Monday, 23 June 2008

Davik Earns Her Ears

DISNEYLAND - Davik Teng, 9, laughs as Chantha Bob helps her try on mouse ears at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. on June 21, 2008. Teng came to the U.S. to have heart surgery she could not get in Cambodia. Photo by Jeff Gritchen / Long Beach Press-Telegram

Chatha Bob, center, holods on to Davik Teng as they and her mother, Sin Chhon, pose for a picture with Goofy at Disneyland. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)
DISNEYLAND - Davik Teng, 9, burys her head in her mother, Sin Chhon, as they hold on in a steep drop on Splash Mountain at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. on June 21, 2008. Teng came to the U.S. to have heart surgery she could not get in Cambodia. Photo by Jeff Gritchen / Long Beach Press-Telegram

Davik Teng tries on mouse ears at Disneyland. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

Davik Teng, aughs as she spins inside a teacup at Disneyland with her mother, Sin Chhon. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

Davik Teng, 9, leaps off her rocketship in Tomorrowland at Disneyland on Saturday. (Jeff Gritchen/Long Beach Press-Telegram)

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 06/21/2008

ANAHEIM - Davik Teng, you've traveled halfway around the world from a bamboo hut in a remote village in Cambodia. You've had your heart repaired in the United States. And you've captured people's imagination every step of the way. What are you going to do next?
You got it. Davik, the 9-year-old girl from a Battambang Province, went to Disneyland on Saturday.

In the final weeks before returning to her home village, Davik, who underwent life-altering open-heart surgery three months ago, is being taken on a whirlwind tour of Southern California sites.

And certainly few are more emblematic of what must seem like a fantasyland to the young girl and her mother. Few places could encapsulate the American sense of excess. Few are as singular and distinct as the Happiest Place on Earth.

Wearing a "cupcake" T-shirt, green jeans and white Skecher shoes, Davik may have looked like any kid visiting Disneyland.

But until five months ago, Davik had hardly ever ventured beyond a village with no electricity or running water. She certainly had never heard of Mickey Mouse, much less Disneyland. But, as it seems to do with children from all walks of life, the Magic Kingdom lived up to its name.

Davik had barely cleared the gates when she saw Goofy and tugged Chantha Bob, the man who helped bring her to the U.S., along to have her picture taken with the costumed Disney character.

Davik's first ride was Pirates of the Caribbean, which she went through with hands over her ears. Davik's mother, Sin Chhon, laughed uproariously when passing an area on the ride where a drunken pirate is happily sitting in a sty with several pigs.

Despite holding her ears throughout the ride, like just about any other kid, Davik wanted to ride again.

After a trip on the Astro Orbiter, Davik joked that the ride had scared her mom. But during the plunge on Splash Mountain and on the Thunder Mountain Railroad, it was Davik who buried her head in her mom's shoulder, while Sin laughed with glee.

The Mad Tea Party and King Arthur's Carousel appeared to be Davik's favorites as she ran out and right back into line for both.

The trip was another milestone in a journey that has been filled with magical moments.

Davik, who suffered from a large quarter-sized hole in her heart called a ventricular septal defect, was discovered in her remote village by Chantha Bob, a local waiter at Sophy's Restaurant in Long Beach.

A girl who now can run and play with the abandon of a typical 9-year-old was wheezing her way to a shortened life when she was discovered in her poor little village.

After efforts to have her heart repaired in Cambodia failed, she was brought to California by Peter Chhun and Hearts Without Boundaries, a Long Beach-based nonprofit. Her heart was repaired at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, which donated its facilities and the medical staff and doctors.

Cardiologist Mark Sklansky pronounced Davik fit to travel and Chhun has arranged to take Davik and her mom back to Cambodia on July 10.

Prior to Davik's departure, one final fete is scheduled to be held in her honor. A dinner Chhun is calling "Davik's Last Dance" will be held at the Golden Villa, 1350 E. Anaheim St., and catered by Sophy's.

But before all that, there was the mandatory trip to Disneyland. And as the afternoon shadows lengthened and it was time to go home, the girl with the new heart added a pair of mouse ears to her collection of prizes from the U.S.

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