By Doctor Suzanne Montemuro
In February 2015 I joined The Lake Clinic Cambodia and spent 3 days per week working with their teams at various floating clinics on Tonle Sap Lake and Steung Sen River.
TLC has built 4 floating clinics. These simple structures are where the team sees patients, eats and sleeps (all in the same room) and are complete with all manner of creepy crawlies. Getting to these remote clinics takes about 3-4 hours by van and boat.
Week 1&2 were spent at the Steung Sen River clinic with a doctor, 1-2 nurses, a registrar and a cook (all Cambodian). Patients seen included: a child with severe congenital heart disease, a woman with end stage TB, a man with severe kyphoscoliosis, a new born with respiratory difficulties, multiple children with upper and lower respiratory infections, parasites and adults with gastritis, HTN (hypertension) and diabetes. Most surprising was a home visit to a woman 102 years old, living in a small wooden shack on stilts!
Weeks 3&4 were spent with the Tonle Sap Lake team. The villages on Tonle Sap Lake, consist of very basic shacks sitting in a brown soupy mix of garbage, excrement, and fish guts.
The clinics were very busy and noisy. Imagine: 2-3 docs, nurse/midwives, a dentist, and registration, all in one room with constant motor boat traffic outside!
What we saw: a child with acute renal failure, a baby with severe developmental delay, a young girl with purpura (bruising), a school room where every child had head lice, a young man with bradycardia and syncope, children with burns (open fires in small grass shacks)…and lots of GI complaints and respiratory infections.
What I enjoyed the most: working with a dedicated team of Cambodians in difficult conditions, supporting each other, providing medical care to Tonle Sap Lake and Stung Sen River communities. Volunteering with this group was an unforgettable experience.
What was difficult: the bugs, mosquitoes and other things that crawl, the tragic conditions people live in.
Would I go back: you bet!