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A Crushed Foot in Cambodia


The birth of our “Health & Wellness” program in Cambodia happened by accident – literally.  While visiting one of our “well families” we immediately noticed that their eldest son (~13) had to use a walking stick to hobble over to greet us.  This was especially alarming because this was the location that we had to reach by crossing that flimsy tree-log bridge!  One would think that would make attending school virtually impossible….ah, but I digress…

I couldn’t help but ask what happened to his foot --his grandmother used sign language while looking at me & speaking in Kmer to our interpreter as she described an unfortunate accident. It was clear that he had no medical attention and was probably past the point of being able to get his broken bones properly set, but of equal concern was the noticeable swelling/discoloration of his foot.

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The thought of this vibrant young man spending the rest of his life hobbling – and worse yet – possibly losing his foot due to what appeared to be a terrible infection setting in was beyond acceptable to us.  We conferred with our partner, Chitra, of Vincent Consulting, who explained that – while free healthcare was extended to children in Siem Reap (thanks to a Swiss-run medical facility) – a parent had to accompany their child, they’d need transportation from their village (45 minutes away) and they had to arrive early to stand in line, as it was a fist come-first served approach.  (This also means a loss of wages and the need for cash to pay for food during the time they were there).  Unfortunately, most of the villagers don’t receive medical attention for these reasons.

It was clear to us that the answer was to set up a MTRF Health & Wellness fund/program to address this & other similar situations!

Earlier this week, the young man & his mother were transported to the clinic.  I was surprised to later learn that neither of them had ever been to “the big city” even though it was less than an hour away! After a considerable wait, his foot was thoroughly cleaned & disinfected for the first time since the accident.  To our dismay, after examining x-rays, the doctor concluded that the small bones along the front of his foot were broken into so many tiny pieces that surgery wasn’t a viable option.  He was given medication to use on his foot to ward off infection and aid in the healing process and sent back to the village with the understanding that he’d eventually heal, but would always walk with a slight limp.

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Sadly, our dreams of a 100% recovery were dashed; however, we recognize that if his foot would’ve been left unattended, he could’ve faced an even more devastating outcome had a nasty infection set in. We’re also comforted by the fact that several villagers were waiting to greet him upon their return, signifying they’re now aware of our desire to facilitate their ability to receive needed medical attention more expeditiously in the future.

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Maybe this less-than-ideal outcome is a reminder that not every step we take along this journey is going to be in full stride, yet ANY step we take - with the proper intention - is a step in the right direction…no matter how small! With that in mind, every time I reflect on this situation, I am going to focus on his beaming smile & upbeat attitude and know in my heart that all of these factors served as our “Health & Wellness Program” catalyst!

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Once again, we’re reminded that we’re merely taking one small step at a time: