Birthday in Phnom Penh

Emily and BillyToday we had a long traveling morning. We got on the bus at 8:30am from Siem Reap and arrived in Phnom Penh around 2:30pm. On the bus, we had a nice little game of eye spy that included almost everyone in the group. It was a creative way of spicing up the 6 hour journey. Overall, sleeping was the activity of choice on the bus. When we arrived at Phnom Penh, we checked back into our hotel and resettled in our rooms. We had a small break and then met up for our daily group meeting.
Everyone loved one of the restaurants that we went to the first day we arrived in Phnom Penh, so we hit up that restaurant again! I enjoyed a nice vegetarian plate where I made my own tacos. Then, the fun began!! The students, including Mrs. Dryden, went out to a dance club! It was interesting because they played ALL American music. The Khmer way of dancing is to use your hands and form worm-like motions with them, so it was a surpise to not see that. Some of the people from the hospital were also there, so it was good to be able to get to know them better. Since it was my birthday the previous day, the band played a song for me! So, Billy and I went out on the dance floor and did a little jig. Personally, I think everyone loved our dance moves. We stayed at the dance club until 11:30ish, and then we all went back to the hotel and crashed.
EmilyOverall, I am really enjoying the trip. I’m excited to work in the hospital this coming week and to meet more of the staff. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. Even at church, some of the nurses that I have met will invite us to sit with them! This week should be exciting!

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One in a Million

MicheleWhat an amazing couple of days. We left the hospital yesterday afternoon, went to the ‘market” and shopped for the children at the Orphanage. At their request, we bought underwear, salt, sugar, fans and cooking oil. Then we made a stop to buy fruit, getting two “hairy eyeballs” for each child. The children are happy, cared for and well educated. We spent time playing games, singing, and also, visiting the library and their rooms. (Some were a little reluctant for us to see their room but with 5 girls to a room you can imagine!) What beautiful kids, and what a great concert they gave us. The hard part was leaving, they begged us to stay, ‘please come tomorrow’ and ran after the Tuk-Tuk as we went out of the gate; pictures that will remain with us for a long time. These are the fortunate children of Cambodia-they are safe and get an education.
Today was a trip to the ‘killing fields”. To comprehend that much cruelty is beyond my capacity. The great learning from the trip: understanding the people we are working with at the hospital. They lived through Pol Pot and have moved on with their life, now serving others on a daily basis. As I taught the supervisor class today, I had a whole new understanding of their job, their life and who they are as a people.

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Brandon PharmacyTuesday was the start of another wonderful and exciting day for each of us in Cambodia. Mrs. Dryden, Emily P., Brandon, and I rose a little earlier than the others so that we could meet the mobile clinic group at the hospital. After a few phone calls, tough communication with the nurses and staff, and some walking around, we were finally able to find out where we were supposed to be. We did have a small problem with seating though…a five person truck was supposed to hold seven of us. However, we were able to make it work! We traveled to a small and very poor village outside of Phnom Penh to provide medical care for those unable to come to the hospital. It was a new experience for the three of us, especially since most of our patients were children. Emily and I took vital signs, while Paul handled the pharmaceutical aspect of the visit. He even caught a few mistakes that were made, which shows the great training and education he has already received.
At the hospital, our instructors and student nurses assisted with check-offs. This is where all the nurses have to come in and take tests in several different areas; the subjects included blood cultures, oral care, and oxygen tubing care. Though it was a little hard to understand the nurses during the oral part of the tests, it was very exciting to see that they knew how to perform these tasks. It is obvious that this hospital is making great progress, and so many of the nurses truly know what they are doing.

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Home Visits and Khmer Rouge History

In Cambodia some major health care issues are HIV/AIDS, TB, and diabetes. Today students of nursing and pharmacy left the hospital to go on home visits for HIV patients. Just a few blocks away, we walked to the areas where the lowest income people live. Our job was to oversee the self-maintenance of each patient’s disease state. Without the semester 2 course, Health Assessment, I would have been unaware of the questions to ask and signs to look for in each particular case. Next we broke for lunch to enjoy a bite of homemade Khmer cuisine.
PaulAfter lunch, we left the medical world to learn more about culture and history in Cambodia. During the reign of the Khmer Rouge, genocide camps were spread all over the country. The one we had visited was called Office S.21, today known as Tuol Sleng. Formerly a high school (a place for learning and growth), the Khmer Rouge overtook the facility and held over 5,000 prisoners here by 1978. All but 7 of these prisoners were killed. Taking this historical era made me realize this event affected people just a generation ahead of my own.
It was a fulfilling day incorporating both health care and history. From today’s experience I have made it a promise to serve the people of Cambodia to the fullest until it is time to depart.

A New City to Explore

Cambodia SunsetRise and shine! It was an early morning for the group as we packed our bags for Siem Reap. Having been in Phnom Penh for the past three days, we were prepared to explore a new city. Our first introduction was sunset at the ancient temples. After we climed the steep stairs, we found ourselves surrounded by people from around the world. The sunset was beautiful, but the view of Cambodia’s heartland was even more remarkable. Knowing the country’s past, the evening was a reminder that even amidst turmoil and pain, restoration is possible. “In the world you will have trouble; but be courageous, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).
On a side note, one of the funniest parts of the day was our bus ride. Wide awake, we managed to find minor pieces of amusement…from snacking on crickets to our exciting interpretations of Cambodian music videos. Still tired from the early morning rise, others chose a more peaceful route…

Bus Sleep in Cambodia

AnnaAll in all, the trip to Siem Reap will be a great memory for all of us. The trip is far from over, though. We look forward to returning to the hospital and working alongside our new friends once again. They have such wonderful hearts, and I pray that we will all take a piece of that with us.
– Anna –

Sunday in Cambodia

Cart Ride in CambodiaWe began our day with worship at the church where Susan’s family attended and were very involved in while they lived in Phnom Penh. We were all warmly greeted and welcomed! It was especially heartwarming to see Susan greeted and embraced by so many of her dear friends. The church is alive and growing…worshipers of all ages. In a country where there is much sadness and hopelessness, it is so encouraging to be in a place of worship and see the hearts of the members of the congregation! Later in the afternoon, when we were at the market shopping (more on that later!), a member of the church spotted us and we had a conversation with him about the growth of the church in Cambodia. There is no interference at all by the government towards Christianity and it is growing by leaps and bounds. That was good news!
We went different directions for lunch…some eating Indian and some eating French. Then it was time to re-group and head out for an afternoon of shopping at the Russian market. There were literally hundreds of vendors all very close together…it was like being in a maze with something new at every turn. It was hot and the vendors are very persistent in pursuing their customers. Bargains were made and bags were filled with all sorts of purchases. I have not quite conquered the art of negotiation…so I will probably need to return to see if I can do better next time! It would be easy to fill a suitcase because there really are so many wonderful things to see and buy. The treat after shopping was iced Cambodian coffee…it was rich, sweet and delicious.

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Temples in Siem Reap

Temple VisitsThis morning all but four of us left the Red Piano Hotel in Siem Reap at 5:00 AM to see the sunrise at Ankor Wat, one of the famous temples in Cambodia. Unfortunately, there were clouds and we couldn’t see the wonderful sunrise but it was still worth it and fun any ways. We then toured another one of the ancient temples before meeting up with the four people who stayed behind. They then brought us our breakfast (french bread and freshly sliced fruit) and we ate at a little restaurant where we got iced coffee Cambodian style. The coffee was delicious! It is basically iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk for sweetener.
The group then saw several more temples, one of which included where they filmed the movie Tomb Raider. We then came back to Siem Reap and most of us got a foot massage from this great place down the street. We were so relaxed! Lunch followed, then free time to explore the town. Melissa, Hannah, Kristian, Emily P., and I went to the local market and had a fun time bartering for goods. As soon as we were done it started pouring down rain, so we hired a Tuk Tuk, a Cambodian motorbike driver with a cart hitched on for passengers, to take us back to the hotel (which was quite an experience…). At the end of the day, we went to a dinner and traditional Khmer dance and now off to bed for yet another day of traveling…

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The Center of Hope…and the Power of Togetherness

Mission to CambodiaToday was a very tiring and busy day, but it ended in the most refreshing of ways. To start, a group of us went on a 4 mile walk/run at 5:30 a.m., in which we enjoyed watching the city wake up and get ready for another long, humid workday. Some of us even jumped right in to a yoga class with the local Cambodians on the side of the road. Other interesting sights included the “town elephant” who was taking a stroll down to the king’s palace.
Later this morning, we headed off to Center of Hope for our second day in the hospital. We did similar kind of work as the previous day, but everyone rotated to a different department in the hospital to gain new experience. Anna even took control of many positions (Charge Nurse, Physical Therapist, RN, Nursing Student, etc…) all by herself. The pharmacy students were able to soak in an immense amount of information by following an Australian doctor during his rounds who was very generous in his teaching.
Today was also the first day for surgery (yesterday was the King’s birthday and no surgeries were to be performed), and Melissa and Halli enjoyed watching a thyroidectomy. This particular thyroidectomy was completed by a Cambodian surgeon and Claudine (the first assistant), who just completed medical school in the UK, and is now here volunteering at Center of Hope as well as serving Phnom Penh Church of Christ. The surgery was a great learning experience because the thyroid was the size of a small softball which usually would not get that big in the states due to early recognition. However, Cambodians are not so fortunate with early blood tests and other various methods to diagnose promptly. Also, Cambodians just recently started adding iodized salt into their diets, and many who have lived without this salt have not received sufficient iodide. Thus, their thyroid tissue compensates by enlarging and forming a “goiter”.

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Hi from Siem Reap

michele.jpgWe are in Siem Reap this weekend. The Temples are unbelievable from a history perspective. ‘Got some rain this afternoon but not for long.
To all you parents out there who have kids on this trip–what an awesome group!! They are some of the finest kids I have met in a long time. They are great travelers and so excited about the work they are doing. You are blessed to have them, be proud and I am blessed to be able to share this experience with them.

First Day at the Hospital…a Wonderful Team

HalliToday was our first day in the hospital. We were all anxious to see the hospital and to see what our roles would be. As the largest group Belmont has sent to Cambodia it was interesting figuring out where each person would go in the small hospital in order to balance experiences and staffing. The group began the day by touring the hospital areas including ER, OR, surgical ward, medical ward, pharmacy, outpatient clinic and chronic care facility. We met many of the staff who are familiar with the Belmont groups and they welcomed us graciously.

Cambodia Hospital ERAfter we split up into groups, I took three students with me to the Emergency Room/Wound Care area. The emergency room is divided into four areas: triage, main ER, infectious disease, and wound care clinic. All patients admitted through the hospital are triaged through the ER. The day began busily with many patients waiting outside for triage through the ER and several patients already inside. One student was paired with a nurse in the infectious disease area where she was able to work with acutely ill HIV patients and patients suspected of having tuberculosis, meningitis and other tropical infections. Several severely ill patients came into this area who were admitted to the hospital. One young woman came in with a high fever, low blood pressure, tachypnea and decreased level of consciousness. After working with the patient, drawing blood, and admitting her it was later found out that she has septic pneumocystis pneumonia as a complication of late stage AIDS.

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