On September 21, The Phuket News reported the heartbreaking story of Phuket boy Patchara “Petch” Samana, a 16 year-old with Prader Willi Syndrome.
As part of his condition, Petch suffers from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the term for when an unconscious sleeper stops breathing. But while sufferers from OSA usually start taking in oxygen again on their own, Petch does not. In fact, the only way to keep him alive is to wake him up.
For a while, his mother was able to rely on the use of a Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) respirator, loaned by the Prince of Songkhla Hospital in Songkhla, to keep her son breathing through the night. But two years ago the respirator broke down.
Mrs Yuparate sent it back to the hospital in Songkhla to be fixed, but there were no parts to fix it. Apparently, two years later, there were still none. “My son has been sleeping without the BiPAP for almost two years until now” she told us at the time.
His nighttime breathing problem became worse than ever. “I have to make sure he sleeps on his side,” said Mrs Yuparate.
“If he sleeps on his back, he cannot breathe. I have to stay awake almost all night, waking him up whenever I notice he has stopped breathing.”
The only solution was a new respirator, but Mrs Yuparate, a single mum, simply didn’t have the money.
The story of the desperate mother, who had battled for 16 years to keep her son alive, was told to the Phuket News by Doctor Siriporn Seauwatanakul, a member of the Lions Club of Phuket Pearl, which supports the Phuket Parental of Autism Group which Mrs Yuparate is involved with.
After the tale was published in the 21 September issue of The Phuket News – online and in print – Ms Agnes Chow from a company called Avattvon Medical contacted Mrs Yuparate to offer help.
Unbelievably, they were willing to donate a new BiPAP machine to save Petch’s life, the same type of respirator that had been broken for the past two years.
The Greek word for breath, Avattvon Medical (avattvon.com) is a Singapore-based company established in 2008 as a total solution provider for sleep apnea, from basic diagnosis, CPAP treatments to private in-home assessment and sleep management.
On Monday (October 29), Agnes Chow, the business director and owner of Avattvon Medical, together with Kelvin Lim, the business operations manager, flew from Singapore to Haad Yai, Songkhla, to meet with Mrs Yuparate and her son.
“You can not understand how happy I was to see Ms Agnes and Mr Kelvin walk into the hospital’s children’s ward,” recalls a visibly emotional Mrs Yuparate. And then she saw the machine.
“They are Petch’s saviors. By helping him breathe, he will now be able to live. We will be able to live. Nobody else has ever given him this much.”
In a quiet moment later on, in the lobby of her hotel, Ms Chow explained how she came across the story of the boy who couldn’t breathe.
“I was in Phuket on holiday, and one morning I was sitting in a cafe having breakfast and was reading through a copy of The Phuket News.
“I came across the story about the boy with sleep apnea, and immediately went back to the hotel to call the boy’s mother. All I could think was, ‘How can a mother never sleep, for fear her son will die?’”
Remembering the moment when she gave the machine to Petch, Ms Chow says: “It was an amazing feeling when I saw how he smiled after he received the machine. It was a look of total relief.
“We hope we can help more people who have this problem and need the machine.”
“It means the two can enjoy their lives, and I can see that the mother is very happy,” added Mr Lim.
“What we do is to create awareness of this problem [sleep apnea], and to let people know more about how we can help them.”
“We will stay in touch with Petch and his mother in case anything happens to the machine or they need any further help,” said Ms Chow.
For her part, Mrs Yuparate said that Petch was just so glad to have the new BiPAP machine.
“Last night (October 29), Petch was on the machine from 8pm. He felt so happy and comfortable as he said the machine made him feel good. He could breathe again.”
Having been receiving treatment in Prince of Songkhla Nakarin hospital since October 1, after using the BiPAP respirator supplied by Avattvon, Petch was able to leave the hospital on October 30.
He couldn’t wait to get back home, where his grandmother was waiting – to see him breathe easy again.