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Khon Hun, a 75-year-old Cambodian, struggle of receiving medical attention.

    Slightly hunched with a deep faraway look in his eyes, Khon Hun limped down the clinic walkway. After registering at the front gates, nurses took his blood pressure and temperature. He sat silently as they checked his eyes, ears and throat, and listened to his heart. The 75-year-old father of three almost made it to the general doctor when he stumbled. A volunteer helped him regain his balance and guided him to the doctor at the Cambodian Health Professionals Association of America (CHPAA) clinic in Koh Kong, Cambodia.


    Sixty doctors, nurses, dentists and other health professionals from CHPAA traveled from Los Angeles to Cambodia on a medical mission during the last week of January 2012. While medical supplies were limited, the mission was successful in seeing 6,000 patients during the course of the week.


    Hun arrived on the second day of the mission. He works as a toll taker on a bridge near the border of Cambodia and Thailand in Cham Yeam. He lives close to his work with his wife of 20 years and three daughters – ages 18, 16 and 15.


    With a quiet voice in his native language of Khmer, Hun told Dr. Daniel Chan through a translator he has constant pain between his eyes. His vision is so blurry; the doctor concluded that not even the clinic's reading glasses could help him. He has experienced pain in his knees the past five years as well, especially his right knee. He has frequent chest pains waking him up in the middle of the night.


    With the help of a CHPAA volunteer, Sirivuth Sem, Hun made his way to the station where physician assistant Kelly Drake could administer a steroid joint injection to help his knee. She took the syringe out of a box labeled "Kelly – INJECTION" and prepared the shot. Two Cambodian medical students watched as Drake carefully inserted the needle into Hun's right knee.


    After Drake cleaned up the point of injection, Sem put Hun's arm around his shoulder and led him to the pharmacy. Pressing his left sandal firmly onto the cement, Hun slid his right foot back and forth to feel for each step of the three-step stairs to the pharmacy. Hun's dusty yet neatly pressed, long-sleeved pinstripe shirt stood out in a colorful array of attire in the clinic.


    Hun graciously accepted medication for his knees as well as chest pains from the clinic pharmacist. He received a referral to have eye surgery at Phnom Penh, which is six hours away. Hun appeared to have cataracts – a very common condition in Cambodia.


    In his older age, way past retirement age in the United States, Hun still has to work to provide for his family. As his health deteriorates with a lack of local health care access, his ability to support his wife and young daughters diminishes. If Hun does not get the surgery he needs for his eyes, his condition will worsen and may lead to complete blindness.


    According to the website for the non-profit Cambodian organization Seva, there are about 160,000 Cambodians who are blind. In addition, the website says 80 percent of this blindness is due to preventable and even curable conditions such as cataracts.


    Right now, there are about 90,000 Cambodians of all ages with cataract blindness and 22,000 new cases added each year. However, only 13,000 people per year are able to obtain sight-restoring surgery, which is a very brief procedure.


    Hun, a survivor of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, is one of many elderly Cambodians who has been through decades of war and conflict in the impoverished country. The Khmer Rouge regime caused the deaths of over 2 million Cambodians. Many surviving elder Cambodians who lived during the time of the "killing fields" – where Cambodians were tortured and worked to death – hesitate to talk about life during that era.


    When asked about the Khmer Rouge, Hun nodded his head in agreement that he was in Cambodia around that time. He refused to speak any further about his experiences. One can only imagine what harrowing and nightmarish images he saw, as the era incites a dark and unsettling picture in Cambodia's history.


    Clutching his medicine, volunteers helped Hun as he made his way to the entrance where Srey Touch Hun, his youngest daughter, was waiting outside of the main gates. She sat patiently on a motor scooter, the ubiquitous vehicle seen everywhere in Cambodia.


    Srey, wearing a nectarine-orange shirt and sweatshirt with jeans, helped her father onto the motorcycle. His right leg wobbled and he lost his balance once again. Srey held on to his skinny frame and advised him to rest before getting onto the motorcycle. Hun solemnly complied.


    A faint smell of burning trash filled the air as Hun bent down to sit on the fading green grass under a tree. Just a few paces behind him, a woman turned a wheel on a motorized sugar cane drink machine with a loud BAM BAM BAM sound. Hun stared blankly at a volunteer who hustled past him to keep order in the clinic line and at a tuk tuk, a motorcycle-powered rickshaw, passing by him carrying smiling tourists.


    Hun's daughter put on a burgundy helmet and helped her father onto the motorcycle along with a volunteer. Hun sat motionless until he reached to hold on to his daughter's shoulder. Srey took her father's hand as they sat and waited in temperatures exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit for his adult nephew to exit from the clinic.


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