One-year-old Tuguldur Ganzorig, left, and Munkhbat Munkhbayar, 2, play together at the Children’s Hospital at Vidant on Wednesday afternoon. (Rhett Butler/The Daily Reflector)
By Ginger Livingston
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Khosbayar Oyun and Oyunchimeg Dashbalbar have much to be grateful for as they celebrate their first American Thanksgiving.
These young mothers from Mongolia are celebrating with two rambunctious toddlers, boys who seven weeks ago were living with life-threatening heart conditions.
Today the boys are well on their way to long and happy lives thanks to Samaritan’s Purse, Vidant Medical Center, East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine and other local health care providers.
“Seeing my child running around, happy and healthy, it makes my heart happy,” Dashbalbar said, speaking through interpreter Gantuya Galsandorj. Her 1-year-old son, Tuguldur Ganzorig, was born with two holes in his heart.
“It’s unbelievable. I never imagined this would happen to us,” said Oyun, whose 2½-year-old son, Munkhbayar Munkhbat, was born with what was once called “blue baby syndrome.” He had two holes in his heart and a blockage between his heart and lungs.
“Normally in America we would operate on these kids between 3 to 6 months of age,” said Dr. Charlie Sang, a pediatric cardiologist with East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine.
About eight or nine of every 1,000 live births has some type of heart defect, Sang said. The James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant Medical Center performs 80-100 surgeries each year, he said.
Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization that aids people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease and famine.
Among its ministries is the Children’s Heart Project. Since 1997, the organization has arranged for more than 900 children from Bosnia, Kosovo, Honduras, Uganda, Mongolia, and Bolivia to be treated in the United States.
Vidant has been part of the program since 2001, treating two to four children yearly, Sang said.
Samaritan’s Purse pays transportation costs for patient families. Hospitals and physicians donate care and services.
The average cost for treating a congenital heart defect in an American hospital is $30,000 to $80,000, according to a Samaritan’s Purse spokeswoman.
Families and churches in the host communities help with living expenses.
Mongolia, nestled between China and Russia, has a population of slightly more than 3.2 million. There are three physicians for every 1,000 people, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book.
Families have to travel outside of the country for advanced pediatric cardiac care, Sang said.
Without Samaritan’s Purse, Tuguldur’s and Munkhbayar’s families would not have been able to seek out such help.
Munkhbayar’s family are herders and live in a ger, a tent-like structure that’s called a Yurt in Russian.
Tuguldur’s father drives a taxi in one of Mongolia’s cities. They were living in a one-room apartment, said Ainslie Guion, who with her husband Marty has hosted the families since they arrived stateside in mid-October.
“We have friends who have (hosted families) before. We’ve always felt God gave us our home, and we wanted to share it with others,” Ainslie Guion said.
Ainslie Guion said when the boys first arrived, they were quiet but didn’t appear to have a life-threatening condition.
It wasn’t until after the surgeries and the boys began to recover that a person would realize how sick they were, she said.
Munabayar’s cognitive abilities have exploded, and he’s become much chattier, she said.
Tuguldur lacked energy, she said. On Wednesday, he was furiously toddle-running the length of a room.
“As you can see, he’s Mr. Busy Guy now,” she said.
Ainslie Guion said the medical care the boys have received has reminded her how much Americans have .
“There’s been a lot of negative things in the media about health care in America,” she said. “No matter what side of the argument you come down on, we have excellent care in America.”
Dr. Theodore Koutlas, associate professor of cardiovascular sciences with ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, performed both surgeries.
Dr. Jasper Lewis of Greenville provided pre-surgery dental care to prevent infectious complications. Eastern Radiology and East Carolina Anesthesia associates also provided charity care.
Along with the Guions. Chuck and Judy Barber hosted the families. Tabernacle Baptist Church and Landmark Baptist Church also helped the families.
Treating children brought in by Samaritan’s Purse is a wonderful experience, Sang said.
“I want to give back to humanity,” he said. “As people of medicine, we are supposed to give.”
Sang hopes the children will remember their experiences and perhaps one day will be inspired to become doctors and serve in their own countries.
Tuguldur and his mother are returning to Mongolia on Monday. Munkhbayar has some fluid buildup around his heart and needs to be treated for several more weeks, Sang said. He should recover completely.
All involved with Munabayar and Tuguldur are grateful they had a chance to help the boys.
“When you share your life and material goods with others you think you are giving a blessing but you are really receiving the blessing,” Ainslie Guion said.
At that moment, Tuguldur walked up to a kneeling Marty Guion and kissed his cheek.
Contact Ginger Livingston at email@example.com or 252-329-9570.
via The Daily Reflector.