Nothing Can Stop a Father Committed to his Daughter’s Future
Imagine you’re a brand new father.
You just witnessed the incredible miracle of birth and you’re holding your precious baby for the first time. You have a daughter. It’s a feeling like no other: awe and adoration mixed with an undeniable instinct to protect, shelter, and shield her from the rough reality of the world.
Now imagine your baby girl is born with clubfoot. Your mind races. Will she walk? Will she play? Will she have the opportunities she deserves – an education, a job, a spouse and a family of her own one day?
Sarat’s introduction to fatherhood meant immediately tapping into his paternal instincts to find answers – and care – for his daughter, Morokot who was born with clubfoot in the village of Sonsen Cherng in Cambodia.
Sarat started his search by carrying around a large, printed photo of Marokot’s curved feet, looking for someone – anyone – who could help. He talked to doctors, nurses, even receptionists asking for information about his daughter’s condition. No one knew anything about it, not even if it was possible to treat. He continued visiting hospitals and clinics, spending every minute of his free time searching for answers.
Eventually Sarat found a doctor in the Kampong Cham Provincial Hospital who told him what he’d been desperate to hear: his daughter’s clubfoot could be treated. His determined searching had paid off. “I became so happy, nothing could worry me,” he recalls, grinning from ear to ear remembering what it felt like hearing the news for the first time.
Yet, there was another hurdle to overcome before Morokot’s feet could be treated. She received her first cast just as the coronavirus began to spread throughout Asia. The world began shutting down and her clinic visits were suspended. She was making good progress, but it all came to a sudden halt before it was complete. However, not even a global pandemic could stop Sarat from getting his daughter the care she needed. Once the restrictions were lifted and COVID precautions were put into place he jumped at the first opportunity to get Morokot back to the clinic. She was now six months old and would have to start treatment over again from the beginning.
Despite the setback, Sarat diligently continued taking Morokot to appointments, more determined than ever to see it through.
Today, at three years old, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like for Morokot had she not received care. In the mornings when Sarat gets home exhausted from working nights at a nearby factory, she runs to greet him and invites him to join her dance party. And of course he happily accepts.
“Now she can walk like other kids. That’s an amazing feeling for a dad,” Sarat describes, placing his hand over his heart.
From the day she was born, Sarat was committed to ensuring a bright future for his daughter. And today, he encourages other parents to do the same. “I want to send a message to everyone who has a child who was born with a disability,” he says, “please don’t give up on them.”
Around the same time that Sarat was searching for care for Morokot, another father not far away was doing the same for his newborn daughter, Dasmine.
Already nervous in his new role as a father, Vi Rya became even more concerned when he noticed that his daughter’s feet were severely bent inwards.
“I tried to look at other newborns to see if they had the same feet as my daughter,” he remembers. “I thought maybe every newborn’s feet were like that because of their young bones.” Vi kept his concerns to himself so as not to burden his wife who was recovering from a C-section. But when he sought a second opinion from his sister-in-law, the reality became apparent: little Dasmine’s feet needed treatment.
Like most new parents, Vi Rya didn’t sleep for the next few nights, but this was due more to worry and less from newborn cries. Instead of soaking in the newness of fatherhood, he was overcome with fear. Knowing he had to do something, he brought Dasmine to the hospital just a few days after her birth. Unlike Sarat’s initial search, Vi Rya immediately found a clinic that could help. Using the Ponseti method, Dasmine’s doctors guided the family through the process, explaining how the casts would slowly straighten out her little feet over a period of months.
“It’s my love toward her, from father to daughter,” Vi Rya explains when asked about his motivation, “I was committed no matter what.”
Committed, indeed, as any father carrying his daughter’s pink plush kitty backpack would understand. Today Vi Rya is just grateful that his daughter can walk – and well aware of what that means for her future. “Even if someone offered me a million dollars, I wouldn’t trade it for her healthy feet.”