The Gaza clinic began early with Yousef and myself driving to the border to pick up two families and transport them to the echo-clinic. Once arriving at the hospital, several of the other families had already completed their testing and others were in process. After talking with a few of the kids, I led them in drawing pictures on a large piece of paper. They enjoyed trying to write their names as well.
Soon after arriving one of the girls, Lama, was admitted- as planned. I went with her and her father to ensure they knew the way to the children’s ward and that the admittance process was begun properly. While I was helping admit her, a grandmother guardian in the cardiac clinic became faint from observing a religious fast. She came close to having to be admitted but was able to recover her strength.
Lama was quiet, brave, and a quick learner. She drew a picture of a house and even played tic-tac-toe, which she seems to be quite the expert at. As she was prepped for an IV tap she appeared nervous, but her father was there to encourage and explain how it would feel and to let her know there was nothing to worry about. Her father was helpful in that way and also offered a bit of encouragement to another guardian.
Lama waiting with her father
Beautiful and brave Lama waits for the IV
Many of the kids in the clinic were younger (2-5) and were much of the time sleepy or close to their parents. The fathers did their best to act as hosts of sorts, offering drinks to the kids and staff as well as to the other parents to help calm and bring together the kids.
As the wait dragged on, clowns arrived, and although I found it hard to interact with sleepy kids in another language the clowns did a great job pantomiming and blowing bubbles to entertain some of the kids. At this point the doctor appeared to take a lunch break which inevitably delayed things. This lead to a brief tension on parents wanting to know when they could return home and Yousef reassuring them of the time of 3pm for departure from the hospital.
Leaving the hospital at 3pm as planned amazingly occurred with us taking three families back to the Gaza border.
At this point of the day it is easy to tune out, cruise, and get them back to them home quickly and easily, but Yousef did not forsake the opportunity at hand. During the entire ride he spoke to the three families passionately and boldly about his understanding of God and how that relates to what he had once learned in Islam. I prayed for clarity of purpose and understanding to be given to these families, one of which (Ala) is in good health and it seems unlikely he will be needed to make a crossing anytime in the near future.
The families left in good spirits and offered us a sweet to share with the others at Shevet Achim which we gladly gobbled down at dinner.
Pray that God:
keeps the grandmother healthy during her fast
opens eyes and ears to hear His gospel
keeps the patients healthy
allows us to testify effectively through word and deed
In the midst of a typical chaotic Gaza clinic day, God granted us many opportunities and was there in the midst of us.
Cheerful Majd was back again from Gaza today for his two-month follow-up echo after hearing the wonderful, tentative news that he may not need a heart transplant. Because of his pacemaker and medicine, he was found then to be doing well enough that surgery could be unwarranted. We hoped to confirm this today.
After arriving at the Erez border, we waited a little bit of time before the crossing was processed and then picked up Mona, a very friendly and vibrant girl, along with her guardian, and the other family. Once the families were checked into the hospital, they headed to the area where echocardiagrams are done; other families were already waiting there.
During this time Yousef continued to coordinate with technicians and drivers to ensure the process went smoothly. Judith was in charge of adjusting a prescription. I had the chance to meet and greet many of the kids and kept them from getting rambunctious.
Mona was by far the most sociable and enjoyed trying to imitate the sound effects I was making. Marwan watched from a distance and played "peekaboo" and even sung to himself. Omar let out his playful energy by playing tag with me. He would tap me on the head and run around the corner. We did our best to communicate across the language barrier through gestures. Mohammad played ‘who’s that’ with the pictures Judith held up. Saeed painted and played with a phone to entertain himself and Ali mostly stayed near his guardian. Little Rozy slept most of the time.
Mona just outside the hospital.
Omar alert and ready for tag
Marwan, the singer
Mohammad with bright eyes and a smile
Saeed on the phone waiting for his echo
Rozy asleep with her mother
Many kids and parents in the play area
Overall it was a successful trip with all the families getting the testing they needed as well as Judith getting the adjusted prescription. We made it back to Jerusalem in good time. It was good to see the faces of the children so full of happiness, patiently waiting for the testing they needed to evaluate their conditions.
The Gaza clinic day began with its characteristic last minute information, updates, and changes as we made plans for transporting the (fourteen, no eleven, no nine) children from the Erez border to Wolfson hospital in Tel Aviv. We can usually plan on two-thirds of the patients making it through the border. We transported three families (our capacity) and the rest traveled by taxi.
Ibrahim, Yousef, and Wesam
Yousef and I met Ahmad, Ibrahim, and Wesam and got them situated in the van. Often families don’t know much about putting seatbelts on, but today especially they needed it demonstrated step-by-step. Seatbelts can be taken for granted by Westerners, but others around the world may never have used them! Wesam immediately engaged us and began enthusiastically playing around. Older Ibrahim quietly followed his father to the back seat.
Ahmad is young enough not to care about meeting new people; his mother gently put him in the car seat. The car ride north was loud however as Ahmad did not care for being strapped down.
At the hospital we entered the echo department and stepped into a small extension of Gaza. It was full of families who had come earlier moving around, sitting, and playing. The hospital staff was also weaving through the crowd and asking questions. Other families in line for echocardiograms were there as well, including three from Bethlehem and children through our work:
Leyan, very playful but camera shy
Mina, quiet and reserved
Jod, bubbly and cute (the small girl in the middle)
Bessan, adorable and Momma’s little girl
Baby Hamdi, weak and slept most of the time
Obada, who came with his dad and was practicing being tough like him
The only one who would stay at the hospital was Hamdi. The others had their echocardiograms and were cleared to go home. It was a blessed day getting to know some of the families better and helping them with their business. God gives us precious time with them!
Towards the end of the day, like most of us, Wesam was showing his readiness to go home. He found constructive ways to use his energy though and helped us with some small tasks and got some chips as a reward.
Wesam with his chips
Yesterday, we sent our two vehicles full of children to hospital for echos and tests, only to discover that a lovely little girl from Gaza, Zena, who was already in hospital, would need to return to Gaza at the end of the day. So we had to arrange a taxi for her since our van was full. However, there were complications, as a grandmother from the West Bank was accompanying her, and her parents didn't have passes to get through the border at Erez to collect her. Neither did grandma have a pass to cross the other way. After a lot of dealings, agreement was made for both parties to meet at the border post to swap the little girl over. Then the taxi would return grandma to the hospital, from where she would get home later.
Today, as there were only five children coming through the border (too many for our van) for the weekly Gaza clinic, we arranged a taxi to transport them all to hospital where I was waiting for them. All were checked at the clinic and returned by taxi to the Gaza border during the afternoon.
Whilst at hospital today, I dropped into secondary ICU to find baby Lina who had been brought to ICU with transposed arteries on Sunday, when she was only five hours old. She has been stabilized and extubated, though she has not had her surgery. The hospital has tentatively put her down for surgery Sunday. However, they are so crammed with surgery needs that this date might not be certain.
Baby Lina was born at 5 am in the southern Gaza Strip with transposed great arteries, a life-and-death emergency. By late this afternoon she was already at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon being stabilized and prepared for corrective surgery. Thank God for good neighbors!
Thursday another little Lina came out of Gaza to be admitted to Wolfson Hospital for surgery. She is an adorable little girl; she smiles easily and rests assured in her mother's arms.
Her mother, on the other hand, was often looking concerned and painstakingly went over the business at hand. Now admitted in the children's ward, they are getting to know the other families there and settling in.
Lina was happy to find more attentive adults and would open her mouth in a silent laugh. Thank God for making it possible for her heart to be repaired!
Last week, Ali and Abd were admitted for procedures. And last Thursday, I was blessed to be able to accompany them following their discharges, as we took them back to Erez in our van with Rebekah, Kyle, and Kristina.
On Sunday, when visiting Wolfson, I was surprised and delighted to meet Kawthar and her dad. She had been admitted that day, when I was expecting her to be admitted today (Tuesday). She had her surgery yesterday, and today another surprise: she had been extubated this morning and was awake in bed, waving to Marilyn and me as we waved to her and greeted her in ICU. One of the nurses said she is doing very well and may soon be sent directly to the children's ward.
Today we were expecting up to 14 children coming through the border at Erez, bound for Wolfson, and we only have one van. Moreover, we needed to take Radhwan to Wolfson by 9am. Therefore, it was decided we should all go at 8am, heading for Wolfson in our van, and leave our regular taxi service to transport all the families in two taxi-vans. Jesse drove, and Rebekah and Marilyn came too.
As the morning wore on, we ended up with with only eight children, and in the afternoon, it became apparent that two would be admitted: Zena and Jod.
One of the "children" was Selmi, who was one of the first patients at Wolfson, who is now aged 31, with two little children of his own, Amal and Hala. They all came to Wolfson today and received much media attention.
The other children who came for check-ups were: Dalia, Ameer, and Dima.
Jesse and Rebekah needed to return Radhwan and his mum to base after lunch, so they left in the van, leaving Marilyn and I to help organize the sending of ten people by two taxis back to Gaza. We wondered how this would work out, but in one of Father God's sudden acts of goodness, everything came together. In the space of about five minutes, everyone had received their doctor's letters; the first taxi had arrived; and everyone had quickly gathered at the collection point. Ten minutes later, a second taxi arrived, and all remaining families happily left for home. Marilyn and I were then free to take a bus back to base. It was a wonderful day.
Yusef and I got off to an early start for Erez border, and upon arrival, found three children waiting for us. Five more had been taken to the hospital earlier by a taxi.
The echo clinic at Wolfson hospital was packed with children and their parents. Then, suddenly, a huge school of clowns arrived, who had come to amuse the children. As the morning progressed, it became apparent that two more children had arrived at Wolfson by their own means. So we had ten children total. Three were admitted, leaving seven to return to Erez.
When I left after 4pm to collect the van from the car park, I expected to be returning two children with Yusef to Erez. I was surprised to discover on my arrival at the hospital that the taxi had been able to take all seven! We therefore had a quick return to base after such a precious day spent with so many adorable little children. Here are some pictures of them:
From Brian Mace:
This week there was no Gaza clinic at Wolfson hospital, due to holidays. However, one sweet little boy named Emaan needed to be transported from Erez to Wolfson on Tuesday morning to be admitted for surgery on Wednesday.
Cami and I were truly blessed to be able to travel to the Gaza border in brilliant sunshine and a lot of heat. Upon arriving, we quickly found little Emaan and his grandma waiting under in the shade under a shelter. They were delighted to see us and to be on their way in our air-conditioned van. However, little Emaan (about 14 months old) was initially very cautious in my presence: in fact, if I got too close, he was a little fearful.
When we arrived at Wolfson hospital, there was quite a wait for Emaan to be admitted, and we played a little game of hiding and re-appearing, which Emaan loved. He was slowly getting used to me.
Some time later, he went through a traumatic time with needles and checks in the nurses station, and he was subsequently relieved to be able to lie on his bed. At this time, he was much more relaxed, and for a short time I held him close to me. Then I asked his grandma if I might pray with him, and I had the wonderful privilege of being able to present his needs directly to Jesus. When he was securely placed in his bed, Cami and I returned to base.
Last Tuesday, Judy, Mohammed and Nagah were admitted for caths the following day, and on Thursday 14th, Marilyn and I had the joy of being able to return all three to the Erez border on our way back to base.
From Kristina Kayser:
Yesterday, Majd was discharged from Sheba Medical Center! For the last several months our community has been praying and preparing for Majd to be the first child ever from Gaza to receive a heart transplant in Israel. God answered our prayers and provided all that was need for this monumental surgery, but God had an even greater miracle in store. After being admitted on Monday for a catheterization, doctors ran a series of tests instead and determined a heart transplant is not necessary at this time. Rather they think his heart condition is improving. They will do another echo in two months to again verify these results. We praise the Lord for this unexpected and joyful news. Majd went to Sheba expecting to begin a journey towards a heart transplant, but God had an amazing surprise in store for him.
Last Tuesday, one of the children whom I had the great privilege of taking to the hospital was dear little Amal. She held my hand as I took her to the children's ward to be admitted for a cath. She was discharged on Thursday the 7th, and Jesse returned her to the border at Erez. Unfortunately, we don't have a photo taken of her at this time.
On Monday the 11th, it was my great pleasure to take Ali H from Erez to the hospital for surgery.
Tuesday the 12th, however, was the Gaza clinic day, when we had been expecting to collect 14 children! As the day began at 8:15 the number seemed to have been reduced to 12. As the day went on, we were then expecting five. Jesse and Yusef left in one van, and Kristi and I left in the other. When we arrived at Erez, Jesse had already loaded Nagah, Walid, and Mohammed in his van, and soon went on his way to the hospital.
Nagah and Mohammed were both admitted to the children's ward.
Kristi and I were met by the loveliest smile and friendliest of young ladies, named Kawther, with whom we spent a most enjoyable time whilst waiting for Judy to emerge through the border.
Kawther had come for admission for surgery, however, the hospital had to cancel her surgery and re-schedule it for the 2nd of June.
Judy was admitted to the children's ward.
We were advised that as no more children would be coming through the border, we could leave for the hospital, which we did around 11:30 am, arriving an hour later.
Surprisingly, we were told a little before 4 pm that a sixth child, Motaz, had come through the border. They had arrived by their own means, expecting to be admitted for a cath.
The doctors did a very quick job in assessing this little boy, but there was nobody to tell his mum, in arabic, that he couldn't be admitted on this day. He would be invited in the future for a cath, and then for surgery.
It was now getting late, but miraculously we found someone who could translate for us, so we explained all this to his mum before leaving around 5pm. She was very disappointed.
Two children were also discharged from the children's ward, so we took Majd and Ali back with us together along with Motaz.
We had taken Ali to hospital on Sunday the 3rd.
Majd was admitted on Tuesday the 5th.
We arrived back at base at 8 pm, only 15 minutes short of a 12 hour day, but what a privilege and a joy to be able to help these dear little children.