Mongolia 2018 Reflection: Grateful and Growing (Saejel Mohan)
This was my first mission with Mission to Heal, and my first medical mission overall. My goals for this mission were simple: I wanted to see what medicine was like outside the United States and if I still wanted to pursue a career in it at the end of my time there. I told myself that this was an opportunity to observe medical professionals in an environment that was different from the one I was used to, and to learn as much as I could about diagnostic methods and surgeries. This was a rare chance to see what medicine started out as, with a group of volunteers who were there solely because they wanted to help others in a unique and necessary way. It didn’t matter where you were from, or what your specialty was – there would be something for you to do or someone for you to learn from.
The fact of the matter was that what M2H ended up doing was not what they intended this mission to be about. A surgical mission aimed at helping people who didn’t have access to health care became a teaching mission for those of us that were students and the Mongolian MDs that were there, too. This switch seemed a little frustrating at first, but by the end I realized I was for the better for me. In the Operating Room, I was more of a fly on the wall observer. I was following along with my own very basic knowledge of laparoscopic cholecystectomies and incisional hernia repairs, with most of the limited commentary being given by the anesthesiologist from the group. The surgery component was still interesting to me though, because as I was watching the operations, I was observing the tools the OR was stocked with- from the oxygen recycling system and CO2 release pipe sticking out the slightly open window, to the lights in the room and the lack of AC. I was actively comparing what was around me then to what would likely be around me in that type of setting in the future, and thanking God that I live in a more developed country than what I saw in Mongolia. The idea of autoclaving the reusable tools of the OR seems so tedious and unnecessary to someone like myself, but to them, it’s normal and routine. I’m beyond thrilled that I was able to experience their everyday, just because it’s so different from my own.
When I was in the clinic groups, I was able to take a more active role in my group – taking notes on history, symptoms, diagnoses, and suggested treatments while asking questions the doctors had time to answer because someone’s open body was not sitting on a table in front of them. I learned a lot about what causes pain in people who work manual jobs, and how Voltaren gel was the most magical thing Mongolia had laid its hands on in forever. I also got to see how the language barrier affects international medical collaboration, and how important bilingualism is in the diverse world we live in. Without people who had the capability to translate from one language to another, our multi-continental team wouldn’t have made it anywhere or been able to do what we went to do. I was happy that I was still able to learn about clinical care and what makes it possible on this trip, despite it being a surgical mission because medicine is truly incomplete without it.
This mission also presented me with the unique opportunity of being away from my parents for a long time, on the other side of the world. It was my first time leaving the country without them, and the longest I’ve been away from them for a single stretch of time. This trip afforded me a little of the freedom and responsibility I will have to face when I leave home for college in the fall of next year, and allowed me to explore myself in a variety of settings before I jump headfirst into my new (kind of) adult life. I am grateful that I was able to go on this trip and meet so many kind, caring, amazing people, and I am grateful for the people that made going on this trip possible. I’m proud that I was able to go on this mission with my limited skills and knowledge and find ways to learn and make myself useful. The people I met on this trip will continue to stay with me through the advice they have given me, and the memories I have saved both in my brain and on my phone. I’m glad I decided to go on this mission, and I’m proud to say that I would 100% go on another if afforded the opportunity.