Four Cambodian children will board a Royal Air Cambodge plane in Siem Reap today for a trip to Malaysia that could save their lives.
The children, patients of the Angkor Hospital for Children, will receive open-heart surgery at the Penang Adventist Hospital (PAH) in Pulau Pinang. The surgeries are made possible through the Gift of Life program, launched in 1999, which enables about 60 children to be treated at PAH.
The girl, 5, and boys, aged 8 months to 15 years, are expected to be in Malaysia for two to three weeks, Jon Morgan, Angkor Hospital executive director, said. “Once you fix that defect in the heart, these children start to thrive within days,” he said.
This year, Royal Air Cambodge is donating $100,000 worth of plane tickets for the trips, and the Cambodian government has agreed to donate passports for parents and the children.
The parents are rice farmers who earn less than $20 per month, Morgan said.
“It’s very confusing and emotionally draining for the parents and children,” he said. They worry about the surgery, but also deal with flights, immigration procedures and culture shock, Morgan said. “Siem Reap is the biggest city they’ve ever seen,” he said.
Hospital staff is accompanying the group on its journey.
Until last week, when the Phnom Penh Heart Center opened, Cambodia had no modern cardiology facility, which made it difficult, if not impossible, for children to get surgery in the country. A fifth child who was supposed to travel today recently died.
The Gift of Life program was born out of a chance meeting between Angkor Hospital staff and Teddric Mohr, PAH chief executive officer and a member of the civic organization Rotary International. Rotary International has pledged $100,000 to the Gift of Life program.