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Friday, September 02, 2011

Boy, 3, readied for open-heart surgery

LOS ANGELES - An impoverished Cambodian boy in need of an open-heart operation met with hospital staff Thursday and appears set for the procedure.


Bunkek Song holds her 3-year-old brother, heart patient Bunlak Song, in the Cambodian New Year Parade in Long Beach on Saturday. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

Children's Hospital Los Angeles has set Sept. 23 as the tentative date for surgery for Bunlak Song, according to Peter Chhun, whose Long Beach-based nonprofit is sponsoring the boy.

Before the boy can have the heart procedure, he needs dental work done. That will be done Tuesday, which had initially been the the proposed date for the surgery. Bunlak had been scheduled to meet with heart surgeon Cynthia Herrington, who will perform the operation, but she was unavailable.

The 3-year-old boy from a small village in Cambodia suffers from a large hole in his heart called a ventricular septal defect and several other less severe heart ailments.

Because of the hole, blood is shunted backward through the heart and sends oxygenated blood into the lungs, damaging them. Left untreated, it becomes irreversible. In the United States, the defect is usually treated in the first year of life.

Bunlak has been unable to receive treatment in Cambodia and was brought to the United States by Chhun and his nonprofit, Hearts Without Boundaries.

The boy is the fourth heart patient the group has sponsored. The other three, Davik Teng, Soksamnang Vy and Socheat Nha, all had successful surgeries and have returned to their homeland.

greg.mellen@presstelegram.com,

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