The plastic bags full of fresh fruits dug into my fingers as I stood outside Cambodia’s most well-known government children’s hospital in Phnom Penh. The guard chatted with me about the usual: Where am I from? Why do I speak Khmer so clearly? But my heart was not into the small talk.
Finally, Srey Neang, one of our baptized friends, walked down the corridor and met me outside. This hospital only allows one family member inside with each patient, so I could not even visit Manan, her 9-year-old boy fighting for his life inside those cement walls. We hugged. I gestured her to a little spot where we could sit for a few minutes, checking for red ants before we sat down. Deep sigh. What do you say to a mother whose son is in a dire medical condition in a country with limited resources and generally uncaring doctors? She told me that after his MRIs and tests, they had been stalling his care and not doing anything for him. So frustrating.
Manan was already a cancer survivor! Now he had swelling in his brain, causing leg paralysis and severe headaches. It just was not fair. He had finally regained his strength and spunk when it all started going downhill again. Srey Neang was exhausted from the years of weekly taxi trips into the city for his treatments. Their family was falling apart, and she had no money to seek private doctors or healthcare outside Cambodia. My heart broke for her.
Yet she spoke about God with every breath, especially how the Holy Spirit is her constant companion. I shared a verse with her that I had read that morning and found encouraging, then prayed with her. She excused herself to attend to Manan. “I have left him too long. Thank you for coming,” she said with a tired smile. Dark circles under her eyes showed how much the continual care she provided Manan was taking a toll. She had her own health issues, and they were getting pushed to the side to care for her son. (In Cambodia, family members must provide all non-medical care like bathing and toileting as well as food and bedding.)
After talking with Srey Neang, I understood his condition a little better. With some pictures of his MRIs, which someone had left at his bedside (they do not release any medical results or paperwork to the family at that hospital), I got advice from a U.S. radiologist that Manan would benefit from a VP shunt — a tube that drains excess fluid from the brain into the abdomen where it is reabsorbed. With this confirmation, I, along with Stephanie Lewis and some other helpful foreigners living in Cambodia, did some research, networking, and lots of praying to finally, miraculously, get him the shunt. We do not even know exactly how it worked out, but we were just thankful for answered prayers. Praise the Lord!
The shunt was tremendously helpful for Manan. He has had some complications since his surgery, but lately, he is doing better and is working on rehabilitation to gain the strength to walk again. We pray that God can use this tremendous trial for His glory in some way, even if we cannot yet see how, and that Manan will have many more years of life to learn about his loving Heavenly Father. Please pray for Srey Neang and her family as they walk through the crucibles of life.