It was a moonless night. A truck carrying seven passengers was threading its way between the rubber plantations and rice paddies. It was time for the workers to go home after long days of working to restore Buddha statues at the Preah Vihear tourist sanctuary in northern Cambodia. Sitting in the front seat, a young woman was clutching her 7-year-old daughter tightly as she dozed, as if her arms could cushion her from the jolts of the truck and the bends in the road. That same night, on the same road, a broken-down car was parked without headlights on the side of the road, cloaked in the darkness.
"Our truck crashed straight into it. It was terrible, suddenly everyone was screaming. As I looked at Vuth Ta I realized that part of her leg was no longer attached to her body, there was so much blood, my daughter was screaming in pain and I was trying to comfort her as best I could. At the time, I didn't realize that I too was seriously injured. We were holding each other close, we had to try and survive," recalls Tum Thab.
Sitting side by side, mother and daughter recount the circumstances of their accident for Humanity & Inclusion's team. We catch a glimpse of their artificial limbs, made at the HI rehabilitation center in Kampong Cham. Vuth Ta was amputated at her right hip, and her mother at her left knee. After being hospitalized for many weeks in two different health facilities, they received follow-up care from HI's rehabilitation teams in Kampong Cham where they are still being cared for today. Rakseymutta Nguon, HI's ortho-prosthetist in Cambodia, remembers the day she fitted them with their first prostheses, one year ago:
"I was so moved by what had happened to them, that I wanted to put everything I had into producing these devices. I knew that once they could walk again, I would give them back their smiles and their hope. Today, the mother has returned to work and little Vuth Ta has gone back to school. I'm really grateful to have been able to play a part in this."
Four years later, the place where they live is so peaceful that it's hard to imagine the chaos they experienced. Amid countless coconut and rubber trees, their traditional stilted wooden house is extended by a porch where the family meets to eat. A few feet away, pots stand next to a wash-house, from where we can hear the grunting of their pig. Tum Thab feeds the pig every day when she's not at her grocery shop selling drinks and biscuits.
"I always try to stay positive, because we're alive and we've made it through. Neither our family nor those around us have excluded or judged us, we've always felt accepted just as we are," confides Tum Thab.
Vuth Ta is the youngest of her siblings. She is in fourth grade and enjoys studying, so much so that she would like to become a teacher herself one day, in math or literature. Never far from the entrance to her home, Vuth Ta enjoys spending her free time with her friends. When she plays with her jump rope, she jumps high, landing on her two feet: no one notices her artificial leg. Vuth Ta is full of life. She can now play among the banana plantations of this rural province of northern Cambodia just like all the other children.
Kampong Cham PRC is a reference rehabilitation center in Cambodia that employs a team of 22 people, including physical therapists, Prosthetics & Orthotics (P&O) experts and social workers.
In 2022, the center provided services to 2,165 patients, a number that has increased steadily over the last three years.
The center has its own workshop for making artificial limbs and braces. Patients participate in rehabilitation sessions (muscle strengthening, stretching, gait training, bandaging, etc.) and social support.
Most people who come to the center have either a congenital disability or a disease that causes disability. Road traffic and domestic accidents are the third most common reason for consulting at the PRC in Kampong Cham.
The Kampong Cham Centre is supported by the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs