Five more engaging little children were at the Gaza Clinic yesterday with their parents.
It was so good to hear the particular news about Doaa - a young girl who had had a hole in one of her heart valves. This hole has now been closed! Therefore she will not need to return for any further hospital visits for another year.
One year old Janna, pictured above, was also there with her father who took every opportunity to take as many photos as he could of his daughter. This was her second trip after her surgery and third visit overall to Wolfson Hospital. Looking at this lovely and playful baby girl, it was not hard to see how she was very much her father’s pride and joy. It was good to see her sparkling with life.
Naseem was a three-year-old boy. He enjoys interacting with other children and grown-ups alike. His first surgery was when he was eight months old, and he visits the hospital every six months with his mother.
Malak is now a three-and-a-half-year-old girl having her second visit to Wolfson after heart surgery. A more contented child would be difficult to find judging on how she appeared. Some might think this would be due to an individual child’s personality. But for those who know the value of prayer to the One Almighty God, we believe he can be working supernaturally behind the scenes and influencing health and well-being.
Lastly, it was good meeting two-year-old Rimas and her mother. She comes to the hospital every three months for follow-up after a very complicated surgery when she was just one year old. She may need further surgery at some point. Could we please pray specifically for this precious child and her family?
What a privilege it was for Ruth and I to spend time on Tuesday with the families from Gaza at the weekly clinic specifically arranged for Gaza children at the Wolfson Medical Centre. The courage and composure of the parents always amazes me, and on Tuesday we witnessed an exceptional example of both, as we sat with three mothers and their precious children, who had been invited for a review of their cases.
As each of the mothers chatted with us about their child's individual condition, we felt humbled that they bravely shared with us some of their worries and some of their pain over the weeks, months and, in some cases, years. We sensed no desire for pity, despite the heartache and pain that the mothers must surely have experienced in caring for the children they love.
At such times one can feel inadequate to express one's sympathy and empathy; these are the moments in life that one relies and calls upon the grace of God to inspire us with the right words and His matchless compassion in order to comfort the hurting and the weary in our midst. Tuesday was such a time, as we sought God to graciously help us to show His compassion, comfort, and love.
Muna is a little 5 year-old girl who simply sparkles with mischief and joy. When posing for photos, it was like watching a celebrity photo session - she posed with such ease and finesse. She is one of three children, and her mother is expecting a fourth child, and shared with us that she does get tired. It had been a long day, but the results of the examination were encouraging. Muna's infectious big smile brightened up everyone, as we all patiently waited for the other results.
Baby Kissam's results were also encouraging. By the time we received the news, Kissam was fast asleep in his push-chair, totally oblivious of the anxious waiting time his adoring mother endured. Earlier he had delighted us with his cute and mischievous chuckling! He too seemed to be a seasoned entertainer, smiling beautifully for the camera! He was not quite so impressed with some of the medical procedures, but no one would have guessed when looking at his sleeping little form at the end of the day.
Mohammed is a 9 year-old boy, who is exceptionally polite and has such a brave and composed demeanor. He never seemed to complain and bore the long periods of waiting with such patience. His mother also shared the same dignified and patient composure, and we were able to share in conversation with the help of Yousef and Philip, as well as the other two mothers.
We were so honored on Tuesday to be able to share our time at the Gaza Clinic with our dear friend, Mary Dailey, who was visiting Shevet Achim for two weeks from the U.S. To be with her as she talked with the mothers and children was such a privilege, especially as she was to leave for home the next day. It was a special day for us, as we had first met Mary and volunteered for a short while alongside her some years ago. Mary served Shevet Achim for some five years with such devotion, grace, love and humility. May God bless you for all your faithfulness, Mary.
This was my first time to the Gaza Clinic. I was pretty excited as this is a big part of Shevet. We drove to the Erez Crossing at the Gaza border where four of the five families were already waiting for us. One was a mother with a child called Bara, who has had heart surgery but also has a cleft lip. He needed to go for an appointment at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, so today's trip was a juggling exercise.
Three of the four remaining families had echo appointments at Wolfson Hospital, and were put in a taxi while we waited for the last family to arrive. Just as we were about to give up on them arriving, they came, and off we went to Wolfson Hospital, together with Bara.
All the other children there had echo appointments and it was lovely to see how welcoming and reassuring the doctors were. It took me a while to work out which children belonged to our group, but our co-worker Lina was well known in the hospital and guided me to the right places while translating for the Palestinian people wherever she went. It was a blessing to see all the medical staff excited about the progress the children had made, and reassuring those mothers or fathers who sounded a bit concerned. Reconciliation is truly happening one child and one family at a time!
Good news also for Susannah, who got her next appointment in six months' time rather than three months, as before!
And lastly, a lovely photo of a very serious Motaz, who was waiting for another surgery, hopefully some time in October.
Let us not forget to pray for these children and for the medical staff who so selflessly give of their time and skills to bring them to full health.
We were blessed to be part of the Gaza Clinic group today. We drove to the Gaza boarder to help transport four families from Gaza to Wolfson Hospital for their follow up doctor visits. It was a quick stop for us because the children and their parents had already cleared security and were waiting for us. But for the Gaza families, it took them approximately three hours to get through. Once at Wolfson Hospital, the families registered with Save A Child’s Heart and they systematically moved from one room to the next for their echocardiograms, EKGs and check ups. The parents patiently waited with their children until it was their time to be examined.
Mustafa is a three year old boy who has returned to be evaluated for a second surgery. He was cleared today for his surgery and because it is so difficult to get in and out of Gaza, he was admitted today to have his surgery in the next couple of days. Mustafa was very shy and timid at the beginning of the day but after several hours he was more comfortable and playfully interacted with Greg; kind of playing keep away with a small chair.
Leen is a one year old little girl who is here with her father. She is so quiet because she is still very weak as she is waiting for a second surgery date. Her father held her so tenderly and protectively. He spoke English with us and told us that Leen’s mother is pregnant with their second child and unable to travel. Leen is so little and precious, her father showing her such love and care.
Mahmoud, is a 10 month old little boy, who had surgery 8 months ago, and is back for follow up. He was a very husky looking little guy, who pretty much slept the whole time we were with him. His mother graciously allowed Caryl to hold him while we waited.
Amal is a beautiful 15 year old girl who has had 3 surgeries--the first as an infant. She is now done with her surgeries and only requires periodic follow ups. She is a living example of God’s grace and mercy.
Our initial impressions of the day included a sense of fear – fear of “different” people trying to cross the boarder, fear from the children getting into a strange car, and fear from the parents whose children need medical help. It reminds us of Isaiah 41:10-15:
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Tuesday is our Gaza clinic day and this week we had 6 families come to Wolfson hospital. They were all for follow up echocardiograms. Lina, Yousef, and I drove down to the Erez border crossing on the northern edge of the Gaza strip. There we met four of the families and loaded them up into a van taxi to go ahead to the hospital while we waited for the other 2 families to come through. It took over 45 minutes and we were glad to see them when they came. A girl Jhana was one of the children that came with us.
Jhana is only 3 months old. She had to spend a month in a Gaza hospital on antibiotics after the surgery to recover, but is now doing well. Her grandmother accompanied her and chatted happily with Yousef and Lina on the way north. At the hospital we got a photo with Jhana, Lina, another girl Besan and the children’s guardians.
Besan is in transition between surgeries and is requiring check-ups every month. She has some fluids near her heart and regular examination is needful for safety.
A young boy Bian played with me at a picnic table before getting into the taxi at Erez. I tried to give him a sunflower seed but he just looked at it until I shelled it for him and set the seed in front of him. Then he joyfully downed one after another. His surgery was a year and a half ago for a complicated condition and he’ll need another surgery as well. He is still somewhat blue from lack of oxygen.
Toka is a beautiful young girl that is 2 months after surgery for a valve replacement. She’s already off of all medicines. She received a heart balloon at the hospital and wanted a photo with Yousef. She’s scheduled to return after 3 months.
Not pictured are 6 year old Malak, who is 2 months post-op, growing well and scheduled to return after 6 months, and 16 year old Hadil who had surgery 5 years ago with a pacemaker installed. She’ll be back in a month to have the battery replaced.
The hospital staff was celebrating the Hebrew New Year and we heard many say “Shana Tova,” meaning have a good year. The festive atmosphere spread to our patients as well and we enjoyed sharing the meaning of the celebration with them.
Two months ago when I was in Gaza, I visited Ali and his family. Ali is the youngest and only male in a family of seven children. In Arab culture, having a male child is very important, so when Ali was born his father threw a party in honor of his birth and invited 800 people. It’s not hard to see how valued he is by his family.
Ali has been coming to Wolfson Hospital since he was an infant. Since then he has undergone three surgeries. His latest surgery was about a month ago and he stayed three weeks in the hospital receovering due to fluid build-up around his chest and heart. He was able to leave the hospital and return home two weeks ago, but had to come back yesterday for a follow-up echocardiogram. Ali’s father told me that last week he took his son in for a check-up with a doctor in Gaza and was told that Ali only had a small amount of fluid remaining around his heart and in his chest. So Ali’s mother, who accompanied him today, was expecting to hear that Ali’s heart was doing well and that they would be able to return home after his check-up. But unexpectedly, she found out that the fluid built-up in his chest was so much that Ali needs to stay in the hospital in order for the doctors to help his body resolve this issue and keep an eye on him. His family was deeply disappointed and sad to hear that Ali and his mother would have to stay at the hospital instead of returning home to them in Gaza.
Please pray for comfort for Ali's family and that Ali will recover and be able to go home soon.
This Tuesday the clinic was full again with Gaza children: ten families arrived to Wolfson Hospital for heart treatment. Among these was a young lady from Gaza named Souzan who is nineteen-years old. She was evaluated for heart troubles at fourteen. At first doctors declined to do the surgery. It was not feasible. But when she was sixteen, something changed, and her heart was healed.
I had a phone call from her mother a month ago to remind me of Souzan
Ten days ago we wrote about Walid and the hope for him to be released soon. Today we are proud to announce the following news: Walid was released in good health and Yousef and I helped his grandfather pack up their bags and gather all their things for the trip south to Gaza. We were also able to bring him a bagful of a special medicine, Clexane - a blood thinner, for him to use. While a three month supply had been requested, we could only requisition one month
Serving with Shevet Achim has stretched me in my ability to handle sudden changes in scheduling and being flexible. We are not working with dead matters here, but with alive, precious children in need of heart surgery.
This past Friday was the day that Atwar, our mischievous three year-old from Kurdistan, was supposed to be admitted for heart surgery on Sunday morning. But late in the evening Thursday we received the news that his surgery will be postponed. It seemed that a little baby from Gaza, who was an emergency case, was to take his surgery spot instead. So we started our morning meeting Friday by interceding for these little lives that God has entrusted us with. For if that child from Gaza was to have their surgery scheduled first, he or she had to be in a precarious condition.
Later on Friday morning, Muna and I left for Wolfson Hospital to visit the current Gaza children and their families, including the "emergency case" child. So we went to the children