The much anticipated trip to Bangkok began today January 22, 2013. Kayeng will be relieved of the excruciatingly gnawing pains that began when the bomb exploded in his face one year ago. A team of Bumrungrad International Hospital doctors will apply their years of experience to repair Kayeng’s breathing and reconstruct his face to look as normal as possible. We will find out if Kayeng will ever see again.
On that fateful day in January 2012, Kayeng and his family woke up at their normal 4 am in the morning. Grandma made breakfast, the family ate breakfast and then everyone walked to the family’s rice and vegetable field. Grandma, Grandpa and his Dad Vakoung went to their rice field. They grow rice, cucumbers and corn. The ten people in the Yang household eat the rice and sell corn and cucumbers. His teenage uncles went to the sugar cane field next to their house to work before it is time to go to school. Almost two-year old Kayeng loved to be with his uncles and followed them. It was a cold morning. The uncles started a fire to keep us warm.
Within minutes, there was a loud explosion. Kayeng was closest to the explosion and was thrown by the explosives. He was unconscious and his face was bleeding profusely. When he woke up, he was in the Mongolian Friendship Hospital. His face was sewn up and was sent home after a brief postoperative recovery and observation period. Kayeng cried for three months straight. He even cried in his sleep. The pains in his face were excruciating. His wounds were still healing in August 2012, when Thongchanh first met him. His family wept silently. It is their custom to keep pain to themselves. Yet, when given the slightest opportunity to release their emotional pains, the tears pour.
Avoiding an Eye-Popping Flight
Flying was the most expedient way of travel. At the last minute, we changed our mind and decided to travel by bus and car.
Kayeng and his Dad Vakoung rode the public bus for 10 hours from their home village Ban Thong in Xieng Khouang to Vientiane’s Southern Bus Station. Thongchanh took a 9-hour bus ride from Luang Prabang to the Northern Bus Station.
Vakoung lives in a village with 30 families, no paved streets. Electricity was installed in the last ten years. Water is piped in from a stream three kilometers away to the village center from where they carry water to their home. There are no cars in the village. Some families have tuk tuks and motorbikes. For many villagers, their world is their rice field, their home and their neighbors.
Stepping off the bus, Vakoung saw dozens of buses, dozens of tuk tuks, hundreds of motorbikes, let alone large construction trucks, cars, building and traffic! He was in awe and very apprehensive. When we stopped at the Vientiane Night Market to buy dinner from the one of twenty food vendors, he would not step out of our car and asked Thongchanh to buy his food. We took them to our home to eat dinner and waited for Barbara to finish work.
Our travel plans to drive (as opposed to flying) to Bangkok were last minute. I had medical appointments on January 23 and 24 in Pattaya. We thought it would give Vakoung, Kayeng and Thongchanh a chance to see Thailand’s landscape, cities and the ocean.
We drove 20 minutes away to the Mittaphab “Friendship” Bridge, which takes us to Nong Khai, Thailand. After getting our passports stamped by Lao and Thai Immigration, we drove for two hours to Khon Kaen, Thailand. We checked into the U Hotel around midnight.
For Kayeng, it was a first time in Thailand, first time in a hotel, and first time on an elevator.
The next morning after breakfast, we drove for 7 hours to Pattaya, Thailand. The highways in Thailand are paved and wide. Some sections reminded us of the Los Angeles freeways, as we drove through the flat Thai countryside.
We arrived in the early evening to the Tara Resort in Pattaya. It was a very nicely decorated boutique hotel very close to downtown Pattaya, but far from the loud and seedy area. There was a pool with a Jacuzzi. We checked in and surveyed our nicely decorated rooms with Victorian themes of red velvet chandeliers, black lace and tiffant glass. We had adjoining rooms so we could all have easy access to each other.
After a short rest, we decided to go out and see the town and eat dinner. Dori drove us to Central World Plaza food court. On the way there, he took us around to see the ocean at night, which was brightly lit. We jumped out of the car to walk in the sand. Thongchanh kept saying, “I have never done this before”. There, Mr. Vakoung helped Kayeng look for shells. Early today, we stopped at a McDonalds for lunch. I saved the plastic cups for Kayeng. I wanted him to use it for carrying his shells. So that’s how he came to have that cup. For the next 2 days, he carried that cup around with his shells.
Traveling By Bus and Car Was A Good Decision
We learned later from the CT scan that that the explosion had created air pockets in Kayeng’s right eye socket. The ophthalmologist Dr. Nattawut suspected that we drove to Bangkok and asked if we did so. He said it was a good decision. When traveling by air, air pressure in the air pockets can increase up to 50 times, depending on the plane’s altitude. He had a prospective patient, whose eyes popped out of its eye socket during his flight. Given that Kayeng’s eye orbital structure being destroyed by the bomb explosion, his right likely would have popped out during a flight from Vientiane to Bangkok.
Barbara immediately pointed and looked up. While the drives were long, it turned out to be in the best interest of Kayeng. Thank God.