Without Immediate Help, Little Choeun Would Die

During the Vietnam war I was a corpsman with the 3rd Marines, and later, for many years, a Firefighter. An unpleasant part of that work is medical triage – easy in theory, difficult in practice.

You have to look quick, sort out the mess and horror in front of you and decide priority of actions. You have to determine who can survive – some simply cannot. Sometimes you have to ignore pleading eyes and move on. You simply cannot invest time and resources on those that will die regardless what you do.

Last week I was visiting friends in a rural village here in Cambodia. After lunch I was asked to come see a little neighbor boy that was very sick. To no avail I resisted and explained, once again, that I am not a doctor… And so off we went down the dirt road. Ugh!!!

Little Choeun, age six, was lying on a pallet of blankets. Dad is gone and his mom died several years ago. Family members had taken him to a doctor two weeks before who could not diagnose the problem. He was sent home with some pills. The grandparents were spoon feeding him and resolved to the inevitable.

For the poorest of the poor life is tough, and there was nothing I could do. He had that look of death I have seen too many times. We visited and as soon as I could I politely extended my sympathies, excused myself, and started to leave. As I was saying good-bye little Choeun looked up at me… Seeing an American, he lit up with a big bright smile.

I bid farewell to a family of smiles… and pleading eyes. For the entire three hours drive back to Phnom Penh I was haunted by that little boy’s smile.

Damn – it is hopeless! But… Was it the Holy spirit or just an old man’s sentimentality? Just maybe… As soon as I arrived home I called a family member of the little boy that lives here in Phnom Penh. Maybe Rescue Task Force (RTF) can help? Could we transport the boy to a hospital in Phnom Penh?

They had already tried that but the bus would not permit him onboard – as he would surely die in route. There is no money for a taxi and he could not survive the ride on a motorbike. There was no money, no hope.

RTF hired an ambulance to come to the village and bring the boy to the children’s hospital here in the capital. The family could stay with friends so lodging would not be a problem.

When we arrived at the hospital, the admitting physician said that in another day Choeun would have died. He was diagnosed with treatable tuberculosis!

Three days later he was sitting up and soon after he walked out of the hospital on his own. There will be a long recovery period but the doctor assures us he will recover.

To the family and villagers the $500 that was needed might as well have been $5 million…

From a six year old little boy, some amazed grandparents, family and villagers…”Ah Khun (Thank You) Rescue Task Force”

Gary Becks, Founder of Rescue Task Force goes to where others do not, to do what others will not. Rescue Task Force (RTF) medical teams respond to areas which have never had outside contact. Gary builds and equips regional medical clinics in deep jungle communities and provide villagers with safe water. RTF volunteer teams respond to natural and man-made disasters in conflictive zones – providing relief to victims of combat and refugees of war.

RTF teams have delivered over $87 million in donated relief and supplies to Central America, Mexico, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Haiti. Rescue Task Force operates twenty-three Literacy Learning Centers for women in Afghanistan and has built three full service medical clinics in the jungles of Honduras’ Miskito Coast.

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