Life-saving treatment during lockdown: Sopheak’s story
AHC treats children from all 25 provinces in Cambodia, with many traveling hours at the best of times to receive the care they need. A sustained community transmission of COVID-19 in late February 2021 led Cambodia to a national outbreak. The national and local governments enacted numerous measures in an effort to curb the outbreak, including curfews and lockdowns; one measure affecting many AHC families was an interprovincial travel ban enacted on April 7, 2021. While travel for emergency medical purposes is allowed under the travel ban, the lack of public transportation has created additional barriers for families attempting to get treatment at AHC.
Since the outbreak, AHC has seen a noticeable drop in the number of patients arriving at AHC for treatment. This is especially concerning for Cambodia’s sickest children, particularly those in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit and Oncology Unit. Read about Sopheak and his family overcoming the challenges presented by the pandemic to receive the life-saving treatment he needed during the lockdown, yet our doctors are concerned for many patients who have not been able to overcome the financial and logistical barriers to arriving at AHC at this time.
Two-month old Sopheak and his mother Sokunthea, who live in Rovieng district, Preah Vihear province with his brother, sister, father and grandparents. In mid-April 2021, Sopheak’s leg became swollen and he developed a high fever. His parents brought him to the local health centre and to a healer for traditional treatment. Unfortunately, Sopheak’s condition worsened with the sustained fever and his head, chest, hands and legs all becoming swollen. A neighbour advised them to bring Sopheak to AHC since AHC is well known in the community for providing specialised paediatric care.
Unable to get a taxi or bus because of the lockdown, Sokunthea and her husband borrowed a neighbour’s motorbike and some money to make the 11 hour trip through the rain and heat with their baby. Afraid that their neighbour’s motorbike would break down or that they would be required to quarantine upon arrival in Siem Reap, the parents knew they had no other choice since their son’s treatment was the most important.
After arriving at AHC one week ago, Sopheak has received treatment for multiple abscesses and sepsis, a life threatening condition stemming from the body’s reaction to an infection. Although his condition has improved significantly after a week’s treatment, Sopheak will likely have to continue to receive care in the hospital for another month. AHC has helped the family with transportation and food support, however as a farm hand without a stable income, Sokunthea’s husband had to go back to Preah Vihear to earn money and return the neighbour’s motorbike.
While worried about the eventual journey home and potential quarantine going back to her province, Sokunthea is grateful for the life-saving treatment her son has received saying, “All staff here at AHC are very friendly and helpful. I am impressed that AHC provides treatment free of charge and provides support like food and transportation for the poor.”