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Funds sought for heart ward

Khmer-American Peter Chhun hopes to treat kids locally.

A CAMPAIGN is under way to raise funds to build a high-tech heart ward in Siem Reap that will enable open-heart surgery to be performed on children.

US-based Cambodian Peter Chhun, an Emmy-award-winning news editor-producer for NBC Network News, announced the plan to raise funds for a world-class heart facility at the Angkor Hospital for Children while in Siem Reap last Friday.

He hopes to raise between US$600,000 and $700,000 to complete the project.

Chhun was in town to oversee the final checkup at the Angkor Children's Hospital of the second Cambodian child he had airlifted to California for a hole-in-the-heart operation.

For the last two years, Chhun has flown a child each year to the US for the lifesaving operation. In June 2007 he took 9-year-old girl Davik Teng from a village outside Battambang to Los Angeles for surgery, after she had found her way to the Angkor Hospital for Children.

He returned the successfully-cured girl to Cambodia in July last year,   and then immediately began organising the airlift of another hole-in-the-heart victim,  11-month-old Vy Soksamnang (or Vy Lucky Friday).

The mercy dash to Los Angeles happened last November, and after a successful operation and recuperation, Chhun returned Lucky to Cambodia last week. But before Lucky could return to his village home, he needed at final assessment from Dr Lyda at the Angkor Hospital.

Chhun said, "Dr Lyda checked and everything is looking good. So it is nice to be able to return to his village with a good heart".

But while at the hospital clearing Lucky, Chhun also began the process for his third mercy mission by getting Lyda to re-check another sick boy to see if he was a still suitable candidate for a hole-in-the-heart operation in the US, after an earlier positive assessment.

He was given the thumbs up and flew back to the US on Monday to firm up the operation details with California's largest kids' hospital, the Miller Children's Hospital at Long Beach.

The 18-month-old boy came to Chhun's attention when a friend attended an engagement party in Phnom Penh and noticed the sickly child.

"He discovered the boy had a hole in the heart. He promised the adopted parents he would try to do something, told me, and when I asked to see the boy he was not in good shape."

Chhun said he plans to take him to the US in June. But he  is now driven to do more because of the sheer number of babies that need similar operations.

"We have saved two children and now hopefully a third. But unfortunately, so many more children need help.

"So now, we propose the construction of a hybrid cardiac facility in Angkor Children's Hospital. It's going to cost a lot.... But if we build this facility we can bring the children to it."

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