Sharing hearts in Mongolia

Sharing hearts in Mongolia

A team from ’Nurses Heart to Heart Mongolia’ comes once a year to give hands-on training in CPR and emergency child delivery to local healthcare professionals in Mongolia’s remote provinces.

Each time the team from ’Nurses Heart to Heart Mongolia’ visit, they charter the MAF Cessna Caravan for a week and tour three counties of Mongolia. The MAF team admires the commitment of these dedicated nurses who travel to Mongolia year on year to share their knowledge and heart for saving lives!

Story and video by Roy and Sirpa Rissanen. Pictures by Jane Meacham, Roy Rissanen and LuAnne Cadd, 

'We were SO happy to be back in Ulaanbaatar starting this part of our trip on our FAVOURITE Mission Aviation Fellowship plane!' Tanya Owens

The team, led by founder Anita Owens, has eight members including American and Mongolian nurses and a translator. Anita describes the bustling scene in one of the training sessions, ‘What’s going on here is whole lot of fun for nurses from the United States - to share the knowledge of CPR with nurses, police officers, military people, and high school teachers.’ Her enthusiasm is clear. ‘I’ve been a nurse for 37 years and coming to Mongolia is such a highlight of every year - and flying with MAF is the best!’ she adds with a smile.

Breath of life

The room is strewn with professionals bent over ‘resucciannie dolls’.  Nurses in blue scrubs offer encouragement from the side-lines, aware that the next time their student perform this task a real life may be at stake. CPR is just one aspect of the training they deliver and there is no shortage of students who are keen to learn.  

This year, the first part of the tour was done by road. The first days of long travel on the rough roads made the team of nurses, who have flown many times, appreciate the service of MAF even more. Pilot Roy Rissanen estimates that they had travelled several hundred kilometres on their route from Darhan to Selenge to Khentii then back to Ulaanbaatar.

Flying with Blue Sky

Half way through their tour, Tanya Owens, one of the nurses, commented: ‘WOW...I hardly know where to begin trying to catch up on our activities from the past few days! Yesterday (Tuesday) we were SOOOOOO happy to be back in Ulaanbaatar starting this part of our trip on our FAVOURITE Mission Aviation Fellowship plane! After driving all over the countryside for many hours, the plane was a welcome reprieve.’

The next phase of the training tour was facilitated by Blue Sky Aviation flights - as MAF is known in Mongolia.  MAF flew the team from Ulaanbaatar to Dadal, Khentii, where 47 local nurses, midwives, and ambulance drivers received the training. Dadal is located 270 kilometres on rough dirt roads from county centre Underkhaan, and the drive takes a minimum of 6 hours.

The most common reason for death in childbirth in these remote areas is uncontrolled bleeding, the team explain. Emergency training saves lives as nurses learn to recognise the signs and know what medicine to give. There are two lives as stake in every difficult delivery - knowing what to do if the baby stops breathing is crucial.

Tanya describes some of the sights the team have seen on their journey so far in the land of spectacular contrasts. ‘From the northern mountain region where Chinggis Khaan was born down to the Gobi Desert where there are camels and sand dunes - we were treated to wonderful hospitality, amazing vistas and reconnecting with special friends. One highlight was a traditional Mongolian BBQ that the hospital staff brought to the airport for us to enjoy before flying down to the Gobi. More teaching today and tomorrow then we'll fly back to Ulaanbaatar. More to come later.’

Marking milestones

The team then flew on to their last stop at Sainshand, Dorngobi, where they provided training over two days for five groups, including doctors, midwives, medical students, ambulance drivers and firemen.  The total number of participants by the end of the trip was over 200 – an incredible achievement.

An even bigger milestone was marked at Sainshand, Dorngobi where Heart to Heart Mongolia celebrated, having delivered training in all of Mongolia’s 21 counties.

There was a lack of knowledge around CPR even amongst health professionals when they first started coming to Mongolia several years ago. Now they reflect with satisfaction, that this has largely been addressed by a better curriculum and more up to date training for nurses. But First aid training will always be important in a country the size of Mongolia, where the nearest hospital may be hundreds of miles away. So next year, the Heart to Heart nurses return, and the cycle begins again!

Why not share this story with a friend to celebrate International Nurses Day 2018?