Shin Aw Ba Tha’s Story:
Shin Aw Ba Tha is a novice monk. He entered a monastery in Burma when he was 12 years old. Soon after, he began coughing up blood and became short of breath. He was diagnosed a serious heart condition and also informed that he had contracted tuberculosis. He was able to receive 6 months of treatment for the communicable infection in his home district but was informed that the only way to correct his heart condition was to go to a hospital in Rangoon. Shin Aw Ba Tha’s family could not afford to pay for the surgery required to save Shin Aw Ba Tha’s life.
Shin Aw Ba Tha came to the Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) with his mother for the first time in March 2010. When he arrived he showed distinct visible signs of advanced heart disease – clubbed finger and toe nails. Shin Aw Ba Tha was given medicine to control his symptoms and was informed that he would have to go to Chiang Mai (360kms away) for surgery. He was referred to Burma Children Medical Fund (BCMF) make arrangements his treatment in Chiang Mai. His family could not afford to pay for ongoing medication in Burma so the whole family moved to Mae Sot, Thailand. His parents found work as day labourers on surrounding farms while Shin Aw Ba Tha focused on his health and his treatment plan.
Shin Aw Ba Tha’s first visit to Chiang Mai revealed that a valve in his heart had thickened (pulmonary valve stenosis). It was also discovered that he had an abscess within his lung related to the tuberculosis infection. Shin Aw Ba Tha was fortunate; he was able to avoid open heart surgery by a successful cardiac catherisation procedure (preformed through an artery in the groin by which a flexible tube is threaded up into the heart, and a balloon then stretched the opening of the valve). However the abscess was more problematic and Shin Aw Ba Tha had surgery to open his chest and remove one third of his right lung.
Shin Aw Ba Tha’s mother says that after his operation her son changed dramatically – he became very active and eager to play.
“I no longer feel tired and have no trouble breathing anymore. Shortness of breath doesn’t keep me awake at night and my cough has gone. I feel well!”
Shin Aw Ba Tha’s family are very happy about his recovery and are relieved that the surgery and his treatment have been a success. His mother says that, as parents, they no longer have to feel bad because they couldn’t afford the medicine or treatment that their son needed. She goes on to say that she will now be able to return to work without having to worry about her sick son. They won’t have to use all their earnings on medication to alleviate Shin Aw Ba Tha’s symptoms.
Shin Aw Ba Tha says that he enjoys his studies in Buddhism and all of his friends are at his monastery in Burma. He explains he loves the way of life as a monk. Everyday he wakes up at 4am to pray; then cleans the monastery with the other novice monks; has breakfast and commences his studies. This is the life Shin Aw Ba Tha is keen to return to. He aspires one day to be a ‘senior monk’ (Abbot).
Shin Aw Ba Tha’s mother would like to say ‘thank you very much’ to the donors who supported her son’s treatment. She believes her son would have died if he wasn’t able to access treatment through BCMF (via the Mae Tao Clinic).