Road to recovery for Thais

Area doctor proposes adopt-a-school program


Shands emergency room physician Dr. Kevin Ferguson gives some cards made by students from Lawton Chiles Elementary School to a boy at the Bang Muang refugee camp
Tuesday. Head of the Children's Art Project, Chatchada Kruakaew, left, helped organize the program, part of the Duang Prateep Foundation which helps children deal with the emotional scars left by the tsunami by doing artwork.

DAVID MASSEY/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 18, 2005 at 11:02 p.m.
Today after the morning breakfast in the hotel, I took the hospital van to work, and the rush-hour traffic turned the five-minute trip to 20 and I was late, but right on Thai time.
About 9 a.m. several crates arrived from Sweden. They were marked with a label requesting most expeditious transport to the Vachira hospital in Phuket from the Swedes. In them were two brand-new, top-of-the-line Siemens Servo 900C ventilators. They sent two to each hospital in Phuket and Phang-nga, gifts from the Swedes to the Thai people.
The staff had them assembled and ready to test in three hours. Nobody called engineering or anyone else to make sure it was safe. Such items at Shands would have not been usable for days while they were checked out.
At one point, Ben Campen (a Gainesville Rotarian who accompanied us to Thailand) came in to ICU, just returned from Chiang rii. I told him about the schools to be built so he could get with the Rotarians about them.
I would like to have an adopt-a-school program with Gainesville kids raising the money to build and supply the school. Ben came with us to lunch and when we returned he went to meet Rotary folks.
Going back to the hospital, we drove through the Patong Beach area which was ground zero for Phuket. It is the most popular beach on Phuket and the big tourist area with many stores, nightclubs. It looked like Key West or many of the Caribbean island hot spots.
The beach was open and looked in good shape. The tsunami destroyed the first floors of all these places, but the upper floors were untouched and reopened.
There was extensive damage to the front-street stores, but just a couple blocks inland the storefronts are untouched, and the tourists are coming back, albeit slowly.
They are saying 80 percent of the bookings in January were canceled here, many going to other Thai resorts. There were many shops open and having huge sales to draw people back. I decided to go back there to buy stuff and help them out.
The reconstruction has already begun. There are palates of brick, cinder block and lumber, heavy equipment and plenty of laboring men. People were sitting out in the streetside cafes and bars, where the damage was not total. The Thai people are coming back.
After lunch we were tending to a patient when there was a commotion by the entrance. Thais are not given to loud outbursts but there was clearly something up outside.
The ICU doors swung open and an entourage of security and press flowed into the room. In the middle were two European men who are the prime ministers of Denmark and Sweden. They came over to the patient's bedside where the hospital director introduced them to us.
Being clearly non-Thai, the director pointed out that I was a volunteer doctor from Florida and both PMs came over to me, shook my hand and thanked me for coming to help. I replied it was my honor and pleasure to help the Thais in any way I could, and it is.
At 7 p.m., I noticed in the background was the sound of 300 singing orphans. I guess these are non-Thai ethnic tribal kids who are outcasts without parents. They can't be adopted since they have no documentation like birth certificates so the orphanage takes donations from sponsors for $30 a month.
There were 75 of the 300 kids without sponsors when they got there; only 70 when they left; 69 after I get to talk to my wife.

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