Interview with Phean, a Japan Heart nurse and graduate of the Dream Bridge scholarship program.
Five years after he became a nurse, Phean is an active part of many of the surgeries performed at Japan Heart Hospital and is our first anaesthesia nurse. Phean is a gentle and kind father who enjoys a fulfilling life, balancing his work and being a family man.
Head Surgical Nurse, Ms. Tsunoda
I was born and raised in a village in Prey Veng, three hours south of Phnom Penh. I come from a family of rice farmers and I lived alongside buffalos, cows, chickens, ducks, dogs and cats. When I was little, I often helped in the fields. I still love the countryside and I also like Oudong, where Japan Heart’s hospital is, because it reminds me of my hometown.
I am the youngest of five siblings and aside from me, they all still farm. Usually, a farmer’s children stop studying as young as elementary school to help with the work at home. Even my mother was against me continuing my education, but once I passed the scholarship exam, she was convinced of education’s benefits and supported me. If I didn’t pass that exam, I guess I would be a farmer right now!
Opportunity to become a nurse
In my hometown, there were no hospitals, nor were there enough doctors and nurses. When I was six years old, my father had a stomach illness, for which he bought medicine at the store. It wasn’t a licenced pharmacy with medical professionals, as is often the case in Cambodia, due to the lack of restrictions against purchasing drugs without a prescription.
My father couldn’t see a doctor because there were no hospitals nearby. His condition worsened due to the adverse effects of the unprescribed drugs, and despite using a traditional treatment with oranges and leaves, he passed away. I believe that if he could see someone qualified, he might have been saved. Through this experience I decided to go to university, study, get qualified and help people.
[At home in Prey Veng]
Japan Heart Scholarship Program
When I was a high school student, I attended a school that was supported by Japan and one of my teachers introduced me to Japan Heart. (Phean was one of the first scholarship students from the “Dream Bridge Project” that started in 2011.) Many of the Japan Heart scholarship students come from that high school. It is always great to see that many of my colleagues at the hospital are former students of the same scholarship program.
I was sponsored by a Japanese “foster parent” until my second year after graduation, and I am still in contact with them. I am very grateful to them for the opportunity to become a nurse and build a family. Thank you very much.
[Group photo of student days and scholarship students]
Phean’s experiences in the capital
When I was 18 years old, I moved to the capital city of Phnom Penh from the countryside to study at university. When I moved to Phnom Penh, I was amazed by the excitement of the big city. At first, I wondered where to live. I didn’t have any money, so I shared rent with roommates. (Currently, Dream Bridge students live together at the Japan Heart Phnom Penh office dormitory.) When I lived in the countryside, I never cooked for myself, but in the city, I had to cook to save money; pork and vegetables was a favourite. I also have good memories of going to university by bicycle for 4 years. Studying medicine itself was also fun, I learned a lot and I studied hard.
Working at Japan Heart Children’s Medical Center
After graduating from high school, I started working at Japan Heart. Initially, because there was no hospital yet, I took part in mobile medical activities by visiting local hospitals and medical facilities for medical examinations and surgeries. When I first started as a nurse at Japan Heart’s medical activity sites, I especially enjoyed working in the operating room and always looked forward to doing more surgeries. Two years ago, I had the opportunity to study anaesthesia for 6 months and I jumped at the chance. (In Cambodia, there is a program that allows you to manage lumbar and general anaesthesia if you have had 6 months training at a designated hospital.) Now that I am qualified, I can be involved with many patients as an anaesthesia nurse, and I enjoy managing anaesthesia during surgery. When Japanese anaesthesiologists and surgeons come to do surgery, they always take the time to share their expertise with me.
[First differential lung ventilation with doctors from the Department of Anaesthesiology at Kagoshima University and Kyushu University]
Leaving Cambodia and playing an active role overseas
Three years ago, I went to Okayama in Japan with a paediatric cancer patient from Cambodia. Japanese hospitals are so clean and well equipped and I would love the opportunity to go again. I also went to Laos a year ago to take part in a thyroid operation. Both of these trips were valuable experiences working abroad and I am grateful for the opportunities.
Two years ago, I met my wife at the hospital where I work and got married. My son was born in January of this year and I couldn’t be happier. I currently live in a company house on the hospital grounds, but I really look forward to meeting my family on my days off. I also love playing sports and enjoy playing soccer and volleyball after work.
[with family and soccer friends]
I have fulfilled my first dream to become a nurse already. I would like to study anaesthesia more as my next step. There is currently nowhere you can study more about anaesthesia in Cambodia, therefore it is my dream to study professionally in Japan and other developed countries.
Thank you for your continued support and thank you for helping the Cambodian people. Currently the acceptance of volunteers has stopped because of the pandemic, but many adult and child patients are waiting for treatment in Cambodia. I hope that volunteer doctors and nurses can come as they did before.