October 2014

Cheers! To the Colburn-Keenan Foundation

Rosedale Farms
The weather was spectacular in Simsbury, Connecticut for the annual “Wine by the Vine” fundraiser to support the Colburn-Keenan Foundation. I was happy to attend with my boyfriend Doug and met up with my brother Tim and his wife Lee. We also socialized with many friends from our hemophilia community including nonprofit friends, pharmaceutical and homecare rep friends and friends of friends!
For only a $50 admission ticket we were able to sample lovey and delicious wine and beer locally brewed by Rosedale Farm, where the event was held. It was fun to chat with friends, sample the goods, enjoy hot hors d’oeuvres and beautiful desserts, and listen to a folk singer from 3 pm – 6 pm.

Laurie Kelley with Sandy Williams of Novo Nordisk

The Colburn-Keenan Foundation is named in part after a legend in our community: Donald Colburn. Donald had hemophilia, HIV, and its complications and had already founded American Homecare Federation (AHF), a successful homecare company. Donald was responsible for kicking off NHF’s Campaign for a Cure back in 2000 with a half million dollar grant. They also had adopted a child with hemophilia from Eastern Europe. Sadly, Kathy passed away from cancer in May 2006 and Donald passed away from cancer in July 2006. The Colburn-Keenan Foundation, founded in 2006, represents their dream and a living legacy to their outstanding lives of philanthropy. The majority of their personal estates have gone into a trust to fund and sustain the Foundation, where amazingly 100% of monies raised will go directly to programs and services. 

Tim and Mark Durning, with Martha Hopewell and Laurie Kelley

These services include providing financial assistance to individuals with chronic illnesses, with a priority placed on those living with a bleeding disorder. These include providing assistance with insurance premium, deductible, and co-pay expenses and assistance with all other socioeconomic expenses such as rent/mortgage, utilities, car insurance or repairs, medical travel, funeral expenses. And  the Foundation provides more!

Mandy McCollough of AHF with friends

Since its inception in 2006, the Foundation has provided a whopping: 1) $981,139 in individual assistance grants; 2) $188,000 in organization grants and 3) 118 scholarships totaling $544,000.

Tim and Lee Morrow, Laurie and Doug

This generosity made it very easy for me to justify playing in the silent auction. Though  a fierce competitor beat me in the African Safari auction item, I did win James Taylor tickets (which I happily gave to my brother Tim and wife Lee, me being more a classic rock kind of girl; see my book review below) and Patriots tickets and a signed baseball by David Ross of the Red Sox, both of which I more than happily gave to sports-fan Doug. I was happy to take one of the many pumpkins home as my prize!

Congratulations to the stunning work of the Colburn-Keenan Foundation!

For more info:

Adam Olivieri of AHF, Tim and Lee, Kim Alexander of CSL Behring

Good Book I Just Read

Slash by Slash [Kindle]

You’ve got to give Slash credit for just being alive. The former guitarist of the 90s band Guns N’Roses uses a pacemaker to keep himself going after the wretched excesses of life on the road in one of the most popular bands of their era. In this bio, Slash, born in England as Saul Hudson, the son of parents already steeped in the music industry, runs wild as a child in the streets of LA, becomes a defiant teen, develops a true passion for music and the guitar and becomes an accomplished guitarist, helping to form the band GNR. Debauchery describes the band’s lifestyle and impact as it acted out with drugs, alcohol and sex, trashing hotel rooms, causing problems for everyone including police and business owners, and eventually ripping themselves in two when the volatile and mercurial Axl Rose has a prolonged showdown with the often drug-induced and soft-spoken Slash. To this day they do not speak. Slash tells his tale factually and hides nothing, except for an in-depth analysis of what really ailed Rose and GNR. Slash may have been too doped up to know. The birth of his first son was the impetus to get clean once and for all and he has come out ahead. He is a talented guitarist (just saw him live this summer, up close), and has evolved with several bands, currently with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. A good read, easy and interesting, but also sad… that so many rock stars are bent on self-destruction. Here’s one who went to the brink—and lived to tell the tale. Three/five stars.

The Blood Moon

A natural phenomenon
occurred October 7-8: a Blood Moon with an accompanying lunar eclipse. I’m interested in how and why this term, which is
becoming more widespread, developed, and in all things related to blood. The origin
of the term is religious, according to Christian pastor John Hagee.
From the internet I gleaned
this: Hagee used the term “blood moon” to apply to the full moons of the ongoing
tetrad – four successive total lunar eclipses, with no partial lunar eclipses
in between, each of which is separated from the other by six lunar months (six
full moons) – in 2014 and 2015. John Hagee appears to have popularized the term
in his 2013 book Four Blood
Moons: Something is About to Change
Hagee speaks of a lunar
tetrad as representing a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. After all, the moon
is supposed to turn blood red before the end times. Why are more and more people are using the term “blood moon” to
describe the four full moons of a lunar tetrad? No one really knows!
But in astronomy, writers
often describe a totally eclipsed moon as appearing “blood red.” A moon may look
red during a total lunar eclipse because of sunlight that is filtered and
refracted by Earth’s atmosphere. From the website
“During a lunar
eclipse, you’ll see the Earth’s shadow creeping across the moon’s face. The
shadow will appear dark, like a bite taken out of a cookie, until the shadow
completely covers the moon. Then, during the breathtaking time of totality, the
shadow on the moon’s face often suddenly changes. Instead of dark, it appears
red. Why?
“The reason stems from the
air we breathe. During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth lies directly between
the sun and the moon, causing the Earth to cast its shadow on the moon. If
Earth didn’t have an atmosphere, then, when the moon was entirely within
Earth’s shadow, the moon would appear black and invisible.
“Thanks to Earth’s
atmosphere, what actually happens is much more subtle and beautiful. Earth’s
atmosphere extends about 50 miles (80 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. During
a total lunar eclipse, when the moon is submerged in Earth’s shadow, there is
circular ring around Earth – the ring of our atmosphere – through which the
sun’s rays pass.
“Sunlight is composed of a
range of frequencies. As sunlight passes through our atmosphere, the green to
violet portion of the light spectrum is, essentially, filtered out. This same
effect, by the way, is what makes our sky blue during the day. Meanwhile, the
reddish portion of the spectrum is least affected.
“What’s more, when this
reddish light first entered the atmosphere, it was bent (refracted) toward the
Earth’s surface. It’s bent again when it exits on the other side of Earth. This
double bending sends the reddish light onto the moon during a total lunar
eclipse. Depending on the conditions of our atmosphere at the time of the
eclipse (dust, humidity, temperature and so on can all make a difference), the
surviving light will illuminate the moon with a color that ranges from
copper-colored to deep red.”
So, watch for the “blood moon” during a lunar eclipse!
Great Book I
Just Read
Three Dog
Chuck Negron
My first LP was “Golden Biscuits” in the 1970s, and so began my life-long love of Three Dog Night, the popular rock band of the 1960s and 70s. Who knew
the debauchery and drug-induced devastation that took place? Negron, lead
singer with a powerful voice, details his rise to stardom and then the slow and sharp decline into
the life of a junkie. He spends his entire fortune on heroin, destroys
relationships and the band, and brings his children into the world addicted to
meth and heroin. That he is still alive and performing is a miracle, after
being so near death for so many years. He engages in crime, sinks to the level
of street junkies, gangs, and would do anything—anything—to get his next fix.
It is a shocking and disturbing portrait of the high price of fame and a
natural inclination to addiction. I finished this in two nights: hard to put
down and technically an easy read. I deeply applaud Negron for sharing his life
and how he turned it around eventually. Hard to understand are his complaints and
character assassinations about his bandmates, particularly Cory Wells, which come
across as juvenile and unappreciative. Negron should never judge anyone after what he inflicted on
others. Still, I will always love Three Dog Night! Negron is still touring solo, and Danny and Cory are touring as TDN. Three/five stars.

Cambodia: From the Killing Fields to a Land of Hope

Laurie in a tuk tuk
The stupa

After breakfast on
Saturday October 4, I went with the “tuk tuk” driver to pick up Sithan. The tuk
tuks are autorickshaws—motorcycles with rickshaws attached to them. Sithan is
the 33-year-old president of the Cambodian Hemophilia Association (CHA), who
has hemophilia. He was to join me today for a tour. When we got to his home, he
met us at the gate not looking well. Pale, tired… he was bleeding from a
serious dental extraction last week and it was really bothering him. We brought
factor for him on this trip, and he had already used several vials, but now
needed rest.
So I went alone to
the Choeung Ek Memorial, the “Killing Fields,” so dubbed by Dith Pran, the
Cambodian journalist who was portrayed in the movie The Killing Fields. This would be my second visit to a genocide
site (my first was in Rwanda earlier this year).
The tuk tuk ride
was insanely wild, like being on a run away roller coaster. We jostled through
the streets of Phnom Penh, dodging cars, motorbikes and other tuk tuks. The tuk
tuk is open-sided, with a roof. The wind whipped my hair; the air is
gritty with pollution. I can’t help but think I’m in a little cart at a
low-budget Asian Disneyworld, on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Motorbikes, carrying
young ladies with pink helmets, young men with intense looks wearing surgical
masks, even children—some sandwiched between the father driver and mother
passenger, sound asleep—swarm the cars and tuk tuks like ambitious bees.
Contributing to sensory overload are the odors: diesel fuel, thick, acrid
exhaust from vehicles; sudden sour smell of rotting garbage as we cross a bridge;
a surprise charcoal smell laced with delicious scent of roasted beef.
Mass grave of 450

My driver took
back roads and alleys, some of which were nothing but huge mud puddles from the
rain. I actually started feeling really queasy and nauseated. I was glad that
Sithan stayed home!
We arrived after
40 minutes and the driver sat in the lunch area while I paid the $6 admission
and picked up a headset and started the tour. Overhead was a brilliant blue sky
with a glaring sun basking us in 90° sunshine. Directly in front of me was the
huge stupa, or Buddhist temple. The
soothing and paternal voice on the headset said to go there last. The narrator
himself survived the vicious Pol Pot regime and felt honored to be able to
narrate what happened. There were many killing fields throughout Cambodia but
this was one of the most famous. There wasn’t much to see; some signs informed
us of what once stood there—the area where trucks would disgorge prisoners
(prisoners! They were men, women and children, average citizens), the place
where prisoners would be registered. 
But there were graves of hundreds of victims, vaguely protected by a
small stockade around each mass grave. The first grave contained the remains of
450 victims; a sign told us that each time it rains, more remnants are
unearthed. It is not unusual to find human teeth or small bones still, after
all these decades. Clothing was displayed, and the bones of victims. As I
listened to my headset, a one-legged, dirty man stood by a tree; we were separated
by a wire fence, that’s all. He was begging, begging in his own country. I
handed him a $5 and he asked, “America?” And I nodded and smiled.
The Killing Tree

The Pol Pot regime
and his Khmer Rouge fighters took control of the country from 1975-1979, in the
attempt to create a Communist utopia. Pol Pot believed it was possible for
Cambodia to be self-sufficient, and in the process, dragged his country back to
the Stone Age, where everyone had to work communal farms, with no equipment or
machinery. All foreigners had to leave. Next came the purge of any
intellectuals: doctors, teachers, lawyers. Anyone educated was at risk of being
tortured and killed, and this was done in crude and primitive ways. Eventually
victims were brought to the Killing Fields, where they were murdered. Whole
families were wiped out. These are sites where unspeakable atrocities took
place. I reflected that from 1975-1979, the years I was in college, enjoying
life, going to dances, studying, eating, having fun… an entire generation in
Cambodia was being wiped out. While I slept peacefully in my bed each night, Cambodian
children were starving, dying, mothers and families were being tortured. They
were living in hell, imposed on them by their own rulers.

Clothing of victims

I approached one
mournful monument, a tree, where babies were bashed to kill them, then tossed
into an open grave. The tree was decorated with little wrist ties of many
colors (you receive the ties when you make an offering at a Buddhist temple).
They looked like little yarn butterflies fluttering in the wind. The graves were
simple, marked with hand-carved signs. The bones, like those in Rwanda, were
out in the open. Nearby, a huge tree stood, a survivor, a mute witness to the
atrocities from the past. On it the Khmer Rouge rigged up loud speakers, over
which was played constant, loud propaganda from the screeching voices of the uneducated
soldiers. The loudspeakers also covered up the screams of victims.

Stockade fence with prayer ties

Eventually I came
to the stupa. It is steady, solid,
soaring… and stacked with skulls. Perched on the corners of each section are
stone mythical creatures in Hindu religion: Garuda,
the winged birdman who carries Lord Vishnu. And Naga, a dragon/snake that is Garuda’s enemy. That they appear
together here denotes peace. After removing my shoes respectfully, I climbed
the marble stairs, which are strangely cool, even in the suffocating heat.
Facing me is a clear, acrylic wall, encasing thousands of skulls, bleached
white, stacked neatly. Each skull has been analyzed and marked with a color dot
to denote its sex and how the victim was killed. They were killed in many
different ways but all primitive: cleaning rod was a favorite method. You can
look at eye level into these skulls, which were once peaceful, innocent people,
mothers and fathers, young men and women. You feel like talking to them,
apologizing, wishing they could have a chance at life, a normal life. Buddhists
believe in reincarnation, and looking at the bashed and pierced skulls, you
want to believe this is true for their peace. So few of us ever get to see a human
skull. When you gaze at one, emotions aside, you marvel at its architecture:
the nasal passage ways are intricate and refined, thin sheathes that capture
minute scents; the occipital bones are strong and full of character, creating
almost a surprised look. You’re reminded that each of us has one of these hollow-eyed,
whitened shells within us too, and, Caucasian or Khmer, we all look pretty much
the same once the skin is gone.
It started to
downpour as I left, as the heavens opened and “threw down their spears.” (well,
it was stars in the poem) The driver unfolded the tuk tuk’s side canvas to
protect me from the rain, but with him driving, and other motorbikes and tuk
tuks throwing up water and mud, it was pretty messy, and yet refreshing as the
temperature has been a steady and muggy 90°.
Monday October 6, 2014
We’re in Siem Reap today, where the ancient temples of Angkor Wat are, a World Heritage site (though better known in the west for being the location of the filming of “Tomb Raider”). After a great breakfast in the hotel, where they cater to your every
need, Martha, Sithan and I headed in a tuk tuk
to the Angkor Children’s Hospital nearby. Already 20 children and their
families were waiting for us. Cambodians are a truly beautiful people. I loved
seeing the little children’s faces turned up at me, mixing shyness with
Martha gave a presentation about
Save One Life to the audience while Sithan translated. It was a long day in some ways:
sitting in a hot meeting room, tightly surrounded by incredibly impoverished, often illiterate, families whose children have bleeding disorders. We were only going to
interview three families, but instead, we decided on the spot to interview them
all! So sitting in chairs that are like elementary school chairs, with a small
tabletop attached, we divided up the families. Soreng, the social worker, took
some; Martha and Sithan took some; and the Dr. Sing Heng and I interviewed some. It took about two full hours, maybe more.
I also photographed them all. I handed out the gift bags, which were an
enormous hit—each child received an authentic Beanie Baby and some toiletries
and candy. The kids were adorable and mischievous, giggling and casting glances
at me, some brazenly looking and smiling. We connected with almost all.
As we interviewed, sweat
constantly slid down our backs, dripped off our hair, but what an honor to meet so many! The local volunteers here did a great job mobilizing the families. The families were given
meals in Styrofoam boxes, for which we paid. The hospital would kindly cover
their transportation costs.
The stories are sad; some
heart-breaking. One boy with hemophilia, about 20, has mental issues; his
mother is partially paralyzed. They are very poor and have such hard lives. All these children will be available for sponsorship through Save One Life (http://www.SaveOneLife.net)
Cambodian Hemophilia Society (in Siem Reap), with Martha and Laurie
It was tender, and heart breaking.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, almost defeated when facing the crushing truth
of poverty and hemophilia. Will we ever make a difference? And then, I think, if
we were not here, who would help them? Just $22 a month can truly change their
lives. We’ve seen it happen in other counties, and we are going to see it happen
in Cambodia.
(Do you see a child you want to sponsor? Email me at laurie@kelleycom.com!)
Great Book I Just Read

Survival in the Killing Fields [Kindle]
Haing S. Ngor
Ngor is famous for
portraying the journalist Dith Pran, the subject of the 1984 movie The Killing
Fields, which won Best Picture, and earned Ngor, who was not an actor, Best
Supporting Actor. Ngor himself escaped the Killing Fields, but spent four years
working hard labor and starving on a communal farm. He had to hide his
profession as a doctor or he would have been killed. He was tortured several
times, brutally, and endured chronic starvation and deprivation. The story is
an easy read technically, but difficult emotionally. He reveals all that he
experiences from the point of view of the victim; he didn’t understand what was
happening, never heard of Pol Pot, and could only focus on survival. Eventually
he escapes in the last throes of the regime, when the North Vietnamese invaded,
and enters Thailand. He makes his way to the US, a broken man, angry, but still
surviving. Though he became a Hollywood overnight sensation, his life still did not go
easy. This should be required reading for high school students, and any fan of
history and survival. Four/five stars.

Cambodia: Ancient Country, New Partner

When Save One Life executive director Martha Hopewell and I arrived at
midnight after traveling three flights in 30 hours, we sailed through customs in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, even though I am carrying factor to donate; it’s always a good day when all our bags show up. Sithan, a 33 year old with hemophilia A, and president of the Cambodian Hemophilia Association (CHA)  and his wife were waiting to greet us, with jasmine wreaths.  
Next day, Wednesday,
at 4 pm, Sithan and his wife arrived at our boutique hotel, which sits on the Mekong River. We sat in the lovely
restaurant while Martha reviewed all the Save One Life material with him. I
took some photos, and then we all had dinner. The food here is
great! We plan our week which will include visits to the hospitals, families, and The Killing Fields. 
Cambodia is a country that has suffered. Primarily Buddhist, and peaceful, it has nonetheless endured some of the worst horrors mankind has to offer. Bombed incessantly from 1970-73 by the US, in an attempt to destroy the Ho Chi Minh trail which supplied Communist North Vietnam, then torn apart by its own leaders as the evil Pol Pot regime took over from 1975-1979. About 3 million people died from starvation, executions and torture as Pol Pot attempted to create a self-sufficient, Communist utopia. Instead, it was hell on earth. That era wiped out a generation, and in speaking with families this week, we would witness how family histories just disappeared. 
And it still suffers, from untreated hemophilia. Our goal will be to assess Cambodia for Save One Life, and then enroll our very first children, offering hope to some families in poverty here.
Laurie with random kids in front of Royal Palace

Thursday October 2, 2014
Sithan with Dr. Sophal
Today we went
to the pediatric hospital to visit Dr. Sophal Chean, the chief hematologist. It’s a small hospital
and our visit was short but productive. The day was bright and hot, and slightly humid. Sithan and the treasurer of CHA, Chanthearithy (“Rithy”) Run accompanied us. The wards
were filled with children: beautiful, almond-eyed children suffering from
various blood diseases, attended to lovingly by their mothers. I had brought some Beanie Babies with me and shared
them, much to the delight of the kids. It was a good meeting and I learned more about hemophilia in Cambodia. To
think that since 2008 only the WFH and us, Project SHARE, have supplied them
with factor! These are the moments when I realize what a far-reaching impact we
have had—and yet realize we need to work harder to help. While there, Sr. Sophal only had about 30 boxes of FIX in the fridge, and that he said would
last him two years! 
Rithy, Martha, Sithan
We learned: most patients are still being treated with fresh frozen plasma, and yet the blood
donation culture is not good; so they use donor-designated plasma. The public hospital does
charge a small fee for any service, which is a burden to families. In 2014 they initiated inhibitor testing. Cost of factor?  500 IU costs $300… no products are registered. No one can afford to buy products. There are 91 registered patients of all bleeding disorders. With a population of 15 million, there should be about 1,500 with hemophilia; the oldest known person with hemophilia is about 40.  
Laurie with Lyuthara

One patient attended, Lyuthara, about age 24; he was quiet, thin,
with enlarged knees. He has hemophilia A. We gave Dr. Sophal our gifts of
CryoCuffs and factor VIII. He immediately shared some with Sithan, who was nursing a postsurgical wound in his mouth. He had had his wisdom teeth extracted last week, and one required a stitch. 
Cow in a rice paddy field; rice is the major export
Martha interviews Mien family
Friday, October 3. This was a lovely
day, because we were doing home visits, my favorite activity when I visit a country. (well, rafting and mountain climbing rank high too!). The weather remained cooperative: sunny, but very hot, about 90°, with some humidity. We had breakfast in the nice
dining room, which was decorated tastefully in Cambodian fashion: dark wood, soft cushions, carved statues of Ganesha,  Buddha, and elephants. But it was playing some awful and loud music: pop and show tunes. We had to
ask them to turn it down so we could even talk.
After breakfast we
headed out to see families. The first one, Mien, lives on the outskirts of
Phonm Penh. (Phnom means hill). We took our very lovely hired van, with AC and even a
TV screen, avoiding the morning air, thick with exhaust, dirt and grit. Many
people on motorbikes use surgical masks to protect themselves. While the
traffic is moderately heavy compared to other countries, it moves quickly and
deftly. We passed the stunning Royal Palace on our right as we took off.
Down some dirt
roads, out past fields, farms and rice paddies, and about an hour later  we arrive at a quiet dirt street. The house is up on posts, to protect it from flooding. The family is gathered below, under the house, quivering with excitement to see
us. Chickens strut about, oblivious to us. All the children, cousins, are huddled together, waiting. We make our greetings: there are so many
people, I am not sure who to look at first. Sithan introduces us: mother,
grandmothers, children. The culture here, as in many developing countries, is
for families to live together. So it’s not uncommon for families to live under
one roof, or in a compound. This is a compound. And these are loved children: they
are happy, giggly, a little shy of the white strangers. Two boys with
hemophilia: Sonee, born 9/12/08 (who wasn’t feeling well), and Sokheang, age 4,
who has a bit more meat on him, not in school yet.
Sonee, age 6. hemophilia A
Ly Heang, age 4, hemophilia A
Cambodian hospitality
This was an opportunity
for Martha to teach Sithan how to perform the initial application for a family
to join Save One Life. She asked the questions, noting the answers, and sharing her thought process with Sithan: the child’s
name, birth date, siblings, family income, health status, bleeding episodes. It
is actually a lot of work, but it gives the hemophilia association members time
and chance to get to know each individual family who is part of their
association. Home visits are so important! You can see the living conditions,
meet family members, assess needs. Sometimes we uncover problems you would
never see by just a family visit to the clinic: special needs like want of a
wheelchair, a house with no toilet or electricity, or alcoholism in the family.
Loving those Beanie Babies!
Fortunately, none
of these problems exist here. The family is large, unified, healthy and happy.
And poor: though they live in a “compound,” the combined family income is only
$150 a month. The mother works in a factory, the father is a driver. A humorous
moment occurred when Martha ran down her list: is there electricity? Check.
Bathroom? Outhouse, check. Own home? Check. Running water? No, well water.
Check. Fridge?
The women all
looked at each other, then burst out laughing. Probably like asking one of us
if we have our own private jet!
Showing Sonee how to use crayons
While Martha asked
questions, I decided to give the children their gifts. The two brothers with
hemophilia got red Save One Life bags, with special gifts inside. The others got Beanie
Babies, and they were enchanted! They went from displaying a cool but polite demeanor, to
gabby, giggling and connected. We smiled, made eye contact and I reached out to
tickle one playfully. All children understand games. When I duck behind a post, like
peek-a-boo, they immediately seek me out and then act surprised or scared when
they see me. They love the stuffed animals.
Sonee wasn’t
feeling well. He had crayons in his bag, but I’m not sure he has ever used crayons before. He didn’t seem to know what to do with them. So I motioned for
him to come here. Noting he had on a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, I showed him how
to draw Mickey. No smiles. No smiles for the camera either; just not a good day
for him.
Panuuk steals the show!

Cousin Panuuk stole the
show. What bright eyes, inquisitive personality, and mischievous smile! He
captivated everyone. A natural in front of the camera, I confess I took many
pictures of him, to catch all his varied expressions. All the children were
exceptionally beautiful.
The mother was so grateful to us for our visit. I observed her very nice clothes, probably her best, wanting to make the best possible impression. As we said our good byes she hugged me. 
En route to next family
After this family
we had lunch, and then went to see another at 2 pm, not too far away. This
visit was quite different. The family of eight, two parents and six kids, live
in a three-room house right in the city, on an extremely busy street. One room is a small storefront—basically
a counter in front of a small room with various supplies stacked up. Out front,
a small refrigerated stand that serves ice cream and cold drinks.  Only the mother and son were present. The
boy, name unknown yet to me, was sitting on the small cot, one leg tucked under him,
his knee swollen; he was pale, remarkably thin, without musculature, and
sullen. The mother, age 49, was hyper and stressed. She sat on the floor next
to her son, and talked incessantly, while her son stared down at and played
with his overgrown fingernails. I’ve been in dozens of homes of the poor, but
this one really made me look hard. They are not as poor as most: there are two
cameras on tripods, so they own a side-business of taking photos. She has a
good inventory in the store of food, toiletries, batteries. But her house— what
a disheveled mess. Things stacked helter-skelter, dishes dirty. No place to
wash, or even cook. I don’t think she does cook. Many homes are dirty due to the
nature of where people live and lack of access to water, but most are organized.
The lack of space means people get creative with being organized. This was just
a random mess. It bothered Martha and me. And the boy, age 15, but looking like an eight year old, is
malnourished and weak. He isn’t attending school yet this year because he can’t walk on one
leg. He doesn’t want to be taunted. Later he added that there are five floors
to his school. PT is $10 a session. I told Sithan this is where he can make a
big difference as a “big brother” and mentor. This child needs physiotherapy,
and more than that, an attitude change. When we asked him questions, he looked
annoyed, lifted his head, and then dropped it.
Stressed mother
Usually families
put on the their best foot forward when they know they have foreign visitors
arriving, who are offering them help. Still, we decided
we will enroll him, as it will be a chance for CHA to monitor him,
and for him to offer something to his family, besides being a burden. We
compared notes on the ride back, and Sithan said, The mother is stressed and
the child is depressed. I know; I have been depressed. But even in families
were the child has suffered immeasurable, I have always seen some glimmer of
hope. Here, there needs to be a glimmer. Perhaps a sponsorship will show them that there is hope, and that they are cared for.
A family in need of help
To sponsor a child with hemophilia in Cambodia, visit www.SaveOneLife.net
Next Sunday: A Visit to the Killing Fields.
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