Light at the end of the tunnel

Light at the end of the tunnel

Therapists with Reaching the Light bring life-changing help and hope to young Nomin, who suffered brain damage due to jaundice, and her family in Mongolia. Story and photos by LuAnne Cadd

Nine-year-old Nomin remembers her first flight on Blue Sky Aviation (MAF in Mongolia), back in 2013. 'It went up very fast and was a little scary,' she recalls. That day began a radical change for Nomin and her family.

They had flown from their home in the far northwest of Mongolia to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, to begin intensive physical therapy for Nomin at the Reaching the Light Developmental Center for children with special needs.

 'When we met the Reaching the Light people in Ulaangom, it was the luckiest moment of our lives,' Nomin’s father, Anglan, says. Reaching the Light were there on a trip, where physical, speech, and occupational therapists, plus a medical doctor, screen special needs children. For Nomin’s family, it was the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

We started doing proper exercises with Nomin and recognized a lot of improvement. [...] her balance and speech improved.

Anglan, Nomin's father

Nowhere to Turn

Nomin was born with severe jaundice. Unfortunately, her parents didn’t know much about jaundice, that it could be easily treated or could cause serious harm. By the time they admitted her to the hospital she had brain damage.

'If we had known that severe jaundice caused brain damage, we would have come to the hospital earlier. Because of the jaundice, she would sleep a long time, couldn’t suck, couldn’t breastfeed or pass a pee,' Anglan explained. 'Compared to [her] two sisters, her development was really late. At age one and a half she couldn’t walk, and at three years old she still couldn’t talk.'

The parents had no idea what to do. 

They visited many doctors, receiving multiple diagnoses such as cerebral palsy or hip dislocation, and treatment recommendations including medicine, massage and painful braces for both Nomin's legs.

With Nomin showing no improvement, Anglan didn’t know where else to turn, until he heard that a Reaching the Light team would be screening children at their local hospital.

Proper Therapy

Following the screening, the team recommended that Nomin and one of the parents come to their developmental center in Ulaanbaatar. Each session lasted two weeks, once in 2013 and the next in 2015. Blue Sky Aviation flew the 4.5 hour journey them both times, saving two days by road.

Reaching the Light team, flying with MAF after finishing the satellite center

'Reaching the Light gave the right diagnosis and understood what the cause was and what the future potential is,' Anglan remembers. 'Many things became very clear so we didn’t have to visit other doctors. We started doing proper exercises with Nomin and recognized a lot of improvement. [...] her balance and speech improved.'

Each time a team from Reaching the Light comes to their province, the satellite center at the local hospital announces the visit and Nomin’s parents bring her for a follow-up exam and updated therapy recommendations. 

Hope and a Future

Nomin and her father Anglan getting up to date advice from the Reaching the Light teamIn June 2017, father and daughter sit on a metal bench in the hospital hallway, waiting to see Reaching the Light’s speech therapist Eenee, physical therapist Dogi, and doctor Dure. Nomin and her dad play ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ together. It’s clear the two adore each other.

Nomin’s cognition appears to be normal and above average in math. 'She’s the top math student in her class,' her father explains. In other areas she still struggles. 'Her balance is a problem. Writing is not so good. Running and physical work is difficult for her. If she becomes tired then speech is difficult, but she’s getting better. Today she took some advice from the speech therapist.'

For 21 years, Anglan has been teaching high school-level chemistry and thanks to Reaching the Light, he now sees hope and a bright future for his daughter. 'I hope she will be a pharmacist one day,' he says. 'I’ve already started to teach her.'

 

Nomin and her father Anglan