witha Scholtes, and
in particular a very generous gift from Mr. Wim Scherrenberg of Stichting
Hukino, Thongchai receives the best possible treatment.
Back in Chiang Mai, we looked into the case of Wang, a 3-year old boy with
quite large (but fully healed) burns scars on one of his arms. The Plastic &
Reconstructive Surgeon recommended not to open the old wounds but instead
use ointment that will ‘soften’ the scars over time. Helping children in
need is one of the best things we can do in life. We really are very
priviliged to be able to do this wonderful work with the help of our
sponsors, The Rotary Foundation, our Medical Partners the doctors, nurses,
volunteers and kind hearted and dedicated Rotarians!
This is a joint effort of many, and all of us receive enormous satisfaction
in return! On behalf of our patients, their parents and the Rotary Club
Eastern Seaboard, we thank all of you!
Special thanks go to our fantastic Sponsors: Jan & Renee de Vaan (Main
Sponsors of MG 61544), Wim Scherrenberg, Aad & Witha Scholtes, the Rotary
Club Pijnacker-Nootdorp and Rotary International District 1600, all from The
Netherlands. Without your great financial and moral support we could not
have these wonderful projects!
We also thank Kanchana and our Medical Partner from Mae Sot for taking such
good care of the needs of 15 of our patients, the Medical Team of
Chulalongkorn Hospital headed by Dr Apichai for taking care of our burns
patient, the Medical Team of Ramathibodi Hospital headed by Dr Chalermphong
for taking care of our cranio-facial patient, and (not related to this MG
Project, but nonetheless important) Dr Kanoknart, Dr Somchet and Dr Somsak
and their team at Mae Sot Hospital who, together with our friends of The
Operation Smile Foundation in Thailand, take care of Thongchai!
The baby seen here with her
mother and new teddy bear, is the first in line for cardiac surgery.
Journey to the Heart of Europe
Germany’s wine regions present their best side
Roll on the glorious Deutsche-summer. The German-Thai Chamber of Commerce
(GTCC), LTU and Mercedes were joined by some of the very best hotels and
wineries in Germany, in generously sponsoring a group of journalists from
leading newspapers and magazines in Thailand on a journey through Germany.
It was all celebratory bubbles at Suvanabhummi as GTCC deputy chairman
Stefan Bürkle and LTU regional manager Markus Moschner spoke fond words of
farewell to the assembled, fine champagne an ideal lubricant for excited and
pretty Fraulein dressed in her traditional attire at the ‘Roter Ochsen’ made
us feel quite at home.
‘Business class’ really was the business. It’s been some time since I felt
so completely and ruthlessly pampered by the prettiest team of stewards and
stewardesses imaginable. They had even prepared a cake, which was served
just before landing to thank the journalists for making the trip. We should
have been thanking them!
The visionaries behind what was already ‘Wunderbar’, Dr Raimund Cerny and
his long-time spouse Linda Dierolf, veritably beamed as the group was
welcomed at the VIP lounge of the hugely impressive Munich airport. This
trip had been months in the planning and its faultless execution was typical
of Dr. Raymond’s and Linda’s attention to detail. Enter a very spacious
Mercedes van to whisk us off across the brilliantly green Bavarian
countryside towards Heilbronn. Partly on federal highways, sometimes on the
bulging “Autobahn”, what an adventure we had, the thrill of the new driving
adrenalin through our souls. For most, it was their first trip to Germany, a
chance then, for the “insiders” to inform their virgin colleagues about the
country’s rich and varied history and the many tremendous Teutonic tourist
The “Wald & Schlosshotel” in Friedrichsruhe/Zweiflingen was a marvelous
house in which to gently move down a gear or two and adopt a generally
semi-recumbent posture. But two nights was never going to be enough – I was
overcome by a sense of never wanting to move more than ten yards in any
direction – so utterly splendid was the level of hospitality. Field trips
filled our days and easy conversations melted time into memory.
traditional German farmer’s home, just like in the fairy tales.
One wonderfully summer’s day, we headed for Schwäbisch Hall and the “Würth”
art museum and took in a dreamy vista over a city bathing in the sun’s
warmth. They certainly know how to look after their museums. The open land
museum in Wackershofen provided a cultural insight into the extraordinary
variety of regional lifestyles that have evolved over the centuries.
Abundant imbibement of a very dark and mellow kind followed, encouraged down
with freshly slaughtered pork, sauerkraut and Bavarian fayre from the land
of fantasy. The museum-owned restaurant “Zum Roten Ochsen” is one I intend
to return to at my earliest convenience. I hardly noticed how quickly we
were being swept around the countryside. The small but exquisitely presented
car museum within the courtyard of the mighty “Langenburg” castle, showed
Germany at its very best; a sumptuous fusion of efficiency with aesthetics.
Ah, but how brief our sojourn at the “Automuseum”. What would a trip like
this be, without the pre-requisite wine-tasting? An academic interest of
course, was our prime motivation, as we gathered at the national research
institute for fruit and wine growing in Weinsberg. Here, Thailand’s very own
Prayut Piangbunta has fermented valuable viniculture experience into a
profitable wine-growing estate, producing bottled nectar. Rolf Hauser was
our wine guru as he guided as sensitively through selected wines, cellars
and the innovative and ultimately satisfying vintner’s process.
tour leader, Dr Raimund Cerny, left, and Rolf Hauser say ‘prost’ to the
success of our adventure.
The Grantschen winery and wine cellars proved another welcome attraction.
This palatial pile belongs to the family of Baden-Württemberg’s local and
much loved Statesman, Richard Drautz. German hospitality at its very best
ensued; Mr. and Mrs. Drautz charmed us as we dined beneath a dome dazzling
in its brilliance. The atmosphere was celestial. Government Secretary Drautz
described how pleased he was to welcome so many guests from Thailand to the
country at the heart of Europe. “Germany and its wine regions in particular,
are always worth a visit”, he said. I had to agree. “We offer the highest
quality service, genuine kindness and may I say, some excellent use of the
English language.” I couldn’t disagree. “This enables us to make the stay a
most pleasant one for our guests.” Here, here. Afternoons and evening were
packed with press conferences but another wine region managed to sneak into
our itinerary. But, free of additives, German wines seem to be
hangover-free; all things in moderation, of course.
secretary Richard Drautz, Dr Cerny and cellar master Fritz Herold from the
Appropriately located on ‘Daimler Street’, Mercedes-AMG in Affalterbach was
for me personally, one of the highlights. So whilst getting your vintage
Mercedes fixed up in Thailand might not be quite like munching into a Black
Forest Gateaux, a waltz through the factory here left me frankly,
gob-smacked. Director Gerd-Udo Hauser gave us the VIP treatment and I’m
happy to report that I wasn’t the only female who found the Mercedes
experience on the seductive side of the street. Subsequently, we visited the
Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart. It was simply amazing to see how
Germany’s number one car has developed over time.
A farewell dinner at the Wald & Schlosshotel Friedrichsruhe lovingly created
by chef and author Lothar Eiermann, was a fitting way to finish the first
leg of the trip. Exhausted, we fell in our dreams easily, in the knowledge
that tomorrow would introduce more of this glorious country to our senses.
More wine, I thought, more sights, I mused, more fun, most definitely.
To be continued - with more stories about Germany’s most inviting
cultural sites and – of course – the wineries and vineyards.
(L to R) Peerawat “Pop”
Jariyasombat from “Bangkok Post”, Weerayut “Neung” Chokchaimadon from “The
Nation”, Jeerawan “Toom” Duangnam from “Lifestyle & Travel”, GTCC deputy
chairman Stefan Bürkle, Rungnapa Leechaianan from LTU, Sid Sehgal from
“Lookeast”, Jarubhani “Pam” Palarit from LTU, Don Ross from “TTR weekly” and
LTU regional manager Markus Moschner who came to wish us Bon Voyage.
Gerd-Udo Hauser (2nd left)
kept us spellbound with his explanation of the history of the legendary