Gaza Children's Heart Surgery

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An Answer to Prayers

Posted on Wed, 04/09/2014 - 00:12 by Lina Sara

Last week I was expecting four families from Gaza to travel to Wolfson Hospital for follow-ups, but all but one of them were held back due to permission problems at the border. But today, praise the Lord, five families were able to travel to Wolfson. The families were all coming for follow-up appointments, and they were so happy to arrive into Israel.

We had a good time speaking to them, sharing news together, joking and laughing, and playing with the kids.

All the families will have to come for follow-ups again, and two of the five children need further surgeries. Please continue to pray for complete healing for these kids and for the people of Gaza, who are daily living in difficult circumstances.

Good News of Great Healing

Posted on Tue, 04/01/2014 - 22:32 by Lina Sara

Another Tuesday Gaza clinic came around today, and I was waiting to hear from four families attempting to come from Gaza to be checked by Wolfson doctors. Unfortunately, three of the families didn't get permission to come to Israel, but one was allowed through: a young lady by the name of Amal. She is normally escorted by her mother, but today her aunt was her companion.

Amal has been through three surgeries. She has a valve problem, and her last surgery was a valve replacement. Her follow-up today revealed good health. Dr. Tamir performed a long echo and came out with the good news that Amal's artificial valve is fine.

Amal went home to Gaza carrying good news of a healing heart. She will need to return to Wolfson Hospital for another check-up in a year’s time. Please pray for continued healing for Amal and for smooth travels and no problems next week when we try to bring more Gaza children across the border.

Editor’s Note: Fawzi (see posts below) was released from Wolfson Hospital to return home last Thursday. He is healing well after his surgery, and we hope to see further progress over the coming months.

A Happy Day

Posted on Tue, 03/25/2014 - 22:01 by Lina Sara

This morning I headed to Wolfson with Aad and Yousef to meet the families coming from Gaza to Israel for medical work. All the mothers were bringing their kids for follow-up exams, and they were excited to see us again. As Gaza coordinator, I've developed good relationships with these families, and we had fun chatting together and speaking about their news from Gaza.

The four families who were part of the clinic went home with good reports concerning their children, but they will need to return in six months for more follow-ups.

One of these children is Mohammed, who's family knew our director Jonathan and his family when they lived in Gaza.

Mohammed’s mother was telling me how much she misses those days when they used to be neighbors with Jonathan in Gaza. She also said she named her youngest boy Zechariah, like Jonathan's youngest son.

We also had a chance today to visit our little friend Fawzi, who is doing well post-surgery but still has some fluid built up around his heart.

The doctors at Wolfson are anticipating his discharge on Thursday.

Please keep praying for Fawzi's healing and for more chances for the children of Gaza to be able to come to Israel.

Update on Fawzi and Dea

Posted on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 22:57 by Theresa Vollath

Today we left the Shevet base hoping to pick up Dea from Wolfson Hospital. Upon reaching the hospital, we received the joyous news that Dea had a smooth and problem-free catheterization yesterday and has been discharged. His mother said he couldn't sleep in the hospital because of his homesickness, so the timing was perfect for this sweet child. On the way to the Gaza border, Dea finally fell asleep, catching up on some of his sleepless moments. When we arrived at the Erez crossing, he was so happy to be back home.

We also visited Fawzi, who finally had his complicated surgery yesterday! At the moment, he is in the ICU receiving great medical attention and care.

His mother is with him, and relatives from Israel were visiting during our time there, helping make this hard time easier for Fawzi’s mother. She was grateful to see someone from Shevet Achim again and seemed touched by the support we are giving her through our prayers and care for her and her son. 

Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers on these precious kids. May the Lord bless them.

Precious Lives

Posted on Tue, 03/18/2014 - 21:11 by Theresa Vollath

Setting out from the Shevet base this beautiful spring morning in Israel, we traveled to Wolfson Hospital to meet with and help support four families from Gaza. 

Little Mohammed had a complicated surgery when he was four months old.

Since then he has been coming to Israel every six months for a check-up.

Last year he had a catheterization, and after his check-up today he will need to see the doctors again in three months instead of six, after which they will decide if another surgery or catheterization is needed.

Dea is a shy, little boy.

He will stay in the hospital until Thursday for a catheterization.

Sweet Afnan had a surgery in Germany when she was a baby.

Over the last few years, she has been coming to Tel Aviv for post-surgery follow-ups, and the doctors at Wolfson are attempting to communicate with her German surgeon in order to decide upon her further treatment. Afnan will stay at the hospital for the time being in order to undergo an urgent catheterization tomorrow.

Ahmad is an open, cheerful eleven-year-old boy.

He had his first (three in total) surgery when he was only two weeks old. He is here for a post-surgery follow-up, and the doctors are debating whether or not to perform another surgery on him after he grows a bit more.

Afterwards we visited Fawzi (see the prior blog post), who’s surgery was supposed to take place yesterday but was delayed due to a lack of space in the ICU for him. But tomorrow might see his operation!

We pray for the kids and their families. Hear their fears and give them comfort, Lord.

Meet Fawzi

Posted on Sun, 03/16/2014 - 10:00 by Philip Rasmussen

Due to a busy schedule at Wolfson Medical Center, the past few weeks have not seen many Gaza kids admitted for surgery. Thus we were happy to pick up Fawzi and his mother at the Erez border crossing this morning. With us in the van were Kurdish Sara and her mother also traveling for an examination at Wolfson. Sara was very sweet to Fawzi and helped him pass the time while waiting for the hospital security to clear him and his mother.

We first saw a much younger Fawzi during a regular Gaza clinic more than two years ago.

He had his first surgery around that time, and today he came back in preparation for another scheduled surgery to hopefully fix a problem with one of his heart’s valves. His exact surgery day has not yet been determined, but hopefully it will take place this week.

Fawzi is a calm and mature kid for a three-year-old, and I believe he will do great throughout this whole process. The hospital world is not new to him, due to his prior surgery and participation in many Gaza clinics. Upon our arrival, he was immediately given a bed and hospital pajamas to wear, and after an hour he had finished his different assessments.

Fawzi is privileged to have family to visit him. Today his aunt and two cousins traveled for hours to come and be with him and his mother on their first day. It was delightful to see how they deeply cherished this rare time of fellowship and served each other. The relatives brought a delicious lunch they insisted on sharing with us, and we had an enjoyable time together in a cheerful and loving atmosphere.

It was difficult not to be in a good mood at the hospital today, as Israel is celebrating the holiday Purim, which means the hospital is full of visitors bringing gifts, candies, and activities for the children. The kids loved it and soaked in all the attention, flying around as if they were in Wonderland. 

You are invited to join us in intercession for little Fawzi and the perfect timing of his surgery. Thank you Lord for a beautiful day at the hospital!

Moving Towards Healing

Posted on Wed, 03/12/2014 - 20:36 by Lina Sara

Yesterday we had a big clinic of seven families from Gaza. It had been three weeks since our last clinic (due to Wolfson Hospital's Dr. Tamir traveling to Africa to look for more children in need of treatment), and our team was happy to travel to the Erez crossing in order to welcome families from Gaza and take them to Wolfson Hospital in Tel Aviv.

We ran into a hiccup, however, when one of the children (a three-and-a-half-year-old child named Jana in need of heart surgery) was delayed during her border crossing, resulting in Yousef and Philip making another trip to the Erez crossing later in the day in order to bring her and her mother to Tel Aviv as well.

All the families were happy to meet us again, and we had fun playing with the kids and chatting with the parents about their lives in Gaza.

Most of the children’s results were good, with many of them only needing to return after a year for post-surgery follow-up exams.

Our little friend Jana who is still in need of surgery, however, was unable to stay for her operation. She has a problem with a heart valve which needs to be replaced, but the doctors cannot currently perform the complicated operation due to her age. They will keep her on medication for now and follow up with her in the future. Upon hearing this news, Jana's mom was sad but thankful for the doctors’ efforts and our team as we stood by her. Please pray with us for Jana’s healing and her mother’s comfort.

Precious Hearts, Precious Lives

Posted on Tue, 02/11/2014 - 22:06 by Philip Rasmussen

Today five families were waiting for us at the Gaza border. Most of the children were scheduled for follow-up echoes, which meant we got to see familiar faces. It’s exciting to get an update on the families’ conditions and lives in Gaza, along with seeing how the children’s siblings are doing (though I must admit it can be difficult to keep track of names and family members).

When we entered the echo department, a large group of Americans were visiting the clinic and receiving an introduction to the charity work taking place there. Another group of young Israelis and Arabs came to entertain the kids with coloring sheets and other toys. I think our families felt valued and loved.

Said (first from the right) has already had one operation and two caths in his short lifetime, and today it was confirmed his latest cath has repaired his heart. He is scheduled for another follow-up echo in one year.

Bissam (in the middle) is half a year post-op and has been coming regularly for follow-up echoes, as she still has fluids around her heart. But today she and her mother were told her next appointment will not be for another six months.

Haya’s (on the left) echo revealed a heart the doctors would like to look more carefully at. As a result, she has been scheduled for a cath later this year in May.

Nizaar (pictured below) went through his surgery two months ago and had a long recovery time, spending as much as three weeks in the ICU alone.

Today he went back to his ‘second home’ for his first follow-up echo post-op. He is doing well and is coming back to Wolfson in six months.

Kawshar (not pictured) is a teenage girl who today was told one of her valves is leaking a tiny bit, meaning she will probably have a surgery within two months or so to repair the damage.

The children often receive a drug to calm them down before going into their echoes, and it often results in rather weird behavior (if you scroll down a bit, you can watch this live in a former blog post’s video). I watched Bissam suddenly fall over at least five times today while walking around. This medicine stays in the children’s bodies for some time, and we had sleepy children in the van on our ride back to the border.

Our trip back to Gaza was relatively uneventful, except for a stop for the parents to buy some Israeli goods inside a mall. Said’s father bought a bag full of loaves of bread—difficult to get a hold of in Gaza and cherished greatly by his children.

Though nothing hindered our journey to the border, a beautiful opportunity of sharing arose as the trip went on. Bissam’s little brother is called Younis (this translates to the name Jonah in English). Our co-worker Yousif took this opportunity to share the story of Jonah, which is found in both the Bible and the Quran. Just like Jonah chose to be thrown overboard to save the lives of his friends on the boat fighting against the storm, Jesus chose to give his life on the cross so we should not meet eternal death. Just like Jonah spent three days in the belly of a whale, Jesus spent three days in the grave to defeat death and give us life. Pray these words will stay with our Palestinian friends.

Time for Surgery!

Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 20:13 by Jesse Tilman

Kamal from Gaza is back for a third surgery! Yousef and I headed down to the border to pick him and his grandmother up this morning. His grandmother has one of the biggest grins and some of the rosiest cheeks! We pulled up in the van, and she was ready to go. Kamal, on the other hand, let us know right away he doesn’t like car seats. He cried for a while as we headed north to Tel Aviv, but eventually settled down with Yousef talking to his grandmother in the background.

At the hospital, they were soon stationed in their room for the night. We helped them through some of the health checkups as an Arab-speaking staff member took Kamal’s vital signs. Laughing and holding Kamal, we gave our support the best we could.

We hope this will be the last surgery for Kamal and look forward to his heart finally being at its best.

A Busy Clinic

Posted on Tue, 02/04/2014 - 22:44 by Lina Sara

For three weeks in a row we have had a small Gaza clinic of two or three children at the most (as some of our Gaza families don't always get permission to come to Israel). But today was a happy day as all six of our families had permission to come to Israel to be checked by Wolfson doctors. 

So three volunteers from Shevet and I went to Erez crossing to pick up our precious Gaza children.

We took them to Wolfson Hospital to be checked, and we spent a long day waiting for the results. But this was an opportunity for us to get to know the families better and spend some time with the children.

Five of the families came for post-surgery follow-ups and received the good news that their children’s hearts are doing well. One child, however, was new, and he will be invited for surgery soon. His name is Ali, and his mother was blessed by the care our team gave her and her child. At first she was afraid and stressed to come to Israel, but when she saw we would take care of her and Ali, she was comforted. 

Please pray for Ali's upcoming heart surgery and for more opportunities for Gaza children to come to Israel for life-saving operations.