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190 miles to the clinic

Healthcare News | 2012-07-25

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Two years ago Sarm Tha noticed something growing on the side of her neck. Over the years the cyst continued to grow. Tha could feel it pressing against other tissue and it caused her a lot of pain. But she could not afford medical treatment. Sarm Tha lives in Cambodia – a country in which medical treatment is not available to everyone. A medical examination for a minor illness such as a cold costs ten US-Dollars. However, Sarm Tha was lucky: on the radio she heard an announcement that a team from “Doctors of the World” would be operating on people in need – free of charge. Together with her sister and her mother, she began the long journey to the clinic. They traveled 190 miles to get from their home town in the Prey Veng Province to Kampong Cham. Sarm Tha’s entire family shared the costs to afford this journey.

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Improvising with sticky tape

The German section of “Doctors of the World” began their involvement in Kampong Cham starting in 1999. Originally the mission focused on the surgical treatment of children who were suffering from cleft lips and palates or other facial deformities. Today the doctors are treating everyone they can help – from severe burns to road casualties. Only recently was the use of ultrasound made possible. During a three-month-campaign Siemens donated two ACUSON X150™ ultrasound systems, one new system was donated to “Doctors of the World” for every 50th system sold. Two out of eight donated devices can now be found in the provincial clinic in Kampong Cham, Cambodia.

Holiday work

It is the third time Thomas Schuster, MD, has travelled to Kampong Cham with Doctors of the World. Normally he works as maxillofacial surgeon at the Basel University Hospital, Switzerland. He has used vacation days for the time he is in Cambodia. Together with his colleagues he operates on approximately eight patients per day, Sarm Tha being one of them. During the examination Schuster discovered that the cyst was located near her carotid artery. It is the third time Thomas Schuster, MD, has travelled to Kampong Cham with Doctors of the World. Normally he works as maxillofacial surgeon at the Basel University Hospital, Switzerland. He has used vacation days for the time he is in Cambodia. Together with his colleagues he operates on approximately eight patients per day, Sarm Tha being one of them. During the examination Schuster discovered that the cyst was located near her carotid artery.

Teamwork is daily routine

Sarm Tha is prepared for her operation. She trusted the doctors entirely. The operating room is pleasantly cool and filled with the smell of disinfectant. The bright light of the operating equipment reaches into every corner of the room. Four surgeons arrange themselves around the narcotized patient Sarm Tha. With careful and calm movements they start to remove the 2.5-inch cyst. Two hours and seventeen minutes later the operation is over. The cyst has been removed and the wound is carefully stitched together. The doctors put Sarm Tha onto the foam mattress on the floor next to the operating table. A recovery room does not exist.

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Free ultrasound scans

Free ultrasound scans “The operation was successful,” Schuster says. However the team would have never taken the risk to perform such a medical intervention without the ultrasound examination. The danger of harming major blood vessels would have been too great. To ensure that future patients can also take advantage of ultrasound examinations, the scans on the donated devices will be free of charge. Additionally, the doctors have trained their Cambodian colleagues on how to use the ultrasound systems to guarantee a continuous stream of reliable diagnoses for the future. The next day Sarm Tha is recovered. “Although I am still not allowed to eat properly, I feel much better. The constant pressure on my neck has finally gone,” she says. She still feels a bit unsteady but she is grateful for the doctors’ help. Sarm Tha is only one of many people that the team of Doctors of the World has been able to treat successfully – and most importantly for free. Her story was made possible through the donation of two ultrasound systems and the voluntary work of dedicated doctors.

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