Japan Heart collects blood to save children

Dr. HIDETO Yoshioka, a Japanese surgeon and founder of the international pediatric cancer NGO Japan Heart, is ready to perform life-saving operations on children with cancer during his two-week surgical mission to the Kingdom which begins end of June.

Currently, Japan Heart Children’s Medical Center (JHCMC), located at Ponhea Leu Referral Hospital in Ponhea Leu District of Kandal Province, is treating 35 children diagnosed with cancer.

Ten have already undergone surgery and are at critical stages of their recovery.

According to the JHCMC, more than 16,000 Cambodian children receive outpatient medical services at the hospital every year out of a total of more than 60,000 patients since it opened in 2018.

In addition to 45 beds for general pediatric patients and 27 beds for children diagnosed with cancers, the center also has 39 beds for adult patients. A total of 400 to 600 patients are hospitalized there every month, except during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hiroyuki Yamashita, administrative director of Japan Heart, said that in the past six months, six to eight children with cancer came to the hospital for treatment every month on average, noting that there were 11 children with need help in May.

Over the past three years and 10 months, JHCMC has treated 227 children with cancer – 28 in the first year, 46 in the second, 83 in the third and 70 in the last 10 months.

According to the center, in one year it has performed more than 1,380 general surgeries, noting that since the start of its operations, it has operated on about 5,000 patients.

Over 90% of cancer patients have been referred to Japan Heart Hospital from other institutions since the center launched cancer treatment services, and over 70% of the hospital’s surgeries have been performed. on cancer patients.

Seeing high death rates among children with serious illnesses in Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, Dr. Yoshioka founded the Japan Heart organization in 2004 to help overcome gaps in care with hospitals, clinics, doctors and treatments available in these countries.

The 58-year-old doctor urges parents to bring any child diagnosed with cancer to Japan Heart for treatment as soon as possible because when cancer is treated aggressively in its early stages, most children have a high chance of recovery.

The high costs of cancer treatments remain a challenge for Japan Heart, but the institution is happy to provide its lifesaving services to children who suffer from this fierce disease.

“When we heal a child at an early age and then he is able to grow up, he can work to help society and share that compassion with others,” said Dr. Yoshioka, founder of the Japan Heart organization, at The Post.

Regular checks

As for early detection of cancer, the doctor recommends that children see a doctor at least once a year for a general checkup if possible.

Beyond that, parents should be alert for the presence of any irregularities such as unusual swelling in any part of their body as well as symptoms such as unexplained nausea or vomiting or seizures.

For example, three-year-old Sithika had difficulty breathing because she had a tumor in her left lung.

Doctors from Japan Heart Children’s Medical Center are appealing for blood donations to help children on June 15. Photo provided

His difficulty breathing was the first warning sign that something was wrong, although until confirmed by diagnosis the problem could have been caused by a number of conditions.

Luckily, her parents took her to a doctor and an analysis of her lungs revealed the real cause.

The little girl’s state of health was very precarious during the tumor removal operation and she needed more than 20 bags of blood to be transfused during her operation.

Japan Heart has spent over $13,500 on services for her at partner hospitals and that excludes costs for chemotherapy, surgery and treatment at their own center.

In addition to facing financial challenges, the Japan Heart organization also faces chronic blood shortages for its surgeries for children with cancer, which poses a major obstacle to treating them quickly.

Hospital blood shortages were even worse during the Covid-19 crisis, but with the pandemic effectively over in the Kingdom, blood donations have still not returned to pre-Covid levels.

To begin solving this problem for their patients and for health care in general throughout Cambodia, Japan Heart Children’s Medical Center held a blood donation event at AEON Mall 1 in Phnom Penh on June 29.

This event will hopefully bring much needed blood to their pediatric cancer patients and raise awareness among Cambodians about the importance of donating blood.

“We will always perform operations for children, but it depends on the specific conditions and medical needs of children with cancer.

“So, every two to three months, our founder, Yoshioka, comes from Japan to perform surgery,” Yamashita said.

“Generally, the use of blood is about equal for chemotherapy. We need 15 to 20 blood bags each month for this, and 15 to 20 bags for each operation.

Lun Malin brought his 7-year-old son, Udom, who has liver cancer, to be treated at Japan Heart Children’s Medical Center. They are now expecting his operation to be performed within the next two weeks.

Malin, 38, said her son first complained of abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting and it was when he couldn’t eat for three days in a row that she told him brought and they found cancer.

She first took her son to a private clinic where he was diagnosed with a possible liver tumor. They advised him to go to Kantha Bopha Hospital in Siem Reap.

“Kantha Bopha arranged for me to take my son to Japan Heart Children’s Medical Center, and now my son is waiting for surgery there,” she said.

Growing need for blood

Udom’s surgery and chemotherapy will require a lot of blood donations and there is an urgent need for Cambodians to start donating blood in greater numbers to meet this growing need for him and all other medical patients, children or adults. , in the Kingdom who might need a transfusion to survive.

“I would like to ask the people of Cambodia to please help donate blood to save our children. Only brothers and sisters can help children who need to undergo surgery like my son and other children,” she said. while sobbing.

For some very complicated cases, Cambodian children with cancer are sent to Japan for surgery.

In fact, in early 2021, two babies – one year old and one nine month old – were sent to Japan for surgery at Japan’s National Hospital Organization’s Okayama Medical Center, despite the Covid-19 crisis. .

In 2011, 2015, and 2017, Japan Heart successfully sent children with cancer to Japan for surgery and then returned home healthy.

Miguel Jeronimo, a Portuguese artist and photographer who regularly organizes charity events to give back to the community in Cambodia as a long-term resident, also started a campaign called “Blood of Kindness” with the help of many other artists.

“I started the campaign because children in hospitals here urgently needed blood and we chose Japan Heart to help us because they provide free treatment to all children with cancer,” he said. .

“But the most important thing anyone can do to help solve this problem is also the most obvious and simple thing they can do: donate blood regularly and encourage everyone you know to donate. same.”

Yamashita said that for the upcoming event on June 29 at AEON Mall 1, they expect about 200-250 people to donate blood, which should be enough to cover a month of surgery and chemotherapy at Japan Heart. .

“But we also have to take care of other children with cancer each month. And we are just one of many hospitals, and there are a lot of people who are in urgent need of blood, so we hope that more people will come to donate blood during this event,” he said. he declares.

Visit @japanheart.hospital on Facebook or contact Japan Heart Children’s Medical Center on 077 959 471 for details.