As our Community prayed for Yusef and I, just before we set out for the Erez Border, Father reminded me of just what an awesome privilege it is to be able to help the precious Gaza children and their families.
We were expecting many families to come through the Border, so a taxi service was engaged to transport five families to Wolfson Hospital, and they had already left Erez when we arrived after 10am. There were two families waiting for us, Alaa and Ibrahim. After a short wait, Ahmad came through; so we could leave for Wolfson hospital. Upon arrival, it became necessary for me to return to Erez again to collect Kawther, a lovely 15-year-old girl, and her dad. By the time we returned to Wolfson, the first five children were on their way back to Erez, having been examined and reassessed and with recommendations for future check-ups. Unfortunately, I was not able to take any photos of these children, as I was in transit.
Kawther had been invited for admission for a CT scan on Wednesday, prior to a future surgery. However, after examination she was released to return with us back to the Gaza border, together with the other little children whom I had transported earlier, plus Simon, a short term volunteer with us from Denmark.
Whilst at Wolfson hospital, I visited Said whom we brought to the hospital last Tuesday. He was admitted for a catheterization to discover the state of his heart, as he was very unwell. After admission it was discovered he has a serious infection, and he has been receiving treatment for this throughout the week in an isolation ward. I have been so blessed to visit him several times during the week, and I am delighted to add a photo of him taken during the week. His picture is of him sound asleep! Although he is still on oxygen through a mask, I understand from a young Israeli lady, who is ministering to the children at the hospital, that Said was much improved yesterday and was playing with her in a waiting room quite some distance from his hospital bed. However, he was not as bright today. I remain very concerned for this lovely boy.
Yousef and I left earlier than usual Tuesday, therefore arriving at the Gaza border in good time, where three families were waiting for us to take them to Wolfson Hospital in Tel Aviv: Mahmad, Misk, and Said.
Mahmad is a quiet young man of 15 years. Similarly, Misk, a lovely little girl of five years, was also very quiet. They will return for further follow-up check ups in the future.
Said's grandma said only one word in English: oxygen. He was wrapped up in many layers, as can be seen from his first photo, and he seemed to have a little difficulty in breathing, often coughing; and subsequently he had difficulty swallowing food during his lunch time. He looked to be struggling, so I kept a very watchful eye on him. Happily, he often fell asleep on the journey, when his breathing seemed easier, and his cough ceased. After his echo, it was decided he needed to be admitted to the children's ward for catheterization, to see the extent of his heart problems.
Last week, a charming young man named Mohammed was admitted for catheterization, and he was discharged today.
Kristina visited Wolfson at the same time we were there, to bring Hemn in for surgery tomorrow, and she was able to help us transport three families back to the Border, whilst Yousef and I brought a family of three back to Jerusalem, to help them on their return journey following an appointment for their son (and grandson) at the hospital.
Last Tuesday, the 3rd, amongst those we took to Wolfson Hospital from the Erez border, were three who were admitted for caths: Mohammed, Salah, and Ibrahim.
Mohammed was discharged on the 4th and taken to the border by Jesse; Salah was discharged on the 5th and returned to Erez border by Mart and me [photo below], and Ibrahim was discharged today and returned to the border by a taxi [photo also below]. Ibrahim, bless him, was in much discomfort from his cath wound, and found walking a challenge, but despite this, he was often smiling.
Today's list of possible children coming through the border amounted to about 12 children, and this week we only have one van: so we can only transport three children. But, thanks to a taxi service, which took five children, we were able to take the remaining three children. However, at 2pm, a ninth child arrived at Wolfson hospital. As usual we were challenged over how we could return so many children, but as always, Father God has the solution: one was admitted for a cath: lovely Nesmah; and Ruth and Lindsay were able to take one child, leaving five for the taxi, and three for Yousef and I in the van.
All children will return for further follow-up appointments in the future, some will be invited for cath and/or surgery. Doctor Alona explained that Sara would be invited to come in soon. Pictures of the nine children are below:
What a wonderfully busy and privileged day to be able to help the precious little children from Gaza.
Mart and I, driving a van each, with Yousef and Dafee, arrived at Gaza’s northern border about the same time, and we each took three families Wolfson Hospital for check-ups. In addition to these three families, two others arrived by taxi, and very much later in the day a ninth family arrived by private taxi.
Three children were admitted for catheterization:
It was so good to be able to take two of them to the children's ward and introduce them to the nurses there.
Six children remained to return to the border; Mart and Yousef left with Hazem, Wael, and Deema. [pictured below respectively]
Deema is such a lovely 12-year-old girl; she was showing us her schoolbooks, practicing her English with us, and encouraging us to try to speak a little Arabic with her, bless her.
Dafee and I needed to wait until 4:30 p.m. for a doctor's report for one child. Just as we were about to leave, we were called back to assist an extremely late arrival at hospital get back to the Erez border before it closed for the night. This little girl, Ritaj, and her mum had not been cleared through the border until 1:30 p.m. and had eventually arranged for a private taxi to take them to hospital, but they did not arrive until 4:30 p.m.
Wonderfully, the doctors examined Ritaj quickly, and we were under way about 5:15 p.m., arriving at Erez border with even a little time to spare! I noticed that Ritaj's surname was the same as a little girl named Mariam from Gaza who had been reported on during the last war as having been severely injured with shrapnel whilst at home with her mum. It was also reported that a neuro-surgeon in Gaza had operated on her head at that time, but there had been no further news on the internet. So I asked Fatma (a colleague from Save a Child's Heart) whether she would mind asking Ritaj's mum if she was related to Mariam. I wonder if you can imagine my delight at her response that Mariam is a cousin of her husband! I asked more questions, and it seems that Mariam is oday despite having already had four surgeries, and suffering with paralysis in her right arm and right leg. I shall continue to pray for the restoration of this precious little one, and I wonder if you might like to join me in prayer also. Bless you.
While at Wolfson, we also visited Marwan, also from Gaza, who is undergoing physiotherapy to help him with his prosthetic leg.
However, there has been some chafe, and adjustments are being made to his prosthetic; so he remains in hospital for the time being.
Our co-workers Mart and Yousef undertook the Gaza run this week, leaving fairly early for the Gaza’s Erez crossing, together with a child and mum from Jerusalem who was bound for Wolfson hospital.
About an hour and a half earlier Ruth, Sarah and I set off for Wolfson hospital with Duaa to have her ear re-examined, and Arweh the little Syrian baby who arrived here last night for his initial examinations after arriving just last night. We were expecting about six children this week, so I drove to Gaza to meet the other van to assist with transportation.
When I arrived at the border, I found three children and their escorts waiting, and within a few minutes Mart had arrived and it was decided I would take Ayat, Kamar, and Marwan to Wolfson. (pictured below respectively)
Mart and Yusef waited for more children to emerge from the border, but they never located them because a kindly-intentioned man took three children to Wolfson without our prior knowledge. Those children were: Dea, Sa'ed and Nesan (pictured below respectively); and as it happened, we were rescued by the kind person, as Mart only had space in his van for two children!
About 3:30 p.m., I set off for Erez border again carrying Ayat, Dea and Nesan on their journey homewards, following their check-ups.
Subsequently, Mart and Yusef took Kamar and Sa'ed back to Erez, plus the Jerusalem child and mother back to Jerusalem.
After my second trip to Erez, I returned to Wolfson where Ruth took over driving, bringing Duaa back to Shevet.
Arweh and Marwan were admitted today; the former for examinations, and the latter for physiotherapy to continue learning how to use his new prosthetic. The other Gaza children arrived for check-ups, and will return for more check-up appointments in the future.
For me today was very special. The first surprise was that I would be able to meet and help the dear little Gaza children. The second surprise was that one of those children was Dea whom I met over 4 years ago when he was a tiny struggling baby of about 5 months when he came to Wolfson, having two surgeries and staying for over two months. During that time I met him and his anxious mum many times, and it was such a blessing and a joy to meet him again, unrecognisable to me, as he is now a big strong, and adorable little boy.
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.