Jesse and I went to Wolfson Hospital in Tel Aviv this afternoon to take Abu Ahmad to see his little baby who is in the Intermediary ICU. Whilst waiting outside the main ICU, I was blessed to meet two young children from Gaza:
Romicer is a little, 20-day-old baby who has spent 13 days in the hospital.
Her heart surgery was last week, and Dr. Houri said she is doing good. It was a complex surgery, but they have closed her chest today and hope to extubate her tomorrow. Romicer is in the care of an elderly lady who appears to be her grandma and who is devoted to her little charge. I have often seen her very close to ICU.
Fajar has been brought to hospital by her dad, and they have been here for a week. Her heart surgery will be tomorrow.
We picked up little 2 year-old Hala from Gaza's northern border this morning. With a ceasefire which came into effect lately, there were no rockets fired or Iron Dome interceptors going up in the sky. We pulled up near the waiting area in the parking lot and waited for Hala to traverse the many border checkpoints. Her mother and I made eye contact and I waved them over. With us already was another family from Bethlehem, but we easily made room for everybody in the van. Hala did not react well when I tried to strap her in, so I let her mother strap her into the carseat and we set off.
At the hospital we picked flowers while waiting outside the entrance gate. When we had permission to enter, we immediately headed up to the echo department. A video team from Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), our Israeli partner organization, and some reporters from the Times of Israel, were visiting the hospital and conducting interviews. Hala and her mother got to speak with them while they waited their turn for an echo. She is the first case to come from Gaza in quite some time, so she was able to speak about recent events from the region.
Her follow-up echo, the first since her recent surgery, went well and the doctor took a little extra time with her even though there were others waiting. Her previous condition included Tetralogy of Fallot - four major defects in the heart. Hala fell asleep outside as we waited for the reports to be finished. Soon we were headed back towards Gaza, thankful that the skies were clear. Each bright new day is a gift from God, especially for children who have heart defects like Hala once did.
Today we were not able to pick up any families from Gaza to take to the hospital because as of last week, Northern Gaza is an active war zone. Yousef did however receive a call for help from a family from Hebron. They needed to get to Wolfson hospital for a catheterization for their daughter Ofnan.
During our morning meeting we were still getting particulars of their plans, and afterward we found that they had come to Jerusalem and then left after not being able to go further. Yousef arranged for us to meet them at the Bethlehem border and we set out. They were waiting just outside the exit and we were soon on our way. We also had one of our Kurdish patients, Masa, going to the hospital as well. Her and Ofnan became playmates we traveled. Ofnan had to wait for Masa to be admitted for her turn to come, and we took a few pictures in the meantime.
Taking the time for each person in our care is an important part of the work and it was good to see Ofnan finally reach the hospital after a full day. Ofnan was successfully admitted for her catheterization; let it be our prayer that the Lord would keep her and strengthen her family in the wake of her operation.
Today the Gaza clinic was held, despite ever-escalating tensions between Gaza and Israel in the past week. The rocket barrage has been nearly nonstop, with sirens even sounding multiple days as far away as Jerusalem. Today’s drive to the northern border of the Gaza Strip included extra checkpoints, rocket trails, and distant booms to spare. Despite the earthly obstacles, the Lord proved a faithful protector, and allowed us to bring two families to Wolfson Hospital for follow-up echoes. Little Noaman arrived to an echo ward jammed with camera crews and reporters.
With all the recent rocket activity, new attention is being shown to organizations and hospitals that continue to treat patients from Gaza. He also sat patiently as his mother was interviewed with many cameras and microphones crammed in her their faces. Also with us, and luckily avoiding much of the media attention, Sa’ad, who is much older, patiently endured his echo with the composure of a weathered echo veteran. His composure was consistent through the many checkpoints and distant booms between the hospital and the border.
At the end of the clinic, we also gave a ride back to Gaza to a family who had been discharged. And, as if a final demonstration of the protection our Lord had bestowed us, we heard the sirens in the city of Ashqelon, due north of Gaza, but only felt a slight rumble of the explosion in the distance. Praise God we made the journey safely and for opening the borders for these His beloved children to receive healing.
This week’s Gaza clinic saw four children come out of the Erez border. All were follow-ups; one was getting ready for a further surgery; and one was being fitted for a prosthetic foot. As we left the border after picking up the families, a few rockets from Gaza were fired. The crack as they took off was heard and felt. When I looked for them, all I could see were the smoke trails heading up into the sky. Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense is said to take down over 80% of them.
Driving up the coast to Tel Aviv, we had our own war with one little boy screaming most of the way. This was one-and-a-half year old Osaid coming with his grandfather. They were separated in the van, and that was the hard part for him. Eventually he fell asleep. Outside the hospital we had a long wait for clearance to enter and played with the flowering hedge nearby. Osaid got a flower for his ear as his grandfather smiled. We walked up to the echo department together. He had a good echo, and the doctor’s were pleased to say that he is doing well and on the road to health. His progress is on schedule.
Also with us was two-and-a-half year old Bana. She is cute girl, though her hair is cut short at the moment. She had a VSD and is being checked for a smooth recovery. We’re glad to report that she also is doing well and on schedule in her post-surgery development.
Next was the almost three-year-old Rimas, who came in a pink and white frilly dress with an amazingly bright gold waist-band. She smiled cheerfully and enjoyed playing with us volunteers. She is in line for a third surgery soon but is being scheduled for a catheterization first. Here first surgery was about two years ago. With a number of heart defects, plus other issues, her restoration will take time. With today’s echo, the doctors have a better idea of the timetable possible for procedures and hope to move forward soon.
Finally, four-and- a-half-year-old Mariwan was back for an echo as well as a special project! We have followed Mariwan’s story through a few blogs now and continue to keep him in our prayers. After checking out with the main doctors, we went with him to have his leg fitted for a prosthetic foot. Currently he is getting very good at walking around on his knees or hopping on his one foot. The Israeli doctor doing this project set up all his supplies and then set to work. First, he drew a perimeter of Mariwan’s good foot just like children do of their hands on a piece of paper for fun. White pantyhose went on his limb that was to be molded. Then we watched as the doctor wound a plastered mesh around and around from above Mariwan's knee down to where his calf came to an end. This was wet and gooey and elicited many giggles from our patient. Mariwan loved it! Smearing the plaster around, the doctor created an even coating. Then he pressed his two thumbs into the quick-drying plaster just below the knee cap with the leg slightly bent. He held them there for a few minutes as the plaster set and was soon trying to remove the initial cast. The pantyhose helped the whole piece come off easier, but he still had to yank on it for a few moments before it suddenly popped off! With this mold, he said he will have a prosthetic made within three days, at which time Mariwan can return for fittings and adjustments. Being a part of this project with Mariwan was a joy as we look forward to his being able to walk. His mother as well was glad to hear that it would be ready soon.
At the end of the day, we headed back to Gaza with our crew and saw them off, this time not hearing any rocket fire.
Please pray for Yasmin as she coming in the near future for a cath at Wolfson hospital.
Last week, we didn't get to go to the Gaza clinic because it was the Jewish feast of Shavuot, so today Philip and I were really excited to meet the precious children from Gaza.
We had four children today: Talia and Jana, both one year old, and Imad and Hadeel, both sixteen years old. All of these children came for follow ups, and they got very good results.
Jana is doing good, but she has to come to Israel after a year for another follow-up.
Talia is really doing well, and she doesn't have to come to Israel again. She can just be followed up on in Gaza.
Imad is doing well, but he needs another cath or surgery. They will decide whether it will be a surgery or a cath in about four months.
Hadeel comes regularly, every six months, because she has a pacemaker. She is doing really well also.
One of the doctors from Gaza, Bashir Abu Jarad, had an opportunity to come and see how the clinic is run at Wolfson. He was so happy and amazed by all that is being done, as well as very encouraged.
All of the families returned home happy. We continue hoping that more children from Gaza will be able to come and be treated in Israel.
Philip and I had the unique opportunity this last week to travel to Gaza for an overnight trip of visiting families we’ve had the privilege to serve in the past. As we prepared to leave, we were happy to receive permission to cross the border and excited about the upcoming journey.
Philip was especially eager as this was his first time in Gaza.
We were blessed with the chance to visit three families during our time in the Gaza Strip. Our first call was on the family of Rosy, a small child who once came by ambulance to Israel for a difficult heart surgery.
Her past operation was successful, thank God, but the mother informed us during our visit that Rosy may need another surgery when she turns fourteen. Until then, she will be traveling to Wolfson for follow-ups every six months.
In addition to this potential surgery and the follow-ups, Rosy may have a problem with her metabolic system which is negatively affecting her growth. Her parents are doing their best to find the right doctors to help their child through this next challenge.
We had a blessed time with the family and were able to meet Rosy’s aunts and uncles. Over a large lunch together, closer relationships were built, and we praise God for our time with this precious child and her family.
Our next stopover was with Leen’s family. Leen was a former patient who passed away after her heart surgery three months ago. The primary purpose of our visit during this trip was to comfort and support the parents, who were closely connected with their daughter. The entire family has taken the loss of Leen with much difficulty, but God has seen fit to bless them with a new, healthy baby girl named Mariam.
Despite their tragic loss of Leen, the family has been uplifted by Mariam’s arrival and is doing much better. We stayed overnight with Leen’s family and were able to meet grandparents and an aunt. After a full visit, we headed out the next morning for our third and final appointment.
This visit was to the family of Zahra, a two-and-a-half year old who had surgery in Israel two years ago when she was just an infant. When her mother first came to Israel, her hopes of Zahra emerging from surgery with a clean bill of health were low. But God has been at work with Zahra. Her mother states God has accomplished a miracle through Zahra’s surgery and given Zahra new life. As we witnessed during our time with the family, Zahra is an active child able to talk and play with no problems whatsoever.
We had quite a bit of fun with the family at the beach.
Philip especially enjoyed his time with Zahra and her sister.
The younger sister’s name is Fajer, and she was recently discovered to have a heart defect. She has traveled to Israel for a medical check-up and is currently waiting for a chance to come to Wolfson Hospital for her heart surgery.
All three families we visited treated us with such hospitality, and we had an excellent time reuniting with old friends and reaching out to them with the Lord’s love. These three families are a drop in the bucket, however, compared to the numerous children and families we have assisted over the years. We hope to travel into the Gaza Strip again in the near future to visit more families, provide support for them, and continue to build on previously-established relationships, but for now we praise God for blessing and providing direction for our time in Gaza.
Today's Gaza clinic was one of the smallest clinics in Shevet's history. Only one family received permission to travel, meaning we had a much more peaceful day today than we normally do. Lately it has been difficult for the families to receive permissions, and we would appreciate your prayers for the families to be able to come in large numbers.
Though we only had one family to pick up at the Gaza border this morning, we were more than happy to see our little friend Barra.
He underwent a heart surgery one year ago and has since been coming to Wolfson for follow-ups. In addition to his visit today, we have had plenty of other opportunities to connect with this little boy and his family, as we have been assisting in his cleft palate treatment in Haifa. Every time we see him, he has grown bigger and bigger, and today was not an exception.
The medical team at Wolfson Medical Center was satisfied with his condition and has scheduled him for a follow-up in six months’ time. They also tested his pacemaker with good results. His mother was happy for the good news. She was also quite hospitable during our visit, offering us coffee and homemade sweets.
We also had another family from the West Bank join us today for the Wolfson clinic. Adorable Taala was invited for a follow-up almost one year after her surgery.
During her previous stay at the hospital, we started to build a relationship with her and her parents and have since had several opportunities to help with transporting them to and from the hospital. Taala is doing great, and just like Barra she also had a pacemaker implanted in her heart. She is a shy girl and difficult to reach, but by the end of the day she was asking us to take pictures with her. We were glad to participate!
We give thanks to God for an impactful day at the hospital and for a good time of fellowship with our friends.
Today I traveled with Aad to pick up our Gaza children from the border and take them to Wolfson Hospital for examinations. Thank God all of the children we invited to come received permission to cross the border into Israel.
Three kids were with us at the hospital today. Faisal (seven years old) came for follow-ups after his prior catheterization and CT scan.
Mousa (a cute two-and-a-half year-old boy) came for a re-evaluation.
The third child joining us was Nour, an active two-year-old needing an evaluation.
We were so happy to drive them to Wolfson, and we had fun in the van chatting and listening to music. Upon reaching the hospital, we had a chance to meet the Israeli doctors along with other families from the West Bank also at Wolfson for the heart clinic. The children played together and enjoyed each other’s company.
By the end of the day, we got results from the three children’s exams. Faisal needs a surgery, but the doctors must meet before taking action and discuss his case due to its complicated nature. Mousa needs a catheterization, but not urgently so. He will come to Wolfson again for a follow-up next year in order for the doctors to examine his heart and decide when they can do the catheterization. Little Nour has a ventricular septal defect (a hole between the right and left ventricles of her heart), and she will be invited in the near future for surgery.
All the children slept in the van on the way back home to Gaza. Please keep them in your prayers and pray especially for wisdom for the Wolfson doctors as they decide how to proceed with Faisal's surgery.