Hope remains for ailing Cambodian toddler [-Let's hope Socheat will be able to get her much needed surgery!]

Sunday, March 7, 2010

3-year-old Socheat at her arrival in the US (Photo: Long Beach Press Telegram)

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Long Beach Press Telegram

LONG BEACH - Unwilling to give up just yet on the future of a young patient, representatives from a local nonprofit are hoping a period of rest and recuperation will make the young girl healthy enough for surgery.

Four days after Socheat Nha, brought to the United States for life-altering heart surgery, was turned away from a Las Vegas Hospital over fears she would not survive the operation, the 3-year-old was seen by the cardiologist in San Diego who initially examined the girl in Cambodia.

Dr. Paul Grossfeld from Rady Children's Hospital examined Nha for the first time since he saw her in Siem Reap.

In an e-mail, Grossfeld described what he learned. "We performed an echocardiogram today, and found that although, as expected, the cardiac anatomy was exactly the same as what we saw three months ago in Cambodia, there has been a dramatic change in her physiology. We found today evidence that the pressures in her lung arteries have increased significantly from the time I evaluated her in December in Cambodia."

Socheat suffered a bout with pneumonia and other respiratory ailments since then which have affected her lungs. What the future holds is uncertain.

"Because of this unexpected change, her prognosis is guarded. Right now she would not be a good candidate for surgery, which could do more harm than good. Time will determine whether her current condition is reversible," Grossfeld wrote. "We are hoping that the elevated pressures in her lung arteries will return to the lower levels that we saw in December."

Socheat will return to be examined again in a month-and-a-half, when she will be re-evaluated.

Peter Chhun, founder of nonprofit Hearts Without Boundaries, was clinging to the hope that the girl will recover enough for surgery to be successful.

Socheat suffers from a congenital heart defect that has left her with two holes in her heart. The condition causes high pressure in her lungs from oxygenated blood flowing back into the lungs rather than to the rest of the body. The long-term effect of the ailment is shortened life expectancy and increasing fatigue, breathing difficulty and cyanosis, or turning blue.

Socheat, the daughter of a rice farmer in Southern Cambodia, is the third child Hearts Without Boundaries brought to the U.S. for open heart surgery not readily available in their home country.

The first two, Davik Teng, now 11, and Soksamnang Vy, 1, had successful surgeries and are living normal, active lives.

greg.mellen@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1291


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