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Compassionate healthcare and purposeful innovation for Cambodia’s children

Saving Babies’ Lives Patient Story: Meet Baby Sopheak

Saving Babies' Lives

Baby Sopheak was born in a rural health centre of Preah Vihear only 7 days ago. He is receiving phototherapy treatment in the new neonatal ward at the Preah Vihear Referral Hospital. His parents live in an isolated village over one hour away from the nearest health centre (Rovieng health centre) and over two hours away from the Preah Vihear Referral Hospital.

Sopheak and his mother had to travel on the back of a motorbike in 40C degree heat, an all too familiar case seen by medical staff in the neonatal ward. Unfortunately, due to his parent’s lack of health awareness and accessibility of health services in rural Preah Vihear, he remained sick at home for five days before being referred to the provincial hospital to receive proper treatment.

Referral Hospital staff treating baby Sopheak

The neonatal ward was developed by AHC as part of our Saving Babies Lives (SBL) programme. The SBL neonatal ward is providing lifesaving care previously unheard of, and unimaginable, in the Preah Vihear province. The province has the highest neonatal mortality rate in Cambodia. Saving lives like baby Sopheak, is all part of SBL’s mission to reduce the neonatal mortality rate in the province.

Sopheak was brought to the Neonatal Unit in a serious condition, having developed a neonatal infection and jaundice. The newly operational Neonatal Unit has a new phototherapy machine to treat cases like Sopheak. The machine is used to treat neonatal infections and skin diseases like jaundice by emitting a special type of light which through photo-oxidation, helps break down and process the excess bilirubin in the body. Sopheak’s body had been unable to metabolise the bilirubin in his system, leading to an excess, which has developed into jaundice. In serious cases, if left untreated, jaundice can lead to long-term complications including brain damage and cerebral palsy. 

“The phototherapy machine is the only machine available in Preah Vihear Province. Otherwise patients have to travel outside of the province to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. Which they takes time and money for the patient and their family.”

Dr. Say Sopheakneary, SBL Referral Hopsital Lead
Baby Sopheak’s mother watches as he receives phototherapy treatment

Cases like Sopheak, though easily treated, previously would often go undiagnosed and untreated, contributing to high neonatal mortality rates throughout Preah Vihear province. Fortunately, the new Neonatal Unit in PVRH was able to provide him with the urgent medical care he required, when he needed it most. His condition is improving, with the phototherapy treatment helping his body to remove the bilirubin from his system, while antibiotics are treating his infection. Both he and his mother are expected to be able to return home in the next few days with a full recovery expected.