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VINH, Vietnam (July 19, 2012) - Vietnamese children are being given back the gift of movement by Pacific Partnership 2012 physicians using a new type of laser surgery to release the savage grasp of serious burns.
Royal Australian Navy theatre nurse Lt. Christine Frost is a member of the multinational mission's surgical team based aboard the 1000-bed hospital ship USNS Mercy, which is currently stationed off the coast of Vinh in northern Vietnam.
Recently she has assisted with a number of the burn surgeries held in the Mercy's operating theatres.
"The sad thing is that a lot of the burns are on children," she said. "Mostly it seems to be hot water burns that the parents have not been able to have treated. The burns we are seeing are very severe and the scar tissue is old, so the contractions have been in place for a long time."
By using laser technology the Pacific Partnership surgeons can release the stranglehold of the scar tissue, allowing the patient to once again flex and move joints that have been frozen or restricted in movement for years.
"For one lady her toes were fused back towards the front of her leg," Frost said. "By releasing the toes the surgeons have given her the freedom to walk normally. Others have had their fingers fused and contracted into their hand. We've been able to release those too."
Frost is from the ALTC Medical Training School in Bandiana, and while she has had extensive experience in military and civilian nursing work, her Pacific Partnership experience has allowed her to achieve a long-term ambition.
"My goal has always been to do humanitarian aid work, and I'm very glad to have this opportunity," she said. "The best part of the work is seeing the difference we are making to people's lives. Even though the patients will still have scarring, just seeing people regain freedom of movement and live a fuller life is very rewarding."
Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is the largest annual humanitarian and civic assistance mission in the Asia-Pacific region that brings together U.S. military, host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies, and is designed to build stronger relationships and disaster response capabilities.
For more information about the PP12 mission, please visit the Pacific Partnership Blog or engage with Pacific Partnership on Facebook and Twitter.