There are a few memories I will always keep of Ramyar. The first, and probably most ridiculous, is that I don
Ramyar wears a blue goose-down jacket everywhere. When you are close to him, and pat his soft hair with your hand, you can feel the heat rising out of the neck of the jacket. It is his cocoon. This morning at 10am Jerusalem time, Ramyar came down the old stairs at Shevet Achim wearing the ubiquitous blue jacket, and all the way down the road to Tel Aviv was quiet in the back seat of the van with his mother. The journey takes one hour. While the van was rocking softly left and right through the switchbacks of the mountain road, and with soft jams pulsing from the old speakers, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw him sleeping.
No one really likes waiting. Waiting before heart surgery can be intense, especially for worried parents; waiting between hospital appointments can be frustrating, especially for healing bodies who want to go home. So while Rawand and his mom wait to be called for surgery, and Rozhgar, Ramyar and their moms wait for a final echocardiogram, we sought a special outing to keep everyone encouraged. Much to our joy, last Friday presented just such an opportunity. On a sunny day in the Tel Aviv area, Rozhgar, Ramyar, Rawand and their mothers had a picnic outing to the Mediterranean Sea. It was delightful - we'll let the pictures tell the story! We hope you will pray for these children as you read, and enjoy the waves, smiles and seashells.
December skies were strewn with white billowy clouds this morning, putting everyone in good spirits en route to Wolfson. It has been one week since Ramyar and his mother were released from hospital, and the future is already looking bright. Congestion and a cough, which had lingered in his immediate post-op period, have since cleared. Moreover, Ramyar's shy stoicism has given way to smiles as the days go by. His smiles are precious to me because they feel like thoughtful gifts, reserved as an expression of love and trust.
I watched this small quiet boy wait patiently for his turn to come in the echo department. He is so much like his mother, both in looks and personality
Ramyar is a quiet, thoughtful and generally contented boy. I've been struck by his shy glances which have recently blossomed into broad smiles. Today, apart from the time we spent in the echocardiogram clinic, those smiles were plentiful. But during the probing by the doctors, there were no toys, no cartoons, no soothing touches, and no songs which could quell Ramyar's tears, try as we might. Yet the good news from the doctors' work was worth the effort to calm Ramyar, and the report brightened the smile of his mother. There was no fluid found around Ramyar's heart or lungs, and his heart is healing well, praise God! His medication will not be changed at this point since it is effectively healing his heart. Another echo will be performed on Monday to monitor his continued progress.
Following the echocardiogram, we enjoyed some lunch together. Although Ramyar's mother wanted to see Rawand and his mom, also from Kurdistan, the chance of catching a virus led her to choose sitting together in the fresh air, while Garrett and I visited Rawand's room, which is shared with Walid and his grandfather, from Gaza Strip.
Once it was time to head back to Jerusalem, Ramyar napped most of the way, waking for the final drive through the city traffic while enjoying a bag of chips. A happy mother and son then returned to the family of recuperating patients upstairs with thanksgiving. Let us join in thanking God as we pray for the completion of Ramyar's recovery.
"Did I hear that right?" This was my first thought when I was told that Ramyar would be returning to
Whirlwind would be an apt description of Ramyar's hospital departure. He and his mother were waiting outside with packed bags, seemingly reluctant to re-enter the building in case someone might tell them they must stay. It was necessary for me to learn about medications for Ramyar and Rozhgar at the nurse's station, so I hardly saw them at all! At the same time, we were assisting a
Ramyar was a little fussy on the way home, but settled down before we arrived. Ramyar and his mother were in the Shevet house for only two nights before his admission for surgery, so it's understandable that he was a little dazed to return here. To be carried into a room and settled down among people he barely knew was almost overwhelming, except that he and his buddy Ayman had a slide show to enjoy together. Soon Ramyar was contented, and now he begins the next leg of his healing journey. Keep praying for him as he strengthens, and his thankful mother as she cares for him.
In this land long ago, King David penned these words: "The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look expectantly to You..." (Psalm 145:14-15a).
There have been many instances in the last two years of serving at Shevet where I have seen the fulfillment of this scripture in the lives of the Kurdish families we serve. One child after another arrives broken and weak, and their mothers are full of fear. Meanwhile, God is at work, both to restore their hearts and lift their eyes to Him. Every day is one of expectation. And since most of the parents speak Kurdish exclusively, lack of communication with medical staff only heightens the intensity of expectation. I found this to be true during my visit to Ramyar and his mother at Wolfson today.
It has been five days since Ramyar's surgery, and still he teeters on the line between stability and instability. This morning, doctors made the significant decision to extubate him once again. For the next several hours, ICU staff were on standby, watching to see how his body would respond without mechanical ventilation. All that his mother understood was that something was happening to her son and that she was asked to wait outside. She was sitting alone outside the ICU, her face etched with concern. When our eyes met, relief washed over her face, and then the questions began: "How is Ramyar?" "Is he good?" "What is happening?" "What are the doctors saying?" "How many more days will he be in ICU?" It was apparent the suspense was wearing on her.
I immediately went to find as many answers as possible and lessen her concern. One nurse told me that they really didn't know which direction Ramyar would take. "We hope he will get better!" she added optimistically. I hoped for the same. At first glance, Ramyar's condition looked much the same as yesterday. He is still sedated with various tubes and monitors attached to his body. A new breathing apparatus, however, was now secured to his face with velcro straps.
I later sought out Dr. Houri, head of ICU, to get more details on the situation. This time, Ramyar's mother accompanied me to her son's bedside, watching every expression with keen eyes. Dr. Houri explained that once the ventilator was discontinued, Ramyar was still struggling to breathe well on his own. Thus, a transitional device called a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine was being used to provide partial assistance. Ramyar still had to initiate each breath but was receiving a constant source of pressurized oxygen. I was further informed that his lungs were receiving a greater amount of blood flow than they had previously been accustomed to, leading to respiratory challenges. It may be that more time is needed before his lungs fully adjust to the post-op changes.
His mother was encouraged by the fact that the doctor said her son was improving and that all vital signs were currently stable. She also graciously accepted the fact that Ramyar's recovery is not a quick process and needs patience. It was beautiful to see peace on her face as she stood in ICU, the place she was once so fearful of. Truly, God is raising her up daily with new strength. Ramyar continues to improve as the evening falls in Jerusalem, from where I write. A nurse told me over the phone that he is now off of the CPAP machine and using a simple oxygen mask. This is a wonderful answer to my prayer for Ramyar today and a fulfillment of our greatest expectations being met by a faithful God.
We left the base in
Something powerful and beautiful took place today within the matrix of skin, and bone, and muscle of a small boy from Kurdistan. Under the skilled hands of Wolfson's surgeon, Dr. Sasson, Ramyar's heart was fully mended. What makes his surgery even more exceptional are the circumstances surrounding it. Ramyar and his mother arrived in Israel amidst an increasingly volatile missile exchange with Gaza. Nevertheless, Israeli visas continue to be granted to Kurdish families, hospital services have not ceased, and God is sustaining the ministry of Shevet Achim. Ramyar's brave heart, while faced with numerous obstacles, never stopped beating.
The hospital was like a sleeping giant when I arrived this morning. Making my way through the quiet corridors, I found mother and son sitting quietly on their bed. Ramyar, the perceptive boy that he is, seemed to understand that something daunting was about to happen. He tearfully clung to his mother as nurses arrived to escort us downstairs. Special scrubs were then given so that Ramyar's mother could accompany him directly into the operating room. This way, panic would not ensue as anesthesia took effect. Meanwhile, I was asked to wait outside as farewells were made. These few quiet minutes helped prepare my heart for the role of comforter. Surgery days are trying ones for any mother, as they are inevitably composed of much waiting, praying, crying, worrying, hoping. These are also days when God allows me a glimpse of Himself as our perfect comforter and source of peace. Just as I stood there wondering how Ramyar's mother would respond, she came around the corner sobbing. We stood there with our arms around each other for some time.
For the next five hours, a team of highly trained nurses and doctors nimbly worked their way through Ramyar's complex heart. A quartet of defects, defining his diagnosis of Tetralogy of Fallot, was mended, including a large VSD (a breach between the upper cardiac chambers) that was sealed with Gore-Tex material. The surgery took longer than expected due to a severely narrowed pulmonary artery. Surgeons augmented this vessel by securing a specialized patch which creates greater circulation to the lungs. The end result was a successful full repair!
Ramyar's mother was surprisingly calm as the clock ticked by. We spent our time sitting in an outdoor courtyard, speaking of family and home and life. Though I met this woman a mere three days ago, she has already become a dear friend. The company of Rozhgar, another heart patient from Kurdistan, and her mother also brought the encouragement of shared experience. Just before Ramyar came up from the operating room, his mother confided that she was too afraid to see her son in ICU. Rozhgar's mom, who had had similar feelings with her daughter, could fully empathize.
At 1:30 p.m., a transport team wheeled Ramyar into ICU so quickly that I could barely catch a photo of the gurney as they passed.
Less than an hour later, I was at his side, offering a prayer of thanksgiving for God's mercy. There were no complications, and Ramyar was perfectly stable. His mother thanked God as well when I returned to share the good news she longed to hear. She hopes to be at her son's side by morning, ready to help nurse him back to full strength. Ramyar's brave heart is beating once again to the glory and praise of the One who made him.