"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life." Proverbs 13:12
Dreams were fulfilled yesterday as two healed children and their happy mothers boarded a plane back home to their families in Iraq. The progression from their arrivals to today's departure has been long and trying in many ways, but thanks be to God that in His perfect timing the day for reuniting these friends with their loved ones came at last.
We've shared with you the anguish and angst of Sarchil's mother during his post-surgical treatment to balance his blood clotting factors. It has been fraught with emotion, mostly in the negative direction, until Monday's news of dismissal. Since then, I watched the demeanor of both Sarchil and his mother quieten and settle as the hours ticked by until we left for the border on Tuesday afternoon. Sarchil's mother began rising to the task of maintaining his vital medication regiment with little prompting, even reprimanding me when I mentioned the Tuesday evening dose by saying, "It's past 8 o'clock, and I gave it to him at 8 o'clock!" I congratulated her on her attention to his medicine, praying this would be the first of many days she would manage it well. As we prepared to go to the airport yesterday, Sarchil's mother again seemed especially focused on the stability of family which awaited her as her goal.
Jonathan wanted to treat us to lunch on our way to the airport at a restaurant with an indoor playground. To everyone's amazement, Sarchil consumed two and a half hamburgers! He was excited to enter the play area, but recognizing his own vulnerability, was soon deterred by the roughness of the other children as they climbed over anyone and everyone in their zeal to enjoy the structure.
Our journey through the airport was favored by the Lord, and we approached the gate with only a few minutes' wait before it was time for our final goodbyes. Their joy over thoughts of home vanished in the sweet sorrow of parting. Sarchil and his mom had different responses to the embraces we exchanged. Sarchil's mother was thankful and peaceful after understanding they were only a brief wait away from boarding the plane. Sarchil, on the other hand, got big tears in his eyes after I told him I loved him and thanked God for his new heart, as well as how strong and smart he is. He sought to hide his face so as not to show his emotions, and I stood up to allow him the space to compose himself. I steered them into the line which was moving swiftly through the final security check before boarding. I watched as they all waved and blew many kisses as we walked away from each other.
I trust you'll join me in prayer for this precious boy as he grows up, that he will know and accomplish the purpose for which God created him, and has given him a new heart. May he find the stability of dreams fulfilled in the tree of life, from which all life is given and flows, and there be satisfied.
Last night was filled with an abundance of laughter, smiles, and rejoicing as we celebrated both Sarchil’s and Sarina’s release home. Such joy was a complete transformation from the frustration, anger, and disappointment the previous night had held for Sarchil and his mother. We were able to rejoice with mother and son through gifts, refreshments, and words of affirmation as they anticipated their long-awaited return home.
As we prepare to send Sarchil and his mother home to Iraq this afternoon, I am reminded of the rejoicing that took place at the dedication of the wall in Jerusalem in Nehemiah 12: "And the singers sang aloud, with Jezrahiah their overseer. Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off." The rejoicing of the Israelites over the restoration and dedication of the walls of Jerusalem came after it had been destroyed; the walls were left in ruins and the gates burned down. Nehemiah wept and mourned for days before resolving, through prayer and fasting, to return and rebuild the city walls. Armed with the strength of the Lord, all the people united alongside Nehemiah to repair the ruins of the Holy City of David. Despite the outside threats and internal conflict that arose, the people were rewarded with a complete restoration of the walls of Jerusalem.
Sarchil and his mother’s stay here in Israel has very much paralleled the Israelites journey through the destruction and restoration of Jerusalem’s walls in Nehemiah. They journeyed to Jerusalem because of Sarchil’s broken heart, enduring both physical and emotional turmoil in the face of a complicated surgery and slow recovery process. Ultimately, the reward is the promise of complete restoration and the fullness of life and joy.
Jonathan captured the video below of Sarchil playing soccer in the front courtyard of the house not too long after he and his mother had returned from Sheba yesterday afternoon. They had just received the news that Sarchil was cleared and they could return home. Just witnessing the vibrancy that now resides within the body and spirit of this young boy who came to us weak and weary is such a blessing.
As we were sharing words of affirmation and stories with Sarchil and his mother last night, one theme abounded: how great is the Lord’s love for them. Zephaniah 3:17 declares, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Our prayer for both Sarchil and his mother as they return to Iraq is that they would come to know how deep is the Father’s love for them, embracing the joy of the Lord that comes through His strength and ἀγάπη love. May the love and rejoicing that has taken place in Jerusalem resound in Iraq with Sarchil and his mother!
Anxiety and anticipation have reached a maximum for Sarchil and his mother. Emotions have certainly been high this past week as they have waited for the news that they may go home. Last night climaxed with a conversation between some of the staff and his mother redgarding the need to make sure that Sarchil is in a stable condition before he returns home. We have spent a lot of time in prayer that God's will would prevail in this family and that the Lord would shower peace upon them. Their desire to return home is understandable, but our desire for Sarchilâ€™s safety and full healing process is of primary importance as well. Today's echo and blood test were the determining factor if they would be able to return home this week.
We sat quietly in the waiting area at the hospital this morning, not knowing if we should prepare ourselves for an outburst of joy or frustration following the appointment. We stood anxiously with his mother while the doctors carefully examined every inch of his heart. Finally, they turned around and delivered the verdict: he may go home! Needless to say, there was great rejoicing. The doctor has determined Sarchil's condition is stable enough that a doctor in Iraq can continue the follow up and determine the appropriate amount of medication to administer. It was wonderful to see such big smiles on both Sarchilâ€™s and his mother's faces. This has been a long, hard journey for them. Jesus promised in Matthew 11:28 that He would give rest when the weary and burdened would come to Him. We pray that as Sarchil continues to grow strong in Iraq, both he and his mother would turn to God for strength. He is the one that can lift their spirits and bring rest to their hearts.
The past few days have been excruciatingly difficult for Sarchil's mother as she's struggled to cope with her son's hospitalization. Today brought relief as his improved condition allowed doctors to grant his dismissal back to us here in Jerusalem, along with an appointment for another echocardiogram next week. Although they are pleased with the decrease of fluid around Sarchil's heart and lungs as his body responds to medication, doctors are reluctant to send him home too soon. His situation will require close follow up back home since the heart medications influence the blood-clotting levels in his body. This means that anti-clotting dosage must change according to the dosage of his heart meds; as the heart meds are reduced, a proper clotting level must also be maintained. Will you join your prayers with ours for Sarchil and his doctors during this balancing act?
Sarchil lives a couple of hours from his cardiologist, and his cardiologist will be the one managing these dosages as Sarchil's bloodwork indicates appropriate increases or decreases. At day's end, we brought mother and son back to the Shevet house, where we look forward to more time to love them along their way home.
Following an outing to the beach yesterday, our normally active and joyful Sarchil became lethargic and feverish last night. Treatment with over-the-counter medication quickly brought the fever down, and this morning he was still at normal and seemed to be feeling himself again. By late morning he had again lapsed into lethargy and his temperature had risen enough to telephone the cardiology department at Sheba. Because Sarchil is only three weeks post-operative, doctors asked us to bring him in. This was the last news his mother wanted to hear, as we'd just received word this morning that he is cleared by the hematologist to return home to Iraq.
A thorough echocardiogram revealed that Sarchil should be re-admitted to Sheba because there is pleural effusion which was not there in last Thursday's echo. The best course of treatment for him will be determined following results of a blood test and chest x-ray. It was the hope and desire of Sarchil's mother that he not be admitted, as she has struggled so with staying for extra treatment for her son. The expression of her emotions in front of her son was hard on him, and we encouraged her to speak of these things in another room. I found myself praying for the peace of God to cover us, especially Sarchil, so that he was protected from wounding by her unsettling words. God's word teaches us that it's from the heart that the mouth speaks, and it is my continuing prayer that God will touch this mother's heart with healing even as Sarchil receives all the treatment needed for full health. Please pray for both of them as their journey continues.
Her declaration that she couldn't stay in the hospital with her son, prompted an explanation that it was her responsibility to be with him, and she was the one he needed most. To help her cope with the stress, it was discussed and decided that our Kurdish volunteer Tara would stay the night with them in the hospital. At about seven-thirty this evening, after accompanying them for the blood test and chest x-ray, Catherine and I left them just outside the children's emergency room, where they were to be assigned to the pediatric ward for further observation. We are all hopeful that tomorrow will bring good news of a simple treatment for Sarchil without prolonged time in the hospital or in Jerusalem. Thank you for interceding for this sweet boy, his mother, and his family at home waiting for their return.
Weeks of waiting for surgery combined with a long recovery period have made Sarchil and his mother anxious to return to their family in Iraq. Today though, we were able to brighten their day by taking them to the beach at Tel Aviv. The moment we caught a glimpse of the sea through the city buildings, both of their faces lit up. Their excitement only compounded the closer we grew to the water. Although Sarchil was tentative at first, he quickly got used to the waves and loved splashing around in them. Between enjoying the sea, collecting seashells, and devouring a late lunch on the sand, there was a lot of laughter. It was truly a blessing to see both of them with such large smiles on their faces. In just minutes, the worries of the past few weeks disappeared and they were simply able to enjoy life. We pray this joy continues and that God gives them peace as they wait to return home.
Sarchil loves to play, and thus waiting for an echocardiogram in a large play area brings a smile to his face. It was a while later that a big smile graced the face of his mother when we exited the echo room after hearing that Sarchil is dismissed from cardiac care.
Dr. Danieli told us that Sarchil's heart looks great, and that he is pleased with the results of blood work done on Sunday. He hopes that next Sunday's blood work will show that the necessary chemical balance has been achieved to prevent dangerous blood clots from forming. If so, we will find out the dosage Sarchil will need in order to return home to Iraq. With the end in sight, both Sarchil and his mother have lighter and happier countenances, which brings joy to us all. How beautiful it is to see that this boy and his anxious mother are almost ready to go back home no longer anxious, but joyous instead. Thanks be to God!
Ps. 30:11 "You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy..."
Sarchil and his mother experienced an extreme paradigm shift in their outlook and countenance this afternoon. After two weeks of post-op recovery in hospital, this pair was near their wit's end. Anxious and upset, Sarchil's mother had been calling me at least five to ten times per day. She couldn't understand why her son had not been released when he was clearly back to his energetic self. Even the cardiologist had pronounced him fit for discharge after yesterday's echo exam. His heart is healing soundly thanks to a Fontan shunt and successful revision of his circulatory system. Why was the hospital detaining him still, you may ask? Their reason lay beneath his skin within the makeup of his blood.
The fact is that Sarchil continues to be at risk for dangerous blood clots and requires a preventative medication called Warfarin. Doctors at Sheba have been working hard all week to find just the right amount of medication for Sarchil's body. I am happy to say that after multiple blood tests and adjustments in dosage, a balance was finally achieved! However, the hospital had not yet indicated when Sarchil could return to Jerusalem.
I prayed for the grace and strength needed to comfort him and his mother this afternoon. Every day of waiting has been a battle for them and despondency has had the upper hand. Only God could provide what they truly needed. Bracing myself for a new surge of tears and questions, I approached their room with a degree of hesitancy. Then, my phone rang. What awaited me on the other line was the sweetest news of all: Sarchil could come home! The timing was so beautifully orchestrated. I quickly thanked the nurse and rushed into the pediatric ward, now anxious to see mother and son.
Sarchil's mother wore the expression of a defeated woman. While typically passionate and quick to speak, she barely said a word. I, on the other hand, couldn't get my words out fast enough. "You're coming home today!" I exclaimed. Her eyes filled with tears and grew slowly brighter, like a fire being rekindled. Her lovely smile returned to her face as well. I hadn't seen it for days. When we found Sarchil a minute later, the celebration officially began! He and his mother were practically dancing as they offered me food again and again, laughing, chattering, and packing up their room like they were in a race. When they stopped to rest a minute, Sarchil's mother expressed how angry she had been in our conversations this week. She opened her heart to me as Sarchil played merrily on. It was the honest confession of a woman recounting her struggles but now turning her face towards hope.
Before leaving Sheba, the doctor gave strict instructions regarding Sarchil's medication regiment and dietary restrictions. It was also stressed that he must have his next blood test on Sunday and that the doctor must be notified with the results. Sarchil appeared relieved as the nurse removed his IV port, thankful to have his arm free and clear. He then led the way to the car, marching triumphantly with a festive bouquet of balloons and a million dollar smile. He was the embodiment of joy!
Indeed, the Lord has come to "console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isaiah 61.3).
Today Donna Petrel and I went to visit Sarchil and Hewa at the hospital. Before we had even walked to Sarchil’s room, we found him bursting through a connecting door. My first sight of him led me to wonder if he had even had a surgery! His energy level seemed to already be as high as it was before the operation.
I scooped up bags of customary Kurdish food that we had brought from Jerusalem, and we found our way to their room. Sarchil showed me a bundle of balloons that someone had given him, and we spent a few minutes bouncing it around. Donna and his mother soon finished talking with the nurse and also came to sit with us by his bed. Sarchil then pulled out a bag of all sorts of toys and proceeded to show us his assortment. One toy he held for a while was Marty the Zebra from the movie Madagascar. Whenever he bonked it on something it would sing out a fun quote from the movie like, “You guys are all crazy!” After the 20th time or so, while his mother was trying to talk on the phone, she told him to put it down. After the 30th time she tried to make him. Then after the 40th time I took it and tossed it aside, and everyone looked at me like I had meant to make it go off one last time! Then we turned to Uno, the classic card game...
So all is not yet as it should be in Sarchil’s behavior, nor in his body. As his mom talked with Kristina on the phone, she became very emotional upon learning that she will need to spend more days at the hospital. After a prompting from Donna, I led Sarchil away from the trauma and over to the game area, where we proceeded to find a figurine to sit atop a toy horse that he has.
Later on, after taking a walk outside to some in-hospital restaurants, we talked with the head nurse in Sarchil’s ward. She gave us the hard news that because his blood viscosity is still unstable, Sarchil will need to remain in the hospital at least two more days while the medical staff doubles the dose of his intra-venal heparin medication. If his blood grows more stable by then, Sarchil will probably be able to return to our building in Jerusalem. The good news was that instead of getting two scary shots a day, he will now only be receiving one.
More days in the hospital was hard news for his mother to take, and we soon began another long conversation as she told us how in Kurdistan hospital visits are much shorter. But after we explained to her that the additional time is necessary for Sarchil’s to have a supervised and therefore safe recovery, she seemed more settled with the idea.
A few minutes before we left, Sarchil became engrossed in a video game and of course could hardly pause long enough to say goodbye. His mother thanked us on the way out and gave us a quick smile as we went out the doors.
With toys and homemade Kurdish food in hand, Catherine and I hoped to bring some cheer to Sarchil and his mum at Sheba Hospital this afternoon. Today marked his sixth post-op day, and what a triumph it was to see him out of intermediate ICU and in a normal recovery room. In addition to the final chest tubes being removed yesterday, Sarchil also took his first stroll down the hall!
His mother believed this progression warranted a discharge from the hospital despite her son still being connected to an IV and heart monitor. When I explained that Sarchil was doing well but still needed a bit more time in hospital, she was incredulous. His nurse explained that Sarchil was receiving continuous IV heparin, an anti-thrombus (blood clot) medication. When the risk for blood clots diminishes and this med is discontinued, he will be able to return to Jerusalem.
The nurse then advised a trip to the shower for a wash, much to Sarchilâ€™s chagrin. He proceeded to dive under his blanket, groaning and crying loudly. Nothing persuaded him to come out of hiding, and we reasoned that he just wanted some space. Apparently, what he also needed was something to pacify his hunger pangs. It's easy to forget how traumatic and emotionally turbulent post-op recovery can be. I believe that Sarchil was looking for security while having a profound need to express his fear and vulnerability. David's psalms so poignantly articulate that this human longing, regardless of age, is fully satisfied in the steadfast love of God.
I believe Sarchil experienced this love today in the patience extended towards him and the simple goodness of a full stomach. After visiting another patient, I returned to find Sarchil still lying in bed but with a big smile on his face. He proudly showed me his incision, and I saw courage in his eyes that I hadn't seen before. As Sarchil heals, I pray that he experiences a love which casts out all fear (1 John 4:18) and a comfort that brings rest on every side (1 Kings 5:4).