Lim came to Sihanouk Hospital frail and weak. He had been suffering from swollen and rigid jaws, a spasmodic back and jittery legs for two agonizing weeks; he hadn’t been able to work for a month beforehand. His body had become infected with tetanus, a medical condition caused by a neurotoxin of the Clostridium tetani bacteria that infects the central nervous system, which then produces severe skeletal-muscular spasms. Tetanus is a common disease found throughout many developing nations. It causes an estimated 309,000 deaths a year. Even though Cambodia has made considerable strides toward eradicating tetanus through infant immunizations, many people are still vulnerable.
Lim doesn’t exactly know how he contracted the illness. It may have been through rubbing a work-related laceration or sore against a rusty metal chair or bench near his home or inside the factory where he works. It also could have been transmitted from the bare ground and through a single small cut on his toe.
Using traditional Khmer medicine, Lim first tried to cure himself with boiled tree bark and fresh herbs, but these were ineffective. His health deteriorated. He then went to another hospital in Phnom Penh, and paid 70,000 riel for another type of medicine, which worked to no avail.
Lim’s parents were worried. With Lim, his wife and his father on a single motorbike and armed with the meager savings from his mother’s job at the factory, they spent over a third of his mother’s monthly income on gasoline for the trip to SHCH. The trip from Kampong Speu took 1.5 hours.
When Sihanouk Hospital admitted Lim into the medical ward, he was administered large dosages of the potent antitoxin metronidazole in order to fight off the advanced condition. He recovered in bed for a week before he was able to sit up and talk. Because of SHCH’s doctors’ close supervision and compassionate care, his painful symptoms gradually weakened. His health returned and he is back at work. His mother said, “This hospital saved my son’s life. I may have a grandson some day.”
“The 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,” said Lim.