Change for Chann
Organized by: Lea, Kim, Mette, & Chann
We are three volunteer physio-/physical therapists from Denmark (Mette), England (Kimberley) and the USA (Lea). Together, we have been volunteering full time at the same rehabilitation center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This center is underfunded and its resources are few, especially when it comes to treating adults with severe functional limitations. During our time at this center, we have all crossed paths with Chann. A remarkable 27 year old patient, who was an innocent victim of a political situation, that resulted in him suffering a spinal cord injury (L1) after being shot. It is because of this injustice that we are trying to raise money to allow Chann to gain back his independence. We feel that his story needs to meet a wider audience, and hope that it will inspire aid.
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHANN:
When Chann first arrived to our center, the local staff tried to turn him away, saying that there was nothing they could do since his spinal cord injury was permanent. Thank goodness Kimberley was there to stop that from happening! Since then, the three of us have all worked together to treat Chann. Kimberley and Mette have focused on his balance and strength, while Lea has focused more on his wheelchair skills and techniques. Though we have all put a lot of time and energy into Chann's treatment, it is nothing when compared to Chann's unbelievable dedication to his rehabilitation. That is what makes Chann so special to us. Despite the devastating hardships he has suffered, Chann always comes into PT with a huge smile on his face and is always ready to work. He is so motivated that we often have to force him to take a break when treating him!
Chann also has an amazing support system in his mother and brother. They have joined him in the rehabilitation center's dormitories for the past two months. They live 3 hours away, and have not been able to visit home since their arrival. These dormitories are not what one may call a "home away from home", and are certainly not a comfortable place to stay for a prolonged period of time. But Chann makes the most of it, and when he is not having PT for 2 hours/day, you can find him in the PT gym lifting weights, practicing wheelies and other wheelchair skills, playing basketball, and spending time with his family.
November 12, 2013- An ordinary day with an extraordinary ending, as Chann’s life changed forever. As he was walking to university, Chann turned back to collect some forgotten documents- not realizing that these would be his last steps. A snap decision to take a shortcut back to his house led him unknowingly into the heart of, what had intended to be a peaceful garment factory demonstration. Walking head on into the ensuing violent clashes with military police who were using AK47 rifles, Chann unsuccessfully tried to escape the insanity he had stumbled into. Caught in the crossfire, Chann was shot in the back and in this sudden, life altering moment Chann became paralyzed from the waist down.
HIS EXPERIENCE WITH CAMBODIAN HEALTHCARE AND HIS FINANCIAL SITUATION:
Chann was taken to the nearest clinic, not by ambulance or by the police who shot him, but by onlookers, where he was turned away because the clinic did not know how to treat him- a stark difference in medical attitudes in comparison to the West. Chann was transferred to another hospital, yet he still did not receive the care he needed. He remained in the dark about his condition for a further 2 weeks before finally hearing from doctors that he had suffered a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed from the waist down-he would never walk again. He was then discharged and sent home without referral to a therapy unit or, most importantly, without guidance and counseling on how to live life as a paraplegic. He also did not receive any assistance or equipment (like a wheelchair) - no mean feat when home for Chann is a traditional stilted, 12 stepped Cambodian house (pictures to your left).
Chann's mother would not accept this fate for her beloved son. She knew that living with a disability in Cambodia would not allow him to fulfill his dreams to finish university and become a professional, due to its lack of accessibility. In Cambodia, pavements/sidewalks do not exist; most roads in the provinces are made of dirt and stone; lifts/elevators are as rare as a lake in the desert; buildings are often unfinished and have strange architectural barriers. Knowing the future struggle for her son, Chann's mother went in search for a cure. She was informed that a surgery in Vietnam could ‘cure’ Chann's injury. Making huge financial sacrifices, they took this leap of faith, selling 2 out of their 3 cows- their farming livelihood. This gave them $500, but they were still $4000 shy to afford the trip to Vietnam. With little choice they took out a loan for $4000, with interest growing at a rate of $100/month. The surgery performed in Vietnam was unsuccessful. Furthermore, it is uncertain as to what surgery was performed in Vietnam; none of Chann’s personal medical information was released due to ‘political reasons’. Unfortunately, the only thing Chann came away with was severe pressure sores on his bottom and legs.
Due to their dire financial situation, Chann and his family do not have the extra money required to spend on the urgent adaptations and equipment needed for him to live an independent life. Prior to his injury, Chann spent the majority of his life determined to further his education and attend university: As a child, Chann fished and sold his catch on the side of the road to make money for his school fund; during high school, he worked as a stone mason for 6 hours a day while attending school full time; at university, he was a tuk tuk driver for 8 hours/day before going to school at night and then studying for another 3 hours each evening.
HIS FUTURE GOALS:
Chann has put so much effort into making his goal of completing university a reality. He deserves the opportunity to gain back his independence and graduate. In order to do so, Chann needs to be able to enter his house, attend university, and have a means of transportation. These are things that we take for granted at home. Our healthcare systems and insurances enable us to be as independent as possible. We have access to public transport and handicap accessible buildings. Chann has none of this. At this point in time, the one thing he has received is a basic, heavy, and unspecific wheelchair. Chann is facing many obstacles, but together we can help give him a chance to overcome them. To hear Chann discussing his views on his situation and his ambitions in life, please watch the video to your left.
WE ARE TRYING TO RAISE MONEY TO:
Purchase a tri-motorbike (motorbike with 3 wheels). Cost: $2400
- Motorbike $1950, materials to alter: $450, labor: free
- To allow him to be independent when living in the city and allow him to get to university. For an idea of what this may look like there is a picture of Chann on a trial tri-motorbike in our photo gallery. We will have a tri-motorbike custom-made to fit his specific needs.
Purchase materials to convert the area underneath his house into an accessible room for Chann to live in. Cost: ~$500.
- Unfortunately, a ramp is not possible to get into his house because of the impact that rain has on the land.
Purchase handrails at university so that he can ascend and descend the stairs in his wheelchair to reach classes on the 2nd and 3rd floor. Cost: ~$100
For any healthcare professionals or people who wish to donate or sponsor medical equipment, we are looking for:
- A light weight wheelchair that can be broken down
- A pressure relieving cushion
UPDATE: Due to the overwhelming amount of support by donors, we have increased our goal to $4000 in hopes to purchase the medical equipment listed above. Any extra money will go towards Chann's university expenses. THANK YOU!!!
We are just three people without the backing of the local rehabilitation services due to the political risks involved. We have done all that we can do with the limited resources available to us, but cannot get Chann all that he needs by ourselves- we need your help! All funds will go directly towards the items mentioned above. We are not a registered charity or a profit making company. Everything will go directly to Chann. Please donate what you can, and please know that $10 can make a big difference for Chann.
Kimberley, Lea, and Mette
For more information on the political situation in Cambodia that has affected Chann, please click here.
Here is a description of the photos to your left. They are just a few of the obstacles that Chann faces:
- His wheelchair in a tuk tuk and how he must get into a tuk tuk: As of now, this is the only way that Chann is able to travel. His family home is 3 hours away from where his university is in Phnom Penh and his apartment in Phnom Penh is 20 minutes from his classes (about a $4 tuk tuk each way). Tuk tuks are expensive and require at least 2 people to lift him in and out of.
- Propelling down a side street: As you can see, roads are not safe for Chann to self propel. There are no pavements/sidewalks and the traffic is extremely dangerous.
- The land outside his house after just one day of rain: At his home, the surrounding land and dirt road becomes inaccessible by wheelchair after rain.
- A flight of stairs in his university: Normally, Chann can ascend/descend a flight of stairs with only 2 people but due to the extreme incline of these stairs, 4 people were needed.
- The design of his house
- Just one of the architectural barriers Chann faces when at university- a random curb in the middle of a narrow and strangely angled hallway.