Drug addiction is on the rise in Cambodia and is rife in some communities. The effects of abuse ripple out. In the first of a series on the issue, we look at how CCF became involved in one case.

Little Reaksmey is the innocent victim of drug abuse. He was born addicted to methamphetamine after his addict mother continued taking the drug during her pregnancy and birth.
Reaksmey suffered terrible withdrawal symptoms in his first few days as the drug left his system. Now, the two-month- old is fighting for his life in hospital with his tiny body under attack from serious
health issues that are threatening to overwhelm his underdeveloped immune system.

Both Reaksmey’s parents are drug addicts and homeless. He spent his first days living in squalid conditions on the streets in a rundown part of Phnom Penh before his parents, Phoeuk and Srey
Ya, were arrested and taken to a rehabilitation centre. Malnourished and with no one to care for him, Reaksmey’s future looked bleak.

He was saved when an official from the Ministry of Social Affairs stepped in and took him to the Cambodian Children’s Fund. At the age of just 13 days, Reaksmey was admitted temporarily at
Sunflower Center, one of CCF’s residential units.
When staff noticed he had difficulty breathing, he was taken to the National Pediatric Hospital in Phnom Penh, where pneumonia was diagnosed.
Transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), he began receiving treatment and doctors were hopeful of a good recovery. Last week, however, the baby’s condition deteriorated after he suffered a
seizure. He has had further fits since.
Doctors are still uncertain what is wrong but suspect it may be septicemia, a form of blood poisoning caused by a bacterial infection in the body, such as the lungs.

Lying on a hospital bed, his fists clenched tight, Reaksmey has a big battle ahead. An angry-looking rash has broken out across his face and neck – which could be a symptom of sepsis, a life-threatening condition that happens when the body releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight infection, triggering inflammation which can damage multiple organs – and he is no longer able to take milk,
with a feeding tube now going into his nose to supply the nutrients he needs to live.

“At the moment we cannot find a diagnosis,” said Dr Cheameas, one of the medics overseeing the treatment. “He had been doing well for four days but suffered a seizure. We are giving him medication and carrying out more blood tests.” “We don’t know what the outcome will be,” he added. “He is only two months and 21 days and very small. We are doing all we can for him.”

Reaksmey’s mother did visit him once in hospital but has had to return to the state rehabilitation centre Prey Speu. Meanwhile, her baby boy’s life hangs in the balance. By his side day and night are dedicated nannies, paid for by CCF. CCF is also funding all of the hospital costs – including medication and diagnostic tests – and will care for him if he recovers enough to leave hospital.
Despite everything he has been through, Reaksmey is alert, his eyes moving to look when visitors arrive. But he remains weak. His small chest moves up and down with each breath and he looks swamped in the large hospital bed. When another fit strikes, causing his body to shake, medical staff quickly roll him over onto his side until it passes. For now, it’s a waiting game to see if his body can fight off whatever is causing the problems. Everyone is hoping that he can find the strength to pull through.

By Kate Ginn/CCF

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