I continued attending my English class at Wat Preah Prom Rath, but I missed a few lectures while I was at Angkor. This one time when I did make it back before 5pm, a student came to talk to me after the class and said the his friend’s sister was in a hospital after she nearly killed herself in a suicide attempt. He said the girl swallowed an excessive amount of pills and ended up in an emergency care of the Siem Reap Referral Hospital where she’s recovering.
I knew where Siem Reap Referral Hospital was as I passed by it many times, but I had never actually been inside. I don’t even know why said student would come to tell me about the suicidal girl but I asked him if he could take me to her so I could speak with her and make her feel better about herself so she doesn’t try to take her life again. He said the girl was from a remote village in north-west Cambodia and couldn’t speak any English so there would be no talking to her. He could try to translate but he wasn’t sure how that would go about.
There Was Once a Girl…
The girl and her sister came to Siem Reap a few weeks prior. The village where they came from was very remote and the life in it existed without money. People grew what they needed to eat and used what nature provided to create tools and shelter. The life in the village was simple, but for the most part fairly self sustainable and unless some significant event crossed the path of any of the villagers, they would live and die without ever leaving the place.
The first time either of the girls saw a foreigner was when they came to Siem Reap. Their village was nowhere near any popular tourist route and there was nothing worthy of mention anywhere in the area so their lives consisted exclusively of farming. Had it not been for their father’s illness, they would have never left the village and would have dedicated their lives to the village life like everybody else who lives there. But they were not meant to.
Under normal circumstances, none of the villagers ever worry about money. All they need to worry about is to make sure they have enough rice and live stock to feed themselves with throughout the year and that’s about that. But when girls’ father fell ill, this all has changed and all of a sudden there was an unexpected need for money. So the girls packed up and left for Siem Reap the buzz about which has reached the ears of the villagers.
Because Siem Reap welcomes millions of tourists year after year (and growing), Cambodians associate it with a gold mine. Trouble was, that our two sisters did not speak English or any other foreign language to take advantage of town’s growing popularity and had to settle with non tourism related jobs which don’t usually land as much cash. Both girls started working for an ice factory (like Bruce Lee in Fists of Fury).
They weren’t making much money, but there was at least something left over so they could send it home to support their weak dad. But then something happened and one of the sisters attempted suicide. After just a few months in Siem Reap she tried to kill herself. The world of money sure changes people and enslaves them to the point of no return.
I don’t know why exactly the girl tried to kill herself. She never actually told the truth. I asked, but her response implied that she didn’t want anyone to know. She simply said that she attempted suicide because of family problems. That made little sense though, because in villages where people live together their whole lives, family is the strongest of institutions. People stick together through the fire and the flames because all they have is one another and they know it very well.
It was not my goal to stick my nose into what was none of my business. Whatever the real reason behind attempted suicide, I just wanted to make her feel better at least for that short moment while I was there. I knew that because of where she came from and where she worked in Siem Reap, she never actually had a foreigner talk to her. So, having a foreigner come visit her in a hospital definitely made an impact and I also brought her a small toy to try to put a smile on her face and despite severe stomach pains caused by the pills still in her system, it worked.
Siem Reap Referral Hospital
This was my first time in the Siem Reap Referral Hospital which is not particularly a high class establishment. The bunk beds are cramped together in dark hallways so rooms can be available for operations. While I was there, I saw several badly injured people brought in. Those were the victims of traffic accidents which there are never too few of in Cambodia.
But the most devastating experience was to watch a young man carried in by his brothers. He was in excruciating pain and twitched on bed as if he was being skinned alive. Expression of pain on his face left little out for guessing. I think he was suffering from kidney stones as there are few things that can cause this much pain. The response from a doctor on duty was nowhere near what I would call timely given the suffering this man was going through, but this likely goes with the venue. There are better health facilities with more professional and prompt medical care, but not everybody can afford it. Those who can’t are left with what’s attainable by their means and whether inadequate or not, Siem Reap Referral Hospital is definitely better than nothing at all.
Back to our suicidal girl – I asked a doctor if I could bring my fan to make the hospital stay more bearable for my friend. It just so happened that she tried to kill herself when Siem Reap was hit with a heat wave so wherever you went, if there was no air-conditioning, it would be unbearably hot inside. Siem Reap Referral Hospital is not only not air-conditioned, there are no fans there either.
The hospital was so hot inside, mere sitting there was making people nauseous so when I imagined that there was a girl who suffered from severe stomach cramps that forced her into vomiting every few minutes, I instantly knew she needed a fan to pull through. I wanted to bring my own, but the doc said “No” and there was no changing his mind. I had to go with it, though. I don’t know whether care provided by the Siem Reap Referral Hospital is paid or free, but either way it is available to people with little or no money so they don’t have the resources to cover for the electricity my fan would burn.
Later on, there was a whole groups of people who came to see the suicidal girl. It almost seemed as a solid way to receive compassion and make new friends. We spent a little time with the girl but eventually everybody had to go as it was getting late at night. I was in a group of the last people to leave but the girl wasn’t going to spend the night alone. Her sister was staying by her side so we wished her courage and strength and left. I’ve never seen the suicidal girl again, but that was not the case with her sister.
Brief video of the encounter with the suicidal girl is below: