Thursday was the last full day we were able to spend with Arin and his mother, so we made sure to make it special. We started the day off by taking them to the Garden Tomb and tried to explain what happened there and why the tomb is empty. She thought it was a beautiful place, and seemed interested in what it symbolized. She hesitantly walked into the tomb, and respected what we shared with her.
The next stop was the beach! Arin's mom was greatly anticipating this trip, and expressed to us that she would like to stay there for a long time. "Very beautiful," she said as she caught her first glimpse of the sparkling blue water from the van window. She repeatedly said "It's so beautiful," until she finally squished the sand between her toes. Arin, was overjoyed and watched the waves with his big round eyes, full of awe.
To end the day, we all gathered in the upstairs living room with the Kurdish families to say goodbye to Arin and his mother. We had cake and tea, as we expressed to his mother how much we love them and will miss them. We told her how evident it was that she has such a special bond with her son, and that her love for him was so full. "Thank you for everything!" she said multiple times, with her bright smiling face.
Before they loaded in the van to leave the next morning, we gathered in the courtyard to pray for them and say farewell (here's a video peek):
As I embraced Arin and his mother one last time, she lovingly thanked me and with a shaky voice called me "Anna jian", which is a Kurdish term of endearment. My eyes welled up with tears. I met eyes with her, only to discover that her eyes were full of tears as well. Right next to her face was the chubby little face of Arin radiating excitement, as it always is.
I was so happy that their family finally gets to see that wonderful little face we've been able to enjoy for so long. I'm so thankful for the miracle of Arin's precious beating heart, and pray that it will one day be full of the love of God.
"His heart is very good! Beautiful! Go home to Iraq!" A lengthy echo from the cardiology team at Wolfson today was finalized by these words from Dr. Alona, and our smiles matched hers when we heard the news. Arin received no sedative during the process, so it took creative probing skills by the doctors to finish checking everything about Arin's heart, but it was worth the effort. We were thankful to hear the rest of the good news too, which is that Arin no longer requires any medication.
We left the echo clinic to share the news with the mothers of Hero and Shad, thanking God for Arin's healthy heart. The doctors also examined Arin's nose following a fall on Monday. Although he has a small bruise on the bridge of his nose, everything else is fine, just as the nurses at the Shevet house recognized at the time it happened. But being the good mother she is, Arin's mom wanted to be sure the doctors saw no problem.
Arin was happy to see his friends Hero and Shad again, but even happier to be "set free" on the playground while we waited for Hannes and Lina to bring a new patient from Gaza back to the hospital. He enjoyed crawling and exploring everything he could reach, and swinging in his mother's lap was extra-special for them both. By the time we bade Wolfson goodbye, Arin had fallen asleep, and slept all the way back to Jerusalem. Tomorrow night will bring us to our farewell celebration with Arin and his mother, both of whom are dearly loved by everyone here. We look forward to sharing all they've meant to us as we join in celebrating God's good work in Arin's heart through the help he received from the caring staff of Wolfson Medical Center.
I think we'd all have to agree that Arin is about the happiest child we've ever seen. Here's a glimpse of his joy (even with his face covered with mosquito bites) as we stood waiting for lunch Tuesday:
Today we went with Arin and his Mother to the Wolfson Medical Center for his first follow up echocardiogram after surgery. Though Arin is usually a happy child, he didn’t like it when the doctor came to start the examination. So as he cried, the TV was turned on to distract him. This helped a lot, and the doctor was able to complete his echo procedure peacefully.
At the end they told us that he had a tiny amount of fluid in his thoracic cavity, for which he still needs medication. But all in all, his heart seems to be in excellent condition. Because of this, his next echo is scheduled for next Monday. If all goes well at this appointment and his heart continues to heal as well as it has been, he and his mother might cleared to return to their home in Iraq as early as next week. His mother was very happy about these results and gave thanks to God for her son’s good health.
Just nine days after his heart surgery at the Wolfson Medical Center, a healthy and happy Arin was cleared to return to Jerusalem yesterday afternoon. After sleeping the whole car ride home, Arin woke up once we reached Jerusalem and was ready to play. His Mum looked joyful, yet understandably tired, as she probably did not find all the rest she needed at the hospital. He smiled at everybody as soon as we arrived at the Shevet building, and it was clear that he was happy to be free once again to explore the things around him. As a nurse who has worked with adults that have had heart surgeries, it was simply amazing to see Arin doing this well so soon after his heart operation.
Today we went to Wolfson Hospital and visited Arin and his mother. He is currently in the normal children ward. He looks very good and is laughing a lot, especially when we smiled at him or waved. He is very active and loves to see what´s going on around him. I´m sure this lovely boy is on a very good way. He is being treated now for a fever which he spiked earlier this week. With the help of intravenous feeds, he is improving, and should return to the Shevet house in Jerusalem within the next couple days.
Since their arrival, it has been obvious to our community how much Arin’s mother and Arin love each other. She would do anything to make him happy, and he feels the most comfortable when she is near. Having been able to watch their affection over the past few weeks, I wasn’t surprised at all to find Arin's mother in the ICU at 6AM in the morning. It seemed that she had managed to sleep for a few hours, but couldn’t wait to get back to her son as soon as possible. We found him in good condition. He was stable, still sedated and intubated. His mother sat beside his bed, caressing his head and arms, and kissing his little feet.
She later joined Hero and Aro’s mothers for the standard tea, pita and cheese breakfast before heading straight back into the ICU. However around 9:30AM, Arin's mother came outside, beckoning for me to come with her. I immediately could tell that she was anxious. She told me that Arin was crying and we then rushed back to the ICU. Once we arrived, I could tell the reason for Arin’s tears. He had been extubated and an oxygen mask covered his face to support his breathing. Soon, tears also began to drop from her face. I tried to comfort her with my limited Kurdish words as I stayed with her. Arin became more and more fussy, and his nurse gave him some sedatives to help calm him down. But it seemed to have no effect on him. In turn, she grew more restless. Then we were asked to leave the ICU for some time. Together with Donna and Aro’s mother, we went for a little walk outside. The next time Arin's mother went to the ICU, Donna went with her, and I was glad for I knew that she could better explain what was going on with Arin. And while I was with Aro’s mother for the next couple of hours, Arin's mother was with Arin in the ICU. Around 2PM, as I walked toward the ICU to welcome Aro from his surgery, I happened to glance to the corner where Arin’s bed was usually set up, but his space was empty. The doctor told me then that Arin had already been transferred to intermediate ICU, which is a wonderful sign that Arin is doing well. The nurse there would not allow any of us to go and see Arin there, for she wanted him to rest. And though we couldn’t get close to his bed, we were able to have a glimpse of him from the door.
We could see a sleeping little boy and a tired but smiling mother who is more than thankful that her son seems to be comfortable. We are very thankful for Arin’s quick recovery. "Supas bo Xua!" (Thanks to God!)
The Psalmist David once wrote, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." These words resonate in my heart when I consider the turn of events in Arin's life this week. His surgery date, which was initially scheduled for yesterday afternoon, was cancelled with no word on a future date. This devastated his mother when we shared the news on Sunday evening. Emotions were high as she processed varying degrees of disappointment, anger, and sadness over the last three days. Words of comfort and encouragement were shared as we pressed on to trust God for his perfect timing. And when words would not suffice, it was our opportunity to "weep with those who weep" and simply love. For Arin, however, ignorance was bliss. His amiable personality continued unaffected, delighting us all.
Hope was rekindled this morning with an unexpected phone call from Dr. Tamir at 6:15 a.m. "Bring Arin as soon as possible for surgery this afternoon," he told Jonathan. He added that if the first surgery of the day took too long, Arin would be sent home. On receiving this news, I rushed upstairs to find Arin's mother. Soft morning sunlight poured in through the window as I quietly opened the door. Believing all the mothers and children to still be sleeping, I was surprised to see Arin's mother walking towards me, her eyes fresh and bright. They did not carry the same shadow of grieving I saw the day before. She looked surprised as well to see me so early. Her astonishment grew as I shared the words she was longing to hear. Despite understanding the risk of another cancellation, joy poured from her being. She hugged me tightly before scrambling to collect her things and feed Arin one last time before his pre-surgery fast began.
As our happy caravan made its way down the mountain towards Tel Aviv, Arin's mother was full of thanks to God. Arin babbled and kicked his chubby legs in the car seat. Along with his mother, Ruth, Ryan, Anna, and I all recognized what an amazing gift this day was from the Lord. Soon after arriving at Wolfson, Arin was ushered into the nurses’ station for preliminary tests and assessments. Thankfully, it only took the doctor two tries to start an IV, though Arin cried miserably throughout the process. He was quickly consoled in his mother's arms and the two sat down for the next order of business – waiting. By this time, it was noon and still no guarantee was given that Arin would have surgery. Hope was unshaken as the clock ticked on.
Confidence grew when nurses finally arrived to escort Arin into the Intensive Care Unit for prepping. Just before sedating Arin, he and his mother had a few quiet moments together. Their mutual adoration is beautiful to witness. Another two hours passed before Arin was whisked away to the operating theater downstairs. His mother shook with sobs after saying goodbye. We stood in the hallway for a minute, giving her time and space for her feelings. Suddenly, the doors to the OR flung open and the doctor came running out saying, "Wait! We don't have consent for his surgery! We need his mother's signature! Come!" As she signed the documents, Arin's mother caught one more precious glimpse of her son.
Every mother handles the surgery of their child differently. Arin's mother, though tearful at the beginning, became calm and resolute for the remaining three hours. She took comfort in our company as well as the presence of two other Kurdish mothers. Sharing a meal together, looking at pictures, and going for a walk also helped pass the time and give her strength. Meanwhile, Arin was undergoing the correction of four major heart defects that comprise his condition known as Tetralogy of Fallot. Over the years, Wolfson's chief pediatric heart surgeon, Dr. Sasson, has made this repair one of his specialties. Thus, I was able to encourage Arin's mother that not only was her son in good hands with the doctor, but also that God's hands were guiding Dr. Sasson through the surgery. More praises were lifted heavenward.
The wait, with all its struggle and suspense, ended as Arin's gurney rolled past us in the waiting room at 5:30pm. Rejoicing ensued. Arin's mother anticipated and answered each phone call from Kurdistan with great enthusiasm. Anxiety on the other line turned to rejoicing as well. "As cold water to a weary soul, is good news from a far country." (Proverbs 25:25). No further tears were shed when Arin's mother gazed upon her son's face in ICU. Rather, a beautiful smile graced her countenance. She was not worried about the medical chaos that seemed to be encompassing Arin's small body. Rather, her main concern was finding a way to kiss him through the maze of IVs and drainage tubes. The final report is that the operation was completed successfully and that Arin is resting in stable condition. Together, we praised God for the miracle of Arin's new heart. May you also be encouraged today to rejoice and give God thanks for His gift of life!
Having arrived late last night, Arin and his mother did not get much rest to recover from their long and adventurous journey to Israel. This morning we took them on their first of many hospital trips to the Wolfson Medical Center. Our ride to Tel Aviv went well. Arin fell asleep soon after we left Jerusalem. His mother also had a pleasant journey as Donna gave her some medicine to ward off car sickness before we left. After our arrival, we had to wait for about half an hour until the testing started. Arin did great when the nurses performed an EKG and took his vital signs.
However, as soon as blood was drawn he started crying and did not stop for the next 30 minutes. This was mostly due to the fact that the doctor had a hard time finding a good vein that would provide the amount of blood needed for several tests. When it was over, little Arin was sweaty and exhausted. It touched me deeply when I saw his sweet mother weeping gently, holding Arin closely and caressing his face. Soon after this we were sent to the echo department. Arin received some sedatives and when it was time for his echo he was sound asleep.
The only remaining test to be taken is his tubercolosis skin test, which will have to be done later this week. Although it had been a long day for all of us, I enjoyed getting to know Arin and his mother better and am looking forward to spending more time with them.
Arin is a chubby little guy, always seeming to direct a piercing, questioning gaze at me before breaking into a smile. He's also a great traveler, coming through two long days of travel and even a mid-air emergency with hardly a whimper.
On arrival at Prophets Street he was already on hands and knees exploring, even before suitcases had been wheeled to their room.
Finally, the reward of good Kurdish home cooking for a patient traveler:
Arin's first medical exams in Israel are Monday morning.