(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 “crashed.” We got the middle-of-the-night call from Sheba ICU asking us to rush to the hospital, where doctors were working to save Essa's life. Ruth and I shared again the memories, and the beautiful outcome, and it moved us to tears. It was just two days before he was to go home after a successful heart surgery three weeks prior, and his healing seemed to be taking a normal course. Yet that day he'd become sick, and we took him to the emergency room thinking he may have caught a stomach virus. Thank God Essa was admitted, because what we thought were flu symptoms were in fact symptoms of a huge amount of fluid which had accumulated around Essa's heart. A failure to follow the doctors' fluid restrictions was the cause. Only hours later he was literally being resuscitated while we sped to the hospital, Ruth, Jonathan and I praying and singing worship songs to God, the only one who saves and heals. Another call from the ICU came before we arrived making sure we were near so we could help Essa's panic-stricken mother; doctors weren't sure Essa would make it. We arrived to find Essa's mother crumpled on the floor near ICU room four, where a team of doctors continued their efforts, reopening his chest right there in his room. As we were comforting Essa's mom, suddenly the doctors emerged with the good news that Essa was alive. That night was the beginning of a period of weeks where we kept a 24/7 vigil in the hospital, helping Essa and his mother, and assisting hospital staff with this dynamic duo during Essa's long recovery. They already had a reputation for challenging the system, and their second stint proved to be an even more difficult recovery period.
Beginning when Essa was in a coma, and while he was requiring kidney dialysis after damage from the emergency resuscitation, we saw God's hand restore him in amazing ways. While doctors and nurses battled all of the physical problems, we came alongside to bring encouragement and comfort. In the midst of Essa's mother's passionate, sometimes extreme expressions of concern, and her insistent methods of how she thought it best to help her son, we did our best to help them persevere in patience, and learn to respect the doctors' orders. Just when we were about to bring him home again, when all seemed to be functioning well in his slowly-strengthening body, the unthinkable happened, and Essa had a cardiac arrest one morning while resting in his hospital bed. His mother, ever near and watchful, noticed her son stop breathing and ran hysterically into the hallway calling for the doctors. Again, Essa was resuscitated, and began to overcome another trauma while doctors searched for answers as to why his heart had stopped. After a week of testing, evaluating and observing all information from every angle, doctors determined Essa fit to leave the hospital. Dr. Amir's parting words were that Essa was truly a walking miracle. He said that, taking facts into account from the night Essa crashed, maybe 1% of doctors in the world would have thought he could live. And of those who gave him a chance to live, maybe 10% would think Essa could resume a normal life. But praise to God, there we stood, observing this miracle boy heading back to Jerusalem!! At last the "home stretch" had really begun.
The last few weeks saw doctors detain Essa longer than he or his mother thought possible. But Sheba's caring staff made sure a post-op wound on Essa's foot was properly healing, his INR levels were stable (clotting factors in the blood), and his echocardiogram results proved that both Essa and his mother had learned to follow orders on fluid levels. Here at the house, we undertook to be both coaches and cheerleaders to Essa and his mother as the clock ticked and each part of his care came under control. While initially it seemed unbearable to them to have to wait longer, as the days and tests passed by, at last they seemed to realize the extreme value everyone placed on Essa's life. Instead of the boyish Essa who first came to us, who would carelessly ignore the instruction given him, we began to see the determination of a young man who wants to live emerging from the crises he'd survived. We saw him step into assuming responsibility for his medication regimen and the need for discipline in his fluid intake. As he rose up in this new opportunity at life and began to fill the role of a young man, his mother seemed to recognize that slowly but surely, she could release him into this new reality too. We began to experience and enjoy the playful part of her personality now that she is becoming unburdened from fear.
This brings us again to our celebration of Essa's return home. We sat together singing, sharing dessert, and speaking from our hearts words of encouragement and truth as we said goodbye. Just as we were about to give gifts to them, we were touched to receive beautiful cards of thanks written on Essa's behalf. When we thanked him for remembering us in this way, he spoke with maturity and sincerity that it was nothing, just a tiny way to say thank you for everything done for him. The last event of the evening was watching a brief video compilation of pictures capturing Essa's story. I was struck by a comment Jonathan made at the end of the
Friday morning we prayed and sent them on their way back to their family, back to their homeland, very different people than when we first met them. Essa came from behind me and slipped his hand in mine when we gathered to pray, then moved it to my shoulder as he was embraced by others. The sense of all of us belonging to each other seemed complete in those moments. Based on the tears and hugs and words of farewell, I believe they left as thankful and happy about those changes as we are. Praise God! Now, let's remember them in prayer as they walk forward in managing Essa's care themselves, so that Essa may live in the hope and future God created him for, and has preserved him for.
Saying goodbye to Essa this week was saying goodbye to a friend. Our team has been through life and death with him and his mother, multiple times. We have spent many hours in special care just for their case. With their strong personalities, they were often offensive and uncaring of others and it took a while for most of us to warm up to them. Despite their bad manners at times, I felt that they were also more willing to laugh at themselves and be real with us. Essa’s mother was very quick to tell us whatever was on her mind for sure! She would come back to whatever subjects were in her focus on a particular day every twenty minutes or so, and ask about them again and expect a new answer as if we were receiving new updates all the time. Her strength in perseverance built in us strength in patience! Essa’s case was an extremely difficult one and I believe God gave him an equally strong mother to work through it with him.
Through his time here we took numerous walks and had some good discussions on our worldviews and the roles of faith and love. At sixteen, Essa has experienced a small bit of the supremacy of love sourced in Messiah. How could it not stick in his mind?
Often in the evenings he would call me up and ask to get out and go to a store. He was ready to get back to living life! His thirst for experiencing life will do him good in the days ahead, which will contain long term recuperation. Unlike many Kurds, he was willing to try new things with me: one evening we had Guavas, another evening some cinnamon cookies, another a coconut drink, and on another evening we tried out the guitar at home with Yousef. He would always ask me for just plain Coca Cola though, something that wasn’t so good for him! At his goodbye party I did finally end up pouring him a tablespoon full of Coke…!
His mother was a study in cultural experience in herself. I learned a lot from her about steadfast love. She was in constant care for her son, and often demanded the same from us. From asking for socks, to kabob, to underwear, to tote bags, she never let up. She just as steadfastly refused to learn the smallest skills with modern items such as cell phones or cars. One of my last memories of her was when she asked me to buckle her seat belt one last time before she headed to Jordan! She then gave me a kind pat on the shoulder and told me once more I was a “kuri chaka,” a good son.
Essa’s time in Israelwas a highlight in our work, community, and personal growth. In our work, with the sheer amount of time and personnel needed for his care; in our community, as we all grew accustomed to his personality and relational needs (he learned a little English and Hebrew while he was here); and in the ways we grew, as we became better able to cope with him and his mother. We all laughed as this teenage boy would come by saying boker-tov (good morning in Hebrew) or toda (thanks) as he left. He left us with an “OK bye!” I hope to one day say "Shalom" to him again, whether in Kurdistan or in Heaven.
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’s heart to be in a good condition, considering his health history. But still he was hesitant to speak the final word that Essa will be discharged to return to Iraq. This is due to the wound on Essa’s foot which has an infection in the surrounding tissue. Essa was put on antibiotics for seven days and the doctor hopes to see an improvement in the next couple of days. He also scheduled a potential last echo for Wednesday. Please pray with us for a quick healing of Essa’s foot, and also for peace and patience both for Essa and his mother as they wait for the final discharge.
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
When we arrived at the hospital, many minutes passed until the doctors were ready to call him in for his appointment. And sitting there waiting with Essa was just so... blissfully normal. We played games on Donna’s iPad, had some snacks, and he took around thirty pictures of his mother on my camera that we had fun looking at a little while later in the day. It’s so easy to take for granted these mundane moments. Essa’s time here has been filled with so much intensity, both emotionally and physically, so it was such a treat to see him kick back and just act like a teenager.
His echo was thorough, though not too long. His results revealed a heart that is functioning well, although he unfortunately had some mild pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs). However, his doctors did not seem to be too concerned about this. But because of how extreme his case has been, his doctors want to be very cautious about releasing him to go home. They explained that they would rather keep him here longer and be sure of his health than send him home unsure and out of the range of specialized medical care in case something goes awry with his heart again. Because of this, he is scheduled for another echo in a little over a week to further monitor the progress of his healing.
His mother was not pleased with this news. Her voice jumped up a decibel in volume with each passing minute as she vocalized her wish to return home to
With the echo done, we had another important health issue of Essa’s to address: a wound on his foot. A blister on his foot before his most recent relapse had not healed and had instead become infected to the point where some of the tissue was necrotic. This necrotic (essentially dead tissue) had to be removed so that normal blood flow could return to the wound area so it could heal. Without this tissue removal it would remain an open wound, susceptible to infection having the potential to spread. So before we left, we accompanied Essa to another area of the hospital where he had a plastic surgeon remove this tissue. The procedure was over in minutes and everyone seemed relieved that now his foot could begin to heal.
The rest of the day was spent waiting for Ayman’s release from the hospital. Essa and his mother displayed an exceptional amount of patience and self control as we passed the time together. Please continue to pray for healing in Essa’s remarkable life. Let us also pray that we do not take for granted Essa’s healing, just expecting it will happen as is natural to do. Instead, let’s give thanks to God for this young man’s life and take to heart the profound words one of his doctors said: that the life Essa is able to live right now is the closest thing to a miracle he has ever seen.
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. Thereâ€™s always something encouraging about seeing a survivor, isnâ€™t there? At least that was my hope.
I shared about my experience, emphasizing that heâ€™ll get better and stronger than heâ€™s ever been...and that itâ€™ll be â€œsoonâ€ but not as fast as heâ€™d like. And above all, his recovery depends on a soldier-like obedience to the doctorsâ€™ instructions, as did mine. Hopefully my story, and the story of a Kurdish-American immigrant who I admire, will help him to re-realize that heâ€™s a man now, and that men choose to do the hard things for their families even when theyâ€™re miserably unpleasant. We took a short walk, and I was glad that he allowed me to walk with him, and glad that he was determined to walk unaided. There we were, two survivors from two worlds, together.
Dr. Amir did a wonderful job of instructing Essa in what he must do from this point in order to return home: â€œIf you donâ€™t, youâ€™ll be here another month!â€ Both Essa and his mom seemed startled into reality by these words. Right now, the plan is for Essa to do a treadmill stress test on Tuesday in order to identify any risks that might prevent release. And if that turns out okay, he will come back to Jerusalem to continue his recovery.
At this point, it seems to us that medically Essa is looking good. His wounds are healing, and he's gaining strength daily. In a sense, weâ€™ve done all we can do for him. I think that heâ€™ll soon discover that as much fun as playing Halo and other â€œAtariâ€ games has been, he has a whole world of sports in his future, at last. His story has been one of many storm clouds and occasional bursts of sunshine and joy. What a metaphor for his journey; please join us in prayer that he participate in his recovery and the victory that seems to be in sight.
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 Essaâ€™s name through the van window and his whole face lit up when he realized we had arrived. He was so happy to receive visitors and was enjoying the outside warm air and sunshine. At first he seemed very quiet but as time was spent together he seemed to become relaxed and spoke more. We wheeled him up to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) where he was staying, and where we had to clothe ourselves with protective gear and plastic gloves as a precautionary measure against infection. He had requested Coca-Cola before we arrived, but instead, Jesse advised him to drink some juice as it was healthier. Also, he requested French Fries when there was talk of going to the cafeteria, but ended up having a kebab instead. His appetite was enormous and every few minutes between bites he would look at me and smile.
His mother was constantly asking for a diagnosis of her son, and would we please ask the doctors what the situation was so that she could prepare to return to Kurdistan. We are hoping that he will be well enough so that he can at least return to us soon in Jerusalem, but that is still up to the doctors; a return to Kurdistan is not going to happen as quickly as his mother would like. All day Essa was laughing, smiling and goofing around with us at the hospital, and it just made me so thankful to see how patient he is being despite the bumps in the road. He is holding in there, waiting to be well. Also, a thought ran across my mind while visiting: How would I feel if I was in their position? Having to endure open heart surgery, then to wait for as long as Essa hasâ€¦ It felt overwhelming to even think about it. I have always taken for granted having a heart that is healthy. But a healthy heart is only a new reality for Essa. He was filled with so much joy today. It made me even more thankful for the work that is done through Shevet. It is one thing to read about it, and a completely different experience to meet the children and to see the work for itself.
Yesterday morning, Sheba Hospital called us early with urgent news about Essa. The doctor informed me that Essa had had an â€œeventâ€ during the early morning. This event being that he went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing for a period of time, perhaps due to a stroke or seizure. Because of this, we decided to bump up our planned trip to the hospital that day; Ruth and I began preparing to go. Jonathan gathered a few of us in the office and we lifted Essa and his mother up in prayer. He said that he would be able to visit the hospital later in the morning as well. Taking some food items with us we headed out.
Walking the halls towards their room, I thought again how difficult it is for a mother and son to spend so much time in this totally strange environment.
In the ICU the doctor on duty gave us the information he had. At about 7:30am that morning, Essaâ€™s mother had run out of the room screaming for help. She had noticed that Essaâ€™s breathing had stopped. The staff quickly went into motion and began working on him. They had to perform CPR, but he was revived and started breathing again. He was scheduled to have a CT brain scan later in the day and till then couldnâ€™t eat or drink.
As we went in to the room, things seemed back to normal but we could feel the tension in his motherâ€™s voice. Essa was quiet and under his blanket with only his eyes peaking out. She questioned us about the doctorâ€™s words and asked us to speak on her behalf to them. Then she began to forcefully ask when she could start to feed Essa. I struggled to keep reassuring her under her repeated voiced needs. If she doesnâ€™t hear confidence and immediate assurance in your voice and manner, then she can become more forceful in her questioning as her doubts grow. Ruth went over and sat by Essa and began talking to him. He responded with some little movements and expressions.
Soon a nurse came in, speaking loudly and affectionately to Essa, calling him a fun nickname (Essa-Pissa meaning Dirty-Essa!). She got us all to feel a bit more alive and ready to move around. Together we got Essa talking a little bit and smiling and she took his blanket off and got him to exercise all his limbs. He warmed up and became talkative again. She still wouldnâ€™t let him eat or drink though.
Later on Jonathan came to visit Essaâ€™s mother and we all talked in a waiting room about how things were going and how long they had been in the hospital. Essaâ€™s mom broke down as she poured out her troubles. He reminded her that the best thing for Essa and her right now is simply prayer. She just nodded a quick yes.
We all headed back to the room and spent some time with Essa. Jonathan shared some thoughts on life with Essa who was happy to see him. We prayed over Essa and his mother and committed ourselves to God. Jonathan left them saying that he had Ruth and I in place to see to them.
Later on the nurses prepared Essaâ€™s bed to become mobile so we could go to the CT scan room. I headed out with them through the elevators and into the waiting van to drive to another building. His mother and I couldnâ€™t enter the final testing room and so we went back to some small coffee and juice bars we had passed. She wanted to buy some oranges and then some pomegranates so we asked if we could buy the whole fruits. The vendor sold them to us and even picked out some of the best ones from his boxes in the back. When we got back to the test room Essa was just coming out and we got back in the train of his attendants.
Back in the room Essaâ€™s mother was anxious to feed him which we had said she would be able to do when he had finished his tests, but the nurses still asked us to wait. They wanted to see the scan results before proceeding with him one way or the other. We had to wait a long hour before hearing from them that he could eat a meal. His mother was very frustrated the whole time and argued with us off and on why he couldnâ€™t eat yet. However, she did take a few minutes aside to pray, as Essa and I watched TV. When I got up to go get lunch the nurse outside told me that he could eat now as well. We all rejoiced and got out the food! We stayed a while longer after lunch hoping to hear more test results, but after taking care of all our details and receiving new food requests from Essaâ€™s mother it was time to say our goodbyes.
Ruth and I left not knowing the full results from his tests, but seeing Essa back to his normal spunky self. He often argues and fights for his way yet is warm and friendly in turn. He seems to be taking after his motherâ€™s lively spirit! Later Ruth talked with the hospital staff by phone and shared the news that they had found nothing wrong with him in the tests. Through all his ups and downs, I feel the call to more constant prayer for this boy. By Godâ€™s grace we believe and ask for his continued recovery and life.
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 â€œisolation.â€ To enter, one must put on a suit of diaphanous blue cotton. Itâ€™s kind of fun, lets the imagination go. And the atmosphere inside is similar: Essa seems to be relaxed, just hanging out, like the fifteen-year old guy that he is. When we arrived he had just exited the shower, and was wearing a hilarious towel on his head, like a do-rag. The old mischievous grin is back too.
His mother continues to be herself too. Pleasantries were barely exchanged before she leaned into a Kristina with a rapid stream of questions. Kristina gathered them with poise, and translated the gist afterwards. â€œShe wants to know the same things, really: when can they go home, why are they still in the hospital if Essa is better, the food here is not good, etc.â€ Her reputation for being a challenge is earned to be sure, but underneath it all is a good heart.
And no one doubts where Essa receives his mischief streak. She often lounges in Essaâ€™s patient bed (who is the patient here anyways?)â€¦
â€¦and takes him from his quarantine room to wander the hospital halls, even though this is expressly forbidden (look at those smiles!)â€¦
And the medical update is this: Essaâ€™s kidneys have improved their functioning, almost to normal. This is a major praise; the kidney outlook was bleak for quite some time. The amount of fluid around his heart is also much healthier; fluid on the heart triggered his meltdown some weeks back. Once a day Essa is receiving a shot in his stomach beneath the skin that thins his blood and prevents clotting. And lastly, he receives local anesthesia to clean the peritoneal infection in his stomach; the on-duty nurse expressed optimism on this point.
Please continue to pray for our young friend, Essa. When he hobbles around his hospital room, each step ginger and barely holding balance, he looks like a skeleton. He is thin. His mother is understandably stir crazy, occupying the sterile atmosphere of a hospital for months. And the volunteers and hospital staff would benefit from prayer as well, as they daily attend to the physical and spiritual needs of this unique and beautiful tandem.