Marilyn and I came to Wolfson hospital last Thursday afternoon to visit Surur, and were delighted to meet two families from Gaza:
On Thursday, Alla had had her surgery a few days ago and was now on the ward hoping to return home to Gaza soon. However, Thursday's echo was described as "not good" by her grandma, so she was not discharged that day. Her grandma said she would love to be able to speak in English as she really wanted to say thank you to Shevet for helping her and Alla to find her healing.
Raghad's aunty [the sister of her dad] was caring for her and spoke a little English. She was such a blessing and a help to us in explaining things Thursday. Raghad is about 2 months old and was breathless, so she couldn't feed properly. Her surgery last Tuesday has changed all that: she is now a healthy, hungry little baby with a lot of lovely dark hair.
Although the ICU nurses were non-committal, Raghad's aunty hoped she would soon be released from ICU to the ward, and ultimately, hopefully, soon be able to return home. She was so greatly appreciative of the help which Shevet has given to make all this possible. She explained that she talks every day with Raghad's mum, who cries for her baby each time. Bless her.
Today, Marilyn and I were again blessed to be asked to visit Wolfson this afternoon to take two children back to the Gaza Border. What a joy to meet precious little Alla and Raghad again. Last Thursday Raghad was in ICU following a very recent surgery, and in the intervening two days she has been transferred to the childrens' ward and today has been discharged. Her Aunty was so appreciative and happy to have little Raghad back with a big appetite, which she never had before the op, as her whole effort and time was spent just in trying to gasp breaths to breathe. The miraculous turnaround has been so quick.
Ultimately, Alla was taken to the border by her older sisters, and we took Raghad and her aunty in Shevet's van, helping her with her bags and with Raghad as far as we could go this side of the border. A very happy and contented aunty and Raghad were last seen passing through the border gate for home again.
We were expecting more children to come through the Erez Border than we could carry in one van, so Ruth and Sarah arrived to take the first two families to Wolfson (Salma and Malak), and as they were also taking Duaa to Wolfson for her ear to be examined, they left promptly with a full van.
Yusef and I waited at the Border for whoever would next be released. After some considerable time, I was amazed to see quite a group of people surrounding a little boy (Mohammed A.) with a cameraman shooting his walk towards our van, and Fatma from SACH also with them. It turned out that a dear lady who is a native Jewish Israeli, but who has lived in New York for most of her life, has been producing a film of the healing work in little Mohammed's life that has been coming about through the Israeli hospital and the Jewish Israeli surgeon, doctors, and nurses. This was to be a follow up appointment for Mohammed, and surprisingly, he behaved just like any lovely little boy, rather than the film star he has become.
Shortly after little Mohammed arrived, another much bigger Mohammed (Mohammed N.) arrived, who we also took to Wolfson for a check up. This Mohammed is 24, revealing Wolfson's determination to keep following up on children's hearts even after they cease to be children!
There was also another 12-year-old boy, Ibrahim, who arrived at Wolfson by his own means, and who we only discovered just before we were leaving to return the children to the Gaza Border. In fact, we had so many children to return to the border and Shevet, due to two additional discharges, that we needed to call for Shevet's car to travel late in the day, driven by Konrad, to collect two families from Wolfson and return them to Shevet in Jerusalem.
We only had the cameraman shooting in our van on the first journey, but he continued to film whilst at Wolfson.
All these Gaza children will return for future follow-ups, but little Malak will return later for a CT scan and for surgery.
The two children who were discharged after successful surgeries to return to Gaza were Iman and Mohammed G. The latter, Mohammed, we blogged on last week, as after a long wait at the Border, we were blessed to be able to take his grandma to Wolfson to be at his side from then until his discharge today.
And here is Iman:
As always, Tuesday is a special day. Maybe more memorable this week due to the film crew and the challenges of how to return so many children with a limited number of seats when all the children were released at 4pm. But the most memorable are the dear smiling little children.
It was such a blessing on this beautiful sunny day to be able to go to Gaza’s northern crossing, Erez, to bring some children out of Gaza for their check-ups at this week’s Gaza Clinic. When we arrived at Erez, two babies were already waiting; Ruth and I quickly put them in our van so they could get to the hospital early.
2-month-old Ragd was sleeping sweetly in her stroller, and once we put her in the van, she went quickly back to sleep. Her mother was lovely and kind, both to us and to her daughter. She even spoke a bit of English, which was a big help to us!
10-month-old Majd was not very happy initially, especially when we put her in the child seat, but once we were driving, we put on some Arabic worship music, prayed for her, and soon she dropped off quietly to sleep. I am sure she felt safe in Jesus’ arms, even when we could not comfort her in her own language.
Once in the hospital, it was decided fairly quickly that Ragd needed to be admitted immediately, and her surgery planned as soon as next week. Majd’s check-up lasted a bit longer, but Dr. Tamir decided that she needs to come back in a few weeks for further treatment.
In the meantime, Yousef and Brian had a long wait at the Erez border in the hope that some more children could come out of Gaza. Unfortunately, by the time one of them had been approved, it was too late for Dr. Tamir to see him, so they had to send him back home with the hope of getting another appointment in the next few weeks. At least they were able to give the grandmother of Mohammed – a child from Gaza who has been in ICU for almost a month – a ride to the hospital so he could have a family member there for comfort and also to give consent for any further treatment he may need.
I am always impressed with the kindness and patience of the staff at Wolfson hospital, and today I was especially grateful for the help and translation of Fatmah, our close friend and associate from Save a Child’s Heart. She was so helpful when Majd’s grandmother got very upset, and several times patiently explained things to her and calmed her down. I thank God for her language skills and willingness to help wherever she is needed!
Little Marwan has never lived a 'normal' life. Born and raised in the Gaza Strip, he has already experienced war and political instability unlike most will ever experience. Not to mention physically he is different from most children his age, because he is missing his left foot due to complications after open-heart surgery at the age of only one month. Nevertheless, when you get a chance to meet him, you witness a joyful young boy who loves to hop around on his one leg; is he ever is fast!
He never learned to walk properly because of his missing foot. Our volunteers get to see Marwan regularly during his check-ups at Wolfson Medical Center, and he does not give us the impression that he wants to be pitied.
This past week marked a big change in his life, as he was to receive the first lower-leg prosthesis of his life, that will help him learn to walk properly. On Wednesday, I had the privilege to accompany him and his grandmother to the orthopaedic center where the prosthesis was constructed. Yaron, who had already started with the preparations of the prosthesis, was waiting for us at the center. However, he needed exact measurements and began right away with collecting all the necessary details. Marwan was very alert and followed the instructions of Yaron diligently.
Later, with two and a half hours of free time on our hands, we had lunch and visit my little Kurdish friend Arena at Sheba Hospital, which was just around the corner of the orthopaedic center. Marwan enjoyed the playground area there very much, and people could not help but smile when they saw him enthusiastically hopping around on his one leg, trying out all the different toys. We then returned to the center Yaron began teaching Marwan's grandmother how to put on the prosthesis properly. She was a quick learner! I watched Marwan's face and he was so excited and could not wait to try it out. Encouraged by his grandmother, Marwan did his first steps clasping Yaron's hand.
We left the orthopaedic center, Marwan carrying his new prosthesis in his arms. He had almost refused to take it off, but it was advised that he would not overdo it in the beginning. The next day Marilyn and I took Marwan and his grandmother back to the Gaza border. Again, Marwan was carefully watching the bag with his new foot.
I will not soon forget his excitement over that prosthesis; one might think that he should be rather sad that he cannot walk just as most other people, but the opposite is true. Marwan might not look like everyone else, but that does not determine who he is and what he can achieve. He is only five years old, but the two days I got to spend with him I learned a lot about appreciating life and to not letting circumstances control my joy.
Precious Moman has been at Wolfson Medical Center for over three weeks now. When we brought him from Gaza to Wolfson, his situation was dire. He needed to be brought to the Erez border by ambulance, and then continued on oxygen with us in the Shevet van as we transferred him to the hospital. His grandfather first accompanied him, and it was a privilege to connect with him throughout his time here. His concern and compassion for his grandson was obvious, but he also displayed a quiet confidence in the doctors and our volunteers from Shevet Achim. Moman went through some difficult moments during his time here, however he made a miraculous recovery and was able to return home today! He arrived in Tel Aviv with a fragile and failing heart, and he returned today with a healthy and fully functioning heart.
It was special to be able to drive Moman back to the border today, as Ruth and myself were the ones who originally drove him from the border to Wolfson. It was amazing to see what God has done in Moman’s life, and in his grandparent’s live’s. Halfway through his time here, Moman’s grandfather returned home, and his grandmother came to Wolfson. His grandfather repeatedly told me, and other volunteers, how thankful he was for Shevet Achim and the staff at Wolfson. He spoke so highly of Shevet and said he would tell everyone back in Gaza about the work we do. So not only was I able to see a precious life restored and heart healed, but I was able to see many cultures and nationalities come together. God is always working and always healing. It is amazing when we are able to witness this and go along for the adventure.
Yusef and I went to the Gaza Border expecting to collect up to 10 children, so the first five were taken by taxi. Subsequently, we arrived to take any that were left. However, a number either did not come or were not permitted to pass, and we had nobody to transport, apart from a family of three we were taking to hospital who came from Hebron.
On arriving at Wolfson Hospital, we found a sixth child who had been brought by a private taxi, so there were six children, each with an adult. Four of the children were admitted today, and Yusef and I returned the remaining two to the Gaza Border on our way back to Shevet Achim.
Nabil was admitted for a catheterization.
Judy was admitted today for surgery next week, as it was explained to us that she was too unwell to go home.
Mohammed received his check up, and he will return in due course for further follow up.
Yhia arrived by his guardian's means, received his check up, and we returned them to the border at the end of the day.
Ahmed was admitted today for a catheterization tomorrow, hopefully to return home on Thursday.
Doha was also admitted today for a catheterization tomorrow. She will also hopefully to return home on Thursday.
Moman is out of secondary ICU and on the regular children's ward with his grandmother at his side.
Ibrahim is a little baby, whom I found on Sunday on the ward, having been rushed to Wolfson by ambulance about 20 days before. I had not tracked him down beforehand as he had been in ICU all the time. He has had his surgery, but he has coagulation problems: he had a thrombosis in his leg which is still being treated.
Mohammed R., who I was unable to get a picture of, is still in ICU, and it was hoped that he might be extubated today following his treatment for infections. He has still to be operated on. His dad had to return home, and another relative is yet to come to be at his side.
Once again, this was a very busy day, especially for the doctors and staff at Wolfson Hospital, with 10 children arriving for check-ups. I made 2 trips to the Gaza border to collect 5 families, and during the time I was on the road, a taxi had brought another 5 families to Wolfson, and returned some of them. So, sadly, there were children whom I did not meet this week, and therefore could not photograph. Nevertheless, here is a pen and photo picture of the day's events:
Ali seemed to be a shy little 5 year old boy, and he has been invited to return again for follow up in a year.
Marwan came with me in the van on my first run, and he will return on 6 January 2015.
Jalal also was on our first run, and he will be admitted for catheterization on 3 March
Remas is a sweet little girl of 3 who was delightful and patient, and who slept when there was little action. She will return for another follow up in a year.
Jana is an adorable little 2 year old girl who loved to hold my hand, be hugged, and to give me a wafer biscuit. Bless her, she became very tired, and then slept so peacefully. She, too, will return for another follow up in a year
Ali arrived by taxi, and I managed to photograph him before he left, despite his reluctance to be photographed! He will be invited for surgery on 3 March 2015.
Alia is a little boy whom I photographed in the clinic
I didn't get to meet Yhia, but he will return for follow up in 6 months
Alaa was another child whom I missed, and he will return for follow up in a year.
Moman and Mohammed:
Whilst at Wolfson, I visited ICU to track down Moman and Mohammed, only to discover that Moman had been transferred to Intermediate ICU, where I found him, and his picture is here. He is doing well without his breathing tube, but he still needs oxygen.
As for Mohammed, ICU confirmed his situation is the same, but I wasn't able to get a photograph this time.
Kyle, Mart and I went to Wolfson hospital this morning to visit Abu Mohammed and Moman's grandfather. Initial reports from Moman's grandfather were mixed: that Mohammed had had a bad night, but Moman had been extubated (his breathing tube removed), and appeared to be doing well.
However, it took three attempts and a wait of one and a half hours for him to be admitted to ICU, where I was informed that both babies were unstable, and during the afternoon Moman was surrounded by medical personnel who were re-intubating him to begin respiratory assistance again. I was not permitted to photograph Moman, neither could we approach Mohammed, who we were informed was fighting another infection. However, I did get a photo of him from a distance.
As we returned to Shevet later in the day, we were praying for these precious little babies; and we would greatly appreciate your prayers in support as well.
Today we did not have our usual Gaza Run, as the doctors at Wolfson Hospital were attending an instructional course. Nevertheless, Mart (a recent volunteer from Holland), Yousef and I travelled to the Gaza Border with a sick lady who was scheduled to enter Gaza to visit her family there. It was our great pleasure to be able to lift this dear Lady to our Heavenly Father in prayer, and to ask Jesus to bring healing to her. Just as we were about to leave to return to Shevet Achim, we received a call that little Momen was to undergo his surgery this afternoon, and we drove to Wolfson instead.
Momen was taken down for surgery at 1:30 pm, and we waited with his grandfather (Salim) until Momen had been wheeled into the ICU after his surgery at 5:25 pm. I asked one of the doctors about his condition, and they confirmed he was ok and stable. It would be almost an hour before anyone would be allowed into the ICU to see little Momen, so we left for Shevet. Subsequently, Jonathan phoned Salim, who was delighted to have his little grandson back from Surgery, reporting that the doctors hoped to take him off assisted breathing tomorrow.
Momen's grandfather is a lovely and interesting Bedouin man with 6 children and 24 grandchildren. They all live together, along with his brothers, in central Gaza where they grow fruit on their land. He is an educated man who speaks and understands a little English, which was such a blessing.
Whilst waiting with Salim, we met Abu Mohammed Shazal from Gaza. He had been rushed to Wolfson Hospital by ambulance last Thursday with his little one-day-old baby, Mohammed. We were informed that little Mohammed is being treated with antibiotics for an infection, and will then receive his surgery. He is currently in the ICU.
Tuesday was a busy day at Shevet; Jesus had a lot to do through us. Our first run to Gaza’s norther Erez border was a quick turnaround: we collected baby Yazan, a 5-year-old girl named Nesmah, and a 6-year-old boy named Said, and took them to Wolfson Hospital for echocardiograms and assessments.
After delivering them we were quickly under way again heading for the Gaza border a second time to collect a sister and brother: Doha aged 6, and Abd aged 4, whom we also took to Wolfson for their assessments.
Meanwhile, the second van met an ambulance at the border that had rushed a little baby named Momen to the border, who was in a very serious condition and required oxygen. Our van, with Ruth and Kyle onboard, collected him and then rushed him to Wolfson.
On the way to the hospital, Momen's condition worsened, and by the time he arrived at Wolfson he was in critical need of help. It was a tense few minutes as doctors and nursed rushed through the halls to get him the care that he needed. We left the hospital not knowing whether he was stable or not.
At the end of the day, the five children whom we took to Wolfson all returned to the Gaza border, together with a dear little 5-year-old girl whom we had taken to Wolfson from the border on Sunday for her catheterization; she was discharged on Tuesday. Additionally, our Arin from Iraq, who had been in the hospital overnight, was also discharged. There were potentially too many children for the two vans and the car to transport; that is, until the hospital decided to admit Inas, which released enough seats for all children and families to be transported. Our van took Yazan, Nesmah, and Saed back to Gaza border, Ruth's van returned Doha, Abd, and Hyatt to the Gaza border, and Jesse in the car returned Arin to Shevet.
The reports we received from the hospital were that, sadly, there is nothing that can be done for baby Yazan. Surgery will not make a difference, however medications were prescribed to help. Nesmah needs a catheterization and will be invited to the hospital in due course. Finally, Saed is doing well and will return for another assessment in a year’s time.
It was a wonderfully tiring and satisfying day to see just how much Father God did with a few helpers and all the vehicles at our disposal; we praise Him!
Two volunteers, Ruth & Nick, had the opportunity to visit Momen in the ICU today, and he was stable! Praise God! His grandfather was nervously sitting outside the ER entrance surrounded by bags and other belongings. He seemed calm, but at the same time concerned for his lovely grandson. Please shower these two with prayer in the upcoming days, as Momen is tenatively scheduled for surgery early next week.