PARAMUS, N.J. — Jennifer Padolina rushed from the Intensive Care Unit to the waiting room of a Vietnamese hospital where dozens of patients were sprawled across the floor.
The Paramus rotarian was on a medical mission trip with nine doctors and ten nurses and would have liked to have helped anyone who needed it.
But that day, Padolina was there for Doan Anhdang, a 3-year-old recovering from life-saving heart surgery. His parents had gone back to work and left him to recover in the hospital with his grandmother.
"I held him," said Padolina, whose primary role on the trip was to provide comfort to families. "He was the very first kid I fell in love with."
He was also among the 26 that the team of volunteers were able to save on a January mission trip to Hanoi, the country's capital.
The trip was made possible with the $60,000 raised by Rotary District 7490 Gift of Life Foundation. Gift of Life International is a rotarian organization that provides treatment to children with heart disease in third world countries. Paramus rotary sponsored five children on the trip.
Padolina said Gift of Life medical missions are necessary, given the vast difference in healthcare provided in third world countries.
"To be in a hospital here compared to a hospital in Vietnam is like night and day," said Padolina, . "It is not even really a hospital because hospitals here would never allow the kinds of things that go on there."
Patients clutching tattered blankets huddled on muddied hospital floors. Surgeons wore smocks in the operating rooms and some went without their gloves.
Since returning from Vietnam, Padolina has set out on a new mission, traveling to local rotary clubs spreading awareness.
But she would "without a doubt" return overseas.