A team of American medics has spent a week in the Kingdom performing
life-changing surgery on those who otherwise could not access treatment
Two children with cleft palates wait among other patients at the Children’s Surgical Center in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.
THE operating room is crowded. Three
separate teams of surgeons are hard at work: One patient is having his
tonsils extracted, another man has just had a thyroid tumor the size of
a fist removed from his throat. Outside, a line of patients stretches
away into the distance - hundreds of people hoping for surgery that may
change their lives forever.
For more than a week, a medical team from the American Tripler Army
Medical Center and the US Air Force have been carrying out a Sight,
Sound and Smile medical mission in Cambodia.
Funded by the Peace through Health Care initiative, the mission aims to
provide free surgical care for patients that otherwise could not afford
Dr Mitchell Ramsey, an ear, nose and throat surgeon and the leader of
the medical team that consists of a dozen surgeons, an
anaesthesiologist, nurses and a medical engineer, said the team is
focusing on disorders that can be life-threatening or affect a person's
ability to work, to eat, to hear or to see, adding that about 200
patients have already been screened for surgery.
"We won't be able to do surgery on all of them this year, but we hope
to come back next year. There are just a lot of needs ... and it is
hard to tell them that we can't operate this time." said Dr Phalyka
Oum, a Cambodian physician who helped to coordinate the mission along
with the US Embassy, the Children's Surgical Center (CSC) and various
I had thyroid disease for 12 years and it made me dizzy and exhausted.
The Sight, Sound and Smile mission is set to change the lives of
approximately 70 patients who will receive surgery to correct loss of
vision or hearing, head or neck tumours and cranial or facial problems
such as a cleft lip or palate.
Chou Yun, 28, from Prey Veng is one of these lucky patients. She had
surgery to cure her thyroid disease two days ago and is already
noticing the difference. Though she is sore from the operation, she can
now breathe better and her voice problems have subsided. "I had thyroid
disease for 12 years and it made me dizzy and exhausted. I didn't have
it cured because I didn't have the $300 for the operation."
According to Ramsey, the team has been overwhelmed with thyroids,
goiters and tumours as well as many incidents of chronic ear
infections. "We have seen a huge spectrum of very far advanced
disorders that generally are not seen in the US," said Ramsey.
‘‘Part of the mission objective has been to exchange ideas and share
information. Coming from the US, of course, we bring some information
that is useful here, but we also get just as much information,
techniques and new experiences that benefit us and help us learn," he
‘‘This without doubt has been the most gratifying experience in my
career. To be able to come and meet such gracious people who have such
need," Ramsey said. ‘‘I walk home every night and I am on cloud nine
because of the experiences I'm having."