April Newsletter

Coronavirus Update

    Just as it has throughout the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted life at Lao Friends Hospital for Children and the finances of Friends Without A Border. Fortunately, there are currently only 19 confirmed cases in Laos, and only three in Luang Prabang. However, the borders have been closed for some weeks now, and everyone is under strict lockdown, with most non-essential businesses closed and travel in and out of villages restricted.

International volunteers — the doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who often help with clinical supervision and guidance of Lao staff — returned to their home countries at the outset of the pandemic. In their absence, the hospital’s medical director and medical education director have been working around the clock to maintain high quality care for all of our patients and ensure that our local teams continue to learn and develop. The Lao staff have stepped up magnificently and shown great leadership and courage, taking on extra responsibilities and continuing to develop the service as well as their own skills.

The caseload in the Outpatient Department has decreased by about half to 50 children a day because families are afraid to risk exposure to the virus by leaving their homes. Many simply cannot find transportation. Those who do make it to the hospital are more likely to have advanced disease and may even be critically ill. The Neonatal Unit and the Emergency Room remain busy and patients continue to fill beds in the Inpatient Department. We anticipate that we will see many more such cases when the lockdown lifts.

The commitment to high quality, compassionate care, which is the cornerstone of our practice at LFHC, remains unchanged.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced us to cancel or postpone all of our fundraising events. The loss of revenue is estimated to be well over $750,000. We are short-staffed and we are financially strapped. Many families have lost their livelihoods through this pandemic (even the people selling food around the hospital are gone) and we anticipate that we will see an increase in diseases of poverty, such as malnutrition and infections, in the ensuing months, and that our role as the only free pediatric service in the country will be even more important than ever.

We know that everyone is hurting right now. You are all part of our LFHC family and we hope that you are safe and well. If there is anything that you can do to help and support us in this difficult time, whether by donating money, fundraising, and/or sharing this appeal as widely as possible, please know that every effort helps and that everyone at LFHC is so grateful.

Lockdown Doesn’t Lock Out Education at LFHC

    The national lockdown imposed by Lao PDR in response to the pandemic has affected operations at LFHC, but it hasn’t quashed its role as a teaching hospital.

Staff members are not allowed to travel to the hospital for education programs or to enter classrooms. However, Medical Education Director Dr. Rathi Guhadasan has selected topics and learning activities that are appropriate for distance-learning — via the Internet.

Doctors used the Facebook video chat function for group discussions and two doctors were even able to join from quarantine in the isolation ward (both subsequently tested negative). They had to use their own devices and those with poor Internet connections or having to use their phones to look things up and read found that difficult. However the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Read more here.

A Little Girl’s Battle With Thalassemia

    Ana Phonesavath is a brave little girl afflicted with thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder. In fact, she has homozygous Beta 0 thalassemia, which is the most severe type.

When she was only five months old, she appeared to be very pale and was brought to Lao Friends Hospital for Children. Her family history revealed that her parents were carriers of the thalassemia trait and subsequent hemoglobin typing led to a diagnosis of thalassemia.

Since that time, Ana’s parents have brought her to LFHC’s Thalassemia Clinic every 3-4 weeks for blood transfusions. Transfusion therapy is common among patients with thalassemia. Ana’s frequent transfusions caused an iron overload in her blood, but that is being treated with a medication called deferiprone.

Ana is an excellent example of how well children with thalassemia can do with regular transfusions and follow-up care.

Read more here.

Hospital Laboratory Acquires Biochemistry Analyzer

    Lab technicians at Lao Friends Hospital for Children have upgraded the technology that helps our medical teams diagnose and treat sick and injured children — thanks to Roche, a multinational healthcare company.

Roche Diagnostics donated a refurbished biochemistry machine, the Cobas Integra 400 Plus, to the hospital and installed it in the laboratory in February. LFHC lab techs have been trained and are already using it to conduct diagnostic tests.

The analyzer is often used to evaluate liver and kidney functions, as well as monitor electrolytes.

Read more here.

Meet LFHC’s English Instructor 

   Marg Froude first heard of Lao Friends Hospital for Children in 2015 when she met and befriended a woman named Ashley Emmerton, who conducted English classes there for Lao doctors and nurses.

In 2018, the English instructor position at LFHC opened and Ashley encouraged Marg to apply. Although Marg was considering retirement, she accepted the job when it was offered to her.

Marg’s early life as a mathematics and science teacher in Australia has proven to be a fitting background for teaching medical terms in English to the Lao staff.

She says that the progress the LFHC staff makes in learning English depends on several factors: their motivation and confidence, the time they are exposed to classroom instruction, the frequency of their practice outside of the classroom, an appropriate curriculum and resources, as well as the quality of instruction.

She says she is very happy teaching English at the hospital and has made many friends there. We’re very happy that she’s a part of the LFHC team!

   Read more here.

Miss Luang Prabang Charms LFHC

   Being crowned Miss Luang Prabang is the dream of many young Lao women. So when Mila Douangmixay realized her dream, she decided to become very active while wearing the crown.

Mila has brought smiles to the faces of many children at Lao Friends Hospital for Children and has participated in fundraising events to support the hospital.

“I wanted to support LFHC because I want to help children, especially those who are sick or underprivileged,” she said recently.

Read more here.