Conversation with Dr. Corpron, part 6/6

In this clip Dr. Corpron talks about the challenges of transportation and electric power supply at Kwai River Christian Hospital in the early 1960’s. This is the last video in this conversation series.

–Phil McDaniel


Kwai River Christian Hospital about 1978

Conversation with Dr. Corpron, part 3

In part 3 of my conversation with Dr. Corpron, he describes what it was like taking care of patients when there was not yet a hospital building.


Note the shed on the right in the photo above. This was a storage shed converted to a clinic. The structure going up on the left is a “sala”: a roofed over area where people can get some rest out of the rain or out of the sun. This was to become the patient waiting area.  Photographer has his back to the doctor’s house.

Dr. Corpron will tell more in the link below:


Phil McDaniel


Conversation with Dr. Doug Corpron, part 2

L to R,  Dr. Phil McDaniel and Dr. Doug Corpron. This video interview took place in the home of Carol McDaniel Licht, Phil’s sister, who was also our videographer. Thanks, Carol!


Here is part 2 of my conversation with Dr. Corpron in Yakima, Washington, January, 2019. There will probably be about 4 parts altogether. The house call for the bur hole will likely be in either part 3 or 4!


–Phil McDaniel

A Conversation with Dr. Douglas Corpron, Founding Doctor of the KRCH, Part 1

In January, 2019, I [Dr. Phil McDaniel] had the privilege of doing a video interview with Dr. Doug Corpron, the founding doctor of the Kwai River Christian Hospital.

Dr. Corpron told how he dealt with patients who came to him at the original mission site in 1961, even before there was a hospital building. Not only did patients come to him, he made house calls! Would you believe a house call for a bur hole?

Part 1 of my conversation with Dr. Corpron, which is about 8 minutes long, can be viewed by clicking on this link:




The People We Serve

By Dr. Phil McDaniel


The Kwai River Christian Hospital welcomes young and old, rich and poor from many ethnic and language backgrounds. Thai, Sgaw Karen, Pwo Karen, Burmese, Mon, Lao, and Chinese patients come to the hospital for treatment.



KRCH doctors, nurses, nurse aids, pharmacists, receptionists, and cleaners all speak at least two languages. Some speak three or four. Dora, the longest serving employee, speaks five! The patients themselves often speak two or more languages. Between the languages that the patient speaks and the languages the staff speaks, we can usually find a match and communication can begin.





The Changing Face of KRCH


by Dr. Phil McDaniel


Construction progressing on the “new” Kwai River Christian Hospital in Huay Malai, approximately 1983-1985. These photos were taken from the water tower of the mission compound.


“What if we built something ‘bambooish’ to start with?” I remember Dr. Lois Visscher saying something like this around 1982 during one of our discussions about the uncertain future of the Kwai River Christian Hospital.

The Electrical Generating Authority of Thailand was in the process of constructing a dam that would result in flooding of the valley of the Khwae Noi River (often called the Kwai River in English). Detailed surveying by EGAT had shown that the Kwai River Christian Hospital at its original site would be flooded out along with several villages. Time was running out for us. The reservoir would start filling in June, 1984. We had to decide whether to rebuild or close down.



Map of the Sangkhlaburi and Thongphaphum areas of western Thailand depicting roughly the area flooded by the reservoir that backed up behind the Vajiralongkorn Dam, also known as the Khao Laem Dam. The note at the bottom of the page about travel times by car or boat was true in 1984 but no longer apply. There is now a paved road all the way from south of the dam to the new town of Sangklaburi. That distance can be covered in about an hour.






By “bambooish”, Dr. Visscher meant a structure that used inexpensive, locally available building materials such as bamboo. Dr. Visscher had been a missionary in India for about 40 years before she aged out according to the rules of her mission board. She then came to help at the Kwai River Christian Hospital! She was used to economizing from her days in India.

But why rebuild the Kwai River Christian Hospital with cheap materials? It’s because some were asking, “Why rebuild the Kwai River Christian Hospital at all?” The KRCH had been in operation since 1963 (and had operated as a small clinic in a wooden shed for a year or two before that). In those twenty years of operation, the hospital had served thousands of patients, but there had been frequent problems staffing the hospital, especially with doctors and nurses. Twice the hospital had closed for lack of staff. Some said, “Maybe it would be better to just close the hospital, and eliminate these headaches!”

Another force dampening enthusiasm for building a new hospital, robust from end to end, was uncertainty as to whether the villagers would actually move to the relocation sites assigned to them: “What if the hospital moves to its assigned relocation site but the villagers don’t move to theirs? The hospital might end up serving a very sparse population.”

The Electrical Generating Authority of Thailand did provide some compensation for villagers and institutions. However, the compensation for the hospital was not sufficient to rebuild the hospital with all new robust materials from one end to the other. We decided to build one end of the hospital robust and the other end “bambooish”, with the intent of gradually upgrading the cheaply built end if the hospital was well utilized. The service and support area of the hospital (operating room, delivery room, x-ray, pharmacy, and central supply) was built robustly. This allowed medicines and equipment to be stored in locked rooms.  The inpatient and outpatient areas of the hospital had a concrete floor but woven bamboo walls.


Ben and Doris Dickerson
Ben and Doris Dickerson, long time missionaries among the Karen people, were assigned to the Kwai River Christian Mission, arriving in June, 1982. Ben was put in charge of moving the Kwai River Christian Mission, including the hospital. He was assisted by Jit Yawan. Doris was assigned to the evangelism department of the Kwai River Christian Mission.



Woven bamboo walls divided examining rooms in the outpatient department.











The “new” hospital in Huay Malai turned out to be well utilized, serving two refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border as well as the villages near Huay Malai, the new town of Sangklaburi and points beyond. The “bambooish” end of the hospital was upgraded by degrees, until it began to look like a real hospital. At no time did patient care cease. It was available either at the old site or the new and for a brief time at both. To bring this about was a bit of a challenge as a major amount of construction material was being salvaged from the old hospital to use in the construction of the new. After the carpenters removed the roofing and support structures from half of the hospital at the old site, there was nothing to keep the rain from falling into the unroofed hallway and making its way to the part of the hospital which still had a roof. We had to chisel a small diversion channel so that the rainwater would run out the side of the hospital rather than continuing into the pharmacy and x-ray area.




The changing face of KRCH, Huay Malai



Over the years it has become more and more difficult to meet the building codes of the Ministry of Public Heath at the Huay Malai facility. The parts of the Huay Malai structure that were salvaged from the original (1963) building are now 55 years old. Construction is already underway for relocating the hospital once again.  With financial assistance from Overbrook Hospital in Chiang Rai, USAID, and Church World Service, this new building will be up to date and ample in size. The building is going up in Sangklaburi Christian Center in the town of Sangklaburi, the transportation hub for the district of Sangklaburi.


Artists conception, new KRCH
Second relocation: the next big move (still pending at the time of this post). Artist’s conception of the new Kwai River Christian Hospital building due to be completed in late 2019 or early 2020.



Over the years a great deal of time, effort and money has gone into building, relocating, upgrading and remodeling. When the new building (at Sangklaburi Christian Center) is complete, the Kwai River Christian Hospital will be able to move into the largest and best equipped facility in its history. However, the most important asset of the hospital will still be its staff. My hope and prayer is that the doctors, nurses, aids, pharmacists, cashiers, and cleaners will always feel genuine compassion for the sick and suffering and that “Caring for the weakest on behalf of God Almighty” may be a daily practice, not just a motto.





Making Do

by Dr. Phil McDaniel

From the 1960s through the 1980s the hospital was still quite remote. Budget was tight. Much of the equipment had been donated and was quite old. To keep expenses low we made do with the materials and equipment we had.

With no regular electricity available during the day, we had to either start a “back-up” generator to provide power for, say, surgery or x-rays, or we had to schedule procedures for a time in the night when we expected that there would be electricity.


This 15 kVA 2-cylinder diesel generator was run from dusk to about 10 PM each night in the mid 1980s to supply the mission compound with power the first part of each night. Outside of these regular hours, it was used for urgent electric power needs at the hospital such as x-rays or surgery. After the arrival of government power in the late 1980s, it became a backup generator used during the frequent power outages.



Nurse Eiam providing the air pressure required for a nebulizer treatment for an asthma patient, using a bicycle pump.



Another asthma patient getting a nebulizer treatment powered by air pressure from a bicycle pump.



This man had been gored in the chest by a wild ox and had a collapsed lung on the right with some bloody fluid in his chest. I put in a chest tube to drain the fluid and help re-expand the lung. The only suction machine we had at the time was this hand-operated vacuum cylinder. It was not very efficient. Staff were encouraged to stop and give a few pulls on the vacuum pump each time they passed by the room. The patient made a gradual recovery. In fact, he is the happy fellow returning home by boat with his family in my “Boats, Carts and Elephants” post.



This spotlight, powered by a motorcycle battery, was primarily used by the night watchmen for the hospital and mission compound. It was also useful by day to search for termite entry points. When the electricity went off in the middle of an operation, it came in very handy as an emergency light source.



In the 60’s and 70’s there was no electric cast saw. Casts had to be removed by small crescent-shaped hand saws. This was a tedious task assigned, in this case, to the hospital gardener. Sometimes it was assigned to a friend or relative of the patient or even the patient himself!



Boats, Carts and Elephants

By Dr. Phil McDaniel

In the early days of the hospital, patients came and went using multiple means of transportation. The method used in a given case depended upon distance to travel, the season, the patient’s resources, what types of vehicles could get through, and how ill the patient was.

Boat, patient, hammock, old hospital site
At the original hospital site [now under water due to a hydroelectric project], patients were sometimes brought by boat. See boat in foreground, patient in a hammock suspended from a bamboo pole in the background. (early 1980’s)
This patient [the man behind the mahout] arrived at the hospital on elephant back. As I recall, his reason for coming to the hospital was giddiness. Given that elephants lurch and sway when they walk, this was a curious choice for means of transportation.

Oxcart pulling up to the front of the hospital (probably in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s).
Patient suspended from a bamboo pole approaching the rear entrance of the “new” hospital in Huey Malai. [This picture, taken by my dad, Dr. Ed McDaniel, during one of his volunteer stints, was actually staged following the recovery of the patient!] Note that the patient is suspended from the pole by sarongs, the same type of garment worn by the bearers of the pole. Patients who arrived at the hospital this way were usually in bad shape: incapacitated by a land mine injury, a gunshot wound, a stroke, cerebral malaria, cholera, or snake bite. (mid 1980s, rainy season; hospital staff houses in the background)
Two patients slung from hammocks in the back of a pickup truck. (probably late 1980’s or early 1990’s)
Patients often come and go from the hospital in taxi-buses: pickup trucks with two long benches in the back. (1990’s)
These passengers boarded this “long tail” boat at the boat landing in front of the doctor’s house at the original hospital site. It was taking the mobile clinic team to one of the villages it regularly visited and was also returning a patient and his family to their home. (early 1980’s)
Many patients came to the hospital on motorcycles: usually just 1-3 per motorcycle, but sometimes more! Hopefully this family has now heard about family planning. (early 1980’s)
Patient and family heading home after hospital discharge (early 1980’s).
Patient, improved, returning home with family (early 1980’s).