Eight-year-old Nan Kini remains in the hospital, after his heart was repaired recently at a hospital in Siem Reap. He is frail, but he is alive.
It has been a long journey for the family, one that often seemed hopeless. Nan Kini’s father, Huy Nan, says there were times he wanted to see his son die rather than suffer so much from heart disease.
The 42-year-old motor-taxi driver says he could not afford to have Nan Kini treated and often had to borrow money to send him to the hospital.
Huy Nan says he is glad to see his son safe for now, but he worries. “If he is sick again, we will be in debt again,” he says.
Nan Kini was among the 16 children selected for a free operation on heart defects by a group of American medical volunteers at the Angkor Hospital for Children.
Peter Chhun, who brought the group of doctors and nurses here, says children like Nan Kini are the fortunate ones.
“Approximately 100,000 children in Cambodia are suffering from congenital heart defects,” says Chhun, who is the founder of Hearts Without Borderies, a US-based non-profit group. “Ten percent of those children are in urgent need of surgery.”
For the last six years, Chhun, a retired professional in the United States, has taken children with heart defects to the US for treatment. But by bringing a medical team to the country, he can provide surgeries to the most needy.
However, Chhun says it is those he cannot help that propel him forward. “How can you as an educated, working or rich person stand by, watching these kids dying? We must do something to help them.”
Chhun says he is determined to continue missions here and to help as many children as possible live normal lives.