From a Thailand refugee camp to a Karenni-American kidney transplant patient

refuge camp in Burma and Thailand, refugee, kidney transplant, civil war, infusion, western technology

Eh Moo is patiently waiting for his infusion to start in the Hennepin Healthcare Kidney Center Infusion Room, where he tells his story beginning as a Karenni boy in a refugee camp in Thailand, to a kidney transplant recipient in America. Life is very different between the two lands. As Donate Life Month winds down, we give tribute to the Hennepin Healthcare Kidney Center, and the incredible work they do to save lives, like Eh’s life.

His home country is Burma, which is now referred to as Myanmar. Myanmar is south of China and west of Laos and Thailand and sits on the Bay of Bengal. Myanmar has been engaged in a civil war for the past 70 years and suffers widespread poverty and repressive military rule with aggressions aimed at certain ethnic groups. It has been a very violent country during this war with villages often attacked and burned, wrongful imprisonments and unforgiveable murders and tortures.

Eh came to the U.S. in 2011 with his family after spending 12 years in a refugee camp in Thailand.

One night, in 2020, Eh was sleeping and woke at 3 am with a staggering headache. In the morning, he added blurry vision to his list of symptoms, so he went to see his primary care provider. His blood pressure levels skyrocketed, so he was sent to the emergency room at a nearby hospital. He was admitted and was there for a week to get his blood pressure down. They ran lots of tests. A kidney biopsy disclosed that his kidneys were failing. Discharged with blood pressure medication, he was told he may need to go on dialysis.

Hospitalized again five months later with COVID and pneumonia, Eh couldn’t breathe. During his week’s hospital stay he had dialysis daily and started his journey waiting for a kidney which came in March, 2023.

His new kidney wasn’t functioning to his doctor’s satisfaction, so Eh has continued to have monthly infusions, which prevent your body from rejecting the transplanted kidney. Eh says, “compared to dialysis, it’s a lot better”.

Eh Moo at the refugee camp with the young man who had kidney disease

Eh (on the left) talking to the young man he met with kidney disease in the refugee camp

Eh recently traveled to Burma and Thailand on a mission trip with his church. They were in a war zone and visited a refuge camp. They brought supplies, especially water, which is scarce this time of year as Feb – May is their summer. In the camp in the jungle, they have nurses and medics, but no medicines except for Tylenol® and ibuprofen. Technology is not available here. Eh met a 19-year-old young man with kidney disease. His heart went out to him, for this young man doesn’t have the medicines that Eh was given to survive. The young man was puffy and swollen and Eh will never forget him. They prayed in this camp and offered encouragement, but it still felt downhearted for this young man and the conditions in the camp because of the ongoing war.

Praying for peace in the refugee camp

Praying for peace

Children in the refugee camp

Children in the refugee camp

Eh lives in St. Paul with his wife and 1 ½ year old son. His siblings also came to the U.S. His church in St. Paul is where his missionary work comes from. He also got to visit his grandfather in Burma (which Eh still calls his country) and hopes to go back next year revisiting in to the jungle he helped and possibly a new one. He hopes he sees that young man again. He is glad he came to America with the help of UNHCR, and never imagined his health battle and recovery. Why does he do this missionary work? Thoughtfully, Eh explains, “It touched my heart, you know?”