Monthly blood drives are a vital component of operations at Lao Friends
Hospital for Children, which has seen an increase in surgeries and thalassemia
Twenty-one people were donors during the February blood drive at the
Friends Gallery in downtown Lunag Prabang.
There always seems to be a shortage of blood in the province and LFHC
encourages local residents, expats and tourists to donate.
Apart from emergencies and surgeries at the area’s district hospitals,
donated blood is critically needed at the LFHC Thalassemia Clinic, which provides
blood transfusions to children afflicted with the thalassemia blood disorder.
The caseload at the clinic has increased to the extent that the clinic is
now open two days a week. On a busy day, as many as 24 patients will visit the
clinic, some for follow-up visits and others for transfusions. The clinic uses
as many as 12 units of blood per day.
Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder that can cause anemia.
In 2018, the monthly blood drives at the Friends Gallery collected 317
bags of donated blood.
The LFHC staff is ever-vigilant for signs of malnutrition in the children they see.
Last year, more than 150 children were treated for severe or moderate malnutrition. Hospital administrators have started a follow-up clinic that includes test-feeding (under medical supervision) of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF).
Nearly 3 tons of RUFT were imported this year to ensure
an adequate supply of this vital medication for the malnourished children in
The hospital’s therapeutic food program is designed to dramatically reduce the need to hospitalize malnourished children for long periods (Read more here).
Stunted growth, caused by poor nutrition, continues to
be a serious problem in many rural regions of Laos.
In March 2018, the World Bank reported that Laos has reduced poverty and hunger and improved education and health outcomes in recent years. However, the nation lags in the area of child nutrition, the World Bank stated, noting that stunted growth impacts 44 percent of children under the age of five. A recent report by the nongovernmental organization Save the Children cited the same percentage of stunted growth children.
Lao officials issued a report in June asserting that the rate of stunting from malnutrition among children under the age of five had dropped to 33 percent in 2017 from 44 percent in 2011. The officials stressed that malnutrition remains a concern in several provinces, including Luang Prabang Province, according to a report published by Radio Free Asia in July.
Globally, about 45 percent of the deaths among children
under the age of five are linked to poor nutrition, according to a UNICEF
article published in October.
A multidisciplinary team at LFHC recently saved the life of a 2-year-old boy who was suffering from an “acute abdomen,” a medical emergency often associated with ruptured intestines or a perforated appendix.
The boy, Khamphan Nun, was feverish and dehydrated by diarrhea. After much questioning by staff, his family revealed that their son had been bitten by a dog in the scrotum and that he had an unrepaired inguinal hernia.
Khamphan was rushed into the Operating Theater, where a surgical team repaired a part of his intestine that had herniated into his scrotum and was then bit by the dog. The surgeon had to perform an ostomy.
The medical and nursing team then began the task of teaching Khamphan’s family about ostomy care. Child Life Therapist Kongmeng Sialee has been instrumental in helping the boy and his family cope with this major change in his life.
The nonprofit organization Friends of Ostomates Worldwide has donated large amounts of ostomy supplies for Khamphan.
A serious complication impairing Khamphan’s health was his severe weight loss and dehydration caused by a bowel perforation. What made this even worse was that he suffered diarrhea whenever attempts were made to renourish him, as he had lost most of his capacity to absorb complex carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. With special attention from the LFHC nutrition team, which included a complex plan using special formulas with pre-digested nutrients, Khamphan made a slow transition back to a regular diet.
After a little more than a month in LFHC, Khamphan was able to go home with his family. He returns every month to allow doctors to evaluate his ostomy and nutrition progress.
Late last month, Lao staff members at LFHC trained a doctor and nurse from Nambak District Hospital in the care and treatment of thalassemia patients.
The goal of the training is to give thalassemia patients a place to receive treatment closer to their homes. Some families travel long distances every month to bring their children to LFHC, which has the only pediatric thalassemia clinic in northern Laos. These families are spending a large proportion of their income on transportation. Nambak is about 75 miles north of Luang Prabang.
Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder that causes anemia and can be fatal. Many patients need monthly blood transfusions. Despite the high prevalence of thalassemia in Laos, there are only two pediatric thalassemia clinics in the country – at LFHC and in the capital city of Vientiane.
In training the Nambak staff, LFHC administrators envision them spreading this clinical knowledge to other hospitals and health care professionals across Laos.
The first doctor and nurse from Nambak arrived on Jan. 29 training. They had a half day of theory, followed by two days of practical training and observation in the LFHC Thalassemia Clinic.
Two more Nambak doctors and nurses will be trained over the next few months and their hospital will soon start to receive patients. The patients will be treated at Nambak for two months and then return to LFHC for the third month. LFHC administrators hope this will be the start of a great collaboration between LFHC and Nambak District Hospital.
About 750 people, including Cambodian government officials, international guests and hospital staff, attended the 20th Anniversary Celebration of Angkor Hospital for Children on January 25 in Siem Reap.
Friends Without A Border Founder Kenro Izu presented a check for $27,601 to Dr. Ngoun Chanpheaktra, Medical Director of Angkor Hospital for Children, and Navy Tep, the facility’s Chief Operating Officer, during the event. The donation was raised at last year’s Friends of Friends New York fundraising event in Manhattan.
AHC was the first hospital built and operated by Friends Without A Border. In 2013, AHC became an independent, self-managed hospital.
The 20th Annual Friends of Friends Photography Auction proved to be a wonderful success.
The Dec. 12 event, held at The Highline Loft in Manhattan, raised more than $160,000 (gross) to benefit Lao Hospital for Children!
More than 100 photographers donated their works, which were offered online and during a live auction.
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Artist of the Year Award posthumously to Mr. Irving Penn. A video about his life and work (https://vimeo.com/306393746) was screened at the event, after which Mr. Peter MacGill, president of the Pace/MacGill Gallery, accepted the award on behalf of the Irving Penn Foundation.
Friends Without A Border offers a heartfelt thanks to the organizers of the event, the photographers who donated their works and all who attended and participated in the auction.
Six-year-old Thorhua Wa was brought to LFHC last month after her parents became concerned that she wasn’t sleeping well and getting out of bed often to urinate.
Doctors determined that Thorhua was afflicted with malnutrition-related diabetes. This is not a condition that LFHC doctors see very often and is extremely complicated to manage. Malnutrition-Related diabetes is similar to Type 1 diabetes, but patients require 2-3 times more insulin to manage their disease.
In Type 1 diabetes, the child’s body does not produce insulin. The reason this occurs in not fully understood. The disease is fatal for children afflicted with Type 1 diabetes who have no access to insulin.
The LFHC nutrition team immediately began to teach Thorhua’s family about diabetes and help them understand the importance appropriate blood-glucose control. Children with diabetes suffer from dangerous short-term effects of low blood-sugar, but also must work to prevent the long-term complications which can lead to blindness, kidney failure and amputation.
The team instructed Thorhua’s parents about how to proceed after measuring her glucose, how to inject insulin safely, and how to read her symptoms — especially for signs of low blood-sugar which can cause seizure, coma or death if not quickly recognized and treated. The team devoted much time to teach the family about managing Thorhua’s diet.
Action4Diabetics, a Southeast Asia charity, generously collaborated with LFHC to support Thorhua and donated insulin and glucose measurement kits. A4D also is providing transportation fee reimbursements for the many visits it will take to manage her diabetes safely.
LFHC Nutritionist Soulee Chakeryere has worked closely with Thorhua’s parents and has helped translate information into the Hmong language for the family. Since leaving LFHC, the family has called Soulee daily to report Thorhua’s blood-sugars and to ensure that everything is staying on track as they transition her care to home life.
Laos has one of the lowest rates of diabetes in Asia, with 4 percent of the population afflicted with the disease, according to the International Diabetes Federation. However, as many as half the cases of diabetes worldwide go undiagnosed.
An estimated 1.1 million children worldwide have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which was formerly referred to as juvenile diabetes.
LFHC recently welcomed Lisa Altmann as the hospital’s new Nurse Educator.
Lisa brings a wealth of knowledge and international experience to the position, having worked as a pediatric nurse in more than 15 countries. She has worked twice as a nursing volunteer at LFHC.
Lisa received her credentials as a Registered Nurse in 2007 and since that time has worked as a pediatric nurse. She also has completed postgraduate studies in pediatric nursing, tropical nursing and public health.
After spending 3½ years at an Australian tertiary pediatric intensive care unit, she broadened her pediatric nursing experience internationally by serving missions with Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) in Afghanistan and Yemen, where she was involved in educating and leading nurses in pediatric and neonatal care.
Lisa has also volunteered with Open Heart International (OHI) and Novick Cardiac Alliance (NCA), which aim to provide sustainable pediatric cardiac care and education in developing countries.
As a pediatric cardiac volunteer, she worked more than five times at Angkor Hospital for Children in Cambodia (founded by Friends Without A Border). It was there that she heard of LFHC and subsequently volunteered in Lao twice during 2016. Her experiences both at AHC and LFHC inspired her to apply for the position of LFHC Nurse Educator.
Lisa says she is excited to work with the Lao staff and support LFHC’s ongoing capacity building as well as the hospital’s mission to provide compassionate pediatric and neonatal specialty care in northern Lao.