Name: Saw Bie

 Age: 2 years old        

Condition: Congenital Heart Disease – successfully treated         

Saw Bie and his mother in Oct. 2009
Saw Bie came to the Mae Tao Clinic for the first time in October 2009. He was two years old and was suffering from congenital heart disease. He is Karen and he lives with his family in a isolated part of Karen State, Burma. His father is a subsistence farmer and farms only enough to eat. However, often there is not enough to go around. Saw Bie’s mother weaves traditional Karen bags and goes to town to sell them. Some months they earn 4,000 Kyat (US$4) but other months, they earn nothing. Roughly half of what they earn they have to hand over to the soldiers who come to their village every month. Each household in the village has to do the same. They give the money to their village chief who hands it over to the soldiers. On top of this, around 4 people a day need to act as ‘porters’ (forced labour) for the soldiers. Saw Bie’s father also has to undertake this work when it is asked of him. It is long, hard work and he gets no food or money in return for his labour (see ‘Fast Facts on Burma’ for more information). 

To afford the travel from their village to the Mae Tao Clinic (on the Thai-Burma border), Saw Bie’s mother made and sold bags. She wasn’t able to make enough for their passage so she had to borrow money from a friend. Her older children took care of the younger ones while she came to the Clinic with Saw Bie and her husband.    When Saw Bie first came to us, his mother was heavily pregnant with her eighth child. His eldest sister; his eldest brother helps with the farm; his 13-year old brother around the house and the two of the younger ones attend the village school. Saw Bie and his 4-year old brother are too young to go to school so they stay at home.      Saw Bie’s mother first noticed there was something wrong when Saw Bie was lying on his back and his chest movements appeared abnormal. The sound of his heart was also unusual and he had a puffy face due to his young body retaining a lot of fluid. He was also struggling to breathe. His parents did not take him to a doctor in Burma because his mother had heard about the Mae Tao Clinic from a friend. Her child had a similar condition and had successfully undergone treatment in Thailand through BCMF.         

Ready to go to Chiang Mai (Jan. '10)

 Saw Bie went to Chiang Mai on 27 January 2010 in the BCMF patient van with his father as his mother had just given birth. Soon after he arrived, Saw Bie got a contagious skin infection(scabies) and the doctors were not able to operate on him. He was given medicine and had to wait in the patient house in Chiang Mai for twenty days. He then returned to hospital where he was given oral medicine for three days and the doctors started him on an IV drip.  The skin infection cleared up and they were finally able to operate. He underwent a procedure called PDA (patent ductus arteriosus) ligation whereby the team of surgeons closed off his ductus arteriosus. If Saw Bie did not have surgery for his condition, his heart defect could have resulted in congestive heart failure in later life.        After the operation, Saw Bie stayed in hospital for five days. He then returned to the patient house and waited there until his follow-up on 27 March. It was a very long two months for Saw Bie and his father and they both returned to the Mae Tao Clinic exhausted but happy.       

Saw Bie's scar

Saw Bie’s father said that the doctors and nurses in Chiang Mai were all very friendly and nice. He said that the hospital was a very big building and it was very clean. They were looked after very well at the patient house and they didn’t have trouble getting food as the staff helped with this always.   Before the operation, Saw Bie was very active and he loved to play. However, whenever he exerted himself, even just a little bit, he broke out into a sweat and got very tired and breathless. He constantly had to sit down a lot and rest until he could recover. His difficulty breathing hindered his playing habits and his father said he was often sad.   Since the surgery, Saw Bie is now able to play and run and sleep and eat without a problem (in fact, while we were conducting the post-operation interview, Saw Bie was energetically pushing a wooden chair around the Child Out Patient Department inadvertently demonstrating his newly-gained energy and health).    

Saw Bie is now very strong and active. His father says that he is now so active that he finds it difficult to keep up with him. He goes on to say that before the operation they could feel his heart beating heavily through his chest.  Now it feels normal. His father is happy because Saw Bie will be able to go to school when he is old enough. Despite his poor health and young age, Saw Bie has already tried to go to school – he used to take great delight in trying to follow his older brothers!       

Saw Bie’s father is looking forward to taking his son home to their village as his wife is anxious to see him for herself. It has been hard for her not being there during such a trying time for her son but she had to look after her newest son and Saw Bie’s older siblings. Saw Bie’s father is also happy to be able to go back to work to support his family and earn enough to provide his young children with an education. He wants to work especially hard so that Saw Bie can go to school as soon as he is old enough.   

Saw Bie’s father can’t say ‘thank you’ enough to the donors who made his son’s operation possible. He is very grateful and he feels that if the donors did not help, he certainly would not have been able to get treatment for his baby. He is now very happy for his son and is both excited and hopeful for his future. In a previous interview, his mother said that she would like Saw Bie to go to school and to become a teacher one day so he doesn’t have to live such a hard life. Hopefully, when he becomes a teacher, he can earn enough to support himself and to help his family.  

Help fund the treatment of children like Saw Bie and make a donation to BCMF today.