Refugee Relief International After Action Reports

Thailand-Burma Border - January, 2010

The team approaches the cliff up which they must climb to the village

A team of four volunteers from Refugee Relief International, Inc (RRII), returned to the area of the Thai-Burma (Myanmar) border in February, 2010, to continue the vaccination program begun in 2008, offer medical and surgical assistance, and conduct additional training for the graduate General Medical Officers (GMO). While there, team was able to provide requested medical and surgical treatment for traumatic and non-traumatic surgical cases.

The Karen identified an area of need for vaccinations: a new refugee village of over 500 persons, newly escaped from the persecution of the Burmese (Myanmar) military junta, who had never been vaccinated. The Karen health authorities, while expressing the need for all vaccinations available against contagious disease, asked that our team give priority to

vaccinating against Hepatitis B. Using our previous experience in establishing and maintaining a "cold chain" to keep vaccine viable, RRII was able to provide over 500 doses of Hepatitis B vaccine, as well as the equipment necessary to administer it.

Dr. Mohler advises a GMO graduate as they prepare to repair a land mine injury on a floating border clinic

The journey into the area where the mission would be conducted was typical of an RRII mission to a denied environment: a long journey over dusty jungle paths, a boat journey, and a climb up a 150 rock face in order to access the village. The team provided medicine and medical and dental supplies, as is the RRII custom, based on requests from the Karen and previous experience. The Karen have no outside government support, and their archaic medical system survives primarily on donations. The team was shown a case that is sadly typical of the situation along the Thai-Burma border. The junta, currently known by the Orwellian term State Peace and Development Committee (SPDC) had forced a Burmese man into servitude as a porter, carrying military equipment over the jungled mountains. He had tried to make his escape, only to trip a land mine. A Karen patrol came upon him and transported him to the nearby medical facilities where we were staying. The GMO whom RRII previously trained had kept the wound clean, but a surgeon was required to fully close it. RRII surgeon David G. Mohler, MD, was able to assess the wound, and the surgical team of Dr. Mohler, John Padgett, PA-C, PhD, and medical student/ EMT/Paramedic Instructor Florian Schmitzberger were able to perform sequential surgeries necessary to bring about a closure that saved the foot and which will allow for eventual weight baring.

Dave Mohler & John Padgett with a surgical candidate
PA Chan-Padgett teaching GMO
Team member Schmitzberger injects a degenerative joint
"After" photo of the saved foot