Moken Medical Emergency
Last month, while foraging in the forest, Pek was hit by a falling tree branch and his spine was crushed. He was rushed to the mainland and Pek’s family came to take care of him, but their meager savings were quickly spent. They sold all of their valuables, and started borrowing money in order to afford life away from the village. Read more of Pek’s story below.
This is part of our Medical Emergency Program.
Your contribution will be very valuable at this difficult time.
On May 5th, Pek Klathale went out on his longtailboat with another 5 Moken men to find bamboo shoots in a different bay. While they were in the jungle a rotten branch came loose and hit Pek on his neck. Pek passed out immediately. Another Moken man found him lying face down and lifted him up a bit. But when he saw blood coming out of his mouth he was frightened and let go of him. He quickly called the other men and together they carried Pek back to the longtailboat. They wanted to bring him immediately to the Navy doctor, but Pek became conscious for a moment and wanted to inform his wife Ba Ai, who was in the Moken village.
Normally, there is an ambulance boat on stand by for emergencies parked in front of the Surin National Park. However, the same day in the morning, a Moken woman was brought to the mainland. She passed away on the journey and a quick investigation for the cause of her death suspected a Covid infection. So the ambulance boat was under quarantine until her test result was released.
Getting To Hospital
Peks family and friends acted quick and equipped a longtail boat with another two motors and hurried off to the mainland pier. After a bumpy four hour boat journey to the pier and transfer in the ambulance to the local hospital in Kuraburi, they had to transfer Pek to the larger hospital in Takuapa. Another hour passed until Pek was finally admitted to a hospital that could treat him.
Ten hours had passed since the accident, in which he was lifted, carried and rocked by the waves. He was diagnosed with a cervical fracture and seemed to be paralyzed from his hip downwards. After two weeks he was transferred back to the Kuraburi hospital when a tingling sensation started in his legs. It remains unclear when or whether he will be able to walk again, but is sure that his journey of recovery will be long.
Peks family has already exhausted their savings, and sold all valuables to be able to afford the stay on the mainland. They started borrowing money from friends and family. By now they are already in debt with the number increasing every week. Medical treatment is free of charge in Thailand, however any nursing care is not. Patients have to bring their own caretaker with them. In Peks case a man is needed to be able to turn him over and lift him up. Two male family members have been taking their turns since the beginning of May. As the Moken have strong family connections and are rarely separated as a family this means that three families are currently living on the mainland to take care of Pek. His wife and their youngest daughter, their oldest daughter and son in law with their daughter, and Pek’s sister, her husband and their daughter and son.
They all stay together for free in the small house of a distant relative. This house is a 30 minute ride from the hospital. Because they have no means of transportation they have to rent motorbike services to visit Pek and deliver food for the person nursing Pek. All these expenses have to be found and it is now time for the larger support network. We need to help this family to recover well without running into further debt.
Usually the Moken live from what they gather and hunt around the Surin islands. Rice and dry foods are bought from the income they make during the tourism season. One season makes enough to get out of the rainy season with a small amount of saving. However two hardships preceded Peks accident: First there was a village fire in 2019, in which all materials and savings kept in the houses were burned and then there was Covid-19 that made it difficult to put savings aside for the second year in a row.
Peks family just managed to talk the doctor to let Pek out of the hospital and into home care. They just couldn’t afford to rent transportation anymore. Now they only have to pay for a shorter way to the nearby nursery to have Peks pressure sores cleaned. But more importantly, Pek is happy to be surrounded by loving family members.
At the end of June his Head-Neck-Chest orthoses fixation will be removed, but he will possibly have to stay on the mainland near medical care until the end of the rainy season. Although they cling onto the hope that he might be able to walk again one day, they are grateful that Pek is alive. Once they are back home on the Surin islands, Pek plans to pick up the craft of handicrafts as his hand and arms continue to be functional.
This story was put together by Pek and his family. They express their gratitude to anyone who is able to support them during this time.
Medical Emergency Funding
In 2019 Hook (Moken) and Lena (German) set up a Moken projects funding page on which included medical emergencies. We did not know how this fund could become useful at the time, but it is very clear now. We have all been through times of hardship and usually there is support through good health insurance and social insurance in western countries and where these are lacking there is usually a network of family support. Peks family is very supportive and have all been making sacrifices to care for Pek.
For a total of $1,250 we can cover:
- Transportation to the hospital for check ups and cleaning of his bed sores is $3 per day for the next month $90. With a possible extension for another two month $270 total.
- Food for Pek’s family at only $7 per day (210 Baht) – a total of $640 to feed the family for three months.
- Physical therapy and massage training for his family to aid in his recovery for $100
- Transfer to Takuapa hospital to check and remove the orthosis $70 (2200 THB)
- Supplies and transport costs for returning to Koh Surin at $200
We would like to call for your support to donate to our medical fund in order to help Peks family to take the financial burden off their shoulders so that they can focus on the recovery ahead.