New Hearts in Mongolia
A mother comes to faith in Jesus Christ after her child receives life-saving cardiac surgery through Children’s Heart Project.
Odgerel is a healthy 3-year-old who likes to run and play on the monkey bars. It’s hard to imagine that two years ago she was fighting for her life.
Her mother, Tsatsaa, first noticed something was wrong when she was 8 months old and her skin had a blue discoloration. Odgerel was almost 1 1/2 before she started to sit up and nearly 2 before she began walking. She would most often just squat. Tsatsaa knew this was unusual, as Odgerel wasn’t hitting developmental milestones like her three older siblings.
Tsatsaa and her husband, Odbaatar, traveled nearly six hours from their home in Erdenet to the hospital in Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar to seek help for their daughter. Doctors told them that a heart defect was responsible for Odgerel’s developmental delays, and they learned that she was struggling to walk and eat because she lacked oxygen.
A temporary solution was to give her plenty of time outdoors in the countryside. “She needs fresh air to get enough oxygen,” Tsatsaa said.
Erdenet is home to several copper factories that regularly fill the atmosphere with clouds of dust. Tsatsaa learned that this has caused other children in the city to be born with a defect similar to her daughter’s. The condition is known as tetralogy of Fallot and means four different heart defects are present at birth, including a hole as well as an obstruction that reduce blood flow to the lungs.
Journey to the Caymans
Fresh air wasn’t going to be enough to heal Odgerel. She needed a heart operation, and she needed it soon.
Doctors in Ulaanbaatar told Tsatsaa about the Samaritan’s Purse Children’s Heart Project. After an exam, Odgerel was on her way to the Cayman Islands for surgery, accompanied by Tsatsaa and an interpreter.
Samaritan’s Purse arranged for them to stay with a host family that would help transport them to doctors’ appointments and care for Odgerel during her recovery.
Although Tsatsaa was hopeful that the procedure would heal her daughter, she was also very nervous and scared. “Right after the surgery, I went and visited her in the ICU. There were all the machines, all the equipment, all the masks—it was scary.” But Tsatsaa still trusted that Odgerel would be healed.
In addition to being concerned about Odgerel’s recovery, Tsatsaa worried about how her husband was caring for their three other children on his own, especially with his back pain.
Tsatsaa participated in a regular Bible study in her host home. The group would often pray together for Odgerel, Tsatsaa, and their family in Mongolia.
“There were so many people praying,” she said. “When I saw that, I thought I should pray for my daughter as well.”
The Bible study group committed to praying for Tsatsaa’s husband—and she rejoiced when he reported that his back pain was gone.
During this time, Odgerel was making great strides in her recovery, too.
As she watched God heal both her husband and daughter, Tsatsaa decided that she wanted to give her life to Him.
“Before I went to Cayman, I practiced Buddhism,” she said. “But in Cayman when I had the Bible studies, discussions, and prayers, I thought, ‘This is more practical than Buddhism.’ It was more real, and it made me believe in God.”
She called home to tell her husband about this important decision. He was overjoyed and encouraged his wife to continue reading the Bible and going to church.
When Odgerel and Tsatsaa returned home, the family quickly got involved with a church in Erdenet. “Before the surgery, it was hard. It was difficult to shoulder, but now I’m so happy and the weight I carry is lighter,” Tsatsaa said. “Now I can see that I have a new heart. I have hope that God is there.”
Tsatsaa praises God for her new life in Christ and for physically healing Odgerel. “No one could do this, only God could do this,” she said. “There are no words to express my thankfulness to Samaritan’s Purse.”
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out … and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).