A 15-year-old’s autoimmune disorder provides a connection to three Mongolian children in need of heart surgery and hope
Seth Bayles was born in 2000 to Don and Julie Bayles in southern Wisconsin, the fourth of seven children. In 2001, Batbileg Dorjdulam was born in western Mongolia, the second of three children. Fourteen years later, their lives converged in an unusual way in Minnesota.
Batbileg was only a year old when he was first hospitalized. He often had bloody noses when he exerted himself, and he was always tired. Doctors diagnosed him with a congenital heart defect. He began taking medicine, but doctors didn’t know how or when he would get the surgery he needed. It wasn’t available in Mongolia.
“He was a very weak child who got sick easily,” said Batbileg’s aunt Bayarmaa.
He continued to be hospitalized throughout his childhood, but Batbileg didn’t realize he had a heart condition until he was around 10 years old. By that time, he was being raised solely by his father—his mother had died three years earlier from a stroke. His father continued taking him to the hospital for frequent coughs and colds, but doctors were only able to treat the symptoms.Give to the Children’s Heart Project
“I worried how [the hole in my heart would] be filled,” Batbileg said.
Back in Wisconsin, 11-year-old Seth was in the process of receiving treatment for a rare autoimmune disorder. His symptoms had first manifested in 2007, and, since that time, doctors had worked tirelessly to find answers. Two years after the first symptoms appeared, they referred him to the Mayo Clinic.
During this time, Seth was also working with his family at their thrift store, Christian Mission. Through the store, the family donated money each year to Christian organizations. In 2015, the family decided to close the store, and they had money left to donate from their going-out-of-business sale.
Julie saw video clips of the movie “Three Hearts,” which details the story of three Mongolian children who journey to the U.S. through Children’s Heart Project for life-saving heart surgery and decided to show it to her children. The family voted unanimously to donate the money to bring three children to the U.S.
“I just thought it was phenomenal that I could offer hope to a mom who’s struggling to get care, because that’s what we did for 10 months [with Seth],” Julie said. “You’ll go to the ends of the Earth for your child to get whatever they need.”
Last year, in Mongolia, Batbileg was referred to the Children’s Heart Project by his cardiologist. The organization put him on a waiting list, and, in December, he found out he would receive the surgery he needed. He needed a female guardian to accompany him, so his aunt Bayarmaa volunteered.
It was the Mayo Clinic that accepted Batbileg for surgery, and the connection with Seth and the Bayles family began to take shape. Also accepted for surgery were two young girls, Anu and Buyaka. Anu had been diagnosed with her heart defect during routine vaccinations, and Buyaka had been diagnosed shortly after her birth. Both girls and their mothers traveled with Batbileg, his aunt, and two interpreters to the U.S.
Three Hearts Healed, Three Hearts Changed
After a long flight, during which the mothers and aunt were both scared and excited, the group arrived in Minnesota to receive surgery at Mayo. The groups settled into host homes, and, a week later, prepared for surgery.
“Surgery day was the hardest moment, but I felt so much comfort,” said Ada, Buyaka’s mother. “So many people [were] praying for me. I was very comforted by the prayer and the companionship.”
The girls’ mothers were happy to see their daughters come through surgery safely, with pink skin and renewed energy. But the biggest change was for Batbileg, who had lived 14 years with his condition. The teenager’s defect had stunted his growth and made him tire easily.
But after surgery, changes were evident as he easily had energy for tasks he couldn’t accomplish before. Only a couple of weeks after leaving the hospital, he was able to play a basketball game without stopping to take a breath.
During the recovery process, Batbileg’s aunt and the girls’ mothers accepted Christ through discipleship with their interpreters. They had seen Christ’s love through the host families and had experienced it through support while their children were in surgery.
“I saw so many people stop by and pray for my child, so I strongly believe that because so many people prayed for my child, she’s healthy,” Ada said. “So then I really believe that there must be God who listens to our prayers. I just decided to believe in God. There is a God who loves us and takes care of us.”
The Bayles Meet Their Mongolian Friends
After the group was released from the hospital, the Bayles family drove from their home in Wisconsin to Minnesota to meet the three children they had helped bring to the U.S. Together with the host families and church, the Bayles had a party with their Mongolian friends. During the party, Ada and Anu’s mother, Saraa, were both baptized. Although Bayarmaa wasn’t baptized that night, she would like to receive baptism soon.
Batbileg has also been presented the Gospel during his stay in the U.S. but has not yet decided to follow Christ. He said that he has learned that he is a sinner and that Christ died for his sins. He is open to learning more.
Seth has been able to witness to Batbileg, and the two have found much common ground in living with chronic illness for so long.
“Fifteen is a tough age anyway, and when you’ve known that kind of suffering, [it’s tougher],” Julie said.
Seth told Batbileg that the verse that has helped sustain him is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV). He also told Batbileg that he and his family had been praying for him, and he was glad to see that he was finally healthy. Batbileg then decided to pray for Seth.
“Because I knew that Seth always prayed for me, I wanted to pray for him,” Batbileg said. “I really wanted him to be healed completely.”
On February 21, Batbileg, Buyaka, and Anu will return home, healthy and healed. Their mothers and aunt will return home changed forever. They hope that they can carry what they’ve learned to their families. Ada said that her husband is already asking her questions.
“He says, ‘When you come back, tell us the news,’” she said. “‘Tell the kids the news. We really want to know this God because this God helped my child to be healthy, so we must find out about this God.’”
Please pray for all three Mongolian children and their families as they recover and return home. Pray also for their spiritual growth, for boldness in witness, and for Batbileg’s salvation.