LWB Community Blog

First Surgery Day of the 2017 Cambodia Medical Exchange

Greetings from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where it’s a balmy 90 degrees and 94% humidity! The warm temps didn’t get in the way of some really successful surgeries today though.

Little Avery hitched a ride on our team’s bus this morning, as she was one of the first children on the schedule. She had no idea that today her life was going to change in an enormous way.

Because she was going to be put under anesthesia, she wasn’t able to have her morning milk. Any parent who has had a child have to be NPO before an operation knows how difficult that can be. Our volunteers did their best to keep her busy, but it’s hard to have a grumbly tummy!

Another one of our patients today was 14-year-old Trystan.

Trystan is in the 9th grade and loves to play soccer in his free time. He had unrepaired cleft lip until he was seven years old. Trystan’s mom, who works as a rice farmer, told us that when he was born he struggled so much to feed and gain weight that they didn’t think he’d survive. It was actually a special cleft bottle given to them by a local hospital that saved his life (which is why LWB is so grateful to everyone who has supported our cleft bottle initiative!) Sadly, because of his birth defect, Trystan was bullied in a huge way when he was younger. After having his lip repaired, however, he began to gain more confidence in himself. His mom proudly told us that he’s an excellent student at school and a great big brother to his little sisters. We’re so happy we could help him today with a palate repair.

Cambodia has one of the highest rates of childhood malnutrition in the world, and over 40% of Cambodian children have significant growth stunting because of it. While Trystan might be small in stature, today he was HUGE in courage. He very bravely walked back to the OR with anesthesiologist Kathy Clinch, even though we know his heart had to be pounding inside.

This year, our team is sharing one operating room with two surgical tables, so it was definitely the center of activity today.

Sweet baby James was the very first child up, and his surgery was done in record time. There was no shortage of volunteers willing to hold him post-op.

Two-year-old Eden had surgery today for a palate repair. Her mom, who sells clothes in a local street market, took her to several hospitals looking for help before hearing about our team coming to Cambodia. Eden is their family’s only child, and she is so beloved. She is very active and curious, and when we asked her favorite activity we were told, “Eating!”

We’re happy to share that all the surgeries went well today, and there were some very emotional moms waiting for their children to come out of the OR. When Trystan’s mom saw him again, she burst into tears with relief that he was okay.  Avery’s mom was understandably worried when Dr. Clinch came to take her back for her operation, but we assured her that her baby was in the most excellent hands.

Dr. Tollefson and Dr. Harris did Avery’s surgery

It was a very touching moment when Avery’s mom saw her daughter post-surgery for the first time. Many parents have told us over the years that it’s actually quite bittersweet to hold your baby following the operation. You already loved your child exactly as they were, so it’s a feeling of loss that you’ll never see their face again as it was, while knowing that their new smile will allow a brighter future to unfold.

While the surgeries were going on at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, some of our team went to visit two children in LWB’s medical program who are getting treatment at Calmette Hospital. Kolton is just three years old, and he is battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

This brave little boy had a whole mouth full of sores because of the chemotherapy drugs he is taking, but he still wanted to go outside with our team. Volunteer Kelly Eckert gladly served as his mobile IV pole.

Many rural families living in extreme poverty could never afford the treatment their precious kids need to battle childhood cancer. We’re so grateful to all of our medical supporters who are making this little boy’s chance at life possible. We are all praying that Kolton makes a complete recovery.

Some absolutely adorable babies are on tomorrow’s schedule for cleft lip repairs. Stay tuned for their upcoming transformations!

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