by Irene Mparutsa and Amanda King
In a country that is still rebuilding its health care system after years of war and genocide, running a grassroots health development program is often a frustrating undertaking. The lack of educated medical personnel coupled with the bureaucratic tangles and the disorganization abundant in Cambodia’s health system create frustrations that all too often outweigh the immediate rewards of work as a medical missionary, but it’s the small victories that provide the motivation to keep going — small victories that, however insignificant they may seem in light of the bigger picture, change at least one life forever and serve to give CHAD’s program staff hope for the future.
One such case came to CHAD in the form of cancer survivor Horm Tot. The 35-year-old housewife and rice farmer had been told by provincial health officials in Banteay Meanchey Province in northwestern Cambodia that she need not seek treatment after her debilitating diagnosis of cervical cancer last fall — that the likelihood of success was far too little and the costs of treatment much too high.
Horm and her young family, her husband and their 14-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, were understandably crushed by the doctors’ assessment.