Reflecting on the Journey: Sally Shares

I just said goodbye to the rest of the group which means my time in Mongolia is nearing the end. I can’t believe how fast the week has flown by and how much has transpired each day. From the time I landed I knew this was going to be an adventure of a lifetime and that it was! When the baggage belt stopped at the airport and I was left standing without luggage I knew this was going to be fun! Looking back on the week, losing my luggage made me like the Mongolians we met in a way. They make do with the resources they have! So what if you wear the same dress for almost three days and don’t have all those things we think are necessities. I will admit I was overjoyed when my luggage arrived just like the doctors and nurses were happy to gain the resources we had to offer!

The first time I met the nurses on the hem/onc floor they were apprehensive but we soon became quick friends. Zina, who has worked on that unit for over 20 years, also has 2 additional jobs to help provide for her family. She welcomed me and I followed her around with my interpreter, Toggi, at my side. There are two nurses who care for 24 patients and they do everything from mixing their own chemo to doing their own type and crossmatching. On top of the inpatients, they also see the patients who come for outpatient chemo. They are truly amazing!

As hem/onc nurses we share the same passion to provide the best care we know how to give. The nurses asked me lots of questions about how I take care of patients with leukemia and how I talk to parents. I was happy to share. One thing they didn’t know how to care for was a child who had mucositis. Eric and I had noticed a few children with mucositis and the nurses say they see it a lot but didn’t know how to care for it. I told them about our “magic mouthwash” and they were so excited. John talked with their pharmacists and they have all the ingredients to make it so it will soon be available!

Giving a lecture to the hospital’s nurses

An infant patient with ALL waiting to be seen

Each day brought a new experience. From early morning explorations with John to watching a Mongolian dance and singing performance with Rita I enjoyed every minute. On my last day, I was stopped by a parent in the hallway of the hospital. She surprised me because she knew English well. Her daughter had been diagnosed one month ago with leukemia and they were going home to the countryside soon. She was nervous about taking her home and asked me to tell her how to care for her. We discussed the important signs to watch for and what to expect. She was grateful and it was the perfect way to end my week.

After leaving the hospital on our last day, we visited the orphanage where the rest of the group had been all week. The children were adorable and it was apparent how much they had enjoyed the week. I was humbled when one of the workers invited me into see her ger. As I entered, I followed Margie and took off my shoes and then stepped over the threshold which is the Mongolian custom. We sat down for snacks and conversation. But the next thing that happened took me by surprise. She offered for me to try on her deel (traditional dress) and I did with much enthusiasm. She dressed me in her ornate deel, her grandmother’s hat and placed her medal (which all Mongolians receive for having 4 children)on me as well. We took pictures and she asked me send her the one of the two of us. I was completely honored! See the picture below.

A good friend told me to bring a notebook and each night I came home and recorded everything that had occurred that day. I’ve already reread it several times and I’ll forever cherish the memories of this incredible experience.

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1 Comment

  1. Cathy McClure

     /  July 17, 2012

    Way to go Sally! I know that all the families there were so thankful for all your care and expertise just as we are here in the States. Your whole team makes us all proud!


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