Htoi (16) lives with his grandmother, mother, sister, and brother in a town in Kachin State, Burma. He and his siblings are students while his grandmother is retired. His mother has a small stall in front of the house, where she sells snacks and other items such as traditional medicine. They also raise pigs and chickens for sale. The last time they sold a pig, they were able to make 280,000 kyat from the sale (approx. 280 USD). The other pig they had raised was cooked and share with others as part of a Christian thanksgiving feast. The 100,000 kyat (approx. 100 USD) his mother earns in a month from her stall is not enough to support their daily expenses.
Htoi first felt ill when he was around 11 or 12 years old. He used to be very active, but one day he felt tired, and he had difficulty breathing after going to church. The following day, his mother took him to Bhamo General Hospital where he was admitted. The doctor checked his heart, and Htoi received a blood test and an electrocardiogram (ECG). The doctor informed them that Htoi has a heart condition and that he has an enlarged heart, before administering injections and providing Htoi with oral medication. Htoi was discharged after spending 10 days in hospital and felt better by the time they returned home.
Two years later, Htoi developed a fever after he had played with his friends. His mother also noticed that his heartbeat was very rapid, and that he was only able to sleep curled up around a pillow at night. His mother decided to bring him back to the hospital where he was readmitted. The doctor listened to his heart with a stethoscope, and he received a blood test, ECG as well as an echocardiogram (ECHO). He received the same medication as before and he was discharged after he spent two weeks in the hospital. Again, he felt a lot better when he left the hospital.
IT’S NOT GETTING BETTER
In June 2018, Htoi had a cough, felt more tired than usual and started to vomit. His mother took him back to the hospital multiple times, but each Htoi only received treatment before being sent home. The treatments did not work, and he continued to vomit. Eventually, his mother’s friend suggested that they seek help at Mandalay General Hospital. After travelling for 18 hours, Htoi and his mother arrived at Mandalay General Hospital on 23 July 2018. The journey was especially difficult for him as he was very weak, and he vomited the whole time. At the hospital he was admitted, and he received an ECHO, ECG and blood test. His results indicated that he has mitral valve regurgitation, a condition affecting a valve in his heart. Eventually, the doctor told them that Htoi would need to receive heart surgery, which they could not perform. He would have to wait anywhere from two to three years when a visiting foreign doctor could perform the surgery. They were then told to return for a follow-up appointment a month later and Htoi was discharged on 4 August 2018. When they returned for his appointment, the doctor checked Htoi’s blood pressure and told him to continue taking the medication he had received from Bhamo General Hospital. They then returned home, feeling disappointed that Htoi had been provided with any further care or treatment.
BURMA CHILDREN MEDICAL FUND HELPS
In the middle of November 2018, Htoi felt unwell again; he had a cough, fever, and felt weak. His mother took him back to Bhamo General Hospital and he was admitted for a week. One day, while he was admitted, a doctor gave them the address of another patient who was also suffering from a heart condition. After Htoi and his mother called the other patient, they were told that an organisation in Mae Sot, Thailand, called Burma Children Medical Fund (BCMF), was helping him receive heart surgery. That patient had also learned about BCMF from another BCMF patient. Together with that patient and his caretaker, Htoi and his mother made the three-day journey to Mae Sot to ask if BCMF could help Htoi receive heart surgery. Once they arrived and spoke with BCMF staff, BCMF agreed to support Htoi’s treatment and referred him to Pinlon Hospital in Yangon for his surgery.
Htoi was admitted at Pinlon Hospital on 23 November 2018. He received an ECHO, X-Ray, ECG and a blood test the next day. The doctor confirmed his diagnosis, and he underwent surgery to replace his heart valve on 28 November 2018. After surgery, he was placed in intensive care for five days. Before he was discharge 6 December 2018, the doctor instructed him on how he should take care of himself, including following a diet, regularly receiving a blood test, and taking his medication for the rest of his life.
HEART SURGERY IS SUCCESSFUL
Since his surgery Htoi no longer feels tired nor does he suffer from heart palpitations when he walks. He feels a lot better and stronger than before. His mother is happy that he has received surgery. “I always worry about my son, and everyone in our family also worries about him,” Htoi’s mother said. “Now all my worries have disappeared. I will continue to send him to school, and I want him to become a doctor. I want him to help people who suffer from health problems like him. I’m very thankful to the donor for helping my son and saving his life.”
Talking about his future, Htoi said, “I want to become a professional boxer like MMA [mixed martial arts] boxer Aung Hla N’ Saung. He is my idol – I’m interested in boxing.”