While one chapter in Ali's story ended today with his departure from Israel, another began as he headed home! He has been the sweetheart of Shevet these past two months, winning us over with his big brown eyes and countless expressions. The Ventricular Septal Defect that prompted Ali's venture to Israel was fully repaired without any complication. We have watched, through Ali, how a mended heart is outwardly reflected in a child's development. Though fairly docile prior to his operation, Ali took on somewhat of a feisty nature afterward, not unlike his young mother. His face says it all in the picture to the left.
With new vitality, Ali has been making up for lost ground. His progress continues in both muscular strength and motor skills; it won't be long before he's crawling all over the place. He also went from drinking only formula to having his first taste of spaghetti, among other things. On Sunday evening, a party was held in Ali's honor, along with two other children, to celebrate God's grace in his life.
A DVD made by Donna Jo (Shevet member) captured Ali's story with each photograph and was thoroughly enjoyed by all (except for the "star," who seemed a bit preoccupied with his bottle). Ali may be too young to remember the trauma of open heart surgery or appreciate his mother's vigilant care during this time, but one thing is sure - he will forever bear a mark of courage that testifies of life overcoming death.
This morning, the Shevet community gathered in the courtyard to send Ali and his mother out with our love and prayers. My prayer for this lovely duo, who brought so much joy to our household, comes from Isaiah 12:3: "...with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." May they drink deeply of the One who has granted them both life and deliverance, finding fullness of joy therein!
Today marked Ali's final medical milestone here in the land of Israel. Since his arrival two months ago, Ali's small heart has endured invasive heart repair and is recovering beautifully. His final echo this morning was like the cherry on top of sweet success. For a nine-month-old who doesn't have the vocabulary to articulate his feelings, Ali's facial expressions today were worth a thousand words. Before the echo began, his face lit up in a smile while riding atop a stuffed lion: pure joy! Soon after, Shevet member, Joshua, procured a look no words could describe that had us all in hysterics (captured in the picture below).
Dressed in stylish summer attire and a new hat, little Ali and his mother set off for Wolfson early this morning for what proved to be a very rewarding day. Although an echocardiogram (echo) was the main event on the agenda, Ali's mother was as giddy as a schoolgirl for the beach excursion planned afterwards. One look at Ali's captivating eyes and dimpled smile told me that this baby is truly healing well. Moreover, a fresh pink chest incision is outward evidence of a beautiful miracle taking place within.
The pleasantry ended for Ali once laid he was laid upon the examining table, as smiles gave way to tears. All hands were called on deck to help keep him still while the doctor completed the echo. When all was said and done, the doctor issued a clean report and discontinued Ali's post-op medication. The Ventricular Septal Defect remains efficiently sealed with a Gortex patch, providing optimum cardiac function. The doctor also stated that Ali would have one final echo next Monday before being discharged home.
I marveled at God's blessings in this little man's life. Not only has his heart been repaired, but since his operation, Ali has made huge strides developmentally. At nine months, he is now beginning to eat solid foods, to sit up without assistance, and to stand on his feet with a little help. It won't be long before he's walking all over the place!
As Wolfson faded in the background, warm Mediterranean breezes beckoned us to the seashore. Ali's first beach experience began with lounging on the sand, just taking in the scenery. Next, his enthused mother scooped him up in her arms and carried him to water's edge. Waves and surf brought mixed reviews. One moment, Ali's wide eyes seemed to take in the vastness of the sea with wonder. The next moment, he squeezed his eyes shut and screamed as the water splashed around his feet.
His mother, however, could not have been more delighted! Coming from a land-locked nation, I have no doubt that this experience will remain fixed in her memory for years to come.
As the ocean is known for its mysterious depths, so too, is God's love for Ali and his mother. May they come to understand "how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge..." Ephesians 318:19a
Today's blog is a double blog, both authored by Donna West.
From July 7, 2011
Ali's big eyes were wide open this afternoon as I walked into the ICU. The little guy had an excellent night and is doing very well today. He is off the ventilator completely and the monitors showed his oxygen level to be excellent. It looks like his heart surgery was a success! His mother, ever attentive to his care, kept the baby entertained by clapping and snapping. I quickly jumped in and added to the fun by making funny faces at the boy. This made Ali smile which was encouraging since I'm sure he is still sore from surgery. It is wonderful to see him awake and doing well. We pray the rest of his recovery goes just as smoothly and that his mother continues to have strength and joy.
Donna West writes Sunday night, pre-surgery: