Vasculitis Awareness in Mongolia

Jane Thomas Mongolia 2013By Jane Thomas, R.N.
Chapter Leader
Atlanta Vasculitis Support Group

My husband, Joe, was diagnosed with Wegener’s in 1996 and we have been members of the VF since that time. As the chapter leader of the Atlanta Vasculitis Support Group, I am always trying to come up with ways to raise awareness about vasculitis and this year was no exception but, little did I know, how different it would be from previous years.

During the month of May I had the privilege of traveling to Mongolia with a special organization, Nurses Heart to Heart, to teach CPR to nurses in that amazing country. A close nurse friend of mine, Anita Rich, started this nonprofit group with the goal of teaching CPR to nurses in developing and undeserved countries. Those of us who live here in the US can’t imagine a country where the nurses aren’t taught this basic life-saving technique but that’s definitely the case in Mongolia. There were four nurses on the trip along with four sets of CPR mannequins, which we left there in the country so that the nurses we trained could pass on the skills to others. Of course, we needed to dress the mannequins, so we were able to use a 2013 Vasculitis Awareness Month t-shirt on one of them and you can see the handsome fellow in the photo here.

While in Mongolia, I was able to talk with two physicians about their vasculitis patients and was thrilled to be able to offer them information about the VF and available resources. Dr. Ariuntsatsral Erdenebileg, Ariunaa to us, is a pediatric cardiologist and has vasculitis patients at times. Ariunaa is the only pediatric cardiologist in Mongolia and has a far-reaching practice and was invaluable to us as one of our
translators. We also met Dr. Tumur-Ochir, Director of Medical Services at Shastin Central Hospital in the capitol city, Ulaan Baatar. Dr. Tumur-Ochir, a specialist in pulmonary medicine, is new to his position with the hospital and has a passion to improve the nursing staff and the hospital as a whole. He told me that he has vasculitis patients referred to him but probably not as many as should be. His belief is that vasculitis is more common than thought but just not diagnosed correctly…Sounds familiar! Both of these physicians requested to receive the medical information from the VF so they will be able to share their new knowledge with patients in their care.

This entire experience was life-changing for me in so many ways and I’m looking forward to returning next year, Lord willing! And, yes, I did ride a camel!