Category: Patient Stories

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month- an ongoing issue for women in Cambodia

Ms. Nhoek Mech is just one of the patients that SHCH sees each month for issues relating to Breast Cancer.  Mech, 58, is a rice farmer in Battambang about 6 hours north west of Phnom Penh by car.   She lives with her 5 children, all of which are working in manual labor with a very low salary to support the family.   She came to us in March 2015.

In late 2014, she found a large mass on her breast.  She went to a large private clinic with a laboratory  in the city close to her farm.  After a biopsy, they found malignancy in the tissue.  The doctor there recommended surgery, but it was far too expensive for her.  She decided to pursue traditional healing instead.  Naturally, those treatments did not work.

Mech became desperate and despondent after she saw the lump grow bigger.  Her cousin, after learning of her troubles, knew about SHCH’s Breast Cancer program. Mech came in for an assessment, laboratory diagnostics include hormone receptor status (SHCH has the only laborartory that can do this test) and surgical treatment.  Mech was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer.    Unfortunately, Mech  was also hormone receptor negative, which means that donated medications cannot treat her.    SHCH staff will work with her to determine appropriate treatment options.

“Thank you very much for saving me and giving me a new lifeMech said, “I will share my story to all women in my village to save their life from breast cancer.”

Hope and a Future

Mrs. Mich Sam Bo and her Husband in Medical Ward

Sam Bo was faint and feverish while tilling her rice field in Kandal, located 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Phnom Penh. For three weeks, her fever continued. It was time to get help and her husband Phala decided to bring his sick wife to a hospital. The couple first tried a few local facilities; the doctors prescribed various drugs to help the fever go down, but nothing worked. It seemed hopeless and Sam Bo was growing very weak.

Then they remembered Sihanouk Hospital. Sam Bo and Phala knew about SHCH because Sam Bo needed gall bladder surgery three years ago. Phala acted quickly. He put his wife on the back of his motor bike and came to Phnom Penh. Sam Bo held on weakly for the hour-long, bumpy ride. When they arrived, he carried her on his shoulders into the SHCH emergency department. Phala was hopeful upon arriving but still worrisome. He thought, “The doctors will surely save her.”

Sam Bo was diagnosed with a liver abscess, which caused anemia, dizziness and faintness. After the doctors administered a range of three different antibiotics, Mich Sam Bo began to feel better. She’s still in the hospital, and said, “I feel better and have a lot less fever.” She will be with us for a few more days and then go home.

Phala and Sam Bo were married in 1987, only eight years after the Khmer Rouge regime was ended. Over the course of their 26-year marriage, they have raised three children and witnessed the rebuilding of Cambodia’s health care system along the way. While progress is being made, severe deficits in rural health care still exist. SHCH fills a critical gap in delivering quality, compassionate health care for thousands of patients each year. When asked how she would change healthcare if she had the power, Sam Bo said, “I want more free care hospitals!” With your support, SHCH can continue to not only fill the gaps in Cambodia’s current health care system, but also continue to build up the capacity of Cambodian health professionals.

New Hope for Yi Veng at SHCH

24-year-old Yi Veng grew up in the Preay Veng Province living with his motherthat his father died when Veng was small child. The family grew up very poor. Veng could never afford to go to school. Year later, he married to Ms. Teat Chhoeum, 23 years and they have one 3-years old child. Because of situation difficulty in his family, they immigrated to find employment at a local brick factory in Kandal Province, about 30 kilometers from Phnom Penh. The family moved into a tiny room (4 m x 3 m) with wood walls. On a good day, he could make 10,000 riel ($2.50), but his income depended on the availability of work. His wages were insufficient to feed his family, meet their health care needs, or purchase a means of transportation.

One day, while working in the brickyard, Yi Veng became feverish, dizzy, and faint, feeling a pain in his abdomen. For 10 days, his fever burned at 39-40co with a severe headache. A local doctor provided an unknown medicine, which failed to improve his condition. His condition grew worse over the next 5 days, increasing abdominal pain accompanied vomiting, coughing, and persistent chest pain. After additional treatments from the local doctor failed to help, he came to SHCH.

Veng heard about the hospital from his nephew, a patient at SHCH. His sister’s family transported him to the hospital. At first, the number of patients and the hospital’s environment overwhelmed Veng. He persevered through his fears, was immediately diagnosed with a liver abcess and admitted to the hospital’s medical ward The doctors treated him with Ceftriaxore and Metronidazole for 13 days- both highly effective antibiotic medications. Veng began to heal, stabilizing as his pain and fever subsided while his appetite revived. After the hospital discharged him so he could return home, he shared, “I feel like I’ve been reborn.  I am so glad for this hospital.”

Following his recovery, Veng looked like a new person. “I am very happy when I recovered from healing and I thank SHCH that give me a new life and also thank tothe staff here at Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE took great care of me.We are so thankful for all that you have done for us. It is such a wonderful gift to have this hospital in Cambodia,” he added.

“Even I am hard work; I need to send my kid to school. I don’t want to let him look like me right now. I hope he can get better life then me in the future, I love my son and my family so much,” said Veng.

A long road to treatment

Like many patients in Cambodia, Hong, 31, had a long journey to find treatment for his illness. A month ago, Hong started experiencing fever, joint pain – especially in his left shoulder – headaches, weight loss and had difficulty sleeping.  He visited two clinics for help. At the first, he was diagnosed with a compressed nerve and was given medicine to treat it. At the second clinic, doctors performed a blood test and x-rays and diagnosed Hong with pneumonia, hospitalizing him for 4 days.

By this point, Hong had paid $500 and was still not better. For a road construction worker earning $180 a month, the cost of this care was significant.

Eventually, Hong came to SHCH. With the diagnostic services available, Hong had an x-ray, CT scan and a blood test, which was examined for signs of burkholderia bacterial infection, which is under-diagnosed in Cambodia. Fortunately, this neglected tropical disease is one of SHCH’s research specialties and Hong was finally able to receive a complete diagnosis and treatment. Hong did have a burkholderia infection, along with pneumonia that was causing sepsis and fever. The pain in his left shoulder was due to an abscess.

With a complete diagnosis, Hong is now finally receiving the correct treatment for his condition. He has stayed on the SHCH medical ward for two weeks now receiving medicine and IV fluids, and his condition is improving every day.

Hong is grateful for the care he has received saying: ‘I love this hospital for the quality of care it provides and level of service for the patients. All of the doctors are friendly to the patients all of the time. After I go home, I will tell my friends and neighbours about this hospital. It saved my life.’

Would you travel 8 hours on a bus to seek treatment?

Sokky, 14 years old with her mother in Emergency Department

When she was just 14, Sokky Chuum was running and playing with her friends in Kong PongThom province when she fell down and hurt her hip.  At the time, she just took some medicine and carried on with life with her family – four siblings and her parents.

Six years later, she had to drop out of school to join the entire family as they moved to Ratanakiri Province, in the far northeast of Phnom Penh, to look for work on the rubber plantations in the area.  It is hard work that requires considerable walking from tree to tree to harvest the sap that is used for making automotive parts.   The family lived in company housing. All four children were working alongside their parents.  “I want go to school like other boys and girls. I love studying; I don’t want drop of school but I must move with my family,” said Sokky.

Chuum Sokky struggled with pain in her hip for a long time, but didn’t talk about it much for fear of losing her job.  She spent a lot of money on traditional medicine.  Then pain increased to the point where she went to the local hospital for treatment, spending funds that were dedicated for food.   Her conditioned worsened.  She couldn’t walk.  She was unable to work.

Sokky’s family was so worried about her that they scraped together bus fare for Sokky and her mother to travel. They heard from a neighbor about a hospital that could help – they were desperate and willing to try. The pair took the 8-hour bus ride to the Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE.  Sokky was barely able to move and her mother was very worried.

Once delivered to Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE, Sokky was examined, tested and x-rayed.  She was diagnosed with an inflammation in the hip bone and treated with a variety of anti-inflammatory medications that reduced the pain and swelling.  She was discharged before the end of the day and feeling much better.

“I feel better when I got the medicine from doctor, and now I feel very relieved,” Sokky said. “I am so thankful to the doctor, nurse and the staff at the hospital. They dedicated their time and talent to help me and now I am cured.”