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Compassionate healthcare and purposeful innovation for Cambodia’s children

Saving Babies’ Lives Patient Story: Meet Baby Devi

Saving Babies' Lives

Born only eight days ago in the rural Chamroeun Health Centre in Preah Vihear province, baby Devi has already spent all of his short life fighting to survive.

“When he first came we saw the patient was seriously ill; floppy, not active, not crying, rapid breathing, and pale”

Dr Say Sopheakneary, Preah Vihear Referral Hospital Lead

Complications during his birth meant that he couldn’t get enough oxygen to his brain and other organs, a condition called severe birth asphyxia. He was having serious difficulties breathing, with an oxygen count below 80mm Hg (critical level), along with a high fever. Most rural health centres in Cambodia are unfortunately not equipped to deal with emergencies like these so baby Devi was immediately transferred to the Preah Vihear Referral Hospital for urgent care.

Now, he is receiving lifesaving treatment in the new Neonatal Care Unit at the Preah Vihear Referral Hospital. The province has one of the highest neonatal mortality rates in Cambodia.  

“Because most of the people live in very remote areas, access to, and knowledge of, health care is not very good.”

Dr. Say Sopheakneary
SBL team treating baby Devi in the neonatal unit, Preah Vihear Referral Hospital

The ward was established by AHC as part of the Saving Babies Lives (SBL) programme. It is the first of its kind in the region, providing lifesaving care previously unavailable in Preah Vihear.

When Devi first arrived at the neonatal ward he was immediately connected to the Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine. This machine is used to maintain constant oxygen flow into Devi’s lungs, while raising his low oxygen count, helping his tiny lungs to breath. It is one of many new pieces of simple but life-saving equipment, supplied by SBL, used to specifically treat neonates. The SBL team trains the Referral Hospital staff how to care specifically for neonates, along with how to operate this new equipment, like the CPAP machine.

“If you imagine there was no CPAP machine the patient probably cannot survive.”

Dr Say Sopheakneary

After a few tense hours within the SBL Neonatal Care Unit, receiving CPAP treatment, Devi’s condition showed signs of improvement. His oxygen count rose to a non-critical level (above 90mm Hg), his temperature and fever reduced, and his colour returned to normal. He is now in a stable condition and expected to make a full recovery.  

SBL training Referral Hospital staff

Before the implementation of the SBL programme, Devi’s story could have been much more sombre, with the nearest suitable ventilation equipment, needed to treat him, previously more than three hours away, at AHC in Siem Reap. This new CPAP machine is the only one in Preah Vihear, providing newborns in the province with urgent treatment – and when they need it most.

SBL aims to strengthen every level of the Preah Vihear health care system, from volunteer health workers in remote villages, to staff at the rural health centres, through to the Provincial Referral Hospital. By focusing on the continuum of health care in Preah Vihear, SBL intends to improve the livelihoods of the children of Preah Vihear, like Baby Devi, for many years to come.