Monthly Archives: May 2011

Eye-ya-yai!

I’m going blind, I’m going blind!

Not really of course, but welcome to my recent adventure or what I prefer to call The Great Eyeball Bonanza. My apologies that I do not have proper photo documentation, but please enjoy my attempts at illustrating the event.

So it started in a meeting last Tuesday. I couldn’t tell if it was sheer boredom or something more, but the vision in my right eye started to go a little funny. Kind of blurry, kind of blah, kind of just not good. I figured it would go away after I ate some lunch (food cures any ailment if you ask me), and it sort of did…but it sort of didn’t. Anyways, I brushed it aside as just one of those things that happen from time to time and would fix itself.

Wednesday I woke up and the eye was still a little odd, but not as weird as on Tuesday, so I thought little of it. Then I mentioned it to my nurse friend and she said blurry vision was something for a doctor to take care of, so I made an appointment to go see the UN Doctor on Thursday (that’s our first point of contact if we get sick here).

So Thursday I went to the doctor, and, as you tend to do, we made a little casual conversation for ourselves while she checked my eyes. Unfortunately for me the casual conversation revolved around where I work and how horrid the conditions are here (her point of view, I had kept my opinions to myself thus far) and how hard it is for her to believe that such a hospital exists in the capital city.

My response?

Lady, you’re not making this any easier!

But anyways, she poked around in my eye and told me that it looked fine but that maybe I should see an ophthalmologist just to be sure. She gave me the name of her friend who had trained in England as well as a referral to the Korean Hospital if I wanted to go on the weekend when her friend was not working wherever her friend works. I said thanks and went on my merry way.

Friday morning I woke up and everything seemed fine, so I kind of forgot about making an appointment or going to the eye doctor…I figured that it had just taken care of itself, as I had originally hoped it would.

But then Saturday morning I woke up quite fuzzy and puffy in the eye, so I thought that perhaps it was allergies? I tossed in some allergy eye drops and went along with my day. Chris left to go play basketball, and then I realized that my eye felt a bit odd so I went to have a look. And what did I find? This:

Well not really, but I had one little pupil and one big pupil. No wonder things looked funny. And then of course I googled my condition and what did google tell me but that of course I was in a dire position and should seek help immediately or else my eye ball would surely explode or pop out of my head or do something else horrific.

Not wanting anything horrific to happen, I pulled myself together and headed to the Korean Hospital. Upon arrival I figured out how to get a Korean Hospital card (which apparently every patient at the hospital needs) and then – even better – how to get to the eye doctor floor. Well then I found the eye doctor room, but there is something curious about visiting doctors in Mongolia:

You don’t just sit down in a chair in the waiting room and wait to be called. Rather, you poke your head into the doctor’s office where more than likely a patient is being seen, you make your presence known, you drop off a form or your card, and then you wait for them to call you (this holds true for any type of doctor – for the eye doctor, not so bad, but imagine if you had a horrid rash on your rear end?).

So yeah, I stuck my head in, dropped off my form, and returned to the waiting area where I was surrounded by about fifty Mongolians all wearing some variety of hospital scrub-type patient outfit. And me? Jeans and a t-shirt. Something was wrong with this picture. It was weird though…I mean, these people in the scrubs, a lot of them were there to visit the eye doctor?

Anyways, I let it slide and waited to be called, and soon enough it was my turn in the hot seat where I quickly earned a clean bill of health…err…aside from the Consult Neurologist written on my form. DAMNIT.

Nerves flying, downstairs I went to the Neurologist where Christopher, my knight in shining armor, met me to reassure me that I was not dying nor would I have to have my beautiful blue eye replaced with a sheep’s eye. The relief!

So into the Neurologist we went, where I was checked and again declared to have a clean bill of health, please pay your five dollars on the way out, thank you very much, go see the eye doctor again on Monday.

We all know how this goes by now. Monday comes and goes, eye is still a little fuzzy but work is busy; Tuesday, perhaps Tuesday, is the day for another appointment. So I make an appointment for the other eye doctor, this one educated in London, and off I go to the hospital again. Except this time it’s to the public hospital #1 and thank the lord my interpreter came with me because good god I would have wound up lord knows where without her there. So we wound our way around the hospital to the eye room, where we waited for the doctor to arrive from her lunch at the Ministry of Health.

Waiting…waiting…waiting…and finally a tap on my shoulder. It’s her! And how do I respond?

How did you know it was me?

Ah, ha, ha, the white girl made a joke. Anyways, she took me into the eye room which turned out to be two eye rooms in one, full of about seven eye doctor/nurse people and damn near twenty Mongolians. And what do they look like?

I swear. It was a roomful of people that clearly had some pretty nasty eye problems. And me? Well, the doctor summed it up best with an uhh, now what is the issue?

Anyways, she stuck me under the eyeball microscope, poked around for a while and finally declared that I have an infection in my right eye caused by my two least favorite things in Mongolia: the dust and the pollution. Well I’ll be damned.

And that just about sums up The Great Eyeball Bonanza.

Don’t get my started on The Incredible Eye Drop Hunt that followed. Now that was a doozie!

Health Promotion Heroes

So I’ve been two weeks back in the saddle and things are going well. I’m not sure exactly what went on while I was away, but I do know that the series of headache inducing meetings I have only heard about seem to have done wonders for our Little Engine that Could here in Bayanzurkh District.

The Recruitment Days for Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) began while I was away, and I returned to find an impressive momentum carrying not only the other VSO volunteers forward, but also the local staff. I was really impressed! My biggest challenge since I arrived has been figuring out how to secure the buy-in from the people I work with day in and day out, and it hasn’t been easy. But we’re getting there.

I think.

But then again, maybe not.

So on Thursday we finished up our last volunteer selection day, and we’re up to over 130 CHVs that now need to be trained and set loose as little health promotion heroes in their communities (they won’t have capes, but they will have horrid baby blue vests). That’s impressive progress, I do believe, and onward we went, planning for the trainings.

And that’s where things went awry. Why? Because that’s when my counterpart, the woman I frolic through this project with hand-in-hand, announced to me that as of this coming Monday (mind you, we were having this conversation on THURSDAY), she will not be in the office for three months. THREE MONTHS?! Yep. Two months of trainings, followed by a month of annual leave, and then welcome back to the EC Project in August. Oh great.

Just great.

So what now? Well, there are still others working on the project, but no one in her role as CHV Manager for Bayanzurkh District, so we’ll have to figure that out. It should be okay…we’ll keep plugging away as usual…it’s just painfully ironic to me that just as things get moving – really moving! – we get this lovely set back.

But such is life in the land of zero planning. And so it goes.

Anyways, here are some photos from our trainings in the past few weeks. The days involve a group activity, some case studies about situations the CHVs might encounter in their communities, and a one-on-one interview for each candidate. Following their selection, the CHVs will go through a week of training at their local clinic and then more training at the District Health Unit. And then off they go to spread their knowledge amongst the community. Hopefully.

And that’s that. Here’s one final one from our Easter Day walk in Nalaikh. Those are all prayer flags tied to a lone tree out there in the dusty field.

At times the serenity of the countryside in Mongolia is simply breathtakingly beautiful to me.