Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. Ecclesiastes 11:1, NIV
In August 2008, I received an email from a Vietnamese woman’s son, who was writing on her behalf. The email had been forwarded to me because they were inquiring about a team of American heart surgeons who were in Vietnam in 1974. The team had performed open-heart surgery there on the writer’s mother when she was only a teenager.
My heart skipped a beat. Not only did I know about Loma Linda University Overseas Heart Surgery Team and their trip in 1974, but I was a senior medical student who had the rare and wonderful opportunity to accompany the team to Vietnam that year!
I immediately returned an email and attached a group picture of the fifty-two patients on whom the team had done surgery in Vietnam in 1974. The next day I received a response from the woman’s husband. He conveyed that his wife was delighted to see the picture and, yes, she could identify herself in the group! He continued: “she always wanted to tell you all about how she came to feel alive after her heart got fixed by your team of doctors. It was only in reading a magazine article given to her by a friend that we learned that it was a team of Seventh-Day Adventist physicians.”
Attached to her husband’s email was a note written by the patient. Hers was a heart-touching message and began: “I have been thinking of you all the time and wishing someday to see you all again. You all are my saviors. Thanks for the picture. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see myself in it-that was 34 years ago! Years go by, and I have been busy with life, but I never forgot all of you who saved my life.”
So she continued: “In 1987 I escaped (from Vietnam), got caught, escaped again, and was in a refugee camp for three years. I came to Canada in 1990. After three years, I met my husband. We work at home (run a bed and breakfast and I am a hairstylist), have two children, and are doing just fine. I have a happy marriage, we all are healthy, and we have good children. Life is like heaven to me. I appreciate everything I have and thank God every day.
“At 14 years old in Vietnam, I did not know the names of anybody with your team or the organization you belonged to. I was talking about my story to one of my clients one day, and he knew about the Loma Linda heart team. He is the one who helped me find you.
“If it is possible, could you send me a picture of the team? I would like to know which one you are in the picture, because at 14, I did notice the good looking ones! Just a reminder-if any of you ever have a chance to come to Victoria, don’t get a haircut first. I will do it with pleasure and will guarantee my work. God bless you all.”
I stared at my computer screen and pondered the story that had just unfolded. How many others around the globe have untold stories as a result of our institution’s mission work? And how many of these people actively pray for our university and its healthcare providers? As I contemplated these and other questions, I felt humbled, yet blessed, to be part of something that is so much larger than myself. – H. Roger Hadley, professor in and former chair of LLUSM department of Urology.