It is often difficult to articulate the beauty of friendship, particularly one that crosses boundaries of age, language, culture, and faith. However, at Bilal's farewell party yesterday evening, hearts clearly expressed the love between family and friends. Celebrations are typically an opportunity for Shevet members to convey their sentiments to parent and child. However, Bilal's father, broke the mold by giving us a very personal testimony, recounting their journey together from Kurdistan to Israel. He began by sharing his uncertainties and fears in coming to Israel. With each step from Iraq to Jordan to Israel, his heart grew in confidence and joy. Since coming to Shevet, he and Bilal have felt very much at home. In fact, when Bilal telephoned his mother recently, he told her he has three sisters (Madelyn, Stephanie, and myself), and would it be alright if they came home with him? Bilal's father concurred in considering our community as his family: "You are my brothers and sisters. I thank God for you." Is this not the essence of Shevet Achim? He also acknowledged that despite certain differences in beliefs, we were all in agreement in the greatness and love of God in healing his son.
Bilal is the firstborn in his family and a precious gift to his parents who waited nine years before they were able to have children. The successful repair of a ASD and a smooth recovery are reasons to celebrate. Even more so, we rejoice in the work God that has begun in the lives of this father and son. And as Scripture promises, "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6)."
The highlight of the party for Bilal, besides lovely music and cookies, was a surprise guest appearance... Perhaps you have seen his friend Akar's face in previous blogs?
Well, not only did Akar show up for this special occasion, but he delighted Bilal with the news that he would be returning to Kurdistan with him! The two have been so inseparable, I don't think Akar would have had it any other way. As evidenced by the photo, Akar is doing exceptional after his heart surgery as well. "Spas bo Xua (thanks to God)," as Bilal would say.
Once again, this farewell is bittersweet for our community. Bilal and his father have become so dear to us over the past month with their fun-loving personalities and genuine affection. In Abu Bilal, we have witnessed a truly exemplary father, teacher and friend. In Bilal, we found a sweetheart of a boy who loves to snuggle and blow kisses.
Early this morning, father and son set out for one final echo at Wolfson before beginning their journey home. Doctors noted that his heart's upper right chamber was slightly enlarged but could be easily managed by his doctor in Kurdistan. We rejoice in the successful repair of his ASD and smooth recovery, which at this point is medication-free. I believe that just like Bilal, his father experienced heart changes in Israel. While Bilal's heart grew in health and strength, his father's heart grew from fear to love. May God grant them life and breath for years to come. May truth be written on their hearts of His perfect love, which casts out all fear. And may they find in Him a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Yesterday evening, I asked Bilal if he wanted his friend, Akar, to accompany him for his echo the next morning. He nodded his head "yes" enthusiastically. Akar may not be able to say much, but he's been a faithful companion to Bilal at home and hospital alike.
Today, they headed into the echo room together, both smiling from ear to ear. Unlike smaller children who cry and fuss through the exam, Bilal laid quietly for the entire procedure. Doctors noted that his heart is on track in the healing process. The Gortex patch used to seal the large breach in his heart is holding fast. Also, Bilal's arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) seems to be under control.
This was the news Bilal's father was hoping for! He is such a loving and gentle father, caring for his son's every need. He is also quick to assist the other mothers with their children. Bilal certainly has a wonderful example to look up to. With all medications discontinued and one surgical stitch removed, it was time to return to Jerusalem.
With each passing week, I have grown to love this sweet boy more and more. We call each other brother and sister, and each night, he blows me kisses before going to bed. Every child gives me a greater glimpse of the love of God, and every relationship nurtured in this place is a gift from the Father. Both Akar and I are thankful for Bilal, who has given us the most precious gift â€“ the gift of his friendship.
It was four days ago when nurses said we had to wait to bring our little Bilal back home with us, and this day couldnâ€™t have come soon enough. All the children back in Jerusalem miss Bilal greatly, especially Rebin, who often asks his mother, â€œKwa Bilal bo yaâ€™areie? (â€œWhere is Bilal for playing?â€)
Earlier today, the hospital was packed with sick children, their parents, and flustered nurses scrambling about to make sure that everyone was being checked and had what they needed as far as medications and meals go. It was a bit chaotic with the amount of people in one location, but when it came time to see that Bilal would be released â€“ the wait period wasnâ€™t too long.
Bilal peered over at his father and took notice of the conversation. When he realized that he was going home today he looked up at me and asked if it was true. I said yes and then was immediately embraced with a little hug until a nurse pried him off in order to get the last assessments of his temperature. She also secured a small heart monitor to Bilalâ€™s chest that will measure his heartbeat for a day to make sure that it is not irregular, like it was prior to surgery.
In the previous blog, the verse John 17:3 was stated, â€œAnd this is life eternal that they may know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ who thou hast sent.â€ It is our prayer here in Jerusalem that both Bilal and his father would come to know the One who is behind all of the healing that has taken place thus far.
Bilal was sleeping today when Suhail our driver and I visited him in the ICU Unit today. This was only the second day after his operation. His father said that he has been praying. There is great potential in a young life of five-years old.
Suhail said Bilal would be going home in a few more days. What a tremendous and skilled job the surgeons do in such a short period of time!
"And this is life eternal that they may know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ who thou hast sent" John 17:3.
The day after surgery, for most of the children that undergo this major process, is usually expected to include hours of sleeping, whimpers from slight areas of pain, uncomfortable positions, separation anxiety from the parent(s) stepping away momentarily, and an overall melancholic mood; all of which every Shevet volunteer hopes to break through once they come to visit the child and family. That said, I was both surprised and not surprised when five year old Bilal greeted me with his best smile and an explanation for his red finger tip (which he thought was because nurses just wanted it that way).
It was such a sweet treat to see his beautiful smile as he spent a few minutes asking about everyone (all of the other children) that were still at home. Once I told him that they were all here to have an ECHO, he responded, â€œWell, where are they?!?â€ (in Kurdish).
Bilalâ€™s dad said that nurses kept reassuring him that everything turned out well and he had asked me why Bilal was in the secondary ICU and not the primary ICU like all of the other children who received surgery the day before. Based on what nurses said, my response was- because God is good, and Bilal is such a strong little boy that he only needs the secondary ICU before they move him into a regular room where he will spend the rest of his recovery time before coming back home. His dad smiled and said, â€œspas bo kwaâ€ (thanks to God).
For a quick moment, Bilalâ€™s dad stepped out of the ICU and while I was sitting there with Bilal, their phone rang- Bilalâ€™s eyes widen and he said â€œIâ€™ll take it!â€ The video below is a short clip of this little one talking to his brother, asking him how he is doing (â€œchoniâ€), stating that that he is good (â€œbashmâ€) and ending with goodbye (â€œkwahafeesâ€).
Thank you Jesus that Bilal is in great shape today.
I was not sure if our little patient Bilal was going to be tired from waiting as we arrived early this morning at the hospital. (He was required to fast until the second surgical slot in the afternoon). To my amazement he was cheerful as usual and very patient. He did not once ask for water or something to eat.
His father was anxious, but appeared very calm. The two of them have a very special father, son relationship.
Bilal was trying out his new English words. We were all having a very good time with this sweet little boy. A clown arrived and Bilal was in his element, but the real clown of the day was our Bilal himself!
We were invited to go to the play room, but as we got there his father noticed that his arm, where the drip was, was swollen. They took us back to the room, removed the drip and wrapped his arm in a magnesium cloth. He was a little bit upset and looked tired. After a little while they then took him to ICU. There he stayed for almost two hours. It was an emotional time for his loving dad.
At last they took him to the theatre and we were sure it was going to be a few hours before we would see him again. God is good! The operation took only two hours! The fatherâ€™s face lit up when he saw his son on the trolley on his way to ICU. There were tears and smiles.
When his father was waiting, before he was allowed to go and see his son in ICU, he told us that we are like family to him. What a special little boy and what a special loving father. It is such a wonderful privilege to be part of such an overwhelming experience.
Bilal's first trip to the hospital didn't cause him too much distress. Being able to explain the numbing cream the doctors applied to his hand when they inserted a needle was a big help in fighting fear. The younger children watched the courageous five-year old and it seemed to help.