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Pheap is an 18 year-old girl with an unplanned pregnancy. Estranged from her family in the provinces, she came to Mother’s Heart. All was normal during her pregnancy and she delivered a beautiful baby girl.

However things changed for the worse very quickly. On day 4 she was complaining of a headache and blurred vision. Despite immediately receiving medicine for high blood pressure, she suffered a small convulsion that afternoon. On day 7 she had a series of severe convulsions resulting with bleeding in her brain and 4 days in the Intensive Care Unit. Her baby was placed in foster care and then as Pheap had not recovered and doctors did not know her prognosis, the new-born was taken to the province by Mother’s Heart staff for Pheap’s stepmother and family to care for. This was very scary for Pheap as she did not know how her family would feel about their grandchild. Their relationship had not been good in the past.

It is nearly 6 weeks after the delivery of her baby and Pheap has fully recovered from her stroke. She is convalescing in Phnom Penh while doctors try to wean her off her hypertensive and convulsive medicines before she can return to her family in the province.

The family loves their grandchild and brought the baby back to Phnom Penh for the convalescing mother to bond with. The whole process has bought about family reconciliation and restoration.

We are so grateful for the wonderful care provided by the medical team, and all the thoughts and prayers of the people around us.

Life at Mother’s Heart is a creative story. And you never know… you might just catch them joyfully dancing…

Art is an act of creation, a story, dance or image.

Science is the basis of medicine. Yet art and science come together in the extraordinary possibilities opened up through Anti- Retroviral Therapy (ART).

Mother’s Heart’s first HIV mother and baby have heard that the baby is CLEAR! And the staff at Mother’s Heart are rejoicing.

During pregnancy, the mother to be receives regular blood tests and anti-retroviral drugs to inhibit the disease. She then has a Caesarean Section to prevent transmission at birth. Following birth, her baby receives ART as well as being exclusively fed on milk formula. Over the next 18 months the baby is tested three times for the presence of HIV. (Mother’s antibodies can show up in the baby, hence the multiple tests). It is only at the third and final test that there is certainty the baby does not have the fatal virus.

This process does not come cheaply. Although the ART drugs are government funded, the tests, Caesarean Section, formula, and sustaining the mother in vitamins and a good diet are not. Mother’s Heart bears the brunt of these costs. Through enormous commitment by the staff and mother over a period of about two years a baby has the freedom to have a life without HIV.

Mother’s Heart has six more HIV positive women on its programme, all hoping, together with the staff, that they can achieve the same results for these precious women and their babies. And that is worth writing a story about!

‘Why are you here today?’ politely inquired the dentist.

‘Ask Mother’s Heart’, his client bitterly spat back, as if somehow the staff at Mother’s Heart were responsible for the cavity in her tooth or the other multiple health issues for which the new mother required treatment.

Somphors, trained in social work and counselling at Mother’s Heart, has dealt with many women in her time. This client was angry, demanding and suicidal. And Somphors was giving her all.

Helping the mother to weigh her choices and make plans for her life, Somphors phoned, haggled and traipsed around businesses looking for work for this woman. When she finally found work with an ideal location and hours, the mother quit after just a few weeks. Nothing was good enough for her. She complained relentlessly.

Somphors spent sleepless nights knowing this lady was on a downward spiral. And then the woman disappeared.

The phone rang six months later. It was the same client requesting an appointment. Face to face with the staff later that day, she said sorry for being so difficult and how grateful she was for all they tried to do for her. She told them she was taking English lessons, looking for work, and learning independence – she and her baby together.

Thank you, she said, thank you.

Quite possibly, at Mother’s Heart this was the first time this woman felt safe enough to behave badly – really badly. Somphors and the staff bore this load without any promise of a hopeful outcome. And yet as this lady left the office, maybe…maybe a step had been taken for a safer future.

Somphors has learned some emphatic lessons over her time in Mother’s Heart. She reminds herself regularly that every person is different. She knows that change is made step by step. She has grown in confidence and is less likely to blame herself for her client’s choices.

She is determined to wear the shoes of these women and not take them off knowing that sometimes this means she will need counselling and care.

In a busy office, reflecting on this story, Somphors’ face lights up at the small achievements, yet giant triumphs made by some very vulnerable women and babies.

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