Tsagaadai Davaadorj, left, talks with Dr. Lim Young-wook, right, who conducted his hip joint replacement operation, while taking a walk at Seoul's St. Mary's Hospital in southern Seoul.
Mongolian doctor gets new hip joint, new life and new love for Korea
By Yoon Ja-young
Tsagaadai Davaadorj, a doctor from Mongolia, believes he was given a brand new life in Korea.
He received a new hip without which he wouldn't have been able to walk.
Tsaggadai, practices ayurvedic and homeopathic medicine at a government hospital in Mongolia and is also a renowned martial artist. He holds black belts in karate, kendo and aikido.
Tsaggadai conducts meditation lessons every summer and it was on such session in July last year that he accidentally fell from a very high chair injuring himself in the process.
"The next morning, I felt severe pain. I applied ointment, took painkillers and tried acupuncture too. The pain momentarily subsided only to increase again after a few days," he said.
This continued until November, a time he usually enjoys winter swimming. He swam in the freezing river as usual but the next day he couldn't move his body.
"I went to the hospital and had an MRI, computer tomography (CT), X-ray and blood test. I was hospitalized the same day."
It turned out he had lots of fractures of his hip bone. The fractures developed infections because he did not receive timely medical attention for his injury.
He went through surgery that lasted many hours, which turned out to be unsuccessful because of complications that developed in post-operative care. He said the hospital lacked the required state-of-the-art equipment required to handle a delicate case such as his. Despite being a trained orthopedic surgeon, he simply refused to apply his skills in Mongolia because of the poor infrastructure.
"Surgeons go through a tough time under such conditions, which sadly hurts patients."
He said most Mongolian surgeons resort to excessive smoking and drinking to cope with their stress levels and after a few years, they become patients themselves.
"I remained unconscious after the operation finished. I stopped breathing and was immediately taken to the intensive care unit. And they had to resuscitate me using a defibrillator and then put me on a respirator," he recalled. "They told my wife that they could not do much to help under those circumstances."
After spending 10 days unconscious in an emergency ward, he finally came round. He was sent home a month later after a checkup, but he continued to have a high temperature and severe pain in the hip bone. "I couldn't move because of the pain," he said.
His sister, who works at a bank in London, had a close Korean friend whose father is a doctor at Seoul's St. Mary's Hospital in Gangnam. She discussed Tsaggadai's predicament with her father in Seoul who then requested to see the patient's medical reports including the MRI and CT results.
The doctor in Seoul could not make a definitive assessment of the patient's condition based on an assessment of the records because the reports were not very legible. Given the urgency of the condition, Tsaggadai was advised to travel to Korea for a full assessment instead. He heeded the advice and flew into Korea on July 19. After the initial assessment, the doctor concluded that he needed an artificial hip. He had his first operation just a couple of days after arriving here to remove his fractured hip joint.
He received antibiotics for severe inflammations that had developed after the surgery in Mongolia.
"That was July 21. For the first time, I slept without taking painkillers, without which I couldn't sleep for a year. After the operation, my pain was gone." He cried as he recalled his ordeal and how he could only sleep on his belly with a big pillow underneath him, due to the pain.
He had a second surgery on Oct. 25, and the artificial hip joint was implanted. "Dr. Lim Young-wook is like a magician. I am a surgeon myself and I know how the work is done. He showed me my condition on a computer screen before and after the operation. It was like magic," he said.
When the four-hour-surgery was over, Tsaggadai started crying. "After one year in pain and in bed when I couldn't go outside, I only watched TV. I just could not help crying when I started walking." Tsaggadai gained 35 kilograms during the time he was bedridden. Though he was able to walk immediately, doctors recommended that he use a walker for a few weeks.
He was also impressed by how caring the staff was. "When I went for the second surgery all the nurses were praying for me and gave me this cross," he recalled. "The first thing I see in this hospital is the statue of St. Mary. They are treating people psychologically as well. The nuns come in to help you and speak to you about God."
He is now learning Korean, beginning with the alphabet and reading basic texts. "During the surgery I lost blood and I had Korean blood transfused into me. I joked to my wife that I am half Korean now."
After being discharged from the hospital on Nov. 9, he plans to take his son and daughter to the aquariums in COEX and the 63 Building, as well as taking a ferry ride on the Han River.
"They will be exposed to how advanced and developed Korea is. Maybe they can come and study in Korea in the future," he said, adding that he's happy to see many Mongolian youths studying here.
"Korea is like my second mother land because Korean doctors gave me a second life."