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Hope in Cambodia

The day of our flight, I’m filled with a sea of emotions. I am so nervous and anxious; I begin labeling and excessively organizing my belongings. I wonder what will I see this time and will break my heart, again. These missions are always so sobering for me. This is the second time I will visit Siem Reap, but this time I will not be a tourist. I will have a deeper look at what lies behind the stunning façade of Angkor Wat temple.

Seventeen plus hours later we arrive in Siem Reap and quickly go to the hospital to begin our mission work. The heat is staggering and the flies are fierce.  Upon entering the gravel grounds, the crowds are intense and concentrated in front of the emergency room. They anxiously and hopefully await our team, wishing for a life-altering event.  Sivpeng, the volunteer coordinator, offers a tour with a smile. As we tour, my spirits begin to lift as I realize how well equipped and holistic this hospital is. This hospital is a little beacon of hope in Cambodia.

The facility has a full emergency room with a pediatric intensive care unit attached. There are also several other wards including a home health education center for families. The walls here are filled with educational diagrams and proper pediatric dosages for emergency drugs in both English and Khmer.

They even have the nursing process posted for the staff to reference.  How impressive and empowering, clearly our visit will be like no other trip. The need here is different, being attuned to that is key to really make a difference.

Let the surgeries begin! After an all morning clinic, two surgeries are scheduled for the afternoon. We are assigned a room to store supplies. Mia, the head nurse, swiftly begins to organize the materials as we assist. The room is boiling and the sweat pours down our backs and faces with no merci. Finally, after soaking our scrubs and swatting flies or mosquitoes for nearly an hour, everything is labeled and neatly placed. Then, I immediately move towards the recovery room to survey my working area. I am greeted by Hor (Houw-eer) the recovery nurse and Chan, the nurse manager/ head nurse. The recovery room is well prepared with a full monitor, oxygen, suction and a supply cart.

Hor will be my partner; I introduce myself and explain to him my role/purpose on this trip, he smiles. After a few minutes he tells me “I one have only 2 month of experience” in recovery and “I want to know everything about recovery”. He is eager to learn from me and I’m excited. We both smile.

Our patient will be ready soon, so I immediately tidy the workstation with both my and their supplies. Everything is ready including paper work and supplies. Hor quietly pays attention as I connect our patient to the monitor and keenly notices I have and order for it. I explain the “ABC’s” of recovery; he has an “ahha” expression and nods with a smile.

The next morning I arrive, to prepare for recovery, but Hor has already tidied and organized the station as I had done previously. He is completely prepared…I am so proud. Hor continued to surprise me with with not only his quick learning, but also his very appropriate questions. He is a great nurse and I really enjoyed working with him and the other operating theater (OT) staff. This experience really gave me hope for the children in Cambodia.

— Lucy Cubias, RN (post-op recovery)


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