“I want to be a car driver and see the country when I grow up,” says 12-year-old Htet Aung. He is a third grade student from Burma, and likes to watch television, play sports, sing and play with toys.
When Htet Aung was born at home in his village, his mother noticed a small bump on the bridge of his nose, directly between the eyes. About six months later, doctors diagnosed this bump as an encephalocele. This is a neural tube defect caused by the failure of the neural tube to close completely during fetal development.
The growth of the mass has been slow but steady over the years and affects Htet Aung’s vision. To read, he has to bring the book very close to his face. The mass is generally not painful but occasionally, he will feel sharp pangs. It also causes him tearing.
Besides this encephalocele, Htet Aung has been in relatively good health. However, he is becoming increasingly sensitive about the mass on his face.
Htet Aung’s family tried to find him proper medical services at a larger hospital about ten years ago. However, they realized they could not afford the expensive surgery that he would need to remove the growth. Htet Aung’s father works as a carpenter and his siblings work in a sewing factory– their income is not enough to pay for major surgery in addition to supporting their family.
After learning about Burma Border Projects (BBP) from a neighbor, Htet Aung travelled four hours with his mother to reach BBP for treatment. $1500 will cover the cost of his operation to surgically remove the growth, as well as any additional transportation and hospital costs before and after the procedure.
Although Htet Aung’s family is nervous about possible adverse affects of the surgery on his vision or cognition, they are eager for him to finally receive treatment. After the operation, Htet Aung will be able to return home and lead a normal childhood.