This week’s Gaza clinic saw five children up to Tel Aviv for echocardiagrams. They arrived a bit later than usual, and the hospital staff was getting anxious as they finished with children who had come from the West Bank, Haifa, and Jerusalem.
Simcha arrived with her father from Gaza, and her grandfather also came from the Jerusalem area to give her support. She was a little shy; she held tightly to her dad and hardly looked around. Her guardians had carefully made their way to the clinic, asking directions through the hospital. In the clinic hall we encouraged her to walk around and make some friends before her echo.
Mohammed Inahal, a young man, sauntered into the waiting hall and sat down listlessly. I do not know what life concerns beside heart problems he is going through, but it was a struggle to bring a smile to his face.
Fauzi came, bringing a laughter filled race with him as he joined another young boy from Haifa in running up and down the halls, and throwing toys around. It was good to see him so healthy, even though he is a handful.
Hajir Musri is a young watchful girl who got up to play a few times, but whenever a strange adult came by she would retreat to her mother. She was almost too bashful for a photo, but after a few attempts she put down her arm and made the connection.
A young woman, Yasmin, also came from Gaza. She is doing well and thriving in the support of her mother. She was dressed in the modest headscarf and a full length trench-coat Muslims often wear.
At the end of the day we were thankful to be a part of these children’s healing stories. Though we only see them usually a day every few months for checkups, we can still make an impact and share some kind care. The parents are glad when they see familiar faces, and often ask us to pass on their greetings
As Tuesday’s Gaza clinic started, we had a lot to make sure was ready and in order before we left Jerusalem on the road toward Gaza. Yousif had lovingly prepared each family’s transportation and arranged each permission so they could come out of Gaza and make their arrangements at Wolfson Hospital. Before leaving, we said a prayer for safety on the road and a Spirit-led day of ministry, thankful that our Heavenly Father was watching over us. On the hour-and-a-half journey to Gaza’s northern border, Yousef and I were able to sing some worship, find quiet time to listen to the spirit, and even practice some Hebrew together. We also met up with a representative from a donor group in Ashdod who had prepared a gift for a Gaza family.
Down at the Erez border crossing we met four-year-old Remas and her father. This child alone has been through two catheterizations, as well as a Glenn operation and a Fontan operation to repair her Tricuspid Atresia.
This heart condition involves the valve between her right atrium and right ventricle not developing or functioning properly, thus preventing a normal amount of blood to be directed to the lungs. Further complications usually arise from this abnormality. Remas’ heart has been fully corrected, and she is on the road to full health, requiring only periodic check-ups. She is an energetic young girl, and throughout the day we found her playing house in the play set at the clinic, posing eagerly for pictures, and rough-housing with another child, Mohammed.
Mohammed, is a bright -eyed young twelve-year-old with a mischievous smile.
His mother told us that he had surgery at three years old at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, and spent four months there before returning. Additionally, he had a stent, a tubular wire mesh, placed to aid his blood flow through a constricted pathway. Thank God, he is also doing well and growing strong.
Next up was a child who made it through the border too late to ride with us and had to take a taxi. Abdul Maxen, a 9-year-old from Jabalia City in Gaza, who is identified easily by his malformed left arm.
At the elbow it diminishes to a small hand. His mother told us he had surgery one year ago for a hole in his heart, but now he is returning regularly for checkups. He played a little with the others but I often saw him sitting calmly with his mother just watching.
One and a half year old Bara, from Deir al Balah in Gaza, came on Tuesday for an important pre-operation meeting with the doctors at Wolfson.
He has a cleft palet and will soon go for corrective surgery at Rambam Hospital in Haifa; his mother told us it will be in eight days. Also today he had a recalibration and resetting of his pacemaker that his mother said had shifted down in his chest. She was so humble and grateful for the care being given her son. I hope I will be seeing them up to Haifa in a few days.
After most of the day’s patients had been seen, Dr. Tamir called all the clinic's staff and volunteers into his office for a holiday toast and some party food. It was the Jewish New Year celebration of Rosh Hashana, and we ate apples dipped in honey to bring welcome sweet new-year. As we paused for a group photo, I wondered at our mix of Jewish doctors, nurses, doctors from other nations in training, including Arab translators and volunteers from Romania and around the world.
Thank God for bringing us together to be able to change so many young lives!
Driving back to Gaza was filled with tension as Yousif found his match discussing the Gospel with the three. Thankfully they would all pause and chuckle. We saw them to the border, said our “Ma-Salaamats” (good-byes), and headed home to Jerusalem.
Unfortunatley, Yousif and my Gaza adventures were not finished; the very next day we received word that a young baby had passed away in the ICU and needed transported back to Gaza. Young Renat, who had been battling for her life after complications arising from being weaned off of a special oxygen treatment post surgery, passed away after ten o’clock Wednesday morning. With some phone calls, pleas, patience, and prayers we received permission to deliver her to her family in Gaza, despite the border being closed for the Jewish holiday. As we prepared to part ways at the border, her father and I gave each other the respectful three kisses on the cheeks before we parted ways.
This Tuesday for the Gaza Clinic we were able to see 3 families through the Erez border crossing. Two came with Yousef and I in a Shevet van, while the third went by taxi. As we headed out in the morning, the words from Psalm 36 were rolling through my mind: “Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the oceans depths.” There is a band, Third Day, who has a song that uses this passage to make a song makes it easy to remember. Viewing the countryside around us as we drove along the road kept these songs going. We drove through the hills down to the Mediterranean coast and then along it south to the top of the Gaza Strip. How much greater is the Creator of this world than all the amazing things we see!
The world of each soul is fascinating as well. At the border we first met 6-year-old Salem Yonis and his mother as they walked to us out of the little shelter by the parking lot.
His personality soon showed, as he eagerly looked for a handshake and flashed a big smile. I helped him into the back of the van and sat him on a booster. Also coming with us was little Ahmed Saeed. At 1-year-old, he has been through a lot.
Along with a complicated heart surgery he has also battled recurrent chest infections in Abd Alazeez Al Rantessi Hospital in Gaza. His joyful mother sat him in the baby seat and I buckled him in with barely a protest. We all got strapped in and then got on the way north to Wolfson hospital.
At the children’s echo department we met up with Rozy Al-Khalili, her mother and grandmother, as well as her aunt who had come from her place in Tel Aviv.
Like the two boys with us she has already had heart surgery and was back for a checkup. Last time we heard from them was when Lina and Philip made a visit to their house in Gaza and shared a feast with the family. This morning she was sitting complacently in her stroller with her feet up on the food tray.
As each child waited for their echo, we found ways to help them through the day. Salem was non-stop playing, grabbing, climbing, laughing, running and probably everyone in the room had a part in reigning him in and occupying him for a little while. Ahmed slept some and watched things around the room attentively. His mother put him in the hands of Salem’s mother a few times when she talked with the doctors. Rozy slept a lot and did not seem to think much of the fusses around her. Thank God, all these precious children had good post-op echo results! Salem had surgery about a year and a half ago, Rozy a year ago, and Ahmed about a year ago,soon after birth.
We returned with the same two who had come with us, this time with Salem actually sleeping part of the way. I held Ahmed for a little while at the border while his mother got things in order and held Salem’s hand as well to keep him from running too far. We watched the clouds as they folded into each other in the sky. May everything that breathes give glory to Him in the way they have been created to!
Jesse, Nick, Yousef and I had the privilege to serve five families from Gaza, so we took two vans to accommodate them all. We left after a quick prayer at the beginning of the morning meeting. Jesse and I went to Wolfson Hospital because we had already some families with us who needed treatment at the hospital. After we brought them there we went to the Erez Crossing at the Border of Gaza to meet the other van and pick up two other families.
The first one was a father with his son Ahmad.
This little boy from Gaza had a very friendly smile from the beginning on. As we were walking to the security check before entering Wolfson he was holding his father’s hand, which I thought was very sweet. Even if we had not spoken a word so far, he suddenly came to me and grabbed my hand to walk with me the rest of the way until we reached the metal detector. During his echocardiogram he was very patient and still; his results were fine and was able to return to Gaza in the afternoon.
The other family was the three-year-old Remas and her father. They also came with us in order to do a checkup, as Remas had obviously a surgery when she was younger.
This girl was very shy, but in the end she was smiling for a quick moment which made me also smile. She wore a pretty orange dress, which made her look extremely cute. At one point, the possibility of her and her father having to stay in the hospital for a night to do more test came up, but in the end they were also allowed to return home. Praise God!
In the Hospital there was also a family with a baby, who were from Nablus. Her name was Lamar and her condition had not been so good in the past, but she was stable.
For the future it is recommended to do a CT Angio and then afterwards a Glenn operation. After asking the parents about a picture they agreed immediately with friendly smiles.
The last family we met was a father and his son Naseem, who is three years old and had had a surgery when he was younger. Today he came to the hospital because he was due for a checkup.
He was doing very well and has to return in six months to the hospital to have another checkup. He was a very friendly and full of joy. Before his electrocardiogram, he was imitating the sound of a machine in the room, which made all of us laugh. In the afternoon we dropped them at the Gaza border again, and the last words the father said to us were: “Welcome to Gaza”, which I understood as a invitation from this friendly man.
Yusef and I drove to Erez Border crossing expecting to collect 3 children and a parent for each, but were surprised to find 5 children plus 5 adults, which was too many for our van; so two went by taxi.
Romicer and Fajar were already at the hospital from the day before.
ROMICER As I arrived at Wolfson Hospital, I went first to the outside of ICU and was delighted to see Romicer's grandma, who said that Romicer was good and still in ICU.
Outside ICU there was a large crowd of press reporters and photographers who swarmed around little Fajar as she was brought to ICU on a bed from her surgery.
They then turned their attentions to her dad, with whom I spoke later, who was clearly very concerned for his precious little daughter, of whom he had just a glimpse before she was taken into ICU.
Yusef and I brought Malak, Mohamed, and Ali in our van.
MALAK is a little girl of about 3 years.
After examination, she was admitted to the children's ward for a catheterization; however, she will be kept for 2 days or so before the cath, as she has a cold, which needs to work out first.
MOHAMED is almost 2 years old, but very small and baby-like.
He, too, was admitted for a catheterization after his examination.
ALI is 2 years old, and after his examination, it was recommended that he be admitted for surgery in the near future and that he would need dental care.
The two children brought by taxi were Mahmad and Seba.
MAHMAD is an 11-year-old boy who, after his examination, was admitted for a catheterization tomorrow.
SEBA is a lovely little 4-year-old girl who was wearing traditional Gaza dress, which I thought was very attractive on her.
The recommendations she received were that she should return for follow up in one year and that she would need dental care.
After a long day with the precious little Gaza children and their parents, Yusef and I drove Ali and Seba with their parents to Erez Border, then returned to Shevet, delighted to have been privileged to spend time with these lovely and precious people.
Jesse and I went to Wolfson Hospital in Tel Aviv this afternoon to take Abu Ahmad to see his little baby who is in the Intermediary ICU. Whilst waiting outside the main ICU, I was blessed to meet two young children from Gaza:
Romicer is a little, 20-day-old baby who has spent 13 days in the hospital.
Her heart surgery was last week, and Dr. Houri said she is doing good. It was a complex surgery, but they have closed her chest today and hope to extubate her tomorrow. Romicer is in the care of an elderly lady who appears to be her grandma and who is devoted to her little charge. I have often seen her very close to ICU.
Fajar has been brought to hospital by her dad, and they have been here for a week. Her heart surgery will be tomorrow.
We picked up little 2 year-old Hala from Gaza's northern border this morning. With a ceasefire which came into effect lately, there were no rockets fired or Iron Dome interceptors going up in the sky. We pulled up near the waiting area in the parking lot and waited for Hala to traverse the many border checkpoints. Her mother and I made eye contact and I waved them over. With us already was another family from Bethlehem, but we easily made room for everybody in the van. Hala did not react well when I tried to strap her in, so I let her mother strap her into the carseat and we set off.
At the hospital we picked flowers while waiting outside the entrance gate. When we had permission to enter, we immediately headed up to the echo department. A video team from Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), our Israeli partner organization, and some reporters from the Times of Israel, were visiting the hospital and conducting interviews. Hala and her mother got to speak with them while they waited their turn for an echo. She is the first case to come from Gaza in quite some time, so she was able to speak about recent events from the region.
Her follow-up echo, the first since her recent surgery, went well and the doctor took a little extra time with her even though there were others waiting. Her previous condition included Tetralogy of Fallot - four major defects in the heart. Hala fell asleep outside as we waited for the reports to be finished. Soon we were headed back towards Gaza, thankful that the skies were clear. Each bright new day is a gift from God, especially for children who have heart defects like Hala once did.
Today we were not able to pick up any families from Gaza to take to the hospital because as of last week, Northern Gaza is an active war zone. Yousef did however receive a call for help from a family from Hebron. They needed to get to Wolfson hospital for a catheterization for their daughter Ofnan.
During our morning meeting we were still getting particulars of their plans, and afterward we found that they had come to Jerusalem and then left after not being able to go further. Yousef arranged for us to meet them at the Bethlehem border and we set out. They were waiting just outside the exit and we were soon on our way. We also had one of our Kurdish patients, Masa, going to the hospital as well. Her and Ofnan became playmates we traveled. Ofnan had to wait for Masa to be admitted for her turn to come, and we took a few pictures in the meantime.
Taking the time for each person in our care is an important part of the work and it was good to see Ofnan finally reach the hospital after a full day. Ofnan was successfully admitted for her catheterization; let it be our prayer that the Lord would keep her and strengthen her family in the wake of her operation.
Today the Gaza clinic was held, despite ever-escalating tensions between Gaza and Israel in the past week. The rocket barrage has been nearly nonstop, with sirens even sounding multiple days as far away as Jerusalem. Today’s drive to the northern border of the Gaza Strip included extra checkpoints, rocket trails, and distant booms to spare. Despite the earthly obstacles, the Lord proved a faithful protector, and allowed us to bring two families to Wolfson Hospital for follow-up echoes. Little Noaman arrived to an echo ward jammed with camera crews and reporters.
With all the recent rocket activity, new attention is being shown to organizations and hospitals that continue to treat patients from Gaza. He also sat patiently as his mother was interviewed with many cameras and microphones crammed in her their faces. Also with us, and luckily avoiding much of the media attention, Sa’ad, who is much older, patiently endured his echo with the composure of a weathered echo veteran. His composure was consistent through the many checkpoints and distant booms between the hospital and the border.
At the end of the clinic, we also gave a ride back to Gaza to a family who had been discharged. And, as if a final demonstration of the protection our Lord had bestowed us, we heard the sirens in the city of Ashqelon, due north of Gaza, but only felt a slight rumble of the explosion in the distance. Praise God we made the journey safely and for opening the borders for these His beloved children to receive healing.
This week’s Gaza clinic saw four children come out of the Erez border. All were follow-ups; one was getting ready for a further surgery; and one was being fitted for a prosthetic foot. As we left the border after picking up the families, a few rockets from Gaza were fired. The crack as they took off was heard and felt. When I looked for them, all I could see were the smoke trails heading up into the sky. Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense is said to take down over 80% of them.
Driving up the coast to Tel Aviv, we had our own war with one little boy screaming most of the way. This was one-and-a-half year old Osaid coming with his grandfather. They were separated in the van, and that was the hard part for him. Eventually he fell asleep. Outside the hospital we had a long wait for clearance to enter and played with the flowering hedge nearby. Osaid got a flower for his ear as his grandfather smiled. We walked up to the echo department together. He had a good echo, and the doctor’s were pleased to say that he is doing well and on the road to health. His progress is on schedule.
Also with us was two-and-a-half year old Bana. She is cute girl, though her hair is cut short at the moment. She had a VSD and is being checked for a smooth recovery. We’re glad to report that she also is doing well and on schedule in her post-surgery development.
Next was the almost three-year-old Rimas, who came in a pink and white frilly dress with an amazingly bright gold waist-band. She smiled cheerfully and enjoyed playing with us volunteers. She is in line for a third surgery soon but is being scheduled for a catheterization first. Here first surgery was about two years ago. With a number of heart defects, plus other issues, her restoration will take time. With today’s echo, the doctors have a better idea of the timetable possible for procedures and hope to move forward soon.
Finally, four-and- a-half-year-old Mariwan was back for an echo as well as a special project! We have followed Mariwan’s story through a few blogs now and continue to keep him in our prayers. After checking out with the main doctors, we went with him to have his leg fitted for a prosthetic foot. Currently he is getting very good at walking around on his knees or hopping on his one foot. The Israeli doctor doing this project set up all his supplies and then set to work. First, he drew a perimeter of Mariwan’s good foot just like children do of their hands on a piece of paper for fun. White pantyhose went on his limb that was to be molded. Then we watched as the doctor wound a plastered mesh around and around from above Mariwan's knee down to where his calf came to an end. This was wet and gooey and elicited many giggles from our patient. Mariwan loved it! Smearing the plaster around, the doctor created an even coating. Then he pressed his two thumbs into the quick-drying plaster just below the knee cap with the leg slightly bent. He held them there for a few minutes as the plaster set and was soon trying to remove the initial cast. The pantyhose helped the whole piece come off easier, but he still had to yank on it for a few moments before it suddenly popped off! With this mold, he said he will have a prosthetic made within three days, at which time Mariwan can return for fittings and adjustments. Being a part of this project with Mariwan was a joy as we look forward to his being able to walk. His mother as well was glad to hear that it would be ready soon.
At the end of the day, we headed back to Gaza with our crew and saw them off, this time not hearing any rocket fire.