Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow in Cambodia

June 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

Our mission is bittersweet.

Yesterday, with the help of two Cambodian surgeons, I unlocked the hidden hand of a quiet and beautiful 7 year old girl named Samuth . In the Cambodian language of Khmer, the word for beautiful is pronounced Sa’ad. The irony and double entendre was that her condition was Sad. Her hand and wrist were bent backward 180 degrees. Essentially, her dislocated wrist and fingers were trapped and hidden within her forearm massive burn scar. Years ago, as a toddler, she fell into the open cooking fire. Most of the world cooks that way and the number of burned and deformed children we examined this trip with a similar story attests to that fact.

After just an hour and a half, her wrist and fingers were reduced to a normal position by rotating her skin this way and that and taking a large skin graft whose scar we hid in the crease of her upper thigh. From a functional standpoint her arm went from useless and grotesque to functional in less time then it takes to see a movie in the United States. I am constantly amazed by this fact and often find my mind wandering about how little time it takes to transform a life by a simple deed. Today on rounds I was curious to see how much discomfort she was in after such a dramatic surgery. Even at this tender age, she must have realized the significance of her second chance at life. As I approached her bed, instead of crying, she knowingly looked into my eyes and eked out a half smile.  This young Cambodian child like so many others, the Plasticos team has treated has certainly added to ones life’s perspective: both theirs and ours. The next patient is asleep. Time for the next chance to help both patient and giver alike.

Larry Nichter, MD- Trip Leader/Plastic Surgeon

Samuth Vun at Pre Screening

Samuth's right arm before surgery

Dr. Nichter and Cambodian doctors operate on Samuth.

After surgery

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