Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Phnom Penh to Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital, Kampot

Ready to roll: KTM 990 and BMW R1200GS ADV

Dave and I had an early start this morning. We planned to ride from Phnom Penh to Kampot to visit the Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital (http://www.skmh.org). 

Given the road and traffic condition, this will be an all-day road trip, just a little bit over 200 miles round-trip, and we promised each other that would be back before dark, a matter of good judgment –and survival, I guess. 

I have written earlier in the blog that I would revisit the hospital again when I am back. From the U.S. I had contacted the medical director, Dr. Cornelia Haener who is Swiss, but she left for Europe to spend Christmas with her family the day of my arrival. Dave has a friend at the hospital, the physician Dr. Kendrick Kahler from Texas, so it was easy to get a personal tour and impression of the people, the building and the services the hospital is providing.

First we are heaving brealfast

The extra-delicious Khmer pork, fantastic semi-sweet marinade, thinly sliced and grilled, in a broth with glass noodles and a fried egg: The Breakfast of Champions.

Playing with the cat

On our way down south on Road No.2 we stopped several times, for water, for chatting when we saw something new and of interest, such as the new large rice mills, a novelty in the Cambodian economy which previously reserved rice milling to the individual farmer’s level, or for some butt-stretching.

We met a young woman at one of the stops whose ten year old boy had some sort of a severe disability. Dave asked in Khmer what the illness is and the mother mentioned something of a brain infection. By that we were relatively close to Kampot, not too far from the hospital, maybe a two hour ride on the back of a moto scooter. But the mother had never heard about the hospital. Dave arranged for her to call friends of his who will help in setting up a connection which allows her to bring the child to the hospital. I will follow up on this story which interests me very much.

The mother with her 10 year old handicapped son, we help her see a doctor at Sonja Kill Memorial

Another patient with the Cambodian style intravenous drip infusion, on her way to the nearest clinic, maybe hours away.

The bottle is wrapped in a plastic bag to prevent overheating.

Yum: Food again.

Grilled snake.

The facility of Sonja Kill memorial is simply fabulous. The land is owned by the Cambodian government, it is a 99 year lease arrangement; all the buildings are owned by the founder family Dr. and Mrs. Kill from Germany, and the operation is done through Hope International out of Philadelphia, together with the German Kinder Missionswerk (http://www.sternsinger.org/en/home/about-us.html). 

Support comes also from ‘Ein Herz fuer Kinder’ (Our Heart for the Children), the charity of Germany’s largest and most influential tabloid newspaper. (http://www.bild.de/news/einherzfuerkinder/ein-herz-fuer-kinder/home-15682108.bild.html)

Dr. Kendrick Kahler, in wheel chair, another physician and us.

Al-fresco lunch togehter with the doctors

The beautiful single-family residences for doctors.

We get a grand tour of all of the buildings, of which some are still unoccupied. The hospital sat vacant for a few years since the Kill family did not intent to run, or finance the operation. Now, everything is off to a good, albeit, it seems, slow start. I am actually surprised about the lack of patients and activity, but this could be a result of current season. It is rice harvest here, and people are too busy to be ill, or so it seems.

Not only the master plan of the facility is of great beauty and functionality, the German architects also incorporated traditional Khmer ventilation techniques into the design which allows for non-conditioned, pleasantly naturally ventilated patient bed rooms throughout. The ER and operating rooms are all fully conditioned, with the newest laminar flow ac- technology typically used in Western hospitals, though.

The hospital provides housing for doctors on the grounds of the facility, also in beautiful single family residences, mixed with some two-story hotel-room type apartments in guesthouses. There are doctors and anesthesiologists from Ukraine, the U.S., and Canada, a kinesthesiologist from France and about 100+ Khmer staff.

I wish the hospital well, and I sure hope that the local people will their way to it in the event of emergencies and sickness. Although I was told (and I heard from former Khmer patients last year) that the hospital charges practically nothing to local patients, it still seems to be more what most people are able to afford. If the hospital turns into a facility were Western tourists and the growing expat community finds treatment than the purpose would have been lost.

Only time will tell.

We are heading back on the exciting roads leading up north back to the capital. We should arrive just in time for rush-hour. JJ

The bike will also get a much needed wash.

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