When we first observed Kayeng during our visit to his home in Xieng Khouang Province in northern Laos, we watched him play and talk up a storm. Like clockwork, every five minutes, he stopped whatever he was doing, winced, and pressed his left eye with his hand for a few seconds. Having achieved apparent relief, he continued playing and talking.
We asked Kayeng if his eye hurts, he did not say “Yes”. He answered innocently, non-chalantly, “America gave me this gift.”
We were dumbfounded, embarrassed and ashamed. Barbara and I are Americans and our country did this to an innocent two-year old. The bombie that damaged and disfigured Kayeng’s face was one of 70-80 million live bombies that litter the Lao landscape.
No Wonder the Pain?!
As we saw the doctors review the CT scan results and heard the doctors’ evaluations of Kayeng, tears welled up in our eyes. My gosh! Try to imagine what pains and agonies this little boy has gone through is heart wrenching.
Seeing the CT scan results, the doctors found the cause his left eye’s pain. One bombie fragment not only punctured Kayeng’s left eye, but also left a constant, gnawing, reminding pain of the tragic explosion in January 2012.
Above is Kayeng’s black and white CT scan. (CT scans are a key tool for the surgeons to examine and strategize how they may approach surgeries.)
You can see two white spots in his right eye (left in the picture). There are two fragments of shrapnel. What’s missing near the right eye towards his nose are the black spots. Also, missing is a thin line on the bottom of the right eye socket. The missing black spots are the nasal cavities that were destroyed by the explosion. The missing thin line depicts the missing floor of the eye socket, thus his eye has drifted downward from an eye’s normal position.
The doctors described the bomb explosion in matter of fact, forensic manner. The shrapnel thrust itself through his upper lip, his right nostril into the bottom of his eye socket and finally resting itself against the floor of the brain. His retina separated from the eyeball. The optic nerve was cut. The shrapnel, if not removed, could cause brain damage.
The above color picture is an enhanced three-dimensional snapshot of the CT scan. (On the computer, you can rotate the 3-D image in any direction.)
Note the two irregularly-shaped floating pieces in the right eye (left in the picture) and the tiny speck floating in the left eye (right in the picture). They are bombie fragments. You can also see his broken nose bone and missing teeth.
Sadly, Kayeng will never see again. The accident occurred when he is less than one year old. Sight will be a distant memory for Kayeng, experiencing such a horrific accident at such a young age.
The Bumrungrad surgeons are making every effort to reconstruct Kayeng’s face, prioritizing his facial functions first, particularly, his breathing and eliminating the pains and the threat of brain damage caused by the shrapnel. Every effort will be made to restore his natural face, but cosmetics will be the secondary priority. As well, Kayeng will receive eye prosthetics in a subsequent procedure.
Our blessings are Bumrungrad’s and Give Children A Choice’s donor gifts of life for Kayeng. Ua Tsaug (Thank you in Hmong).