Vorn Sothea, a delicate, 17 year-old girl, is familiar with struggle and hardship. Sothea and her two sisters, abandoned by an alcoholic father and orphaned three years ago when their mother died, live in a small shack of bamboo sticks and palm leaves in a Prey Veng province near the Viet Nam border.
For eight years, Sothea lived with pain in her abdomen because of thalassemia, a genetic condition that adversely affects the production of hemoglobin, the protein that red blood cells need to survive. Most patients suffering from this disease require frequent blood transfusions due to a dysfunctional spleen. Thalassemia is not uncommon in Cambodia due to the genetic markers in the population. Attempts were made with traditional medicine to try and heal Sothea, but monthly blood transfusions at a Phnom Penh children’s hospital were the only thing that kept her alive. When she turned 17, Sothea no longer qualified for their services.
Without parents, money or hope for treatment, she was overwhelmed, anxious and desperate. “What am I supposed to do?” said Sothea. “How will I ever pay for blood transfusions at another hospital with the meager amount of money that my sisters and I earn? Will I die before my grandmother does?”
A neighbor who is an AIDS patient at SHCH told her about the social workers from the “Angel Hospital” in Phnom Penh. The neighbor called SHCH Home Care Unit to see if they could help the girl and a week later the neighbor accompanied her on a tuk-tuk to see them. Sothea complained of having a constant heavy feeling in her chest and difficulty walking and breathing. Chhavelith referred Sothea to the hospital where, after taking her medical history and a blood samples, SHCH’S Chief of Surgery scheduled and performed a successful splenectomy, removing her spleen and reducing the need for frequent blood transfusions. As part of the post-operative care, Dr. Ley and other SHCH staff took care of her. They brought food, made sure she had clean clothes, checked in to visit and such as food and some money to get home.
“I feel like I’ve been reborn. I am so glad for this hospital. I feel so happy,” Sothea said. After her recovery, Sothea’s life is still difficult. Her time is filled with gathering of fish and crabs from a river by her house and she dreams of going to school. She is forever thankful for the caring support of SHCH’s people and the small gifts that came to her along this journey of healing. Her life will be better now with more stable health. Donors like you saved her life and have strengthened Sothea’s resolve and hope for the future.