Many tough weeks of pain and recovery finally paid off as we sent a healthy Ahmed and his mother home to their family. They were expected to fly home with Hewa and his mother Wednesday the 15th, but unfortunately the flights were booked until the following week. This news devastated Ahmed and Hewaâ€™s mothers as this arrangement would cause them to miss celebrating the Eid-ul-fitr holiday with their families this Sunday. As Ahmedâ€™s mother wept, we began to pray for the Lord to intervene in these matters according to His will. And after a couple of days waiting for news about the flights, the airport agreed grant them standby status for Saturday. So with no guarantee for a flight home, the families decided to risk an early departure to Jordan in hopes of making it home for the holiday. And with that, we all quickly set to work planning a going away party for them.
Ahmedâ€™s spirits were high as he paraded around his farewell party in his spiderman hat. He sang and danced and relished every minute of being the center of attention. As he tore through his gifts, his mother expressed her deep appreciation for our kindness. Before our party drew to a close, it was suggested that we pray in faith for God to open doors for the family to make it home on the Saturday flight. We all came together and asked the Lord to reveal his faithfulness to these families. Upon completion of the prayer, hugs and kind words were exchanged as we prepared ourselves to part with these beloved children and mothers.
The next afternoon, Ahmed, Hewa, and their mothers set out on their journey with much excitement and anxiety. They made it to Jordan safely, but still were not guaranteed seats on the flight. But the families still made their way to the airport in Amman on Saturday while our community in Jerusalem continued to pray. And by the grace of God, they were given seats! They all made it home in time to celebrate the end of Ramadan with their families as well as the new promise of a healthy life for Ahmed.
Ahmed and his mother piled into the van this morning for yet another echo. The aim of today's appointment was to check on the status of the fluid surrounding his heart, which was found at his latest doctors visit this past Monday. And from the packed snacks and toys, to the gentle way she cradled his hand, this mother made it obvious to all in the vehicle that Ahmed was her delight. Sitting next to such a touching display of parental affection had me thinking about how much more Ahmedâ€™s heavenly Father loves him and desires to give him good things. Matthew 7:11 says, â€œIf you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!â€ My prayer for Ahmed then became that his heavenly Father would shower him with blessings today.
We arrived at the hospital in good spirits and Ahmed soon went in for his appointment. However, his happy mood did not last long and his screams of resistance could be heard from the waiting area. But the nurses, accustomed with this kind of behavior, played a cartoon to keep him distracted. This cartoon worked it's magic, and Ahmed peacefully cooperated for the remainder of the procedure.
The results of his echo were absolutely exceptional. It seems that there is no longer any fluid surrounding Ahmed's heart. And although this was wonderful news, it was not the "exceptional" part of his results. The extrordinary news is as follows: Ahmed has progressed so much in the two weeks following his surgery that his doctorâ€™s have given him the clearance to return home to Iraq! This is especially notable given that heart patients are not usually cleared to go home until at least three weeks after their surgery. This surprising news thrilled Ahmed as well as his mother. While we waited for the discharge report, his mother watched her son play and smiled down on him with delight. As I happily watched this scene transpire, I knew this day and his early release were gifts straight from the hand of his loving Father.
The caveat to this wonderful news is that their traveling visas are not yet ready as his release was much earlier than expected. So for this upcoming week, please pray for their visas to come swiftly, along with patience for this family as they wait a few more days in Jerusalem.
A chipper Ahmed and his mother headed out to Wolfson this morning to check on the progress of his healing with an echocardiogram. He was exceptionally well-behaved all the way to the hospital, and we were hopeful his exam would be as pleasant as our journey. Such was not the case! Upon arrival at the clinic we were immediately invited into the echo room, and Ahmed's tears began. His mother and I joined forces to keep him on the exam table as he began screaming, kicking and flailing his arms, and doing all he could to get down. After a few moments of this, modern technology came to our rescue when one of the interns turned on a new DVD player and started a quiet cartoon for Ahmed to watch. Once we diverted his focus he stopped crying, becoming still and compliant, even happy, for his echo exam. Dr. Alona was very pleased with what she saw, and aside from a minute amount of fluid around his heart which will be checked again this coming Thursday, said she expects him to be well enough to say goodbye after next Monday's echo. Thanks be to God! However, one more unpleasantness awaited us as Ahmed needed three stitches removed, but then he was good to go! Smiles returned quickly, and a nap on the way home rounded out the trip.
We have a special prayer request for this playful boy and his mother as we spend our final week together. Ahmed's fragile condition before surgery allowed him to develop a certain pattern of behavior, usually involving him screaming and crying, which allowed him to get his way. This was because such activity would bring on a cyanotic spell causing Ahmed to faint, and so he was almost always given what he wanted. Now that his heart is repaired, such danger of physical harm is gone, yet this behavior persists. Our hope is to help his mother understand that he is well and growing stronger so that he can do things for himself, rather than demanding it from others. We want them to see that he can be satisfied with equal treatment among other children in the house, learning to replace a demanding attitude with a thankful one. We feel sure once he's back home and able to play freely among family and friends, this situation will begin to remedy itself, and when necessary, it will be addressed appropriately with the help of his father. For now, we simply want to encourage Ahmed's mom, and equip her to award Ahmed's good behavior as much as possible so that the old patterns will fade away. Please add this to your prayers for his completed healing.
This day ended with Ahmed's happy face back with us at Prophets Street in Jerusalem. As we pulled up to the hospital at the start of the day, I kept thinking of how little I had seen Ahmed lately. His case has been going well and smoothly. His surgery is done and he was scheduled to be released from the hospital today. This very cheerful boy is usually running around, dodging threats from his mother, and finding ways to play in the new environments he finds here in Israel. As we walked down the hall past all the nursesâ€™ stations and patientsâ€™ rooms, my excitement to see him again grew.
After turning the corner, I looked in the room where I had last seen him, but he wasnâ€™t there. The next one over had a few people in it, so I peeked around the corner. As soon as my head came into view, his mom recognized me and stood up. Ahmed then saw me and started walking out. While his mom gathered their already packed belongings and said goodbye to her Arab friends in the room, Ahmed and I held hands and ambled toward the door. His mom was very ready to go and soon began ushering us out of the door, but we had to speak with the nurses first to get their notes and medicine schedules for Ahmed. While my co-worker Yosef and I did just that, Ahmed and his mom kept walking down the hall. They were so ready to leave that I think they didnâ€™t want to wait around any longer. I told them that it would be some time still, but they just said they would wait by the door.
One nurse told me the dosages for Ahmedâ€™s medicine and another gathered some extra syringes. Then the nurse said she needed to look at Ahmed quickly again and I thought, â€œOh no, I have to go get them and bring them back?â€ But I did and they were OK coming back down the long hall. Ahmed whimpered a little and a little more loudly as we delved deeper back into the warren of the hospital. Thankfully, after a quick look at him, the nurseâ€™s inspection was over and we were walking back to the entrance.
Outside in the sunshine I told Ahmed and his mother to wait with Yosef as I pulled the van up. There were also two mothers and their children that were going with us to Gaza. We all jostled into the van and I got out our car seats for the babies, which of course they didnâ€™t want to use but finally accepted. Then as I sat down I reminded the grown-ups about their own seat-belts. Ahmed and his mom had quickly and quietly gotten theirs on, but the other two women needed some help. Finally we pulled away and headed south to Gaza and from there northeast toward Jerusalem.
Pulling up to the hills of Jerusalem, Ahmed started to get antsy and complain a bit. The traffic wasnâ€™t bad, though, and we were soon driving up our own road. As soon as we parked, they were out of the van. With a little help navigating around a drawn chain in the parking lot, we were back home to the Shevet building. With many â€œBeherbeâ€™s,â€ (Welcome!) and hugs, they entered and were welcomed back to their upstairs living quarters. Ahmed gave me a quick squeeze around the legs and then rushed off to important things like playing, while the mothers prepared some of the Kurdish food he has been missing while in the hospital.
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Sophie, Kelsey, and I received a wonderful surprise this afternoon when we entered the pediatric floor at Wolfson Hospital to pick up Mohammed and his mother. Ahmed had been from the ICU to the secondary ICU!
Though Ahmed was asleep when we walked in to see him, his mother, full of joy and thanksgiving, greeted us with kisses and a huge smile that seemed to light up the entire room. I was immediately overwhelmed by the Lordâ€™s faithfulness to this sweet little boy and his mother in his speedy healing. Please join us as we continue to trust in the Lordâ€™s perfect healing and provision in Ahmedâ€™s body.
Joy was abounding in the Wolfson ICU today! That room is normally very high pressure and tense, but the light radiating from Ahmedâ€™s and his mother's faces had everyone around them smiling.
After a leaving a restless mother post-surgery yesterday, we were unsure what we would walk into this afternoon. Would she be fretting over her son? Would she be overjoyed that he was out of surgery? Thankfully, it was the latter. We opened the door and were immediately acknowledged with huge smiles. As we made our way over to Ahmed's bedside, his beaming mother quickly welcomed and seated us. We quickly engaged Ahmed in making funny faces and blowing bubbles.
The blessing of seeing mother and sonâ€™s enthusiasm was mirrored in the news of Ahmedâ€™s physical condition. He was extubated this morning at 11 and his oxygen level were excellent. Before surgery, his levels were constant in the low 70s, but today, only a day after surgery, he was breathing without assistance and his oxygen level was at 99%!
It was wonderful to see him doing so well so quickly. All of the nurses in the ICU have also been charmed by his darling little smile. They all love to stop by his bed to check on him. As we were reading a couple of days ago in our morning staff Bible study, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12). This week we have seen both sides to this. For some of our other kids, and even for Ahmed and his mother before surgery, hope deferred has been discouraging. Today though, we saw the life that comes to those whose longings are fulfilled!
Catherine, Kristina and I set out from Jerusalem early this morning hoping to arrive at Wolfson before Ahmed and his mother were taken downstairs to the pre-operation waiting area. Instead, we found mother and son waiting together as Ahmed enjoyed a bag of toys on the gurney which would soon roll him to surgery. Ahmed was delighted to see us, and his mother, also glad to see us, was mostly relieved that someone was there to share the intensity of the day with her. While Ahmed played, his mother described a sleepless night trying to keep him from pulling an IV out of his arm in his restlessness due to thirst. As we talked and played, doctors and nurses came in and out several times, and finally told us it was time to put the toys away to go in for surgery. Apart from the fullness of his mother's anxious heart, the mood in the room was mostly pleasant, even as the medical staff began to roll the bed towards the operating theater. But less than a minute after this picture was taken, Ahmed realized he was being separated from his mother, and everything changed. Smiles became tears, and laughter became wailing for his mother, who was walking bewilderedly behind the gurney. When Ahmed tried to get off the bed, the anesthesiologist quickly administered a dose of medication into the IV in his arm, and before our eyes, he began to fall asleep. The last thing he will remember is the kiss his mother gave him at that moment.
We began the wait for Ahmed's return in the quiet courtyard at the back of the hospital, but soon moved indoors due to the heat. Ahmed's mother took some time to herself to pray, and tried to rest in order to calm her emotions. Mostly we sat with Mohammed's mother, or waiting in the "fish room" near the ICU, where, despite explanations and encouragements, tears still flowed throughout the morning. As the four-hour mark approached, I thought it good to walk down the hall towards the elevators so that we'd know as soon as Ahmed came upstairs from the O.R. The wait proved to be a little longer than I expected, but around four and one-half hours after we'd last seen him, Ahmed's gurney exited the elevator as doctors escorted him quickly to the ICU.
Once she realized it was her son, and heard the news that the surgery was good, her demeanor changed only a little as she seemed to be in a state of shock at what she'd seen. We gave thanks to God as we walked to the ICU together, but as soon as the doors closed behind her son, Ahmed's mother expressed her fears through many questions. We assured her that what was happening was normal for every surgery for every child, and that as soon as medical personnel prepared Ahmed's oxygen and medications, she would be allowed to see him. In the interim, Dr. Alona checked on Ahmed in the ICU, and came back to tell us that the surgery was very good, and that the plan is to remove Ahmed from the ventilator in the morning. Still, passing on this news did not seem to break through the concern which had gripped this mother's heart, as if she was experiencing thoughts of "I'll believe it when I see it".
The moment to see Ahmed finally came, and his mother was almost trembling as we entered the ICU. Once she saw that he was no longer blue due to poor oxygenation, it seemed to sink in that he truly was helped by the surgery, and already getting better! After a brief visit, she was ready to call her husband and spread the good news. Then we had lunch together in a celebratory frame of mind as gratitude overtook fear in Ahmed's mother's heart. What a beautiful change it is when we surrender fear to gratitude at the reality of the goodness of God!
One more visit to the ICU before we returned to Jerusalem proved an opportune time for Ahmed's mother to realize that all the other mothers were sleeping at the times their children were sedated. She realized that after he awakes from his sedation, she will need to be with him continuously, and made the wise choice to try to rest beginning right then. Let's join our prayers for Ahmed's healing to be quick, and for his mother to be refreshed and refueled so that when her sweet son returns to consciousness tomorrow, she will be ready to support him in his recovery.
Taking Ahmed to the hospital today, we were joyful to be getting him admitted so soon. He squirmed in his seat the whole way down to Tel Aviv and played with his mom as we wound our way down the mountain roads.
At the hospital we sat down in one of the waiting rooms and tried to sit patiently as the nurses prepared for his admittance. The doctor who had told us to bring him had only okayed his acceptance the day before as an extra work that she thought they handle now. Ahmedâ€™s mom had nearly cried for joy when she got the news! Though they have been in Israel only 11 days, she had been asking every day when he would be admitted for surgery. The nurses were yet preparing for him as we arrived, and only a few of them had heard that he was coming. Still waiting, we decided to spend a little time in the courtyard and started walking down the hall.
On the way a nurse saw us and started to ask about Ahmed. Finding that he was coming to the hospital for a surgery tomorrow, she immediately told us to bring him so we could get started on his preliminary work. At the nurses station we waited around as they continued to gather papers and info from the doctor.
Eventually they were ready for him and we laid him down on their examination bed and he began receiving the checkups. His mom was a bit jittery and nervous and would tell him every time he fidgeted that he needed to behave or the police would come. Once as we waited a black family came in for a bit and she told him that the big man was with the police and that he had better behave!
After the nurses had finished for a little while, they showed us his room and we got him situated. He was a little reluctant to get up on the bed so I laid out on it and pretended to sleep and snore loudly. Soon he was sitting cross-legged on it and eating tomatoes and cucumbers. A doctor came by and made him giggle as she checked his lungs, heart and stomach. Throughout his check-ups he has been very helpful to the workers, but as soon as they were done and he is free, he starts being the energetic young boy he is. His mom was a bit tired out today; I hope they will be able to sleep well tonight.
He is scheduled as the first surgery of tomorrow, which will be around 7 or 8 am. It will be a longer operation since he has four defects in his heart (Tetralogy of Fallot). The doctors are well-practiced with the procedure for correcting this though. Please keep this little man in your prayers!
If I could sum up today's experience with Ahmed in two words, they would be "pleasantly surprised." You see, a child's first visit to the hospital is typically a very frightening and exhausting one. The mother tends to be a bit overwhelmed by day's end. With four-year old Ahmed, as with all small children, we left the house equipped with bubbles, games, and hearts ready to love and encourage him throughout the day. He is a bundle of energy and when things don't go his way, we've become accustomed to his shrill screaming fits that surely ensue. I wondered if Ahmed and Wolfson Hospital would agree with each other. What happened next, over the course of six hours, can only be explained by the grace of God.
On our journey from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, Ahmed was thoroughly amused by the tunnels, trains, and changing landscapes viewed from his window. It didn't matter that we had no CD player in the van, because his laughter was our music. Shortly after arriving at Wolfson, clowns entered the waiting room and promptly provided Ahmed with a crown and giant flower balloon. He and his mother were loving it. What a lovely and unexpected welcoming committee!
Ahmed was then ushered through a series of tests including vital signs, an electrocardiogram, and chest X-ray. He responded to our smiles and affirmations like a mirrored reflection, growing in confidence. This boosted his mother's spirits also when she saw that her son was doing so well.
The ultimate test of Ahmed's character came with a lengthy echocardiogram. Dr. Alona politely offered a sedative to keep him still, to which his mother quickly declined. She trusted her son to continue his good behavior, and Ahmed rose to the occasion. Not once did he complain or even fidget while the doctors examined him. He kept a straight face, but every so often would look up at me and smile. I kept leaning over to Ruth (fellow Shevet nurse) and saying, "I can't believe he's being so good!" Dr. Alona and Dr. Hanita described Ahmed's condition as classic Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). This diagnosis comprises four heart defects including a VSD (breach between the lower chambers), narrowing of the pulmonary artery, an overriding aorta, and an overworked right ventricle. All of these have created poor oxygen levels, blue-tinted skin, and a body that is easily fatigued. While seemingly complicated, doctors at Wolfson are very familiar with TOF and have made many successful repairs, praise God! The echo ended, and we all congratulated Ahmed for being so compliant. He was then justly rewarded with chocolate milk and his mother's homemade cake. What could be sweeter or more enjoyable to a four-year old boy!
Thankfully, the most painful procedure was completed last with a necessary needle poke for blood work. Ahmed was so brave, but tears still fell from his mother's eyes. When everything was completed, a tired but cheerful mother and son joined us for the ride home. Ahmed sat down several times to catch his breath and needed his mother to carry him down the hospital corridors. As our van made its way home, he eventually fell asleep, wakened only by our arrival in Jerusalem. One thing is certain: Ahmed is quickly taking his place in my heart, and I look forward to many more pleasant surprises as we share life together. Please pray that as Ahmed's journey continues, both he and his mother will experience God's sufficient grace for each new day. "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8
Yes, Ahmed is a four-year old boy, which means he really likes toys: he laughs when he gets toys, cries when he does not, and when no toys are to be had, he sleeps. He also likes guy time, and today as we travelled together from Amman to Jerusalem, he was my little shadow.
There is a large traffic tunnel that cuts east to west through the Mount of Olives. When our van emerged from the tunnel this evening, the domes of Jerusalem were already silhouetted in dusk. Pulling into the Shevet Achim center, several volunteers were in the parking lot ready to greet Ahmed and mother, to welcome them into the arms of our community.
Ahmed is scheduled to begin heart treatment on Monday at Wolfson Hospital in Holon.