Last Friday night the Angkor Hospital for Children launched a two-month exhibition at the Angkor Palace Resort and Spa to highlight the lifesaving work the hospital does with Cambodian children.
But on the Thursday night, while preparations were being made for the exhibition, back at the hospital a dramatic operation was underway on a youngster dubbed Stick Boy.
Stick Boy lives in a village in the outer reaches of Siem Reap province. His details have been withheld for privacy, but 10 months ago he fell out of a tree and hurt his eye. A nearby clinic cleaned and sutured an eye wound, but the boy continued to experience discomfort and pain.
At the Angkor Hospital for Children, it was obvious exploratory surgery was urgently required.
Enter Dr Kami Parsi and his small team of oculoplastic surgeons, who flew into Siem Reap from their base at California’s prestigious Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre on a mercy mission funded by the Surgical Friends Foundation in Los Angeles, a non-profit organisation that sends specialist surgical teams throughout the world.
The eye plastic surgery specialists came to Siem Reap following appearances by Dr Kami Parsi on the Discovery TV channel. Dr Phara, the resident ophthalmologist at the Angkor Hospital for Children, saw one Discovery Channel program on YouTube portraying Dr Parsi’s eye surgery.
He realised that Dr Parsi’s skills were sorely needed, and sent an S.O.S.
The call was heeded, and shortly after New Year the surgical team jetted into Siem Reap. Stick Boy was one of the lucky kids operated on by the doctors, who quickly determined he had a stick stuck in his face. The big surprise was when they operated and pulled it out – it was a 7cm pencil-thick monster that could have lead to fatal complications.
“It’s incredible. It was fun to remove that,” Dr Parsi told 7Days shortly after the operation.
“The stick went in through the eye socket. Amazingly, it missed the optic nerve, the eye ball and the brain too. It went into the sinus cavity. Obviously his local clinic didn’t know this stick was in there.”
In Siem Reap, the Californian team of ocular surgeons, comprising Dr Parsi, Dr Raymond Lee and Dr Shrini Iyangar, spent seven days on a series of operations, particularly fixing droopy eyelid cases.
“There is a condition called droopy eyelid, and if it’s not fixed within a proper time it will lead to blindness,” Dr Parsi said. “We did about 10 of those cases here, and I also taught Dr Phara how to do it. The foundation also donated about US$10,000 worth of implants needed for the surgery. We’ll continue to be a resource for Dr Phara if he needs help. We’re building a lifetime bond between us.”
Meanwhile, back at the hospital’s fund-raising arm, the Friends Centre, awareness-raising work is underway again, this time with an exhibition called Cambodian Moments, by American photographer David Scheinbaum.
Scheinbaum’s work, a personal reflection of his time in Cambodia, will run until June 30 at the Friends Centre Art Gallery. Sales proceeds will help support the Angkor Hospital for Children.
Scheinbaum is motivated by his experiences as a child, when he spent much time in hospital. “I know how my life was not only changed, but my very being is a result of the care I received as a child,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a greater reward for my artistic endeavours than to help raise funds for this cause.”