Cong-Tac Xa-Hoi Quaker Tai Viet-Nam
American Friends Service Committee (Excerpts)
Report 1/28, March 1970
Photo on Quaker Rehabilitation Center gate, Quang Ngai, Vietnam. Photo Credit: American Friends Service Committee
The Quaker Rehabilitation Center accepts for treatment all civilians who present themselves without regard to their race, religion or political affiliation. Among the observations to be drawn from the 1969 statistics are the following:
Men patients out-numbered women patients two to one. The greatest number of patients, about 37%, were in the 21 to 40 age range. About 5% of the patients were under 5 years of age; some 26% were under 16.
Two observations emerge from these statistics: first, large numbers of young Vietnamese men are being disabled, not only those who are injured as soldiers, but civilians too. The men and women in the age range from 21 to 40, who constitute more than a third of the patients at the Center, are the pool from whom will be drawn many of the most productive members of Vietnamese society and its future leaders.
Secondly, a sizeable proportion of the injured are children. Playing in the fields and along the roads, they often fall victim to mines and gunfire.
A great percentage of the children are either amputees or paraplegics, and they will remain so for the rest of their lives. So Viet Nam can look forward to a time in the next decade or so when a sizeable portion of the adult population in their most productive years is composed of handicapped people. Also, this statistic shows that the need for physical therapy and prosthetics will continue in Viet Nam for some time to come, since these children are still growing and physically changing; therefore, they will need to be refitted with new limbs again and again as they grow up.
The statistics also show the vast need in Viet Nam for social agencies to assist the great number of families whose prime male is handicapped, to provide assistance to widowed or handicapped mothers, and to give aid to the handicapped children as they grow up and try to take a place in their country's social and economic life.
It is often difficult for the Quaker staff, when they interview a patient being admitted, to ascertain the exact cause of his injury; the story may often be garbled, or the patient simply does not know what hit him. By asking friends and relatives, carefully questioning the patient, and by knowing the geographical area in which he was injured, it becomes possible to get at least a general picture of what is causing the injuries seen in the AFSC Center.
In 1969, about 90% of the patients seen in the Quaker Service Rehabilitation Center were treated for war-caused injuries. 40% of the war-caused injuries are recorded as land mine injuries. 27% of the war-caused injuries were from artillery.
Looking at the statistics on diagnoses, we find the etiology figures confirmed :
Well over half the injured patients seen at the Center in 1969 had below-the-knee amputations.
Counting both above- and below -the -knee amputations, we find that about 75% of the injuries were leg amputations. It is easy, then, to correlate the high number of land mines as causes with the high number of leg amputations diagnosed: of the war-injured civilians who survive, the largest group is leg amputees who were injured stepping on land mines. This is not surprising when one recalls the essentially rural nature of Vietnamese life; most of the population are peasant farmers.
Thus, based on the statistics, the "typical" war-injured civilian emerges as a man between the ages of 21 and 40 who has a leg amputation caused by stepping on a land mine. Furthermore, the statistics for production of limbs and braces at the Quaker Rehabilitation Center bear out this fact, the largest category of prostheses produced being artificial legs.
The average daily number of patients receiving physical therapy in the Quaker Service Rehabilitation Center was 23.9 for the year 1969. During the year, the number rose steadily, with the increase of physical therapy staff. The average for the first half of the year was 17.76 patients per day, the average for the second half, 29.74 per day. In 1969, the median number of days from the patient's admission until his discharge was 18.72 days.