Posted by Mongolia Bound Team on October 11, 2012
Thanks to the support of our beloved friends at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, you can now donate to the next Mongolia Bound mission online here.
There is so much work to be done, from helping to get essential medicines to proper equipment to medical training; your contribution will help establish a life-saving pediatric oncology program in Mongolia’s only children’s hospital, Mother & Child Hospital.
Posted by Mongolia Bound Team on October 8, 2012
Two years ago today, our family experienced the most painful day of our lives. We lost the precious little boy with the brilliant smile you see above – our son, brother, and friend. Not having him physically with us hasn’t gotten any easier; pangs of longing to hold him haven’t gotten any duller.
But today, we marvel and rejoice at how much Jonathan’s enduring spirit continues to help us accomplish. During his all too short life, he showed us how to be kind, how to be positive, and how to reach out to others in need. Even though we cannot see him, he continues to make waves of good that ripple outwards.
Because of Jonathan, the medical team at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and our family visited Mongolia, one of the places Jonathan most wanted to visit. Because of Jonathan, Dr. Sandler and the Wolfson medical team are helping the doctors at Mother & Child Hospital build a pediatric oncology program and will be returning again next year to further the project.
Jonathan’s kindness, compassion, and desire to help others are qualities we want to spread as far and wide as we can. He inspires us all to be better; his presence in our lives has forever changed us.
If you would like to contribute to the next trip to Mongolia, you can send your donation here:
Development Director, Wolfson Children’s Hospital
Baptist Health Foundation, Inc.
841 Prudential Drive, Suite 1300
Jacksonville, FL 32207
Please note that your donation should be earmarked for Jonathan Soud / Mongolia Mission.
Posted by Mongolia Bound Team on September 18, 2012
Today is the last day of soccer camp, and we are all pretty emotional about it. Indeed, the entire week has brought us a mixture of emotions: the initial shock at the chaotic nature of Ulaanbaatar, the gradual adjustment to the chaos, the bonding with the children, and now the prospect of goodbye. We are physically worn out from the surprisingly hot sun and the play, and emotionally fatigued by the overwhelming sense of neediness we have encountered.
Natalie and John have swapped places today; since she arrived late Monday night, she hasn’t yet been to the hospital, and John, a soccer fan (unfortunately a Netherlands follower ), has done what he can do with the pharmacists at the hospital and wants to spend some time with the kids.
We are also joined by Dan, a young Englishman who, along with his wife Kat, is in the midst of a two-month mission commitment in Mongolia. Dan has just completed medical school and is pondering sub-specialization in pediatric hematology/oncology when he returns home later this summer.
While Kat contributes her expertise as a Physical Therapist to The Children’s Place, Dan has spent the week at the hospital learning as much from Eric as he can, but today is ready to indulge in one of his passions, soccer. Though he is a hemophiliac himself, Dan refuses to let that hold him back, and for many years he has played goalie on a number of different teams, including one that recently tried out for the Mongolian first division.
When we arrive at the 97th School the children have actually gotten there before us. With Paul and Dan assisting, Justin quickly gets things organized and the children run through their drills.
Meanwhile John and I play with those who are less interested in soccer. Abigail, the youngest of Margie’s three children, has finally warmed up to me and wants to be picked up. I oblige, and she asks me to run as fast as I can while holding her. I wear myself out racing her up and down the sidelines.
Then, before I know it, I am surrounded by children–among them Abigail, Ayunder, Enkhtuul, Halliuna, and a girl from the ger district whose name I don’t know–all wanting to be spun around by the arms. After 15 minutes of spinning I have to beg for a break, but now the girls want to play “Wolves and Sheep”–essentially a game of tag, but with a name descending from the Mongols’ days as steppe herders and hunters. Before the morning is over, I am happily exhausted!
As the soccer camp comes to a close, Margie and the other Children’s Place workers who have accompanied her this morning gather all the orphans together to say farewell. The children burst into a song that seems completely spontaneous and that brings tears to my eyes.
Margie later explains that they have chosen a song associated with naadam, the upcoming national festival of Mongolia, but that each time she has thought they were ending they added yet another verse. That, she says, shows how much they have enjoyed the week. As we walk back to the van, the little girl from the district who had so often asked to be spun holds my right hand. She looks up at me and says, “Esteve, I love you.” ”I love you too,” I reply. Sukhbayar walks up on my left. ”Esteve, Jesus loves you,” he says in English. “Jesus loves you, too, Sukhbayar.” The children are loaded into one van, the rest of us into another to head to The Children’s Place.
Shortly after we get to the orphanage, Eric, Sally, and Natalie arrive with Rita from the hospital. This is John’s first visit to The Children’s Place, and Eric and Sally’s first substantial time there. Lunch is being prepared for the kids, and we play with them while they wait. Ayunder loves to be tickled, and I have great fun picking her up and tickling her.
As we try to settle the children down, we give them gifts we have brought from the faraway ocean: scallop shells and shark teeth.
Halliuna, at 12 the oldest of the children and a quick study in English, looks at Natalie and says, “This my family. My home.” Her mother is an alcoholic and Halliuna hopes to go home soon, but it is far from clear what her home life would be like if she were to return.
Soon it is time for us to go and to say our final goodbyes. I give each kid a hug, but Ayunder, who is washing dishes, refuses–she doesn’t want to say goodbye. As Margie explains, these kids have lots of goodbyes in their lives. The departure wrenches me emotionally: these kids are so lovable and yet their futures so uncertain, and my time with them has filled me with a grace for which I am grateful and which I don’t want to lose.
That night we take Rita, Margie, and their children out for a farewell dinner at an excellent Indian restaurant tucked down one of the scores of side streets and blind alleys that keep many of Ulaanbaatar’s gems hidden from the casual tourist.
Rita opens the meal with a prayer that honors Jonathan’s presence, and we then exchange gifts. Tomorrow morning Rita will take Sally to the airport for her flight home, the rest of our team will leave for the countryside, and our new friends will head to Inner Mongolia for a reconnaissance visit. But for me tonight represents one last moment with the children, and from the time we met in the parking lot Abigail has latched onto me. For most of the meal Abigail, David, and I play rock-paper-scissors or other games, and I have a blast. We say farewell in the parking lot, and our team gets ready for four days of adventure in the countryside.
Posted by Mongolia Bound Team on August 6, 2012
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the countryside – truly every day was an incredible experience. But first, let me talk about the remainder of our time at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Wednesday afternoon, we went to see the National Cancer Center and meet the Pediatric Oncologist there. He was trained in internal medicine and then did his 6 month fellowship in oncology. He was then assigned to treat the children. No actual training in Pediatrics and he gets his treatments from the Poplack and Pizzo textbook. Pretty much every child gets VAdriaC (Vincristine, Doxorubicin, and Cyclophosphamide) uniformly for chemo, rather than specialized chemo regimens. They see about 35 new patients each year – very low number for a population of almost 3 million and 1/2 under 18 years old.
Interestingly, most of the patients are first diagnosed by the Pediatric surgeons at the WCH but then bypass the Pediatric Oncologists and sent directly to the Cancer Center. Nursing staff staffs all units of the hospital and have no particular expertise in taking care of children. They actually have a very nice unit in the cancer center with 2 bright and colorful 3 bed rooms, an ICU room and a very nice play area.
We met the patients there including a child with medulloblastoma, one with Wilm’s tumor, and one with neuroblastoma. Radiation is also done there, although they do not radiate small children because they cannot be sure of the dose on their machine.
We also went to the lab and met with the pathologists – they have no flow, cytogenetics, immunohistochemistry, which are standard in American hospitals. All they have is their eyes to make a diagnosis. For some of the real diagnostic dilemmas we came across, I am bringing back slides to ask for the help of our pathologists.
On Thursday we again met the new patients and several of the other doctors from the hospital brought by patients to present including a child with bilateral retinoblastoma s/p a orbital recurrence and exoneration with questions about how to treat; a child referred to the GI clinic for thrombocytosis and a child with recurrent bladder rhabdomyosarcoma while on chemotherapy- asking if we could treat the child in the US. Interestingly, the parents carry their chart with them from facility to facility including any scans that they have.
On Thursday afternoon I gave a lecture to the doctors and residents at the hospital for 2 hours:
We talked about solid tumors and hemolytic anemias. At the same time, Sally and John were giving a talk to about 200 nurses about skin care and life as a nurse in the US.
Everyone here was so appreciative and attentive. No one fell asleep on me which is highly unusual! On Friday when we said our good-byes, we committed to try to come back again next year, perhaps with a larger team?
Friday night we had a wonderful dinner with Rita, Margie and their families.
These 2 women are among the most amazing people I have ever met. They have dedicated their lives to helping the Mongolian people and have accomplished so much good. They have such hectic lives but manage to be role model parents as well. They even stand up to Mongolian drivers which we would all agree is no easy feat!
Posted by Mongolia Bound Team on August 1, 2012