Gaza Children's Heart Surgery

Gaza Children

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Hope and Progress

Posted on Tue, 12/01/2015 - 20:53 by Alexa Bigl

Sweet Karam, the baby from Gaza, has now been admitted as a patient at Wolfson for 51 days. He was in the ICU for 49 of those days, but we thank God he was transferred to the children’s ward two days ago!

His mother is amazingly strong and never seems to loose patience with Karam. Mother and son look remarkably alike, and it was wonderful to spend time with both today. Karam happily slept and smiled in my arms while his mother was able to take some time for herself.

We also got to see progress today as the nurses removed Karam’s nasal-gastric feeding tube. Karam has been uninterested in drinking from his bottle, but the doctors are hopeful this is due to his throat being irritated from that NG tube. Karam is now strong enough to test this theory. The tube has been removed, and we are praying this allows Karam’s interest in getting his nutrients orally to be peaked. If the NG tube can stay removed, the next steps towards Karam’s recovery will be medication weaning. Some medications he is currently taking can only be given while admitted to a hospital, so weaning Karam off these medications is vital to his discharge.

His mother is a huge encouragement to both our Kurdish mothers and other Gaza families currently at the hospital. What a blessing! God is so faithful, and we can see this in both Karam’s progress and the role of encouragement and helpfulness his mother is filling at Wolfson.


Yesterday, Khalil from Gaza was urgently taken to Wolfson by our faithful coworker, Suhail. The intensive care unit currently has him stabilized and his surgery is waiting to be scheduled. One of the ICU doctors took time to show me Khalil’s heart CT. The blood vessel stemming out from his heart to provide blood to his body below the level of the heart is extremely narrow. Due to this, Khalil’s surgery will be very complicated, and the cardiologists and surgeons will need to carefully decide what type of repair can best help Khalil lead a full life.  

Judy is Admitted for Surgery

Posted on Tue, 11/24/2015 - 21:07 by Annie Magnusson

Judy is an adorable one-year-old girl who we picked up together with her aunt at the Gaza border and brought them to the hospital. There they were introduced to the other families from Gaza who are currently staying at the hospital. The doctors needed to do some tests before her open-heart surgery tomorrow, including an echo. She has had one heart surgery before, so this will be her second one. Judy is a lively and happy little girl, and she didn't respond as expected to the sedative that was supposed to make her fall asleep before the echo. She refused to be still and restlet alone sleep. Stubbornly, she kept playing even though she was so tired she could hardly stand on her legs.

When the doctors came the first time to see if she was asleep yet, she was still walking around the little playhouse. Finally she reluctantly fell asleep, and they could perform the echo.

There were two Gaza kids who were going home today, sixteen-year-old Mohammad who you might have read about before on this blog, and a girl named Dalia.

Dalia, Mohammed, Roula, and Karam

Posted on Sun, 11/22/2015 - 20:57 by Jesse Tilman

Ruth and I headed down to Gaza today to pick up Dalia. Her mother didn't come this time. Instead, her aunt had come. Dalia was shy and hid behind her aunt who seemed extra outgoing to compensate. Dalia had been to Wolfson a month earlier for an echo and catheterization, but it hadn't taken place. Now, she is scheduled for the catheterization tomorrow. As we drove north to Tel Aviv, Ruth blew bubbles in the van for Dalia and she began to enjoy herself a little. Soon Dalia was blowing the bubbles herself and we had a good time.

At the hospital we had a little running around as they couldn't find her in the system. After working with the front desk secretaries and getting help with a Palestinian coordinator, she was back on track. Her aunt soon connected with Roula and Karam's mothers and we heard how they are doing.

Next, teenage Mohammed's mother came by. They had come last Tuesday. These three children are the only ones in ICU right now. When I went in later I found it very sparse with only two nurses there keeping an eye on things. Karam is healing well and on track. His English speaking mother does pretty well in the hospital too. Roula, on the other hand, is slated for her third surgery tomorrow. This is a lot to bear for her grandmother. We did our best to give her some comfort. Hopefully it will be the last surgery needed.




Mohammed had his surgery for a new pacemaker battery this morning and is awake and recovering in the ICU. He was very grateful for a friend to come by and hold his hand for a while. He tried to talk a little and we hoped for soccer playing and fun in his future. I was happy to get to the continuing story of this Gaza boy. We don't always get to be more of a part of the Gaza children's operations and big moments like this at the hospital.

May our Father in Heaven bless them all!

Teenage Hearts

Posted on Wed, 11/18/2015 - 14:58 by Jesse Tilman

Four children out of the seven invited came out of Gaza on Tuesday this week. We drove down in two vans to pick them up. The last one didn't make it in time, though, so we went with just one van full. All the kids were older, ranging from 13 to 16 years old.

The youngest, Samah, came for cardiac evaluation. She kept close to her father and ended up staying at the hospital for further work. She had a catheterization on Wednesday to better map her heart and to help the doctors know what to do in the future. Sometimes, small corrections can even be done during this less-invasive procedure.

Maged came for follow-up. He has the same condition as his older brother, which is a blockage of the heart's left chamber outflow with some regurgitation through a faulty aortic valve. And also includes an abnormal narrowing of the aorta. It can be surgically corrected, but often the problem comes back. Maged's echo was positive, though, and he's doing well. He was the only one who traveled back with us to the Erez border crossing later in the day. He enjoyed getting to know Yousif.

Sixteen-year-old Mohammed was also there for follow-up. His Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA) was corrected in 2005, and he had a pacemaker inserted after that. TGA is a defect in which the aorta and pulmonary artery are switched opposite to what they should be to transport blood to the right location. So oxygen-rich blood is going back to the lungs, and oxygen-poor blood is going out to the body. He also stayed in the hospital to have his pacemaker battery replaced. His mother came along as his escort.

Thank God for these childrens' healing! He daily gives us the spirit and desire to actually be there for them. The small part we play is just the outworking of His love in action.

Growing and Healthy

Posted on Thu, 11/12/2015 - 17:29 by Jesse Tilman

We saw three children admitted for catheterizations this Tuesday at the Gaza clinic.

Beautiful Sama came, and though she slept a lot, she did wake up some to delight her mother and peak at the world around her.

Mahmoud and I took a moment to take a selfie together. He's a cheerful guy and kept up spirits throughout the day. 

Menat is a little springy girl, who would look suspiciously around and hold her toys closely. Her mother would laugh and fluff her hair.

All three will be getting their caths soon, so we hope to see them playing around the ward soon as they finish up.

The nearly one-year-old Iyad came for a follow-up echo post-surgery. He was shy and hard to approach, but after a few tries he came around. We took some pictures after he had settled in for a while.

Shahed came a while afterward, separate from the other families. She is eight years old and has had a pacemaker since soon after birth. Before her echo, we went downstairs for a long check on her pacemaker. Her grandmother looks after her well and was already trusting her to do small tasks; she's very mature for her age. I tried teaching her some of the Arabic songs I know.

Thank God with us for His grace for the day! The children are growing and healthy, and we got to share God's love and life together.


Posted on Sun, 11/08/2015 - 12:46 by Jesse Tilman

On Thursday we had the opportunity to take Rafif up to Haifa. She came out of the Gaza border early, and we took a while to get there to meet her. Her father was fun to talk with, and Yousif and I kept a conversation going. He spoke a bit of English, and I used my little bit of Arabic.

Rafif has a head condition (hydrocephalus). At Rambam hospital, we were able to get her checked and evaluated. At this point, it doesn't look like there is more they will do for her, though. Thank you for your prayers for this special girl.

Gaza Clinic

Posted on Sun, 11/08/2015 - 12:35 by Jesse Tilman

Gaza clinic day this week dawned bright and early as we went out from Jerusalem. Six children came over the border and to the hospital on Tuesday. We had planned for four to go by taxi and two to go in our van. Arriving at the pickup point, though, plans changed. We ended up only taking one child and their guardian with us. 

The Echo department was operating smoothly when we entered, and we could see that the work would be done swiftly. Some other volunteers from an Israeli organization were there helping everyone in the waiting time. Hala, who came with us in the van, smiled for a picture with her new friend.





All the children were there for cardiac follow-up or re-evaluation. Nobody had to stay at the hospital, and the echoes were soon finished. We soon were loading everyone up to head back home.

A Challenging Season

Posted on Sun, 11/01/2015 - 21:52 by Ruth Zellweger

Both Karam and Roula were brought emergently to the Wolfson Medical Center via ICU ambulance exactly three weeks ago and they are still hospitalized, with their mother and grandmother at their sides as much as possible.

Today I had the privilege to support one of our Kurdish mothers during the surgery of their daughter, which also gave me the opportunity to spend time with our Gaza families. Karam's mother approached me shortly after our arrival in the children's ward and told me that her son had many ups and downs in the last two weeks. The doctors had already tried to extubate him twice, which had not been successful. Today they wanted to try for the third time. When I went with her to the ICU, Karam had just been extubated and was breathing on his own, an oxygen tent around his head.

During our time at the hospital it looked promising, but your continued prayer is appreciated for this precious little boy and his mother, who is very loving. She is also a big blessing for the other mothers, who are only speaking Arabic and sometimes cannot communicate well with the hospital staff.

I was sad after talking with Roula's grandmother for a while. Roula had been monitored in the ward in stable condition the first week, and the doctors had hoped to wait with her heart repair until she is older. But in the last two weeks her condition deteriorated and they had to perform an emergency surgery in order to save her life. Her kidney also stopped functioning correctly. She is now in isolation in the ICU and I was not allowed to go close to her bed.  Please pray for baby Roula and her grandmother, who are both in need of God's healing touch of their hearts.


Posted on Sun, 10/25/2015 - 21:53 by

From Miriam Svensson:

This morning, we drove down to Erez border crossing to pick up two children, seven-year-old Doha and five-year-old Abdul Kareem, along with their mother.

The were both being admitted to Wolfson Hospital today for heart catheterizations tomorrow. They were chatting about in the backseat of the van, and I heard something that sounded like a nursery rhyme.

As we were going in to the hospital, Doha borrowed Colin's hat as protection from the rain.

In the children's ward, we had to wait for a while before they were admitted. But, luckily, the hospital clown came and kept us company. She was blowing soap bubbles and helped the children with their pajamas.

Praise God for the opportunity He is giving us to help children in a situation that might be frightening for them. Please pray that everything will go smoothly with the examinations of Doha and Abdul Kareem.

From Jesse Tilman: 

Our baby boy Karam is still in ICU recovering and is intubated for the time being. When I went in to see him, I found some of the hospital staff going over his case. Lots of papers and forms were gathered on the desk in front of his bed, and two of the staff were looking at his charts. He has several wires going into his chest as well as the oxygen monitor on his big toe.

Afterwards, when I asked, they told me that he is improving and has a positive outlook. We hope to see him extubated soon. Please continue praying for him.

Abundant Grace

Posted on Sun, 10/18/2015 - 21:59 by Ruth Zellweger

Amidst the tense atmosphere that we're currently experiencing in Israel due to clashes between the Jewish and Palestinian people, we get to see "the other side" at Wolfson hospital. Here we daily see diligent Israeli doctors and nurses caring ceaselessly for the children entrusted into their care. And among them are several from the Westbank and the Gaza Strip. 

A week ago we were able to help two babies from Gaza -- Karam and Roula --  come into Israel via ambulance. Baby Karam was 48 days old and in such serious conditon that the doctors were not sure that he would survive the next days. Nevertheless, they wheeled him in the Operating Room the next morning and operated on him for many hours. When he was wheeled into the ICU, Karam had to be supported by a special extra-corporal machine, called ECMO, which takes over the function of the lung and the heart. All in all it was not looking very promising for Karam to survive, but our great God is watching over his little life. Day by day Karam is improving.

Karam right after his surgery

When I visited him today in the ICU, the ECMO-machine was gone and many tubes and lines had been removed. Karam is still intubated and ventilated mechanically, but the overall impression I got was that he healing day by day. His sweet mother, a beautiful woman who is herself a nurse in the Gaza Strip, was overjoyed and when I told her that our community had been praying for Karam, she was very thankful and expressed that several times. 

Karam today

Roula, the other emergency baby, who is only two weeks old, is currently in the children's ward under observation. She is in stable condtion. At this point the doctors think that it would be to early to start her heart repair. Roula is accompanied by her lovely grandmother, who is very welcoming and giving. Her smile and hugs warm my heart. She is sitting patiently by her granddaughter's bedside, supporting the other mothers and grandmothers who are in the room with her. 

Baby Roula

Jamal is a little baby boy, who also came with his grandmother. We found out today that Jamal will be undergoing a catheterization tomorrow and possibly his heart surgery on Wednesday. His grandmother is a very open woman who appreciates it very much when people take time to care and listen. 

Baby Jamal

I have been blessed by all the interactions I had with the families from Gaza in the past week, and I have seen God's grace abound. Would you join us in praying for the healing of Karam, Roula and Jamal, as well as for all the other precious Gaza children that are currently there or will be arriving in the near future?