Battling persistent pain in her legs and a weak bladder function since she was 1-year old, we are so thankful that a clear diagnosis of little Channey’s medical condition was finally reached with the help of Singapore medical specialists. With the diagnosis of Spina Bifida, a congenital spine disorder, we finally understand now the cause behind the perennial weakness and pain in her legs, and the threat of paralysis and premature death for this 6-year-old.
With the generous support from a Singapore hospital, we flew Channey and her mother, Thyda over from Cambodia for specialist consultation two weeks ago. Little Channey is due for a surgery on 17 September 2018. Despite the many cruel blows that Thyda and Channey have suffered, their countenance shows no traces of the misfortunes that have befallen them. Read the adventures of amazing Thyda and cheeky Channey as they explore the Garden City.
16 Sep - Visiting a Church
This morning, we took Thyda and Channey to the church service at BBTC (Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church). The cell group who went with us to Cambodia last year will be selling breakfast foods in church today to raise funds for their year-end missions trip to Cambodia. The timing is impeccable! Thyda and Channey will be pleased to know that the Singapore church group is organising this to help their people.
Breakfast was delicious! Channey had a hotdog bun while Mummy ate fishballs and cucumber on a stick. We bought them otah and nasi lemak but the taste was a little overly exotic for them. Haha!
After the church service, we adjourned to the first pre-trip meeting with the mission team from BBTC. The members welcomed mother and child with friendly smiles and caring prayers for tomorrow’s operation. Thyda’s faith is further boosted, trusting that God is in full control and that her precious child is safe in His arms. We decided to end the day early today so that both of them would have sufficient rest before the big day tomorrow.
15 Sep - Pre-Op Consultation
Channey was half awake and slightly grumpy when we saw her. She woke up at 5.30am this morning, wasn’t in too great a mood because it’s “hospital day”. The neurosurgeon met with us and explained the whole operation process, associated risks, the pattern of pain relief after surgery and rehabilitation requirements. Channey was at ease when she saw the neurosurgeon because she recognised him, calling him “the good Singapore doctor” who has been exceptionally kind and gentle towards her.
Channey was all smiles when the meeting ended because we promised her today is Play Day! Now, here’s the programme line-up:
7.00am – See doctor
8.30am – Breakfast at Leisure Park Kallang
10.00am – Bowling
12.00pm – Arcade games at amusement centre
1.00pm – Marketing at NTUC for tonight’s cook by Mummy
1.30pm – Tomyum noodles (again!) at Kallang Wave Mall
2.30pm – Head home for indoor games
5.30pm – Khmer dinner party BEGINS!
Honestly, we were really tired by the end of the day. It’s been long days and nights for the last 2 weeks since their arrival. But seeing Channey’s cheeky grins and loud chuckles is enough reward for us.
This is going to be the last play day before her operation Monday. After the surgery, Channey will require complete bed rest for several days because she’s allowed to sit up. It will take her some time before she can resume her play and normal routines. Hopefully, she bounces back sooner than expected. You can overcome this, our dearest! We are here with you.
14 Sep - Love Messages from Channey
“I lub lub you.”
“Thank you for help me.”
“You are my family. Thank you for lub me.”
“Good night. God bless you. I lub you so so so much.”
“I miss you. Will I see you today?”
Endearing expressions of love from little Channey; the little girl leaves us daily voice messages on the phone. Isn’t she a sweetie?!?! 🙂
13 Sep - A New Friend
Today, our dear former intern Esther came to the office to help us with a video project. After work, we made our way to take Thyda and Channey out for dinner! This time, to Parkway Parade for some nice Thai food. Surprisingly, Thyda loves spicy food though most Cambodians would rather stay away from chilli. We ordered 2 bowls of tomyum soup and 7 other small Thai dishes.
Thyda and Channey love durians but unfortunately the durian season is over and we could not find any decent ones for them. Next up, we headed to our all-time favourite NTUC supermarket. Thyda is carefully planning her menu for our meals this Saturday; both lunch and dinner. Wow, what a treat!! Super looking forward to finally taste her Khmer food. It’s gonna be a great weekend!
12 Sep - Things Channey Likes
We realised very quickly that Little Channey loves burgers more than Khmer food! Cheese burger being her top favourite! But just the other day, we heard from Mummy Thyda that Channey doesn’t want to eat burger anymore because it “makes her big, and the cheese too.” WHHAATTT!! Didn’t expect a child as young as a 6-year-old would be afraid of becoming fat! Oh well, this is truly a “girl thing”. And just And just like any other girl, Channey likes make-up too. This is her beauty set; psuedo make-up tools all neatly arranged.
Channey enjoys colouring and we got her a series of colouring books. She was also extremely delighted when she saw the Hello Kitty ride and was all smiles as she proudly waved. Even though she liked it so much, this sensible child didn’t whine or cry for another ride when it ended. She did ask but when we said it’s time to go back, there was no resistance and she nodded amiably.
11 Sep - Blood Test
Back to the hospital for a blood test today to investigate the abnormalities found in her blood by the Cambodia hospitals some months back.
When Channey had to do the blood test, she cried badly and held on to Thyda tightly. Thankfully it was done in no time, thanks to the skilful nurses.
To reward her for her bravery, we brought Channey to watch a cartoon movie. It was quite an experience for both mother and child as they had never watched a movie in a cinema before.
During our conversations, Channey shared that her dream is to be either a teacher or a dentist. We look forward to the time when little Channey would one day realise her dream.
After a whole day out, Thyda whipped up a sumptuous home-cooked Khmer dinner for Channey. Check out the food presentation! Super yums!
9-10 Sep - Recuperation before Surgery
Thyda and Channey are still unwell. No going out today. For speedy recovery, they need authentic Khmer food! Back to the kitchen, Mummy! 🙂
8 Sep - Games at Home!
Channey came down with a cough during the week, and we thought it’ll be better if she stayed home so that she can recover well for the upcoming surgery on 17 Sep. Since we can’t go out to play, we decided to bring fun into their home with old-school carnival style games like bowling pins and shooting games with ping-pong balls and paper cups! Haha! It doesn’t take fancy games to make little Channey happy and thrilled! It is so true, we really don’t need much to be happy – one important lesson that we’ve learnt from Thyda and Channey.
Thyda very much wanted to attend a local church service and so, we went. We brought them to Trinity Christian Centre, it was the first time they visited a church of a few thousands, and they were very excited to be there. Thyda and Channey felt much peace and joy in the church as they sand and danced to the tunes of the songs. It is their Christian faith that has helped them to persevere through hard times.
7 Sep - Rest Day
Both mother and child were completely knocked out by the drowsy cough and anti-vomiting medicines. Sleep is good, they have been tired for far too long.
After work in the evening, we bought satay, hokkien mee, duck porridge from the Bedok hawker centre and delivered to the house; a wonderful respite after a long and tiring week.
6 Sep - The Final Diagnosis
Today is a very important day. After a series of scans, tests and consultation with specialists from different medical disciplines, we will receive the final verdict. We wish to know what’s causing Channey pain and weakness in her legs. The neurosurgeon met us and in the latest x-ray, the results have confirmed that Channey is suffering from Spina Bifida, a congenital spine disorder. Channey was born with her backbone unfused with the bottom of her spine, resulting in tethered cord and abnormal stretching of the spinal cord. If early intervention through surgery is not done, Channey will gradually lose the ability to walk and may die at a young age.
Thyda was calm at receiving this piece of news from the neurosurgeon. In her mind, a 70-80% chance of success is enough good news for her and Channey. The neurosurgeon strongly recommended a surgery. Encouraged by the wisdom and show of professionalism and medical experience as demonstrated by the attending Singapore specialists over the past weeks, it took less than an hour before Thyda decided to proceed with an operation for Channey. After the consultation, we brought Channey to a private room where we got our former beneficiary from Cambodia who’s now a medical doctor, to translate to Khmer the diagnosis and recommended treatment. With a full understanding, Thyda assured us –
I’m ok. I don’t worry. I trust the Singapore doctors and God will help my child.
A few hours later, the operation date is set – 17 September 2018.
Unfortunately, we could not arrange for the surgery to happen any sooner because Channey came down with a terrible cough and threw up today. She needs to recover fully before the operation can take place. Mummy fell very ill too, vomited many times. We quickly brought them to a clinic to see a doctor in the afternoon.
Please rest well, dear Thyda and Channey. It must be a combination of viral infection, fatigue and emotional stresses over the last few days that caused you to become so sick suddenly. Tomorrow is a rest day, no more visits to the hospital and clinic. You have to rest!
5 Sep - Taking the MRT
It’s the third consecutive day of visiting the doctor, and today, Channey would be seeing an orthopaedic surgeon to check on her bone condition. As the appointment was in the afternoon, Thyda and Channey sent our Cambodian staff to the airport via the MRT train. They were very excited about their first MRT ride in Singapore.
After sending our Hagar Cambodia staff off, we proceeded back to the hospital to see the orthopaedic surgeon. After looking at both the x-ray results and doing a physical examination on Channey, the orthopaedic surgeon shared good news that her bone condition was okay. With this result, it means if it’s truly tethered cord, the treatment route will be much more straightforward.
We love the daily commutes to and fro the hospital where we chatted with Thyda about almost everything; her past, her current work in a guesthouse in Cambodia, her life with Channey and more. From her sharing, we caught a small glimpse of how much Thyda has sacrificed for Channey so that she could receive the medical attention she needed. Thyda works 6 out of 7 days a week, for close to 15 hours a day, managing a guesthouse all by herself; cleaning the guestrooms, cooking all the meals for the mission teams they host, and taking them out on sightseeing tours. She also cleans people’s homes during her off days with Channey in tow. Thyda works day and night just so to earn every dollar she could to finance her child’s medical needs. In tears, she reminisced the days when she and Channey could only afford rice with soya sauce for meals. This much awaited medical help they were going to receive would greatly reduce the family’s financial burden that Thyda has been bearing for the past 5 years.
4 Sep - MRI Results
The full spine MRI results are out! Our hearts leaped when the neurosurgeon informed us that there were no tumours/cancerous cells found on her spine! What a relief! Now, the next thing to do is to confirm the earlier suspicion of a tethered cord in her spine. To do this, it means more tests and scans to investigate Channey’s bladder function and exclude any orthopaedic causes related to her condition. Ok, darling, you can do this! Three more tests for today, let’s go girl!
We were referred to a urologist for the urodynamics test to check on her kidney and bladder function. Unfortunately, the procedure was too distressing for the young child when the doctor attempted to insert tubes into her bladder and rectum. Breaking into inconsolable wails, the procedure was eventually abandoned but the doctor was still able to perform other tests on her kidney function. You did very well Channey! We know it’s hard, you’ve been so brave! After leaving the urology clinic, Channey went for yet another X-ray before we called it a day.
To comfort and cheer everyone up, we spent the rest of the day at the iconic Esplanade and the Merlion Park, laughing ourselves silly as we attempted taking photos of one another pulling off different jump shots and playing with optical illusions! What a joy seeing both Thyda and Channey smiling and having a great time touring around the city.
3 Sep - MRI Scan
It’s the day of the anticipated MRI scan. The results from the scan would bring us one big step closer in knowing how best little Channey can be helped. Channey was very nervous before the scan, but soon calmed down under the loving care of the hospital team.
The scan took about an hour, and once Channey was wheeled back to the paediatric ward, Thyda stayed by her bedside. Channey was still under the effects of sedation, and occasionally moved though still asleep. With each slight movement, Thyda would check on her to make sure she was ok. It was really heart-warming to watch.
During the wait for Channey to recuperate, we had a chance to chat up with Thyda, the amazing Mummy who is Channey’s greatest pillar of support and source of strength. When asked about what she hopes to do in the future, Thyda shared that she dreams of working in the church where she can support the needy – her way of thanking God and the church for helping her through the many difficult years.
2 Sep - The Arrival
We have been looking forward to this day for many weeks now! Accompanied by our Hagar Cambodia staff, Thyda and 6-year-old Channey will arrive in Singapore today for the little child’s upcoming special consultation at a hospital. This is their first trip out of Cambodia; we are sure it’s going to be an unforgettable experience!
We learned later that Channey enjoyed the flight, while Thyda experienced some motion sickness. We warmly welcomed them with our big hugs and Bobo the bear, which Channey fell in love with instantly.
After an eventful day, we took them to their new “home” where they will stay for the next one month. Time to rest up before the MRI procedure tomorrow.
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