Miles away from urbanization, the Salvin River runs quietly, and the breeze passes over a small, isolated village on the Thai-Myanmar border. In the soft light of dawn, Saydomoo reflects on the journey of his son, Haekerporso, over the past year.
Just a year ago, Haekerporso was six years old: a lively, active, and confident child. But in April 2021, he began to lose his appetite and soon lost weight. Concerned about how thin their son looked compared to other children, his parents tried providing him with a nutritious diet.
“My wife and I were taught from the centre staff about preparing nutritious food for Haekerporso, and the centre provided us with food and supplements for him. But nothing helped and he did not get better,” said the little boy’s father, Saydomoo.
A growing concern
Saydomoo became worried. His son’s condition continued to worsen, and his body became weaker. The health professionals hadn’t been able to provide a diagnosis.
“Several times I took Haekerporso to the health centre. They couldn’t figure out what he has. I could only watch my son grow weaker and weaker. As a father, it was breaking my heart,” says Saydomoo.
Saydomoo grew concerned his son wouldn’t see his seventh birthday.
In September, Saydomoo again tried taking Haekerporso to the health centre. This time he was admitted. He lay on a bamboo bed in the small wooden shelter beneath a roof made from leaves. Staff gave him antibiotics to try and bring his fever down. His face was puffy and the room whirled around him as he struggled with dizziness. He had severe anemia, but the medical centre wasn’t equipped to treat it. Staff referred Haekerporso to Mae Sarieng hospital in town.
“That day everything happened so quickly. My wife and I made a very quick decision that I would go with Haekerporso and she will stay back to look after our other two children,” says Saydomoo.
Calling in help
After returning a mandatory negative COVID-19 test for travel, Saydomoo and Haekerporso arrived at the hospital in Mae Sariang. Meanwhile, Preecha’s phone rang. As a Compassion partnership facilitator, he was alerted about Haekerporso’s medical situation.
Haekerporso has been known and loved in his local Compassion centre since he was registered in 2018.
“As soon as I got the phone call about Haekerporso, I immediately contacted the hospital and informed them that he is a child registered in the Compassion sponsorship program and we will do anything to save his life,” says Preecha.
Hospital staff began running tests on the six-year-old. The anemia made them suspect something more serious. They believed Haekerporso had leukemia. However, Mae Sarieng hospital has limited resources for treating paediatric cancer. With the child’s life at risk, Compassion’s church partner needed to take swift action.
Together, the centre and Partnership Facilitator collaborated with local community leaders, the Thai border committee, and Mae Sarieng hospital to obtain permission to send their young patient for treatment at the Chiang Mai general hospital.
By evening, Haekerporso and Saydomoo began their journey in an ambulance. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, they would have to quarantine at the hospital for 14 days. “I cried because I thought they would take me away from my dad,” recalls Haekerporso. “But when the nurses let him come to me, I was not afraid of the needles.”
An anxious situation
However, the quality medical treatment came at a cost. As a displaced child, Haekerporso is not eligible for the medical benefits Thai citizens receive. Considered a foreigner, the cost of his medical treatment was doubled. The hospital required over CAD $11,000 upfront for his tests, treatment and stay in the Thai hospital.
During the anxious situation, Compassion’s church partner was there to help. Partnership Facilitator Preecha knew the right person to send to the family’s side—Program Trainer Nipaporn. Though her role normally wouldn’t require direct involvement with a child’s case, her heart for children at risk motivates her to go the extra mile. Preecha knew Nipaporn would do all she could to help Haekerporso.
“I got a phone call from Preecha about Haekerporso,” says Nipaporn. “They needed someone from the Compassion office to go to the hospital. I knew right away that I had to go because it was an emergency—a child’s life was at stake.”
As the representative from Compassion Thailand, Nipaporn went to the hospital when Haekerporso and Saydomoo arrived to organize covering the medical expenses. Although the cost exceeded their expectations, Compassion’s Medical Fund released the hospital to do their part to save Haekerporso’s life.
They began a series of tests to diagnosis him. In October, they shared the results with his father. Unable to speak the local language, all Saydomoo could do was watch the doctor’s face, his heart pounding, as he shared his son’s condition with Nipaporn. When she translated the message, Saydomoo fell to his knees, tears streaming down his face.
Haekerporso had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
An impossible medical bill
The estimated cost for Haekerporso’s cancer treatment was over CAD $55,000. Repaying such a huge sum of money would be impossible for the family. Saydomoo is a farmer who earns CAD $2-6 per month. The family is displaced and live in an isolated village where the only way to communicate with others is to travel on foot and meet face-to-face.
Saydomoo knew only God could intervene to help save his son’s life.
Meanwhile, Nipaporn prepared a funding proposal to Compassion to cover the medical costs. The pandemic and the family’s displaced status made it a complex process, involving collaboration from multiple local authority departments. The family was overjoyed to hear the funds were fully approved—Compassion’s Medical Fund would cover the entire cost.
Haekerporso began chemotherapy and is responding well to the treatment.
A second chance at life
Saydomoo is so relieved his son has been given a second chance at life.
“Only faith brought us to where we are today,” he said. “I’m so thankful for the Compassion staff, for Nipaporn who always checked in and visited us regularly. It’s such a great support that I never felt alone. And God is who I put my faith in. I hold the words in 1 Peter 2:24 to my heart daily. I believe my son will be healed.”
Alone in a foreign hospital, unable to speak the language, the family is so grateful to have Nipaporn’s support. “It’s about the heart and willingness,” she says, simply. “As I am Karen too, I know they need help with the language. They need someone to support them to not feel alone. If I don’t help them, then who else will?”
Today, doctors are optimistic about Haekerporso’s prognosis. The now-seven-year-old lives with his father in accommodation provided by Compassion close by the hospital so he can attend his treatment and follow-up appointments every two weeks. Compassion organizes a translator for the appointments.
“All the nurses and doctors are very nice. I don’t understand the language, but they always point at pictures to let me know what they are going to do with me,” said Haekerporso. “And I’m not afraid of needles anymore because I know I’ll be okay.”
Haekerporso’s body was severely vulnerable, fatigued, and pale when he first arrived at the hospital in Chiang Mai. After one month of treatment, he can now move his body, eat, smile, and talk like he used to. He has a long journey ahead—doctors say treatment will take three years—but he’s moving forward, surrounded by a loving team.
“Nothing will be enough to say thank you to Compassion for saving my son’s life,” said Saydomoo as he reflects on the past year. “I have hope again and seeing him smile, laugh, and move around is the highest prize to me.”
Brave Haekerporso is already dreaming about his future. “I am not afraid anymore,” he said. “I dream to be a doctor to help other kids that are sick like me. And I want to be a pilot to fly a plane—then I can go to help anyone, anywhere.”
Haekerporso’s dream is to help other kids that are sick and to help anyone, anywhere.
You can do the same.
Compassion’s Urgent Needs fund helps local churches meet the most pressing needs of children around the world and gives families hope for tomorrow.
Words and photos by Piyamary Shinoda, with Rebekah Malbrecht.