A Japanese companion for Vietnamese patients

Having worked at the Thanh Hoa Nursing and Rehabilitation Central Hospital under a volunteer programme run by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) since March 2017, Dr. Iizuka Kazuhiro is known not only for his expert contributions but also for his creative inventions which help reduce costs for patients.

We were excited and curious to meet occupational therapist Iizuka Kazuhiro at the Thanh Hoa Nursing and Rehabilitation Central Hospital, given this introduction from a JICA representative in Hanoi “He is a young talented doctor with many initiatives.”

Arriving at the hospital during the noon hour, we could not talk with Kazuhiro until afternoon as he was still busy with patients.

The young doctor said he had worked in Vietnam for nearly a year and could speak some Vietnamese. “Speaking Vietnamese helps create an easy and friendly atmosphere when I meet my patients, which positively affects the treatment,” Kazuhiro said.

Kazuhiro is a volunteer specialist at the Thanh Hoa Nursing and Rehabilitation Central Hospital.

Having studied for five years at the Sunvillage International Health and Welfare College and working at
the Stroke Centre at Nishijima Hospital in Shizuoka Prefecture for seven years,
Kazuhiro is knowledgeable about occupational therapy.

The young Japanese doctor applies his knowledge to the treatment of Vietnamese patients.

His expertise and unique inventions help improve occupational therapy activities at the hospital.

Instructing a patient’s relative on simple rehabilitation movements.

The Japanese doctor is friendly to his patients and colleagues.

He spends a lot of time inventing aids for stroke treatments.

His tools are simple but effective.

The tools are inexpensive, helping reduce treatment costs for patients.

He uses simple materials to make tools which help patients easily move their fingers to hold things.

Sponges are made into a tool aiding the movement of fingers.

Kazuhiro’s intensive treatment methods help stroke patients recover their movement ability.

After graduating from medical school, Kazuhiro traveled to South East Asia to learn about healthcare systems in developing countries, particularly their rehabilitation methods.

When JICA recruited volunteers to go to Vietnam, Kazuhiro found it a good opportunity for him to share knowledge and learn from Vietnamese colleagues.

“I was lucky to be recruited for this programme. I love my work here and am glad to see the fast rehabilitation of my patients,” the 29-year-old doctor said.

Doctor Le Duy Cuong, head of the Clinical and Functional Rehabilitation Ward, said the Japanese specialist helped improve the hospital’s treatment capacity as well as the effectiveness of interventions in functional rehabilitation.

Patients directly treated by Kazuhiro have made steady progress, incrementally having flexible movements in their daily life activities.

A typical patient of Kazuhiro was 13-year-old Trinh Thu Hang who suffered brain injuries and could not move her hands. After three weeks receiving the Japanese doctor’s treatment, Hang could perform all activities of daily living such as eating, drinking and getting dressed.

Kazuhiro is also an inventor of tools to aid the rehabilitation process, which he calls “made by K/IIZUKA”. From plastic, sponges, or wood bars, Kazuhiro makes tools for his patients to do hand exercises such as holding a spoon or cutting their nails. These simple but effective devices are useful in treatment and more importantly save money for patients.

Kazuhiro still has plans before he leaves Vietnam in March 2019. “I want to visit other hospitals in central and southern Vietnam and have more friends and colleagues in this country. I also wish to introduce “made by K/IIZUKA” functional rehabilitation aids on social networks so more people can learn about them,” Kazuhiro said. We, too, hope his plans will be realised.

Story: Ngan Ha Photos: Viet Cuong