10 Ways that being an In-Patient Changed Me

Moving to a new country inevitably means change. When we moved here to Mongolia, we both anticipated change in many ways. We have more or less adjusted to those changes, which have ranged from new or available foods to different cultural values. Even if we haven’t fully embraced everything (Eric has yet to don a wrestling costume and get involved in one of Mongolia’s manly sports [but Naadam is coming!]), we have more or less found our new niche.

Lately, we’ve experienced a whole slough of changes. The weather has been changing (more snow!), for one, and we are still navigating the change in expectations that came with losing our first child. Related to that biggest of changes was our recent hospital stay which managed to affect a lot of personal changes–some are cultural adaptations, and others are just general perspective changes.

1. I no longer think being an in-patient would be “cool.”

Can you believe that I once that it would be a lot of fun to be an in-patient? You get to stay in a hospital overnight! You get three balanced meals a day! You get attention and visitors! Who wouldn’t want that?

The thing is, all of those cool or fun things are accompanied by not so cool and fun things. Things like the following: you don’t get to choose what is included in your balanced meals, your rest is constantly interrupted by various factors, and you’re probably in the hospital for a really serious, possibly overwhelming situation. Let’s just say that I don’t want to be back in the hospital again any time soon. (Although, if you have to be hospitalized in UB, I highly recommend Intermed Hospital. They are FANTASTIC.)

2. I often wear house slippers.

I had been bouncing around the idea of getting house slippers both for us and for guests and hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I was more or less ordered to wear slippers in the hospital (by nurses, doctors, and visitors alike). They make a big difference in keeping your feet warm–even in our overly warm apartment–especially for someone like me who has poor circulation. I actually brought our slippers back home from the hospital so I can keep wearing them until I can get some cozy wool felt slippers in town. Slippers FTW!

3. I have a penchant for drinking hot water.

Because of my poor circulation and tiny baby veins, my nurses kept giving me hot water to drink (yes, plain hot water) whenever they needed to draw blood or adjust my IV port. At first, I just kind of forced myself to drink it, but I acquired a taste for it while staying in the hospital and now drink it at home. When I confessed this to an expat friend who has already made this adjustment, she texted back, “One of us, one of us…”

4. Nurses are now my heroes.

I have always admired people who choose to work in the medical field because their jobs are so important and can literally be the difference in life or death situations. When you grow up in developing nations, you realize what a privilege medical care is. Doctors get a lot of respect, but nurses do the dirty work. Not only do nurses do the dirty work, but they do so with kindness, smiles, and occasional jokes.

Due to the length of our stay, we saw many of the same nurses and began to develop some rapport with them. These amazing women were working twelve hour shifts, leaving for twelve hours, and coming back for another twelve hour shift. That is rough, and they were all so amazing. Kudos to these nurses!

5. Needles are now my archenemies.

I’ve never been a big fan of needles. My mom will tell you about my kicking a nurse in the knee when I was getting an updated vaccination. I will tell you about all of the crying and fighting to get out of shots, blood draws, and finger pricks that I had to endure throughout my childhood. Somewhere along the way, I told myself to get over it–probably in late high school–and now I can handle shots and such just fine.


However, I still have poor circulation in baby veins, which means that when you have things like IV ports, bad things happen. By the end of my time in the hospital, my arms made me look like a beginning junkie. I definitely don’t blame the nurses for this, but I did wind up with three different IV port locations over the course of my stay (with five attempts total). Those IV port insertions were possibly the worst part of being there. Add to that multiple shots, and let’s just say I don’t want to see another needle for awhile!

6. Meat has somehow moved further up on my list of favorite foods.

Almost every meal in the hospital included a meat in one form or another. I had stir fries and chicken noodle soup and something akin to pot roast, and I loved it all. Even breakfast sometimes included meat in the form of a meat porridge. Consider a porridge with pureed, well-stewed meat in it, and that’s about what the porridge was like. Apparently, it’s one of the ways that Mongolians introduce meat to youngsters. So yay meat!

7. I’m more motivated to learn Mongolian.

Eric and I have been taking Mongolian language lessons since November. He is good at learning and remembering the grammatical structures of the language, and I’m good at remembering the words. With our powers combined, we can sort of communicate in very limited, very broken Mongolian.

While in the hospital, almost everyone spoke at least some English, and we were able to communicate the basics between their English and our Mongolian. Remember those nurses? What I would have given to have been able to have real conversations with them! I would have liked to have been able to say more than “hello” and “thank you” in Mongolian. Anyhow, I did learn the word for “toilet paper” in Mongolian while we were there, which I think is a win. (But please don’t ask me what it is because I’m not sure that I remember it.)

8. I appreciate the small things more.

A kind smile goes a long way. A short visit can make my day. Add in a flower or a chocolate bar or a card, and you’ve radically affected my outlook on life. Seriously, every thing that people said or did for us while we were in the hospital turned a horrible situation into something that we could survive because of how loved we felt through it all. From washing my hair for me in the sink, to braiding my hair, to just sitting with us in our hospital room while we did our own introverted things, we were very loved. Small things become big things!

9. I realized that the gift of service is truly a gift.

Not everyone has this gift naturally–and that’s ok!–but to those who have it and use it to bless others: thank you!! Any time that someone would take time out of their busy schedules to do something for us or spend time with us in the hospital meant so much. We had friends bring us things in the hospital and bring us meals when we got home. One of our friends cleaned our bathroom for us when we got home because it’s our least favorite area of the apartment to clean. Another friend helped us figure out our hospital bill when we were discharged and insisted on carrying all of the heavy bags for us when we returned to our apartment. Bless you all!

10. I value relationships even more.

You can’t grow up in Africa or move to a place like Mongolia and not appreciate the value of relationships, but let me just say that I appreciate (and realize the responsibility of) good relationships even more. We were both blown away by just how much our friends and family–locally and around the world–have reached out to us and supported us through all of this. It has challenged me to love others around me in better ways, and I cannot express how grateful I am for having been surrounded by all of your wonderful people. If I believed in luck, I would say that we are very lucky to have you in our lives. I would say that it is providential, but I feel like that word doesn’t encompass the gratitude we feel (and the humbleness at receiving your abundant kindnesses).

Thank you. Баярлалаа.

Beth sig

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