(This post was co-written by Shevet volunteers Donna Petrel and Jesse Tilman.)
Thursday evening all the staff, volunteers and families upstairs gathered for a very special celebration for a very special patient: Essa. After about four months with us, and through some of the most difficult medical events we've experienced, we were ready to thank God for his goodness, and bid farewell to Essa and his mother. Throughout the previous days, Essa increasingly hung around in our office, displaying his joy and affection through jokes and hugs and playful exchanges. He joined our morning meetings and appeared at our dinner table. His mother also came to us downstairs more often to mingle with us, her joy coupled with questions about Essa's care and expressions of thanksgiving. Meanwhile, as their departure approached, each of us who've been with them spoke of how different life at the Shevet house will be without them and their unique impact on our community.
I found myself recalling over and over the night Essa
The burning question on everyone's mind today, particularly Essa and his mother, was, "When would doctors clear Essa to return to Kurdistan?" Actually, Essa's mother has posed this enquiry ever since they arrived in Israelfour months ago. No one can deny that it has been a long and difficult road for this woman and her son. Recovering from two complicated heart surgeries, two episodes of cardiac arrest, and nineteen additional medical diagnoses is no walk in the park. Maybe an ascent of Mount Everestis a more apt analogy. Against all odds, Essa has made an amazing comeback with last week's echo offering promising results. You can imagine, then, how the potential of today's echo results could produce so much excitement.
While waiting for Essa's turn in the cardiology department, he and his mother meandered the halls, greeting staff and patients they knew at every turn. Their lengthy hospital stay and memorable personalities have earned them the title of "Distinguished Sheba Alumni." Once the echo exam commenced, Essa was the perfect patient. He smiled his way through, while his mother sat anxiously, her eyes darting back and forth between the ultrasound screen, the doctor, and myself. Dr. Danielle's voice suddenly broke the emotionally-charged silence: "He has no more fluid. He can go home!" Furthermore, Essa's foot infirmity has also improved enough to delay him no further. Antibiotics and wound care have provided proper aid in healing. Celebration ensued as the doctor made his final notes. The fact that Essa is so physiologically sound is beyond understanding. What a wonderful God we serve! Just before leaving the hospital, the entire ICU staff was made aware of Essa's presence and gathered around him with hugs and congratulations. His mother was overflowing with expressions of thanks. I added my appreciation in remembrance of the countless hours these nurses and doctors invested to bring one boy from death to life through the grace of God. One nurse commented, just as a previous blog stated, that Essa is a miracle. It was a fitting and beautiful farewell to witness.
Since Essa and his mother will be leaving Israelthis Friday, we made a slight detour on the way home to give them a special treat. Our destination was the Mediterranean Sea, the likes of which neither of them had ever seen before. Though they initially came to Israelduring the balmy days of summer, the weather has since turned its face toward winter. This being said, the coast was a dramatic canvas of stormy waves and cloudy skies that threatened rain. Our Kurdish friends felt somewhat intimidated and stood a safe distance from the water. Essa did, however, enjoy striking several poses for the camera before declaring it too cold and too late to stay any longer.
As I muse over this red letter day in my friend Essa's life, I cannot help but compare the extent of Messiah's love for him to the vastness of the Sea. As he looks ahead to a future great and unknown, I pray that he too would comprehend "what is the width and length and depth and height" of this powerful love. (Ephesians 3:18).
Today at noonEssa, his mother, Kelsey and I headed towards ShebaHospital. Essa and his mother anticipated that it would be the final echo and that they would be cleared to go home to Kurdistanthe next weekend. The doctor who performed the echo found Essa
These were the faces that started out my morning yesterday. I have grown increasingly familiar with them over the past few months. And after everything they have been through, it still amazes me that here they both are: laughing, smiling and generally happy. This Wednesday started out in particularly high spirits as it was the day we were to head to
Oh my. After all we've been through with Essa these last months, including two resuscitations, what a joy to celebrate his 16th birthday here in Jerusalem today! A large group of friends from the US were on hand to help Essa know he is a special young man, in our eyes and in the eyes of his Creator:
Friday morning's staff prayer and worship meeting was interrupted by a phone call from Essa and his mother stating that he was released to return to Jerusalem, and Dr. Ben soon confirmed the good news. It was explained that after conferring about results of the tests done on his heart, doctors felt Essa was ready to come back to the Shevet house. We were told they'd be ready by one o'clock in the afternoon. So we made plans to visit Rozhgar at Wolfson first, and then head over for the exciting interaction surrounding Essa's dismissal afterwards.
Upon arrival, Essa and his mom met us before we made it to the elevators, full of joyful hugs. We found everyone in the ward in a celebratory mood over this long-prayed-for day. Even as we discussed the important details of medication dosages, wound care, and return appointments, we enjoyed hearing the congratulations and affectionate farewells of many on Essa's medical team. Essa's mother was notably grateful for her son's dismissal, and insisted we translate her heartfelt thanks to each and every doctor and nurse we saw. Her countenance shifted from tears of deep appreciation to the staff, to grins of delight that this day had really arrived, and that we were exiting her "home" of the last two months.
Even though Essa's mother has not been known for her patience, on this day changes which have begun to be forged in her heart became evident as she patiently waited during our visit with Ayman and his mother. She came into the room to encourage Ayman's mother, and assured her of her prayers upon telling them goodbye. She listened as we got instructions and medications from the hospital staff, and asked pertinent questions concerning his care, waiting for translation, trusting our help. It was encouraging that she had a level of respect we haven't seen before. We feel she has learned much during this lengthy and challenging season, but now is the time it will be proven in her life and in Essa's.
It was a nice drive back to Jerusalem as our charges enjoyed taking in the scenery for the first time in eight weeks. Out of our windows to our south, however, there was evidence of a totally different mindset from our own experiences with the peoples of the region. We could see smoke trails from rockets the Iron Dome was taking out before those rockets, fired from Gaza, hit areas surrounding Tel Aviv. We didn't share this scene with our friends in the back seat. We rode thankfully to our home in Jerusalem, arriving just before the sabbath began.
All the Shevet team came out to greet Essa and his mom, and we accompanied them upstairs where they met Lya and Mohammed and their moms for the first time. We were helping them settle back into the house, and ready to head downstairs to continue preparations for our shabbat meal, when the evening was punctuated by an unexpected sound. When I first heard the loud low siren, I expected it to be the shabbat horn, like every Friday evening. Instead, the pitch ascended into the wail of a rocket attack warning, with other sirens joining in a startling chorus of alert over Jerusalem. Immediately we realized we needed to take action, even if it was a test, to protect our families and ourselves. Trying not to alarm the mothers, we herded everyone downstairs into the safest part of the house, and tried to comfort them while we determined what was really happening. Although the children were unaware of the situation, the mothers recognized the sound. Since these families have been through the horrors of war in their homeland, they did not settle down easily. One mother felt faint; another asked why we didn't go to Amman where it was safe. We told them we thought it must be a test of the siren system, and that we were in the safest place while we waited. We explained that instead of being afraid, we were trusting God, and looking to him. A few of us gathered in prayer. After some minutes, the sirens stopped. Several staff members were online, and several calls were made, trying to find out more information. It didn't take long for the news to be posted that Jerusalem had been targeted in a rocket attack from Gaza, and apparently two rockets hit an area south of Bethlehem. We waited a while longer together downstairs, and since there were no more sirens, felt it safe to send the families back upstairs. Several of the staff stayed with them and encouraged return to normal routine, while preparations for our shabbat dinner were finished downstairs. Soon, in an atmosphere almost surreal compared to a short time before, everyone in the house was enjoying the blessings of a peaceful sabbath meal, although our ears were tuned for another siren blast, hoping we would not hear it again. It was certainly a memorable day for Essa's return!
Thank God, our sabbath was quiet, and Essa and his mother had a good day. This morning he went for an INR test to continue proper treatment with his blood thinning medication, with good results. We've also scheduled an appointment on Wednesday for an echocardiogram so doctors can monitor his heart to be sure he is following orders on his fluid restriction. Everyone has reiterated the importance of this restriction, and placed the responsibility on Essa and his mother to do what is needed. This remains a major prayer request for them. He is allowed only one liter of liquids per day right now, and it's hard for him to overcome the temptation to quench his thirst with copious amounts of cola or juice, besides water and tea. We're hopeful his mother will pay attention and enforce the restriction in order to protect Essa from another life-threatening emergency. We're hopeful Essa recognizes the value of following doctors' orders as part of his own care. Tomorrow, Essa turns sixteen years old, and we believe it can be the best year of his life. God has certainly been faithful to take care of him and provide for him thus far! We look forward to these next days or weeks together here as Essa finishes healing, and is fully released to go home, trusting God for every part of the journey. Prayer is an important part of this process, and we're glad to share with Essa and his mother that you're praying for them with us.
As we drove to Sheba hospital in Tel Aviv, the sun peeked occasionally through the early rainy-season clouds. The air was almost warm; windows were even refreshingly open in some of the hospital rooms. And in the midst of all this open space, and re-watering of the land, we found Essa sitting up in a chair today, apparently comfortable and in good spirits.
Fourteen years ago, I had heart surgery, so I wanted to share my own heart-story with Essa and his anxious mother. There
I have only been in Israel for a few days, but have already experienced both hospitals were the Shevet children are. Today we left Jerusalem for Sheba Hospital in Tel Aviv to visit Essa and Ayman. When the Shevet van pulled up outside the hospital, Essa was sitting in a wheelchair on the pavement with his mother at his side. Jesse shouted out Essa
Yesterday morning, Sheba Hospital called us early with urgent news about Essa. The doctor informed me that Essa had had an
Essa and his mother are in a small room with a bed and a couch. He has an infection of the peritoneum, and is in