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Monday, 24 April 2017

The French Doctor: part 2: Vietnam notes & photos 1965 1975

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The French Doctor: part 2

I searched around Saigon and eventually found a doctor who pleased me. At this time there was an acute shortage of civilian doctors in Vietnam. Large cities like Saigon had a number for those that could afford them. I believe there were whole provinces that had none. The Vietnamese tended to rely on traditional medicine and only turn to medical help as a last resort. A German hospital ship in Saigon on a goodwill mission reported that by the time they got to see any sick people it was usually too late.

I thankfully never had to suffer from the pedal powered dentist's drill I saw in one dentist’s.
On the other hand you could go to a pharmacy, discuss what symptoms you had with the pharmacian and buy whatever medicine you needed without a prescription, if you had the money of course.


This doctor, Dr. Crozafon, had been in Vietnam most of his professional life. He knew the country the Far East and he knew men. It was the first time in my life I felt at ease in a doctor's surgery. He also had his own laboratory which helped. The system I arranged with him was this. I would arrive unannounced at his surgery at eight o'clock in the morning, having had no alcohol for 24 hours, no food for 12 hours, and his assistants would take the necessary blood samples etc. for tests. I would come by a week later and be examined by the doctor who would have all the results in front of him and I could then leave him knowing I was in good health. He had about half a dozen rather delightful pretty young assistants which helped matters. I remember him trying to explain Anglo-Saxon logic to them.

There were many diseases in the country, but it was usually a fear of things such as rabies that was uppermost in my mind. I remember being in a cinema in Saigon in those early days. There was a French woman sitting next to me. She was eating peanuts and dropping the shells on the floor, at the same time saying Nguyen Cao Khy was the man for her. I also thought she was playing footsies with me. When the light came on she completely ignored me, I looked down and saw a rat around our feet. I put my feet up on the seat in front of me and did so every time I went to the cinema in the future. The woman didn't seem to notice anything. I was in a restaurant with PB in Saigon when I heard a sort of hissing noise down by my feet and there was a rat sitting on its haunches begging for food. One of our spotter plane pilots at Van Kiep was bitten by a rat in his sleep and had to have anti-rabies shots. I think they were still in the stomach in those days.


We had an outbreak of bubonic plague in our province. I decided to risk another inoculation, bad side effects but less so than in New York. Not many dead from it and at least a general attack on the rat population. I did rather like reading Camus' ‘La Peste’ though.

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