October 27, 2011 § Leave a comment
This video is about our trip to Armenia in May 2011.
October 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
One of the moments that caught Monica’s attention more than any other was when a small boy came into the operating room area. He was very scared and afraid, which is true of most of the children. But for some reason this boy stood out from the rest. For days she has pestered me to post his photo. The reason why? She was able to give out toys to the children that have been donated. Some of the toys come from individuals, some from schools, and some from a particular brownie troupe in Southern California; but these small gifts are cherished by both the children and their families.
We had spare toys as well, so other children that were not operated on by us might have something. A powerful device that can immediately change tears into a smile.
Rachel and Monica
October 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
Although I have been on three medical missions, this was my first as trip coordinator and well as my first in Cambodia. I had visited the country 11 years ago and fell in love with it. The stillness and awe of Angkor Watt and the jungle sounds that would come alive at night as you explored the crumbling, majestic architecture and the fading reliefs of a lost time bathed in mystery. But my most vivid memory of Cambodia was of so many children. Running, smiling and waving they would emerge like sparrows from the trees, the rivers, or their meager thatched homes. They would come running to the side of the dirt road when they saw my motorbike coming during my adventures through the country side and flash their bright, perfect smiles. It seemed to be a land of children devoid of adults, like something out of a fairy tale. My visions of the flat, bright green rice fields, the bright blue sky and the scattered palm trees as far as the eye could see gently masked the day to day hardships of what is all but a fairytale in Cambodia.
Although I was familiar with its dark history, when I reflected on the genocide, I would tend to focus on the atrocities, evil acts, senselessness and politics of the time. Other than the serious problems of land mines, the great sorrow and loss, and the emotional toll of the Cambodian citizens, I didn’t stop to think of the other devastating effects of the aftermath following the fall of the Pol Pot regime. I didn’t stop to think that the healthcare system virtually disappeared. By the end of the genocide, only 40 doctors remained in the entire country. Infrastructure for medical education had also been decimated.
Every day, 400 children arrive at AHC in need of healthcare. Approximately one child a day dies at AHC and the majority of these deaths are due to one simple reason. Arriving too late. Even today, just 32 years after the horror, 1 in 15 children die before the age of 5. Most deaths are from preventible or easily treatable diseases that would not have occurred had the child had access to appropriate health care. The average Cambodian citizen makes $1 a day. To travel from rural areas to a healthcare facility may mean having to sell your land or borrow from your community to make the trip.
I picked up a paper in the hotel lobby today and read about a young woman who was about to give birth. Complications arose and due to the current flooding in Cambodia, she was unable to reach a hospital. Her village desperately tried to find a boat to make the journey and by the time they found one, she was dead. We had the privilege of AHC treating our team to a journey to a floating village where they provide home care every two weeks. A small yellow structure emerges out of the water, waiting to save the life of a child. AHC is a training hospital for their medical personnel and the home care service is beginning to expand throughout the country.
I had a fortunate chance meeting in the lobby of our hotel with the founder of AHC, a Japanese man who says he currently comes back twice a year because the Cambodian staff is now running the hospital. They do not pay as well as other hospitals but people want to work here. He said to me, “I tell them to work here for the education. The country has such an unfortunate history. Learn everything you can, then go and start your own practice. You are so young and have so much opportunity ahead of you. I only ask one thing of you. Treat every child as if it’s your own.” I have seen it first hand and it’s a beautiful thing. I have been asked why I don’t spend this time volunteering in my own country. I think every child on this planet deserves a chance. I hope every mother or father who reads this blog takes a moment to be grateful for the healthcare available to their children so they can have a healthy childhood and a promising future full of opportunity.
October 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
It’s now Sunday morning, and I cannot believe how fast this trip has gone. This has been a busy trip; but with such good out-comes.
Peter, our anesthesiologist has just gone to the airport; returning to the UK. It’s been great to see him again (the first time being 2 years ago in Laos). He is such a great doctor, has an quirky sense of humor, and remains calm under pressure. The patients under his watchful care did very well through their anesthetics.
We managed to be able to give the hospital a large donation of supplies; the most valuable being medications, sutures, and a reusable electrocautery pad ( a piece of equipment used on every procedure).
The Cambodian and Plasticos staff ended up the successful week on Friday evening with a party sponsored by Plasticos. It was wonderful to be able to see the staff that we had worked with dressed up and with their families. It brought to mind how much each of them had given to be with our team, and away from their families. This hospital has a truly dedicated staff.
Saturday was wonderful. The Angkor Children’s Hospital treated all the volunteers to a trip out to the lake and to the floating village. It was eye-opening to see where some of the families seen at the hospital might be living. Conditions there are very meager, and a family income is less than a dollar a day.
The hospital has an outreach program to this area, one of many initiatives; a floating clinic with home care. You should check out their web-site at https://angkorhospital.org/about-us/
Saturday afternoon was spent at the Ta Prohm temple. This is where one of the tomb raider movies with Angelina Jolie was filmed. It is located in a jungle. As the day came to a close, the animal sound intensity surrounding the temple increased, but the feeling of the location remained serene.
Now it is Sunday. Monica is eager to go shopping and is waiting patiently for me to finish this blog. Ronda still has some paperwork to wrap up AND she is remiss in writing her blog…..hint, hint!
Goodbye for now, and we’ll try to follow up with some patient stories.
Rachel, OR nurse
October 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
The Cambodian parents have been very gracious about sharing their children’s stories. One of those stories started over a year ago. The father of this little girl from Koskong province told us that she was walking behind her house holding her mother’s hand about 6 a.m. one morning when a snake bit her on the top of her foot. It was a white snake about 2 inches in diameter and 2 feet long. The father made a tourniquet with clothing and tied it above the girl’s ankle and took her to a private clinic, but they had run out of anti-venom. He then carried her to a traditional healer called a Krokmer. A krokmer is described as a thinking person who works with trees and herbs. He used no medication but blew on the snake bite. The father and child stayed in the healer’s house and he blew on the snake bite twice a day for three days. Within one day the foot had swollen to the ankle, and every day it worsened; so they left the healer’s house and arrived at the Angkor Children’s Hospital (AHC) five days later. When they arrived the whole foot was red. The child stayed 18 days in the hospital and had resection of the first, second and third metatarsals, all cuneiform bones, and the navicular bone. She sustained severe soft tissue loss and needed a skin graft from her lateral thigh. Plasticos surgeons participated in her care at that time. Today she returned for more reconstructive surgery. She walks well but her great toe was very prominent; the aim today was for her to be able to wear a shoe. Her surgery today should help her greatly.
October 4, 2011 § 1 Comment
During the “killing fields” in Cambodia, doctors, nurses, educators, and literate people were killed. The Pol Pot regime believed that they could control the people, as long as they were not educated. Sophy Khan was a young boy who lived with his family in the city of Phnom Penh. They were told that Americans were going to bomb the city, so the people were evacuated and sent to the villages. Sophy was a seven year old boy playing with beans, which he got stuck in both nostrils. His nose became infected and an abscess developed but there was no access to health care. The infection was very foul smelling so the children and the people nicknamed him the “stinky boy”. They would not play with him. They would make fun of him and make him cry. He said this went on for “three years, 8 months and 20 days”. When the Khmer Rouge was defeated, international help arrived. Doctors and nurses arrived to find the Cambodians who survived the regime in very poor health. Dr. Khan and his family travelled on foot for over a month back to Phnom Penh. They made it to the city and the hospital for his care. And now? He is one of the surgeons working with us at Angkor Hospital for Children.
Monica, Recovery RN
October 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
The team has all gathered safely together in Cambodia. For this trip there is a small team of 6; 3 doctors, 2 nurses, and a co-coordinator. We breezed through customs, and were met by Sivpheng, our local host.
The heat and humidity was immediately apparent even though it was 9am when we arrived. Much of the surrounding areas are flooded, a result of the recent rains. The hospital is said to be surrounded by water….like a small island. The ride to the hospital tomorrow for the first day will be interesting.
For the remainder of the day the team will relax after all the traveling, and continue to bond. The hotel is comfortable, with good internet access in the lobby….so please check back to follow our progress.
We are all excited about this location as this is a second trip for Plasticos to a very well organized pediatric hospital.
Rachel (OR Nurse)