young boy sits smiling on wooden steps

Cambodia: Chetra's Resilience

Seven-year-old Chetra is one of the youngest patients at the Handicap International rehabilitation center in Kompong Cham, Cambodia.

A motorcycle accident when he was three resulted in such grave injuries that doctors had to amputate his right leg below the knee. Road accidents remain a leading cause of disability in Cambodia.

After his accident, Chetra was rushed to the local hospital for treatment, but doctors there quickly had him evacuated to Phnom Penh. “I barely slept that night so that I could look after him,” explains Theym Rey, Chetra’s mother. After a rocky recovery period, Chetra was fitted with a prosthesis similar to the one he wears to this day.

While his prosthesis enables Chetra to lead as active a childhood as any, it does come with the cost of regular maintenance. Lately, Chetra was been having trouble running, so he's returning to the rehabilitation center for a checkup. Vanno, a young ortho-prosthetist, examines the artificial leg to find the foot is completely broken. Chetra is also rapidly outgrowing his current prosthesis. At the very least, it has to be replaced.

Vanno begins creating a mold of Chetra’s stump so he can craft a customized prosthesis for him. The complex process of producing a prosthesis can take two-to-four days; Chetra will have to come back to the center to have the finished product properly fitted. Even though the center contributes to the payment of transport costs, in part or in full, and even though accommodation can be provided, it is difficult for a poor family to make the trip to the center and afford to take a break from work during the few days it takes to create a new prosthesis. This is a persistent problem for Chetra and his parents, as young children like him need to have their prostheses replaced regularly.

Chetra remains optimistic. He walks to school every day with his friends and a cousin. In his first year of school, he has thrived. “All the things we learn, it’s great," he says. "I want to be a doctor.”