Cambodia Project: Weeks 1 and 2

Our first blog post, written by Lauren, will soon be published on the official website of The Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA). To read about past experiences of the City Cambodia cleft team, check out CLAPA’s blog page where you will soon be able to view our weekly posts! For now, enjoy a sneak peak of our adventures in Cambodia thus far….

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Hello! We are Lauren and Kristin, two recently qualified Speech and Language Therapists from City University London who have made the decision to fly to Cambodia for 3 months and work with children with cleft lip and palate in various hospitals around the city of Phnom Penh. This is part of the City-Cambodia project which is now in its’ 9th year! Please read our weekly blog to keep up to date with our work and adventures…

WEEK 1: 14th September 2015

So Kristin and I arrived in Phnom Penh on the Tuesday and we stayed in a hostel for a couple of days whilst we found our feet (and a place to live). We also had to get in touch with all the settings to tell them that we were here and ready to start!

The rest of the week was spent in anticipation; we were nervous and excited about starting in our settings. We had only just qualified and this is technically our first job! We also tried to get accustomed to the heat, humidity and hustle and bustle that is Phnom Penh.

WEEK 2: 21st September 2015

We managed to get a tuk-tuk to our first setting which will be visiting every Tuesday – the Childrens Surgical Centre. We got there for 8am and listened to the daily doctors meeting where various cases were presented and discussed. We were particularly interested in the case of an 8 year old girl with cleft lip and palate who was getting a bone graft later that day for the gap in her alveolus.

We met Samnang, the speech advisor for this setting, and Dr Jim, who runs the hospital and everyone was friendly and showed us around. Samnang showed us where his new speech room would be located and also introduced us to a very cute 4 month old who had recently had his cleft lip operation. We toured the rest of the hospital, ending with the staff canteen (extremely important)! We discussed with Samnang how we could help him and he said that he had been asked to present to the doctor’s meeting about ADHD, so this became one of our first aims.

Our next location was the Military Hospital, a large hospital with wide corridors which were easy to get lost in. Our contact here is Dr Nous Sarom, a plastic surgeon with an interest in cleft lip and palate. He welcomed us and gave us a quick tour, showed us the room we could use as our base for Speech and Language Therapy and invited us to watch his consultations that morning. One case was a 5 year old boy with nasal speech despite successful palate surgery (to be continued we think). Later on we watched Dr Sarom perform cleft lip surgery on a 3 month old boy. Thank goodness for air conditioning in the operating theatre! We hope to come to the Military Hospital next week and have someone to train as a speech advisor.

Thursday was a national holiday (Constitution Day), so we don’t get to meet our colleagues at Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital until next week! Cambodia has a lot of holidays as we are quickly finding out.

On Friday we travelled to National Paediatric Hospital where we sat in on a doctor’s meeting, all in Khmer… Dr Vuthy introduced us to the staff and it was there that we met Dr Vanna, one of the lead surgeons for cleft lip and palate. We will be working with him at the hospital clinic, every Friday morning. Before our clinic started, the speech adviser, Chanthy (also a trained nurse), took us to meet the orthodontic team based at the hospital. They showed us some techniques they use to support feeding in unrepaired cleft lip and palate. We had a busy morning providing speech and feeding advice and carrying out quick assessments alongside the multi-disciplinary team. Some of the patients included a 16 day old baby all the way up to an 11 year old girl. We were thrown in at the deep end but it was very enjoyable.

Next week we are looking forward to becoming more familiar with our speech advisers and our settings, and settling into our life in Phnom Penh.

Your cleft team,

Lauren and Kristin

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Lauren (left) and Kristin (right) enjoying pad thai at the Phnom Penh night market!

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