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A better chance at life for baby Phalla 

When Phalla* was born, he did not cry or look a healthy newborn colour. His mother Chenda* said it wasn’t until about thirty minutes passed that he began to cry and turned from purple to pink. 

Chenda and her husband Dara* took their baby boy home and all seemed fine.  

When Phalla was 8 months old, his father Dara noticed that he was developing much slower than other babies his age. “Other babies were sitting up and starting to crawl already but Phalla could not roll over or keep his head up on his own,” Dara said. 

The concerned parents took Phalla to a health clinic where he was diagnosed with seizure disorder. Chenda and Dara were given paracetamol and told to visit Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) in Siem Reap. 

A few more months passed before CCT’s medical outreach team was alerted to the family’s situation and went to visit them to do a health assessment. CCT Community Health Technical Advisor Lana said Phalla’s general health was good although they were concerned about his seizure activity. CCT then referred Phalla’s case to Safe Haven in Siem Reap, which supports children with disabilities and complex medical needs and assists CCT in fast-tracking referrals to AHC.  

“This collaboration minimises stress on the family and simplifies what can be an incredibly time-consuming and complicated process,” Lana explained. 

During their initial assessment, Safe Haven noted that Phalla had stiff limbs, no range of movement and wasn’t making any eye contact. They provided social work, nutrition counselling and taught physiotherapy techniques as well as giving Chenda and Phalla a foam wedge to help with neck strengthening, toys to encourage Phalla to reach, and a sippy cup and a seat to allow for better eye contact while feeding. Safe Haven also referred Phalla to AHC where he saw an audiologist, an optometrist and a neurologist.  

The diagnosis was in — cerebral palsy.  

One month after getting the initial treatment at Safe Haven, the family was back for a follow up visit with a member of CCT’s medical outreach team by their side. 

Phalla was like a different baby. 

“He was using his arms, holding his neck up, bending his legs and reaching for toys,” Lana said. 

“Phalla’s parents are emotional seeing how he is responding to the therapies and starting to engage with them.” 

CCT has been escorting the family to Siem Reap every month for treatment at Safe Haven, and covering the costs of their food and transport. While CCT will continuing covering their costs, recently the family took their first trip without an escort, which is in line with encouraging independence. 

“We are hopeful that with early intervention, continuing support and education we can significantly improve Phalla’s quality of life,” Lana said. 

*Names changed to protect privacy.