Making Mobility A Possibility: An Orthopaedic Surgeon’s Mission
Professor Aymeric Lim first visited AHC in June 2017 with his family. As a professor and orthopaedic surgeon, he was interested in the work carried out in AHC’s Surgical and Physiotherapy Units.
Prof Lim’s specialty is hand surgery, with a sub-specialisation in peripheral nerve surgery, and he serves as Physician-in-Chief and Professor at Singapore’s National University Health System.
While at AHC, he noticed there were many cases of palsy – specifically, Erb’s Palsy (obstetric brachial plexus palsy). The condition affects the nerves within the neck that control mobility in the arms. It occurs during delivery if a baby’s neck is stretched unnaturally as the head and shoulders pass through the birth canal.
“It’s basically a mismatch between the size of the baby and the birth canal,” says Prof Lim. “When the baby comes through the birth canal, the nerves going from the neck to the arm can stretch. That stretching can damage the nerves.”
Erb’s Palsy affects one out of every 1,000 babies. While most patients recover, one out of 10 who have the birth injury require surgery.
Without a resident in-house sub-specialist to perform the corrective surgery, AHC was not able to operate on the condition. But because of Prof Lim’s volunteer efforts and the established skill of AHC surgeons and physiotherapists, there was potential to offer the treatment.
“I said, ‘We can do something about this,’” says Prof Lim. “I came back six months later. We lined up some cases, and we started the programme.”
Today, Surgical Unit Chief Dr Sar Vuthy, and Physiotherapy Unit Chief Tan Sethy are able to recognise cases with the condition, schedule the corrective surgery for Prof Lim’s return trips, and continue to follow-up with patients through recovery and rehabilitation.
The hope is that AHC staff will be able to conduct similar routine surgeries on their own in the future – and Prof Lim is confident this will be the case.
“The whole program is impressive,” says Lim. “This is a functional surgery – so it’s not just the surgical part, but the physiotherapy after that’s important.”
“AHC’s surgeons are very refined,” says Prof Lim. “You don’t always find that to be the case – they’re dexterous. With the physiotherapy unit, it is very symbiotic. We will review the cases together, compare diagnoses and treatment plans. And the anaesthetists are a great team.”
Prof Lim now regards AHC staff as friends, and each return trip to Siem Reap involves a big group dinner with the surgical, physiotherapy, and anaesthesia team.
For Lim, who has volunteered on disaster and medical missions in East Timor, Pakistan, Zambia, Nepal and other countries, volunteering at AHC has become his personal mission.
“I think, this is what I was born to do.”
“[But] the greatest impact is the kids,” he adds. “They have a chance at a normal life. That’s what it’s all about.”
Learn more about volunteering at AHC.