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The city of Ulan Bator, Mongolia, population one million, didn't know what to expect when 14 LHSC physicians, nurses and staff members arrived for a 10-day medical mission. The first Canadian team ever to travel to Mongolia on an entirely self-financed trip for the sole purpose of administering world-class cardiac care.
“We had to turn people (LHSC staff members) away when they asked to join us on the mission. We were restricted as to how many people we could bring with us – but everyone at LHSC wanted to help,” says Peter Allen, Clinical Perfusionist, UH, who led the medical mission.
The purpose of the medical mission was to administer much need cardiac procedures and heart surgeries to the patients of the Shatin-Medial Centre, Ulan Bator’s hospital.
The centre had been able to perform some rudimentary procedures for their cardiac patients, but they were at a point where the patients could no longer wait and needed surgery.
Within the first four-days the LHSC team had completed six heart surgeries, and taught the hospital workers how to do a radial artery approach, a more advanced technique for angioplasty.
“When our team arrived and started to see the patients, it was like they had won a lottery. The thanks we received for our care was overwhelming,” says Allen.
LHSC nurses also taught Shatin-Medical Centre staff how to perform proper follow-up care to the cardiac patients.
“We stressed the importance of getting the patients up and moving,” says Mary Kroh, Coordinator Cardiac Surgery Recovery Unit.
In addition to the hospital work, the LHSC team also brought with them donations for Ulan Bator’s orphanage collected from staff and physicians in London who had been unable to travel to Mongolia for the mission.
If the town didn't know what to think of the Canadians who arrived on their doorstep on the first day, in the end they expressed just exactly how grateful they were.
One letter to the team upon the return home summed it up nicely. It was written by Dr. Tsegeenjav, Medical Director, Shatin-Medical Centre.
“Thank you for your great effort to help in our cardiac surgery. I will never forget the time spent in the Operating Room with your team. I am very happy you are coming next spring. We will be waiting for you.”
In an operating room in Mongolia, Peter Allen, LHSC Perfusionist mentors local Perfusionists, Dr. Tuvjargal, Cardiologist (far right) and Dr. Gerelmaa, Anesthetist (middle) on how to operate a heart lung machine.