Gaza Children's Heart Surgery

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Healing Graces

Posted on Sun, 10/11/2015 - 22:07 by Jesse Tilman

In the middle of this morning, as some of us volunteers stood with a Kurdish mother while her child was in surgery, the word came that Dalia – a child from Gaza – was ready to make the trip from Erez border to Wolfson Hospital. She would be admitted for a catheterization tomorrow. 

At the border, they were ready and waiting, and we soon were situated and traveling north to Tel Aviv. The family enjoyed some Arabic radio and then listened when I put on a Fadia Bazi Christian Arabic CD. 

Getting into Wolfson hospital was a process, as we waited at the gate for their approval and then brought them to the doors. At which point, I left to park the car, and Rebekah came to escort them to the ward.

Thank God for His care in bringing them for healing. May they find grace and strength for the next few days.

Also, while we were at the hospital, we were able to be a part of Samir's surgery. He came up with us last Tuesday in the Gaza Clinic and stayed at the hospital. Today, he was the second surgery after Lanya had hers this morning. I believe it was Samir's aunt who came with him, and she took good care of him. She was very teary-eyed through the operation time. It's good to see people in their situation getting quality medical care where it is needed most. 

Here is a picture of Samir from last week:

The Gaza Thread in God's Tapestry

Posted on Thu, 10/08/2015 - 20:28 by Sheeba Cherian

Our travel to Erez Crossing, the border of Gaza, was to bring back four children and their parents for an echocardiogram.

The Cornerstonians (from Americus, Georgia) with the families from Gaza waiting for clearance at Wolfson Hospital. 

Mahmud loved being photographed; Samir exhausted from the travel.

The grandmother of Jamal, the four-month-old, could speak a few words in English, enabling us to communicate with each other. She also became the language bridge for Mahmud's mom and myself. Jamal held on to my finger as he took a nap, while Mahmud jabbered away in Arabic. He was mostly excited to say my name, which he learned quickly.

Mahmud enjoying the play area at Wolfson Hospital.

Our other form of bonding happened through technology; we flipped through pictures on my phone and video-called with my children in Georgia while in the waiting room at the Wolfson Hospital. Dareen, a preteen, was returning for a follow-up after a surgery four years ago; she created artwork for Leo and played tic-tac-toe. Samir joined her, his little 3-year-old self attempting to get a hang of the game.

Leo and Dareen

Mahmud sitting still briefly with Jesse 

Artwork Fun

Jamal's grandmother, although overwhelmed at Jamal's difficulty in breathing, was comforted by the fact that he would receive great treatment at the hospital. He had to be hospitalized after the echo was done. Samir will have a pacemaker surgery done this Sunday. Intercession on behalf of these two precious children and their family would encourage them as they journey through this season of hospitalization and treatment.

Jamal before the echocardiogram

The threads of the tapestry woven by God granted that our lives would connect in order to transfer His love into their lives, opening a door for their eventual understanding of Messiah. Pray for an eternal impact in each one, as they are uniquely crafted by our Father with a plan to utilize their personalities and change their worlds.

His Grace is Enough

Posted on Mon, 09/21/2015 - 19:52 by Jesse Tilman

Ahmed had recovered enough from his surgery to be discharged today. He was our "emergency baby" just a few weeks ago but now he is looking cool, comfy, and calm in his plush baby clothes. He barely woke up to look at us the whole day!

His grandmother was glad to see us begin the preparations for her to travel. While a doctor was writing Ahmed's discharge report, we went to visit other families in the hospital. When we returned she had everything packed in several plastic bags.

When everything was finalized, we began taking everything out for loading and met a new benefactor at the door. An older Palestinian couple were distributing food bags and a little money to each family in the care of Save a Child's Heart. Since we partner with this Israeli organization, we were included! While our Kurdish families will have to wait until Thursday, Ahmed and his grandmother received theirs today as they were leaving for Gaza.

Thank God for His grace in Ahmed's life! We were blessed to be a part of His care for Ahmed's life today.

A Warm Welcome

Posted on Thu, 09/03/2015 - 21:00 by Maureen Grimshaw

Baby Ahmed arrived at the emergency entrance of Wolfson hospital in an incubator carried by an ambulance service after 6 p.m. He was accompanied by his grandmother.            

Ahmed is only 8 days old and was transferred from the Mubarak Children's Hospital in the southern Gaza Strip.  When he was born,  the doctors noticed his color and soon discovered he had a heart problem. After confirming it through a CT scan and seeing he had a coarctation of the aorta, they began to make enquiries to see if it was possible for him to be brought to Israel for surgery.

In the ICU, Ahmed was put in a special incubator and the staff began attending to him immediately. As we looked on at a distance, his  grandmother was able to pass on information to the medical staff through a translator. Once this was completed we were asked to sit outside for a while. Although it was difficult for the grandmother to accept this, we assured her that it was less stressful for her if she did not watch everything that needed to be done.

Outside the ICU, I was able to introduce her to Baran's mother who quickly came to help after she heard that there was a small baby close to Baran. They soon engaged in conversation, which enabled us to give assurance and support.  Arrangements were made for the parents to sign consent forms for surgery and lines of communication were established for further communication between doctors.   We took her to the ward to meet with the other parents who welcomed her warmly and she soon sat down among them sharing and drinking tea.

No further information was able to be obtained but I was able to leave the grandmother in good hands while the doctors and nurses continued to work on Ahmed.

We look forward to receiving further information about the surgery and his development.

A Busy Day

Posted on Tue, 09/01/2015 - 23:33 by Jesse Tilman

The day dawned beautifully this Tuesday and Yousif and I set out soon afterward to take care of our Gaza patients coming this week. We planned to send some by taxi and then deliver the rest in our van.

Arriving to the border, we soon connected with several families and only waited a little while to reach a quota to send them north to the hospital by taxi service. Six went this way.
Mohamad quietly waited through the day and was welcoming whenever I came to talk with him. He enjoyed looking through pictures of previous children.
Rasmieha came with her grandfather, I believe, and did well in her follow-up echo. She has had a surgery before by a team of German doctors that came. The best picture I got of her is here being picked up. Besides her heart condition, she has a small growth on her right eyelid.
Mohammad came with his father and had fun sitting on the table waiting for his follow-up echo, as you can see in the previous photo.
Sara came with her mother and slept much of the time. Here she is drinking from a bottle.
Ahmad is an energetic young guy. I first met him as he was coming out from under a chair. He then proceeded to keep up the momentum through the day and around the department. His mother had a happy handful! 
Teenager Sali came for an echo as well and I didn't expressly get a picture of her, not recognizing her as a patient at first. Here's a side photo though.
Faisal is an 8 year old that came with us in the van after a wait for our special last passenger. Faisal was mostly timid and rarely came out with some play.
Our last patient was Zahraa and her father that we have gotten to know previously. It was a big joy to see them and get to talk. Yousif has a bond with them and they were glad to see each other again. Zahraa is a bundle of play and was all over the rooms and toys. She found a new friend in a cuddly teddy bear in the echo room and patiently fidgeted through the procedure. 
Three of our patients were admitted for the night: Faisal, Ahmed, and Sali. Two for surgeries the next day and one for a catheter. Poor Faisal didn't like it, but it was okay with his mother.
Thank you for taking the time to get to know these children. As our neighbors in Gaza see a hand of friendship and help extended, they are very grateful and it makes a lasting impression. We thank God for His love to share with others.

Asalah's Surgery Postponed

Posted on Mon, 08/31/2015 - 19:34 by Jesse Tilman

Asalah from Bethlehem came back with us to the hospital for possible admission for surgery tomorrow as per the doctors' request to see her at the end of August. Her parents are quiet and glad for the help.

They also help out however they can throughout the time the spend with us. We drove to the hospital in two vans, and they split up to accommodate the other passengers. 

At the hospital, we were wondering about Asalah because she has a small fever, and this makes surgery more risky. The doctors have to see what condition the patient is in before they decide whether it is wise to go ahead with the surgery. After screening Asalah, they decided not to do the surgery at this time. The fact that she lives nearby (not in northern Iraq!) also makes her case easier to work with, since she can come back to the hospital later easily. 

Once her admission for surgery was postponed, the doctors did go ahead with a blood test and some other checks though. These went quickly, and soon we were ready to help this kind family back to their home. Asalah trounced to the van with her wafting hair ties flopping up and down. May God continue to make peace grow between neighbors here in His Land.

Barra's World

Posted on Mon, 08/24/2015 - 21:41 by Jesse Tilman

Seeing Barra again yesterday was a reminder of the long standing relationships we are able to keep with our patients. He is back for further work every six months or so. He has a cleft palate and, Lord willing, will have the next step in his corrective surgery today. His mother is an example of love as she takes special care of her son.

Driving them up from the Erez border of Gaza in the south to Rambam hospital in the north in Haifa is a ong ways and gives time to see the scenery, think a bit, and spend time with the patient.

For some of the trip, until Wolfson hospital in southern Tel Aviv, we had a Kurdish mother and son in the van as well and saw the two families share a few words and toys for the kids. Their different worlds met over their children's shared need of medical care. After dropping the Kurdish family off at Wolfson, we headed north, and volunteer Yousif enjoyed talking with Barra's mother about the West Bank, which we could see from the highway.

Finally, pulling into the hospital, we dropped Barra and his mother off at a side entrance and paused to get a few pictures.

Barra is mostly serious and only occasionally smiles and laughs. He's come a long way in his treatment though, and thank God, has a much better chance at life now. You can see some of his previous blogs at the dates: 5.27.14, 4.22.14, and 2.2.14 in this Gaza blog.

A Full Van and Full Hearts

Posted on Sun, 08/16/2015 - 21:57 by Jesse Tilman
Leaving for the Gaza clinic this Tuesday, Yousef and I were surprised with the news that our Kurdish Barin would be going in for admission that morning. As we readied them, the community came to say a collective farewell.
With a full van we first went to Wolfson to drop everyone off and then turned south towards Gaza. At the border we picked up just the three Gazan families that would be coming this time. By this time they were ready and waiting, so we got back on the road quickly. 
Asalah (from Bethlehem) with her parents came with us from Jerusalem. She has already had one operation, but needs another soon. Doctor Tamir invited them back at the end of the month. She kept with her parents, but was happy to be photographed.

Walid is a three-year-old child we have been following for a few years now. He's had previous procedures done at Wolfson through Shevet Achim and our community has gathered around him and his grandfather to support them through the time at the hospital. Wednesday was a check into whether or not he would be admitted for a further surgery on Thursday. His case is complicated and has been requiring step-by-step treatment. His cardiac-evaluation today was by echocardiogram. Afterward the pediatric doctors along with the head-pediatric heart-surgeon discussed his case and decided not to admit him for surgery at this time. His heart needs some more time before further action. Seeing him a few months older he seems to have changed so much. A new development has been his liking to wave. He gives a small smile and slowly moves his hand back and forth.
The above darling little girl Eman ("Faith") is in follow-up care now with echos performed regularly. At almost a year-and-a-half, she is well developed for her age. Her mother keeps her shaded with a cute sun-hat as needed. She slept some of the afternoon away after her check up and hardly minded the ride home in the car seat.
Mohammed is 13 years old and just about as tall as I am. Also post-op, he's returning only for routine checks. After learning how, he enjoyed playing thumb-wars with me and we tried out taking some "selfies". Mostly quiet, he patiently waited for his turn alongside his dad. 
Whether it's playing with kids from Gaza or transporting others from Kurdistan, it's an opportunity to get to know their worlds. God has fashioned each person and knows them intimately, even their heart conditions and where their treatments would take them. Thank God that He has let us be a part of their story of healing!

God Amongst the Weak

Posted on Sun, 07/26/2015 - 22:04 by Austin Cords

Nine families were seen for their echocardiograms and four families were admitted. What a long and rewarding day! Yousef and I started by transporting three families from the border to the hospital. Even though this went smoothly, we soon found out that there was an additional child that was processed late across the border and needed to be driven to the hospital still. This was coordinated with our other driver Jesse, who was gracious enough to transport the last child. Katar was the child and she had a routine post surgery check-up.

Katar shows her picture from before her operation

Overall the interactions with the families were fantastic. At first I was feeling fatigued and discovering I didn’t have much in the way of entertaining the kids, yet God used what I had (some paper and a few pens) to show his love. I started my interactions with one boy and soon had a girl too wanting to draw. This transitioned into me making funny sounds for them and some light-hearted sword fighting. The kids laughed and laughed. This caused one of the slightly older ones to come over and we involved ourselves in a game of slow-motion hacky-sack with a balloon.

Fun times with the children from Gaza

What came next surprised me; I found the parents keenly interested in knowing about me. Normally the language barrier is just that, a boundary that keeps even interaction attempts futile, but today it seemed that the love I was showing to their children made them want to understand me a little better. We did our best to communicate and I pray that they understand God’s love for them and their children.

Quality time with the children and their parents

At the end of the day, Yousef arranged transport for the remaining families, and one just barely made it to the transport before it left. Thank God for good timing and His provision. Yousef and I then transported the remaining two families back. Katar’s mother thanked me before we got in the car. I got a high five from the young man as well.

Even in our weakness, God can uphold us when we rely on Him. Even though four children were admitted, God is amongst them and is using this time to do His work.


A Blessed Day at the Gaza Clinic

Posted on Fri, 07/17/2015 - 14:24 by Austin Cords

It was an exciting day full of blessings. Yousef, my wife Loni and my daughter Shoshanna, and I started off the day traveling to the Erez crossing to pick up two families. It was a special moment for me because I normally travel with only one other person. Getting to minister with my entire family present doesn’t happen often, and them getting to see what I regularly do was helpful too.

We picked up the families at the Erez border. There was a young girl named Sara and an adolescent named Mohammad with their guardians. We loaded up quickly and headed to the hospital to get the examinations. During the drive to the hospital, Sara began to choke and try to throw up. This was nerve wracking as she was all the way in the back with the others and the only things I could do were drive and pray. After about 20 seconds of Sara coughing, she was able to begin breathing normally again and recover from the episode. The rest of the drive passed without incident.

Sweet little Sara

Mohammad takes a break from looking at Israel through the window

Once we arrived in the clinic both children were given the examinations straightaway. Sara, pale and weak, was soon after admitted to the hospital. Shoshanna, though more interested in exploring the hospital, made some good connections between the other kids and their parents. Sara and Shoshanna sat together and attempted to share a toy. Mohammad’s father was impressed with Shoshanna and jokingly suggested that she and Mohammad should get married someday.

Sara and "Volunteer" Shoshanna curious about each other

Sara and Shoshanna taking turns with a toy


Mohammad’s test went smoothly and pretty soon he was playing tic-tac-toe with Loni. I tried to teach him a different game, but he preferred the one he knew. With Sara being admitted and Mohammad’s test complete, we returned to the border with Mohammad and his father pretty soon after lunch.