The day of departure from Jerusalem to Amman is always filled with a mixture of emotions for the mothers. They are experiencing the joy of their child's healed heart and new life, as well as anticipating the return home to their families in Iraq. They are feeling the the desire to comfort and encourage the mothers and children still waiting for their release, and the sorrow of parting from their now-like-family of other mothers and friends among the Shevet staff and volunteers. Almost nine days ago now, that Friday departure seemed to produce those exact feelings for Hani and Mohammed
The many faces of Hani.
Even at a young age, the heart is capable of many complex emotions. And although our cameras frequently captured Hani displaying the more silly of emotions, this one and a half year-old showed us a heart also capable of deep love and affection. Her mother, though also very young, showed us a heart capable of understanding, sadness, love, resilience, and sacrifice.
I will never forget the day I saw their passports for the first time. I actually did a double take when I saw the birth year of Hani's mother--1990. This brave young woman had taken her daughter dying of heart defect, between the "enemy states" of Iraq and Israel, and she was only 22! Two years younger than myself. I paused for a moment to soak this in.
Over the months that Hani and her mom lived with us in Israel, I found myself connecting and bonding with them, but it was a gentle and slow process. Sometimes love has a way of sneaking up on you, and it wasn't until I shared tears with Hani's mom on the morning of their departure that I realized my heart actually ached to see them go.
The night before we celebrated a double farewell party--Hani and Mohammed both healed with masterfully created and restored hearts beating soundly within their chests. With cake, tea, presents and music, it was easy to celebrate and praise God with these two families that showed us so much gratitude and joy during their stays with us. But as the night drew to a close, Hani's mother clutched my hand and with sadness in her voice said, " I'm leaving tomorrow. It's so soon!"
Our group posed for one last picture, and all that remained was last minute packing and travel preparations. The next morning I sat quietly with them in the bedroom and prayed in my heart for God's continued protection over Hani and her mom. Bedroom packing quickly turned to loading the car, which quickly turned to prayers and hugs in our front courtyard.
My tears fell as the van drove them away to begin their trip home to Iraq. I felt the familiar ache of saying goodbye to loved ones. It is a commonly felt ache at Shevet Achim--but no matter how deeply we ache we they leave, we must always maintain how deeply we love while they are here.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." (1 John 4:7)
"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13: 35)
If you can't tell from the photo above, Hani has brought much joy into the Shevet home. Her funny expressions and antics always have me laughing throughout the day. "A merry heart does good like medicine." (Proverbs 17:22) And as much as I would love to keep Hani here, I also know that a home and family are awaiting her return in Kurdistan.
Her homecoming is now one step closer to reality as today's echo verified! I joined Hani and her mother in the echo room shortly after the exam began, surprised to find it quiet. Both Hani's fears and precocious personality were subdued by way of a gentle sedative. Despite the medication's calming effect, she entertained her mother and I with sweet babbling and hand motions to her favorite children's songs. The cardiology team studied her heart virtually uninterrupted for the next half an hour. Results showed a sound heart three and a half weeks post-operation. Satisfied with the surgical outcome, several doctors announced that Hani was released to go home! Hani's mother, the cool, collected woman that she is, simply let out a sigh of relief. She received the news graciously and thanked Dr. Alona while dressing a still very groggy toddler. I hugged her and praised God for the good news.
As Hani regained her faculties, she joined hands with her friend Mohammed in the waiting room. Their "duet" could almost be described as a song, but mostly just shouts of celebration! Both children were finished for the day with pleasant outcomes.
Such moments often pass and are too quickly forgotten. Each day, however, is a gift from the Lord, worth savoring and giving Him thanks for. Perhaps, this is why I've always loved the old adage "Stop and smell the roses." And before leaving the hospital, Hani and her mother did just that.
A nervous little Hani got into the van this morning to depart for the hospital. This perceptive girl has put two and two together and figured out that getting into the van means we are probably going to the hospital. And in Hani
Today Hani had her first echo exam after being dismissed from the hospital last Thursday. When I came upstairs to see if she and her Mom were ready to leave, I found an adorable little girl playing with Ahmed and my fellow volunteers. Her mother had dressed Hani with a skirt that matched her shoes. We could have watched her for a long time playing and relishing in life but we had to leave.
On our way to Wolfson she enjoyed listening to music and finally fell asleep just before we arrived at the hospital. There Hani was welcomed by a woman who recognized her from her days after surgery. She was excited to see that Hani is doing so well after surgery. It was obvious that Hani had won not only our hearts but also the hearts of many others.
By this point Hani had not yet cried, which I had been expecting based on our last experiences. We went to the echo room and as soon as we entered and she was laid down at the examination table, it began. Throughout the echo Hani stopped crying only for seconds. The two doctors tried hard to comfort her and I loved them for being so patient and tender with Hani. They were satisfied with what they saw on the screen and reduced one of her medications. Hani
A late morning phone call from Wolfson brought wonderful news to our ears today: Hani was dismissed to return to Jerusalem! We made our way to the hospital and were greeted by one very thankful but tired mommy carrying her adorable little daughter. I was immediately struck by the sparkle in Hani's eyes as we embraced one another in the hallway. She truly has the look of one with new life coursing through her body.
These days, Hani wants nothing to do with anyone who looks like a doctor or nurse, but she was quieted by her mother as we were given instructions for her medication regimen. When another nurse passed by us, and Hani began to whimper, I sought to comfort her by telling her not to be afraid, we were going home. As soon as she heard the words "going home" she looked at her mother, and looked at me, and held out her arms so I would take her. It was as if she was thinking "If you will take me out of the hospital, I'll go with you instead!" It was such a funny moment! Her mother and I laughed together in mutual appreciation at the message conveyed by the transparency of her actions.
We took a little time to visit with baby Mohammed as he recovers well from his surgery, and then we were on our way home. Hani's mom was asleep within minutes of leaving the hospital, while Hani took in the sights for at least a half hour before breaking the silence and waking her mother. After a warm welcome back by the other families and staff, Hani and her mother settled down for a restful evening, thankful to be home. We are delighted they're back, and give God praise for His good work in their lives thus far. We're trusting that Hani will continue to heal, and her mom will catch up on her rest as we spend the next few weeks sharing our home and hearts here in Jerusalem.
Arriving at Wolfson today, we were eager to see how our precious Hani was recovering. Her bright eyes, curious expressions and wiggly toddler nature had returned. The only problem was that she is still tethered to the IV pole and a clip on her toe that monitors her oxygen level.
In the course of our visit she enjoyed batting a balloon back in forth with whoever was in the room, looking at a picture book with brightly colored sea creatures, coloring with Donna, and eating pita (generously sharing small morsels with me) and half a banana (her mother kindly shared half with the little girl from Gaza in the next bed).
Her demeanor only transitioned to gloomy when a nurse walked in. Even the sight of Shevet
This blog was co-written by Shevet volunteers Donna Petrel and Ruth Zellweger.
Donna writes on Friday: Hani Wakes Up!
It was with great joy that I entered the ICU on Friday, anxious to see Hani and her mother; when the news arrived on Wednesday evening that Hani was next in line for surgery in Tel Aviv, I was in Amman, Jordan receiving other children from Iraq.
When we first arrived to the hospital, we were glad to see that Hani had already been extubated and was only on an oxygen mask. She was recovering well, but being a precocious, strong-willed toddler, she was struggling to wake up and have some water. As the new medication following her extubation took effect, Hani began to wake up. As she fought against the sedative, the staff was forced to tie her arms and legs down so that she didn't injure herself with flailing about; this was tough for her sweet mother to see and endure. Eventually Hani settled down after nurses gave her a bath; at that time, the oxygen mask was removed, and Hani's legs were untied.
On Friday afternoon she was allowed to have a little water, and a bottle, which settled her little soul with a satisfaction that led to rest. Our last visit to the ICU found Hani calmed by sedation, but intermittently alert to things around her. One such moment came as I was bidding her mother farewell with a kiss. Hani's eyes opened momentarily, so I spoke to her as well, and blew her a kiss. To the surprise of both her mother and me, she puckered her little lips and tried to blow a kiss as well! It was so cute, and so much represented who this tiny girl is on the inside: responsive, hospitable and loving. Please continue praying for Hani and her mom as her recovery continues. We look forward to having them both back in Jerusalem soon!
Ruth writes on Sunday: On the Road to Recovery
Early this morning, Kristina, Ruth (a new nurse volunteer from Germany), and myself left to join her mom for the wait during surgery. When we arrived, Hani and her mother had already been taken down stairs to the operating department. Once Hani was sedated and taken away with the surgical staff, her mother, with tears in her eyes, joined us for the wait. Having sent my own children into surgery, I know the unstoppable tears that flow even when one has great trust and hope in the doctors attending to their care. This is the second time Hani
Our beautiful and charismatic Hani received a big surprise this afternoon when the hospital gave us an unexpected phone call. After being in Israel for nearly one month, two weeks still remained until her scheduled surgery date. Hani's mother has been tearful at times, but bearing the wait patiently for the sake of her daughter. All manner of sorrow dissipated when we learned that Hani was invited to come to Wolfson today for surgery tomorrow morning! Her mother breathed a sigh of relief and smiled as she quickly packed her things and combed Hani's unruly curls. Catherine, Ruth, our newest volunteer, and I joined them on their journey down to Tel Aviv. I'm not sure who entertained who more in the car. Songs, puppets, bubbles, whistling, and silly voices kept Hani amused, while her playful antics and expressions had the rest of us laughing for a long time. She eventually fell asleep with the countenance of blissful peace.
All was well until Hani woke up to find herself in a place that aroused unpleasant memories. Her first sight of the nurses' station evoked terrified cries as she clung to her mother. While the medical staff carried on with other tasks, our team helped Hani calm down by escaping to a nearby playground. It didn't take long for this spunky toddler to forget her fears entirely. This girl loves to explore and is always on the move. I can't imagine her being any more active with a healed heart! During a game of peek-a-boo, Hani giggled again and again as I popped up from hiding to meet her face to face. What a joy she is to us all!
We said goodbye to Hani and her mother with the promise of being by their side tomorrow morning. As the sun was setting to the west during our ascent towards Jerusalem, I thought of how dawn's first light will find us on the road once more. Hope and anticipation find their place in my heart tonight. I believe that God delights in Hani and that He is preparing a beautiful gift for her. Will you please pray for her and her mother to experience His grace throughout tomorrow's surgery? Truly, as Messiah promised, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9