Aung Myint is a 7 year-old boy who came to BCMF after a CT scan revealed that he has a tumor behind his right eye. He and his mother came to BCMF from the village of Nga See Pyai , Kyaikto Township in Mon State, Burma. His father died a few months before he was born following an accident at work when he fell from a cart and was run over. Aung Myint has two older sisters, aged 15 and 13, who attend school and live at a boarding house also in the township of Kyaikto.
While the daughters require no financial support at the boarding house, his mother struggles to cover the basic expenses for herself and Aung Myint. She farms her own land and is able to grow enough food for the two of them. Additionally, two weeks out of every month she works as a day laborer, earning 1500 kyat ($1.54 USD) per day. Her income is just barely enough to make ends meet, and she is unable to save anything extra for unexpected expenses like healthcare. When Aung Myint became ill, she sold her farm for 300,000 kyat ($308 USD) in order to get her son the medical attention he needs. She also borrowed 100,000 kyat ($102 USD) from a monk and 50,000 kyat ($51 USD) from her nephew with no interest. She stated that people in her village will also provide support, but did not say whether she receives regular financial contributions from her friends and neighbors.
Aung Myint attended school and was in grade 2 until he stopped attending school three months ago because of his eye condition. In April 2013, he was playing ball with his friends and was accidentally kicked in his right eye. His eye became quite swollen and red, so the next day his mother took him to the hospital in Thain Zaya. There, he was given eye drops; however after using the drops for several days, his condition did not improve. His eye soon became worse and the swelling increased to the point that his right eye was swollen shut and he couldn’t sleep because of the pain. The doctor told his mother to take him to a hospital in Bago Division to get treatment, about four hours away. He stayed in the hospital in Bago Division for one week and during the course of his stay, a needle was inserted 4 times to drain fluid from his eye and an antibiotic was given through an IV. However, afterwards, he still hadn’t improved and the doctor couldn’t
tell his mother anything further about his condition. Instead, he simply advised her that she should take him to Rangoon soon to have eye surgery. These two hospital visits were a huge financial strain; the cost of the first visit being 100,000 kyat ($102 USD) and the second 360,000 kyat ($370 USD). At both hospitals, she had to provide tea money (bribes) in order to ensure her son got quality care from the doctors and nurses. On average, she says she was asked for 1000 kyat ($1.03) in bribes twice a day to ensure the staff on hand took care of her son.
Unable to afford the costs associated with going to Rangoon, Aung Myint and his mother returned home. A fellow villager told her to go to Thailand, saying that if she came to the border area she would find a clinic where he would receive better medical care. However, they did not tell her where in Thailand she should go and did not mention the name of a specific clinic. Two days after they had left the hospital in Bago Division, they traveled to Thailand, their destination still uncertain. While en route two of their fellow passengers were discussing Mae Tao Clinic, so it was decided this is where they would go. They arrived at Mae Tao on April 26 and saw the staff ophthalmologist. He examined Aung Myint, prescribed eye drops, and asked Aung Myint and his mother to return for a follow-up appointment in May. However, when they returned in May, his symptoms had gotten worse. The ophthalmologist was not present at the clinic at the time, so medics referred him to Mae Sot Hospital for further consultation and treatment. There, doctors gave him antibiotics and eye drops and his mother was told that she would soon see an improvement in her son’s condition. However, his eye did not improve and the swelling continued to get worse. Aung and his mother returned to Mae Sot again in June, going for a second consultation at Mae Sot Hospital. Doctors again examined his eye and told his mother to continue using the eye drops, but did no further tests. By July, his eye had worsened and was extremely swollen and inflamed; however Aung couldn’t return to Mae Sot because of severe flooding in the area. In August, they returned to Mae Tao Clinic and were again referred to Mae Sot Hospital, at which time they were told to return on August 14th for a CT scan. His CT scan revealed a tumor around his right eye caused by either a “pseudotumor, lymphoma, lymphangioma, or rhabdomyosarcoma”.
Aung Myint’s symptoms have included pain, headaches, fevers accompanied with vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to sunlight. He can still see out of his eye and has been taking paracetamol for pain.
Aung Myint, whose full name means “successful”, enjoys school and told BCMF staff that he hopes to become an eye doctor when he
grows up. His mother wants him to continue his education, as that is something she was unable to do herself. She seems determined to get her son treatment, despite the risks. She told BCMF staff that she understands there is a chance that nothing can be done for her son and that if he can be treated, he may likely lose his eye and have to go through months of chemotherapy and radiation. She stated that she wants to move forward no matter what and that if something were to happen during his treatment, she would at least know that she did everything that she could for him.
Aung Myint is currently undergoing chemotherapy in Chiang Mai.