Paula was discharged from hospital late last week. She remains in the US to be near the care she needs and because the surgeons don’t want to send her home to a place without running water until her wound, which may need further surgical intervention, is healed. But she is healing and becoming stronger by the day. She has normal physiology again and is absorbing nutrients for the first time in five years, which in turn means she is walking around and starting to “be” normal again. I receive regular emails from one of the Cham people who sees her daily and will edit/paste this morning’s communication between us as the only way to articulate Paula’s experience. When I returned to Cambodia a few weeks ago Chom asked me “what day did Paula arrive in America?”. October 4th. “That is her birthday then because it is the first day of her new life”. I sponsor Paula’s brothers to English school and have promised Paula that I will sponsor her once she gets home ($4pp per month). Chom is the intermediary for this and some other people I’m trying to maintain support for. He has been sending messages about our little sponsorship program to keep me updated on everyone.
Yesterday I returned to my permanent position here in Alice Springs. Things have changed yet everything has stayed the same. Feeling as though I’d just taken a long weekend, I was happy to be back. As happy as I can be if I cannot be in Cambodia, that is! I had a small house re-warming on Saturday night and with a projector shining onto the wall of the shed, showed a few of my Cambodian photographs. I sent a message to Paula, who is easy to keep contact with while she remains in the USA with English speaking friends who have internet and email. I told her that I’d shared her story with my friends who were all amazed. The reply below radiates Paula’s elation.
Paula and her mom are doing well. They are very excited that I brought them to stay at my friends house, specifically Paula. I told them about your party, and they were more excited. She asked. ” what did Helen’s friends think about my story and the people in Cambodia”?
She said, When she goes back home, I will learn to speak English. She wants to express her feelings to you. She has a lot of things to say.
She wants to thank all the Drs who saved her life, Cate, Karen and specially you. She hope someday in the future, when she go back home, she wants to go help people with you. For the past month she learned a lot from you, the nurses in the US who help took care of her, and all the people who came to visit her.
All these people that she met change her life. She will work hard to find money and someday she wants to go Australia to visit you.
She asked me, next Friday can I bring her again, and show her around the city. I said if you well enough, and I have time I will. She still cannot believe it that she and her mother are in the US.
She said, “I feel like this is a dream to me”. “if it is a dream I don’t want to wake up”.
I’m very emotional about her.
Yesterday, on our way back to the hotel, I stopped by at Safeway store to get a few things for them. She asked me “please. …., I want to go in too”. I cannot believe it. You should see her face, how excited she was. It seems like a big deal for her. I forgot about a girl who was came from a small village in Cambodia. Since she is in US, she has not seen the outside. This is the first time in her life she actually in the American store. I have tears came out of my eyes. You should write a book about her story. I am serious! You are going to make a lot of money. If you do, you can help a lot of people.
I should let you go now, have a great day at work.
Talk to you soon.
My reply, which vaguely expresses the elation that I feel for having been a part of this story:
It is very early here and I have to get ready for work.
But I read your email and it is so amazing to hear all of this about Paula.
I don’t know what to say. I will be thinking about it all day, probably all week!
Thanks so much for looking after them SO well and for keeping in touch with me. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it.
Please tell Paula that my friends were really fascinated to hear the story about how her life has been saved and also to hear about Cambodia, how beautiful it is but how much suffering the people endure. It is difficult from a country like Australia (and USA, as you know), for people who have never seen these things, to imagine it. Just like Paula could never have imagined a shop like Safeway until she saw it.
Give Paula and her Mum a huge big hug from me. I will be thinking about everything you told me and am so happy now.