Despite how trite and corny this saying may appear, I’m going to use it anyway: dreams do come true. You don’t agree? That’s alright. Perhaps I am overly optimistic. My reality might just be colored by the rosy-hued lenses of youth. After all, I am still in the state where life is predominately giving me new things - instead of taking them away. But instead of pondering over how to use tired adages in new ways, I’ll just tell you what happened that has made me so insufferably Pollyannaish. On a short trip to Kurdistan this week I was able to see Hewa, a child who came to Shevet eigth months ago and walked away with my heart.
Now, you may be thinking, “Okay, that’s wonderful. But what’s the big deal? You see and work with many beautiful Kurdish children.” You would be right. And I love them all. But for me, there have been some which have left more of a lasting impact than others. So far Hewa has left the biggest impact on me of all. Why? Well, why do we feel connected with anyone at all? Most likely because we recognize counterpoints of ourselves in others and feel that we instinctively understand them. Watching the way God transformed Hewa from sick, unhappy and sullen, to healthy, joyful and exuberant reminded me in a poignant way of, well, myself, and how God has transformed me in similar yet different ways in recent years. His journey and his person stood out to me in a very real way as a testament to God’s ultimate and unchanging faithfulness.
So when I found myself pulling up in a taxi in northern Iraq to meet Hewa’s father to drive to their home for lunch, I was beside myself with happiness. Upon stepping out of the taxi to switch cars and luggage, I was shot through with a bolt of surprise. Hewa had accompanied his father to meet us! But our reunion was not as I had pictured. He barely glanced at us and after a quick hello, I was crammed into the back seat of the car, where I struggled to come up with something to say to him in Kurdish. However, he seemed well contented with the silence and stared straight ahead.
Things got a little more awkward once Kristina offered him a caramel, which he graciously accepted with a smile and sweetly placed in a small, beat up coffee tin he was carrying. I, on the other hand, somehow thought it would be a good idea to jokingly offer him a tissue seeing as we both had runny noses. Bad idea. His large dark eyes flashed up at me, just once, in haughty distain before he went back to virtually ignoring me for the rest of the car ride. Needless to say, the tissue was rejected. And I was a little taken aback, yet reminded that he could be a little moody. But this is just all part of his charm.
You can tell by observing Hewa that he is a bit of a complex child. And when he isn’t brooding like a tortured poet, he can bestow a smile the likes of which Scott Fitzgerald sums up fairly accurately in The Great Gatsby:
"He smiled understandingly -- much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced -- or seemed to face -- the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. Precisely at that point it vanished..."
Fortunately, he seemed to forget the misguided tissue offering and gave us several of these winning smiles later on in the day.
Soon we arrived at his family's house. After lunch, the conversation fell to the reason for our visit: giving thanks to God with Hewa’s family for all he has done for them. From his visit at the cardiology screening this week, we knew his heart had taken very well to the surgery he had in Israel.
His oxygen saturation is decent and his heart does not require any further surgical repairs. However, Hewa could elect to have a catheterization in the future to open up his pulmonary artery to increase oxygenated blood flow to his body -- if he so chooses. But he looks, and seems to be feeling great. When we asked his father what was the most dramatic change he has seen in his son since surgery, he replied, “Before the surgery, Hewa couldn’t do anything. He just sat, and had to be carried everywhere. Now...” His voice trailed off as Hewa came racing into the room for an instant before dashing out again after one of his siblings. This was a common theme throughout the day. His relatives constantly tried to get him to sit still for ten minutes to visit with us, but he never really did. He seemed to be too full of energy. Though to be fair, he sat inside long enough for us to ascertain that, in fact, he does not want to be a doctor when he grows up (something he told us while in Israel) -- he wants to be a pilot instead.
It was truly an honor to be with this family for an afternoon and soak in all of the love they had for one another - and also for us. Everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy sitting and talking with one another. When Hewa did come in, he charmed us all, most notably by bringing Kristina and me a small bunch of freshly picked wildflowers. True to what we remembered, he is still a lovely little gentleman. We were even able to meet Hewa’s new two-month-old sister, and see his joy in being her big brother. Even though his sister was almost his size, he would -- rather precariously -- carry/drag her about the sitting room with his mother’s help, or just sit while rocking her in his arms. To describe this scene as adorable seems to fall so pitifully short of its beauty.
When Hewa eventually sat down with us it was to watch the picture slideshow of his time in Israel. He sat staring intently at the screen while his mother fondly named off and asked after those volunteers who had loved and supported them before and after Hewa’s surgery. It was clear that we all were far from forgotten.
All too soon it was time to leave. But before we left we tried to take one last picture of their family. But this just turned into one more opportunity where they warmly welcomed us in as their own. They would only let their picture be taken if we were in it with them.
When we went to take our leave, they honored us one more time. Hewa’s father generously drove us to the other side of town so that we could visit another family who has had surgery in Israel. And Hewa accompanied us on our journey there too. Along the way, Hewa fell asleep between me and Kristina, with his head occasionally shifting from one of our shoulders to the next.
What his father said next surprised me. Laughing, he mentioned that it was about time that Hewa had fallen asleep. Apparently, he had been up all day in anticipation of our arrival, talking excitedly and refusing to nap. In fact, his excitement over our visit had been all he wanted to talk about for several days. At this point I thought back to our lack-luster greeting from him, his fidgety behavior in running around distractedly all afternoon, and instantly recognized in his behavior another counterpoint I often see in myself. Some may call it being shy, but I prefer to think of it as defensively, somewhat unintentionally, downplaying emotions so as to not let on how much you care -- lest you get hurt. We might not have gotten to hear through verbal affirmations what we meant to Hewa, but he subtly showed us all day long. And I so very dearly cherished the physical evidence I felt leaning against my shoulder.
Fluffy rice. White beans in red sauce accompanied by a colorful salad chock full of cucumbers and tomatoes. Tiny store bought cakes alongside generous cups of supersaturated, sugary earl gray tea. Laughter, side conversations and the ever present game of improvised charades used to communicate attitudes and emotions to one another through the language barrier. All of these wonderful things seem to be quite standard for our communal meals with the Kurdish families here. However, the most recent meal we all shared together this past Thursday contained a little something extra in the air besides the Kurdish worship music playing just a little too loudly in the background; and that was a palatable feeling of gratitude and hope. This was no ordinary gathering. It was a time to celebrate the commencement of Hewa and Ahmedâ€™s time of healing in Israel.
For Hewa and his mother, their journey up to this point was especially difficult. Even before Hewa could have his surgery, his platelet count had to be stabilized through multiple transfusions and nine of his teeth had to be removed through an invasive oral surgery. Upon returning to Jerusalem after surgery, he promptly had to be readmitted to the hospital because of a dangerous buildup of fluid around his fragile, healing heart; an unfortunate reality forcing both he and his mother to spend the majority of their time here in Israel in the pediatric cardiac unit. His was not an easy recovery, and the general mood of his mother often reflected the hardships they bore. Yet they both endured. The fluid buildup around Hewaâ€™s heart disappeared and his blood INR levels stabilized within a desirable range. As his heart continued to heal, it seemed as if a dormant ember of joy inside him ignited and his energy level started its upward and hopefully exponential trajectory. And now here they were, content and happy, poised to return home to their family just days before Eid-ul-fitr, the festivities following the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. They opened a small pile of presents gifted to them and words of affirmation were exchanged between Hewaâ€™s mother and the Shevet staff members. A small video clip of some of these moments can be seen below:
During this time, Hewaâ€™s mother said something which simultaneously filled me with feelings of great happiness and desolation: â€œI would gladly make myself tired for any of you.â€ It was a happy moment because it conveyed in such simple, yet profound terms the depth of her gratitude for what had been done for the sake of her sonâ€™s life. But it was also a moment of great sadness because it was only then that it hit me just how attached to them I had become and that they were both leaving. So it was with great bittersweetness that I watched, most likely for the last time, this mother and son duo joyfully interact with everyone at the party.
Watching Hewa at his farewell gathering, it was still hard to fathom the drastic extent to which this boy has changed since being with us here in Israel. He came so weak, fragile, and seemingly defeated. But since his surgery, he has blossomed into a beautifully spirited, exuberant child with a quick witted sense of humor.
His transformation has been nothing short of extraordinary and bearing witness to his recovery has been a deep blessing and lesson to us all in Godâ€™s patient faithfulness. We are all sad to see this special boy leave, but we take heart in knowing that he is now home in Iraq with his family, who are finally able to enjoy his newfound health.
Today was a bittersweet day filled with much sorrow and joy. We embarked on our journey toShebathis morning with high expectations for Hewaâ€™s discharge. He knew the potential this day held and his spirits were high. His mother, on the other hand, could not share in his enthusiasm due to the disappointing news we recently received about their departure date being postponed. All of the tickets for this Wednesdayâ€™s flight to Kurdistan were sold out, forcing Hewa and his mother to wait another week before returning home. His mother, being very homesick, had her morale crushed by this news. She could not even put on a smile for her animated, healthy boy.
Despite the sad news, we plunged ahead praying for a good report from the doctors. Hewa whistled most of the way to his echo, showing off his newfound skill and his reluctance to be discouraged. To our delight his lungs and heart were found clear of all fluid and were working as well as the doctors had hoped. He was given the okay to go home! We rejoiced with him and tried to draw his mother into our thankful mood. She would not be persuaded away from her grief, but Hewaâ€™s smile continued to shine brighter than her tears. He has found health and with that came the ability to celebrate independently from his mother.
Despite the great news we received today, much prayer is still needed for Hewaâ€™s mourning mother. The Muslim holiday of Ramadan is drawing to a close this Saturday and they will be missing out on family festivities. We will try to make this a special day for them, and show them support as their second family. Please pray that God opens Hewaâ€™s motherâ€™s eyes to see the precious gift that He has given her, a healthy son. We are confident that as Hewaâ€™s smiles continue, joy will triumph over sorrow.
â€œWeeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morningâ€ (Ps. 30:5).
It seemed as if everyone had smiles on when walking out the door this morning. Hewa and his mother were headed to the Sheba Medical Center for another echo, and Ahmed and his mother came along for the appointment as there was the promise of a beach visit afterwards.
But before the fun in the sun could be had, there was the serious business of checking the status of the fluid buildup which had been found surrounding Hewaâ€™s heart causing him to be readmitted to the hospital several weeks prior. So with baited breath, we entered into the first stage of Hewaâ€™s â€œcheck-upâ€, which included an EKG and standard weight check. After being given the all clear here, we were ushered into the dark room where the echo was to take place. Hewa seemed to know the exact seriousness of the situation and keenly, yet quietly observed the humming computer screen which was displaying the glowing ultrasound images of his heart. The technician and doctor conferred quietly, with many hand gestures and shaking of heads. The results of his echo shocked everyone. It seems that Hewa no longer has any extra fluid in his thoracic cavity. His heart also appears to be healing well and producing a solid cardiac output. What an incredible turnaround for this come-back kid. This news added nicely to the other excellent results which were received this week: Hewaâ€™s INR results are in a stable range for the first time. Praise God. And because of all this progress, the doctors reported that they no longer have any medical reasons to keep Hewa in Israel. However, to err on the side of safety, it has been decided that he will have one final echo this upcoming Monday. If all goes well, Hewa and his mother could be on their way home to Iraq by Tuesday.
After all of this praiseworthy news, it was time to celebrate with some sand and waves. And no one was more excited for the beach than Hewa. As soon as we got into the parking lot, he scrambled out of the car and took off with his mother down the many picturesque steps to the Mediterranean.
Once at the beach, he grasped his motherâ€™s hand tightly and looked distrustfully at the water. But he quickly got over his reservations after he waded in the frothy water and experienced the pure joy that is having sea water powerfully swirl around ones feet.
This sweet boy is now full of so much energy and life that he is nearly unrecognizable from the frail and quiet child who arrived in Israel nearly 3 months ago. Let us rejoice in the healing which has taken place in his body so far and pray for continued progress in his recovery.
Huge smiles and packed bags greeted us upon entering the Sheba Medical Center. Hewa was ready to leave the hospital and face the world as a healthy and whole six-year-old boy. But before we left, Kristina relayed to Hewaâ€™s mother and me the positive news she had received from the nurse. It seems that no excess fluid has accumulated around Hewaâ€™s heart or lungs now that the drainage tube been removed from his chest. However, his diet and water intake still need to be strictly regulated in order to circumvent any further problems with unwanted fluid accumulation. With that said, we were given the okay to take him home to Jerusalem.
Once back at the house, the mothers all embraced and welcomed the family with smiles and words of encouragement. Both Hewa and his mother seem content having reached this new milestone as he moves one step closer to home and health.
"... but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."
As we approached the pediatric cardiology ward today, there was an unexpected sight: Hewa's mother sitting alone in a waiting area outside the ward, looking discouraged. I was surprised to see her there, partly because she is rarely separated from her son, and partly because my first thought was that there might be a problem which caused their separation. The actual situation was that Hewa was sleeping, and she was taking time for herself while pondering the continuing reality of life within the hospital, and her longing to go home. We sat together for a few moments, tears appeared, and I knew that the best thing I could do was find a doctor to speak to for an update. Dr. Amir was glad to fill me in, and the news was encouraging.
He explained that Hewa was stable in every way, except that his current dosage of Coumadin, the medication needed to prevent blood clots, was not yielding a stable INR result within the desired levels. An INR lower than the desired range means the blood is â€œnot thin enoughâ€ or clots too easily. An INR result higher than the desired range means the blood is â€œtoo thinâ€. So, Hewa will be kept at the hospital until the correct dosage of Coumadin can be found and his INR levels stabilize within an appropriate range. The doctors were speculating that this should only take a few more days. I returned to share what I'd been told, hoping it would reassure her that the end is in sight. She was grateful for the report, but said she just wants to go back to Kurdistan. In an attempt to steer the conversation into more of a positive direction and get her mind off things, we began chatting about other families with children from her home city who've also had heart surgeries in Israel. She didn't know any of the other families I mentioned, but seemed amazed that others had been here. Soon she was ready to go check on Hewa.
He was still sleeping soundly when we entered the room, and woke up slowly. We ended up playing a matching game with cards which he eagerly pursued with his mother and me. He won the first round.
After several other card games, Hewa suddenly made the decision that he was ready to go to the playroom. So after donning his sandals, he took off pushing the stroller. I was astounded to see the strength he's gained in just the two days since we last saw him! He was practically trotting down the hall, delightedly outrunning all of us to the indoor play area. We took an imaginary train ride to Kurdistan, climbed the equipment and slid down the slide. He had strengthened enough to lift some of the soft building "logs" in the room, which are taller than he is.
It was a time of marvel for me as we played, for I saw all of the normal little boy traits coming to the surface in Hewa as he did things he's never had the strength for until now. I was thanking God for it all, and sharing my thoughts with his mother. She agreed that, indeed, Hewa is the strongest now that he has ever been. In another sudden change of venue, Hewa was ready to go outside to the hospital's outdoor, contained play area. As soon as we were in the play area, he began surveying the fish in the fish ponds. He took a chance on the slide, sat on the lion statue and took several rides on the swing set. At last, the playful little boy that Hewa has longed to be, has been set free from an unhealthy body!
It didn't take long for the heat to take its toll on us all, and soon we reentered the hospital and another indoor play area. It was at this point that we realized it was late afternoon, and had to say goodbye. Hewa's countenance fell, but I told him again how well he is doing, getting so much stronger everyday, and that I thought he would be able to come home soon. It seems to me that he knows for himself that this is right, because he knows the strength in his own body is increasing as he gains health for the first time in his six years of living. His mother, too, seemed settled that all was going better for him, and therefore their departure date was nearing.
It's been a long wait for Hewa and his mother, but God is faithfully renewing the strength in his body, and his mother's heart. Keep praying with us as we watch and marvel even as we endure and pray with them through the process. I believe the day is fast approaching when this little boy and his mother will take flight back to their home and family, aware that waiting bore beautiful, permanent results.
Dawn. The sacred beginning of each day, when first morning light appears on the horizon and darkness flees, and the world begins afresh. I often consider the faithfulness of Messiah as beautiful and mysterious as daybreak. The prophet Hosea reflects on this aspect of God's nature, imploring that as we press on to know Him, "He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn..." (Hosea 6:3). Over the last week, Hewa and his mother have dwelt in the shadowlands, perpetually weary and dismal. It is in this state that God has heard and answered our prayers, penetrating the darkest night with unrelenting hope.
The first glimmer of light shone on Friday when our Shevet team saw Hewa smile for the first time in days. He was moved to intermediate ICU and only a small amount of remaining fluid necessitated the chest tube. The nurse informed us that doctors were moving cautiously in his current recovery plan. Still, progress was being made! His mother, however, remained somber and distant. As Donna aptly described, Hewa was like a small plant trying to thrust his way upward through the heaviness of his mother's depression. In spite of this, Hewa also showed delight in a bag of fresh fruits and vegetables. He carefully selected his produce before requesting that his mother make him a salad, pronto!
While greatly encouraged by his brightened demeanor, we sought the same in his mother as well. Admitting to being at the end of her strength, she listened tearfully as we shared how God's strength is perfect in our weakness. We encouraged her to hold on one day at a time and said goodbye with renewed urgency to intercede for them.
On Saturday morning, I found nine missed calls from Hewa's mother. She answered me right away, voice quivering and desperate. Initially I thought something was wrong with Hewa and promised to call back after speaking with his nurse. The nurse assured me that Hewa was doing fine physically and that no new problems had arisen. It was then that I realized Hewa's mother was at last crying out for help. "I'm not good!" she expressed. "I'm so tired!" Her silence was broken with the acute need to be heard and to be comforted. Tears, so often, are cleansing to the soul. In our conversation, I spoke again of God's perfect love and strength for her and that she wasn't alone. How I ached for her to find hope in this truth.
The sun rose in splendor over Jerusalem this morning--Sunday, the day we remember life resurrected! The Shevet community prayed together for Hewa and his mother before sending our team of five women to visit them. Would we find hope still buried, just as a group of women anticipated two centuries ago at Messiah's tomb? As Donna, Madelyn, Ruth, her sister Catherine, and I approached their bedside, we found life instead! Hewa's mother greeted us warmly, a smile now present on her face as well. Her joy grew, as did ours, when the medical team arrived minutes later to announce the removal of Hewa's chest tube! The procedure was painful but brief. Tears were still fresh on his face when Madelyn initiated a game of balloon toss. We gathered around Hewa, bouncing first one, then two, then four balloons in a circle. Our laughter spilled out into the otherwise empty hallways. Both Hewa and his mother joined in on the fun as you can see by the picture!
Afterwards, Hewa requested to go for a walk, but we weren't sure if this would be okayed yet by his nurse. The request was answered in the affirmative, even as an order: "He must go for a walk!" replied the nurse. Without skipping a beat, Hewa was on his feet and moving quickly down the hall.
The first thing he headed for was a small tricycle, which, and as you'll see by this video, took him on a victory lap through the ward! His mother's relief and joy were undeniable. The spirit of heaviness was gone, and her shoulders were draped with a garment of praise!
What brought about this miraculous transformation in Hewa and his mother? It can't explained any other way but by the grace and faithfulness of Messiah! He continues to bring light out of darkness and life from the grave. All glory and honor belong to Him! Thank you to each of you who have been praying for Hewa and his mother. The Lord has responded to us and to them as certain as the dawn!
Kristina, Ruth, Natalie and I all agreed after visiting Hewa and his mother today, that entering their room in the ICU was like walking into a cloud of melancholy.
"The attached picture was taken discreetly at the door of Hewa's room."
Hewa was somberly watching cartoons, and his mother sat solemnly nearby. After greeting them, we simply spent time together quietly. I stroked Hewa's head, and prayed quietly to myself. He soon fell asleep and I went out to check with the medical staff on his condition. The doctors' report was one of great improvement, praise God! The update from the attending physician informed us that, since the chest tube was inserted yesterday morning, one and one-half liters of fluid has drained from around Hewa's right lung. Today's echocardiogram showed that the fluid is gone! More good news is that Hewa has no fever, and is not on antibiotics. Hopefully you can see the vast difference in puffiness after the reduction of fluid; his weakness is much more apparent now.
Despite this good news, there was no basic change in Hewa's mother's demeanor. I believe it's because of the unpredictability of his recovery. Can you imagine the conflict of emotion within her? She wants so much for her son's treatment to be finished, his body strengthened, his joy returned, and a reunion with their waiting family in Iraq to be on the near horizon. Yet after the obvious deterioration in his condition, and urgent need for the chest tube, what can she do but submit to the demands of treatment needed to help her beloved son?
It was in this setting that I was moved to share a gift, prompted this morning during our staff worship time by the Lord's heart for this dear mother and son. I had hoped someone else might help with translation for me, as my Kurdish skills are limited, but it seemed clear, at that moment, that the best way to impart God's compassion which prompted the gift, was to use the simple words I know to explain what they were receiving. So I presented to Hewa's mother two olive wood sheep, a copy of Psalm 23 in Kurdish accompanied alongside each one. A sweet smile briefly appeared on her face as she listened attentively to my explanation. I explained that as I'd prayed for them, I knew in my heart that God wanted them to hear of his special care for them, the same beautiful care that a good shepherd has for his sheep. I told her that even though she couldn't see this good shepherd, he is very near, and taking care of her and Hewa all the time because of his love for them. Just then a nurse came in for an assessment, and Hewa awakened. When the vital signs were finished, I knew it was time for Ruth and I to exit so that our coworkers could share time with Hewa and his mother as well. I gave Hewa his gift and quickly shared the same message with him as I had with his mother, showing him both of the sheep together to represent he and his mother. I then asked them both to remember this important truth: they are like sheep with a good shepherd, and he is with them right now.
Kristina and Natalie's time with mother and son brought a similar report. Though few outward responses to our visit were visible, some simple truths Kristina shared were received by Hewa's mother with a change of demeanor. By faith we trust that God will bring comfort and encouragement to them both as he continues doing his healing work. Please join us as we continue to intercede for Hewa, for his mother and the baby she is carrying, and their family back home. May each one experience the tender presence of the God who knows, who hears, who cares, who is with them.
I absolutely delight in old hymns. There are quite a few volunteers at Shevet that share this same delight and we found ourselves discussing it a couple of nights ago. Whether from early exposure in childhood, or a later discovery, our delight lies in a common source: these hymns are full of proclamations and prayers centered upon the story and nature of the God that we love so much. I find it impossible to sing or even recite the lines to one of these hymns without recalling, in some way, how great is the Father's love, faithfulness, and grace for us. This delight and recollection usually causes me to burst out with, "This is one of my favorite hymns!," whenever I hear the first few lines pour forth from someone's mouth. I realized this afternoon that I probably say that for most of the hymns that I know. The truth is that I could never settle upon one "favorite," because all are faithful ambassadors. There is a story behind each hymn through which an author has penned words that plead, praise, and testify to the way in which he met the Lord.
As Kristina and I made the drive from Wolfson over to Sheba to visit Hewa and his mother, we found ourselves continuing an earlier reflection upon Proverbs 13. We were particularly struck by verse 17, "a faithful ambassador brings healing." Throughout our reflection, the familiar words to one of those favorite hymns kept playing over and over in my mind: Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart, And all is darkened in the vale of tears, Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart, Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears. Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay from His own fullness all He takes away. Knowing the state of despondency and frustration in which we had left Hewa and his mother yesterday afternoon, our prayer became for hearts that were still before God, so that we could be ""faithful ambassadors" to bring healing and life to both mother and son.
When we walked into the regular Cardiac ward at Sheba, we were informed that Hewa had been transferred to the ICU due to the significant amount of fluid around his lungs. They had just inserted the drainage tube about an hour prior to our arrival, as yesterday had been spent trying to stabilize his INR levels. After hearing this news and anticipating the effect such a move had caused to both mother and son, Kristina and I quickly made our way over to the ICU.
It was a wide-eyed, delirious little boy and teary-eyed mother that greeted us. Hewa was extremely restless and uncomfortable, due to the drainage tube that had been inserted, and I could tell that his mother seemed to have hit a wall of complete and utter helplessness. Her anger had dissipated and was replaced by a loving and concerned mother's fear. My heart longed to reassure and comfort both of them and yet, in my very limited Kurdish, all I could seem to utter over and over was, "hosh ma whey," "I love you." My words of love were only a small portion of the love that I know God holds for this little boy and his mother. My prayer again was the Lord would bring healing to both of their hearts. For the majority of our hour-long visit, we simply sat in silence, offering comfort in the only way we could: through silent vigil and comforting hands. It was in this time that my mind again began to recite familiar words: Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on when we shall be forever with the Lord. When disappointment, grief and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, loveâ€™s purest joys restored. Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past all safe and blessÃ¨d we shall meet at last.
By the time we were getting ready to leave, Hewa had finally settled down into sleep. Though our words were few, I trust that God's perfect love will soothe all sorrows and fears, replacing them with the purest joy: a life restored and blessed future. Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change, He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
The last five days in Jerusalem have brought welcome reprieve to both Hewa and his mother. Everyone experienced their delight in being back in Jerusalem again. Home cooked food, sunshine, and the company of friends were like medicine for the soul. It was also special to celebrate Hewa's sixth birthday shortly after being discharged. We had an honorary picnic, complete with the ever-popular Kurdish dish, dolma! Hewa and his mother seemed most satisfied in being outside in a beautiful park. While we all hoped that Hewa's condition would improve daily, Saturday brought the first indication that something might be wrong. His oxygen saturation decreased slightly, and the summer heat combated with a lower energy level. Though the rest of his vital signs were normal, my attention was raised. Ruth, fellow Shevet nurse, and I noticed the following morning that Hewa's face and eyes looked swollen, and his oxygen saturation was unchanged. A quick phone call to Sheba's ICU put me in touch with Dr. Amir, the chief Internalist. After describing Hewa's appearance and symptoms, Dr. Amir advised me to bring him Monday morning for an echo exam. I explained to Hewa's mother that there may be more fluid around his lungs and that it was important for the doctors to verify this. She agreed wholeheartedly but admitted to how fearful she was of another delay. Hewa, the perceptive boy that he is, picked up on her anxiety right away and spent the evening sullen.
Both mother and son were very quiet and serious en route to Sheba this morning. They were a perfect mirror of each other in temperament. Prior to leaving, our community had just reflected on Proverbs 13:12, which says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life." We then prayed for God's grace and strength, knowing that we would need them in full measure today. Hewa was not too pleased once he discovered we were returning to the hospital for more tests, but he braved it well. His mother, on the other hand, began crying before the echo exam was even completed. It was as if she already knew the outcome, and to he it was the worst possible news. Without hesitancy, the doctor confirmed that Hewa had accumulated pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs) and needed to be hospitalized. He added that a chest drainage tube would also be reinserted to remove the fluid over the next four days. As we proceeded to complete the admission process, Hewa's mother slumped to the floor in the lobby, her back against the wall, sobbing. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick..."
After the medical details were translated, her defeated stance turned to anger. Thankfully, Hewa had gone ahead with Donna as his mother shared her emotions with me. In the heat of the moment, she declared they would leave after one week, no matter what. As an expectant mother caring for a sick child far from family, she has a good case for being upset. For all she's been through, however, God has been faithful to strengthen her and Hewa â€“ a truth I gently offered. Around this same time, Donna and I both perceived that Hewa, though merely six years old, understood that he was in the right place to receive the help his body needed. His confident mannerisms reflected a settled spirit as he meandered through the cardiac ward. He returned to his mother's side, staring up with compassionate eyes and laid his head on her shoulder. In this instance, Hewa and his mum reversed roles as child comforted parent.
Once the doctor had performed a physical exam, Hewa led Donna and I to the play area near his room. Using his creative skills, Hewa designed a colorful and symmetrical block house. He was the architect, and we were the builders, following his instructions to a tee. The sweetest part of the day was hearing Hewa laugh as construction turned to demolition in one fell swoop. We took time to affirm how much we loved him and how well he done today! I also reminded him of a song we often sing at home, which says, "My God is so big, so strong and so mighty! There's nothing my God cannot do, for you!" Donna and I prayed for Hewa and his mother, asking the Lord for healing and grace. Though Kurdistan may feel a million miles away, I believe their desire for full restoration in Hewa's heart will soon be met. And when it does "a tree of life" will spring forth.