"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 patience of Sarina's mother during the long treatment for her daughter's heart. It made her joy even more delightful when the final departure was realized, and we were all thankful to join in that delight. Our trip across the border was smooth, and the time passed with happy antics as we waited through the customs protocol. Sarina was filled with energy and joy on Wednesday morning while we got ready to leave for the airport. Jonathan wanted to treat us to lunch on the way at a restaurant with an indoor playground. After nibbling on her burger, Sarina was anxious to approach the play area. Once there though, it was clear that the structure was overwhelming to this little one, and the children bounding by her were not safe playmates at this point in her healing. She was content to enjoy one of the colorful cubes nearest the ground during our brief stay.
Our journey through the airport was favored by the Lord, approaching the gate with only a few minutes' wait before it was time for our final goodbyes. Their joy over thoughts of home vanished for a few moments in the sweet sorrow of parting. Sarina's mother was full of thanksgiving and loving goodbyes for everyone involved in helping her daughter and entire family receive the surgery and care they needed. She confidently expressed her desire to stay in touch with several who meant so much as they cared for both of them. I steered mother and daughter into the line that was now moving swiftly through the final security check before boarding, watching 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 girl as she grows up, that she will know and accomplish the purpose for which God created her, and has given her a new heart. May she find the stability of dreams fulfilled in the tree of life, from which all life is given and flows, and there be satisfied.
(This blog update is written by two of our volunteers, Donna Petrel and Jesse Tilman.)
Tuesday July 3, 2012 by Donna Petrel
After a long wait for an echo followed by a long echo, Sarina and her mother got the news they've patiently awaited: "She's going home." Dr. Livia commented several times about the beautiful surgery Sarina received, and the condition of her heart. Even though I knew the news was good, I didn't want to give a final word about our departure until I heard it from the doctor. When I shared the report, Sarina's mother's face lit up with a combination of joy and relief in a wonderful smile.
She has waited so patiently through delays before surgery, a longer than usual healing in the ICU, and a prolonged treatment for persistent fluid around Sarina's healing heart. She's been a model to the other mothers, and that has endeared her to us and to them. It has been my joy to watch Sarina strengthen. Monday, at the hospital Sarina was even running to and fro, entertaining herself with her new energy. I asked her mother if she had been able do this before her surgery, and her reply was that this is the first time Sarina has ever been able to run and jump and play like this. Praise to God for His marvelous gift of a new heart for her!
Tuesday July 3, 2012 by Jesse Tilman
Itâ€™s been almost 3 months for Sarina and her mother here in Israel. These 3 months have brought many changes in their lives. When Sarina came, she was so dark I could call her purple. Her oxygen level was near 50 percent. Now as she excitedly runs around with flopping arms, I reflect on how far she has come. Her growth as an energetic child has been good to see. She has picked up some of the mannerisms of the servants here that have spent time with her. From an abrupt way of saying Uma (this), to shushing us with a finger to her lips, or giving a knowing eyebrow lift, she has caught on to some of our peculiarities. Though most Kurds lift their eyebrows as a non-verbal â€œyes,â€ she has also added it to her body language to say â€œhiâ€ as some other countries do. We are a peculiar people here at Shevet as we mix multiple nationalities!
I trust God that she has also learned from us some of the other qualities that we want to pass on, like the value of selfless love and trust in God. Such things are not easily explainable to a child, yet they also seem to be able to sense them or their lack rather quickly, adapting accordingly. Though childhood memories of her time here may be hazy, I pray that Sarina will remember the kindness and care she has been shown. Her heart surgery is the tangible product that these other fruits of love surround.
Today we say goodbye to one of the joys of life here at the Shevet Achim building in Jerusalem. I can still hear her voice as she called each of our names in her own characteristic way, from saying my name as â€œJinsee,â€ to calling Kristina as â€œKreestina,â€ or Sophie as â€œSofeh.â€ Goodbye little Sarina Han, as I liked to say; this means Madam Sarina. May you grow in stature, wisdom, and in favor with God and man!
Tuesday July 3, 2012 by Donna Petrel
Today it was my pleasure to escort Sarina and her mother, along with Sarchil and his mother, across the border to Amman for their departure home tomorrow. Our trip was uneventful as the mothers and children rode peacefully and quietly most of the way. Our stops at the border terminals were opportunities for fun and food while we waited, and we entered Amman as a full moon rose over the city.
Ryan had prepared a delicious dinner for us, and after we shared it and cleaned up, we looked at last night's party pictures. As I write this blog, I'm accompanied by Sarchil and Sarina, who are asking me when I'll be finished so we can go to sleep! We will share the morning here at the apartment, and leave for the airport to send these two precious children and their precious mothers back to their families. Please continue to remember them in your prayers as they grow up to fulfill the plan God had in mind when He created them. How thankful we are to see them well and trust them into His perfect care.
Our last two visits to Wolfson with Sarina have carried with them the expectation of a congratulatory finale. Perhaps this state of anticipation is what turned this increasingly energetic girl into a virtual statue. Upon entering the echo room, Sarina became as quiet as a mouse. She didn't move a muscle for the entirety of the exam and only briefly took her eyes off of the doctor to meet mine. Both Sarina and her mother have shown exemplary patience since they arrived nearly three months ago. For this reason and many more, I was ready to join in the celebration today.
The doctor carefully maneuvered the ultrasound probe across Sarina's chest, examining every square inch of her heart and lungs. The stillness of the room broke momentarily as the strong whoosh of her heartbeat filled the air. This was accompanied by the mesmerizing beauty of each rise and fall of the heart chambers. It was a picture of grace in motion. Suddenly, Dr. Hanita turned to me and said, "She still has fluid. We need her back on Monday." She assured me that while the amount of fluid around her lungs had not increased since her last echo, it was enough to check her one more time. Her mother accepted the news graciously, but I saw the disappointment in her eyes.
We soon learned that this delay synchronized with another unforeseen change of plans. Due to problems with scheduling, flights to Kurdistan on Saturday had been postponed. These factors together confirmed that Sarina and her mother will return home next week, Lord willing. I so want their reunion with home and friends to be soon, but I also know that God, in His perfect love and wisdom, has a purpose in these unexpected seasons of waiting. Besides, I certainly don't mind seeing Sarina's beautiful eyes and hearing her mother's joyful laughter for a few more days! "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1
The outcome of Sarinaâ€™s surgery has resulted in an energetic young girl. As we waited for her echo this morning, she laughed, played, and ran up and down the hall of the waiting area of the hospital. Great joy erupted in my heart as I watched her, as I had heard that before surgery she had little energy.
This sweet, active little girl turned into the perfect patient as she made her way onto the hospital bed. The room was quiet as five of us eagerly looked on to see what the recommendation would be from the echo today. Sarinaâ€™s usually happy face turned serious for the entire time of the appointment as she lay perfectly still for the evaluators. As she is just shy of 3 weeks since the surgery and due to a small amount of fluid around her lungs, the decision was made to have her come back on Thursday for what will probably be her last appointment. Her mother, patient throughout this process, accepted the news with grace, seeming to completely trust the wisdom of the doctors.
Following our time at the hospital, our group of 8, headed over to the Mediterranean beach just 5 minutes away to play. Like kids, we all (2 children, 2 mothers, and 3 adult volunteers) kicked off our sandals and ran in the surf. It was wonderful to feel the warm water wash over our feet and splash onto our clothing. Sarina ran on the beach, dipped her toes in the warm water and ran her fingers through the sand. Sarinaâ€™s mother loved splashing in the water as well, the worry of her daughterâ€™s heart problems seemingly washing away with each wave.
As we left the sea, Kristina reminded us that the Lordâ€™s thoughts for us are more than the sands of the seashore and His thoughts toward us are good. We trust Sarina and her family see the Lordâ€™s loving thoughts in His provision for her heart surgery and healing.
â€œHow precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake, I am still with you.â€
A delightful Sarina and her mother joined Fatimah and her mom for the girls' echocardiogram checkups yesterday. While we waited for her echo, Sarina enjoyed playing with Fatimah while their mothers talked of home. When Dr. Alona finished the examination, she told us that everything looks very good in Sarinaâ€™s healing process. She reduced one of her medications and scheduled another echo in one week. This news brought the question as to whether that might be the final echo, but the doctor did not volunteer the answer for us. Perhaps two echoes? God's timing is perfect! In the interim, Sarina is thriving and enjoying life. Her demeanor is showing more joy each day, for which we give God great thanks.
Today we bear good news: the hospital called telling us Sarina was to be discharged and could come home!
So after spending most of the day visiting two other heart patients at Sheba Hospital, we swung by Wolfson Hospital to pick up our precious Sari and her mother. I awaited this day with much anticipation, looking forward to her homecoming and healing.
We parked the car, turned the corner, and there they were! It was like the end of a good movie when two people see each other and run to embrace. She smiled, wrapped her arms around my neck, and gave my cheek lots of kisses. Truly one of life's greatest blessings is friendship with children.
As you can see from the pictures, Sarina looked beautiful. Her skin is a healthy shade of pink, her eyes are full of life, and her strength is returning ten-fold. This transformation declares boldly the faithfulness and loving kindness of our Savior.
On the car ride home, Sari and her mother were more than thrilled to return to Jerusalem. With arms folded behind her head, Sarina reclined in complete satisfaction. THIS was a good day.
I am reminded of how real and tangible God's love is for us when He pours it into our own hearts. His love for Sarina and the attention He gives to her wellbeing far surpasses that of my own or the others at Shevet Achim. But He gives us a taste of what it is like to love as He loves.
We are a blessed community here at 29 Prophet's Street to partake in Sarina's story. I believe she has come to Israel for "such a time as this" as her heart is made well, and many hearts are made one.
Today was a special day visiting Sarina and her mother at the hospital. It has been five days since her surgery, and already she is in secondary ICU and doing very well. I sat by her bedside for quite a while complimenting her on how well she looks and how strong she has become. Her demeanor was solemn as the IVâ€™s and tubes, I'm certain, made her uncomfortable.
But, I brought a gift! Sarina has always enjoyed trying on my watch and jewelry, so I thought one of my rings might bring a smile. And it did! Though a little big, she beamed as I slipped it on her finger.
For a while Sarinaâ€™s attention was locked to Dora the Explorer on TV; afterwards she enjoyed a lunch of chicken and cucumbers...that's all she wanted! Later she met two new visitors who quickly became friends: Walter and Michael, students from Calvary Chapel Bible College in Jerusalem. They came with us today to the hospital and entertained Sarina with some coloring. This was no ordinary coloring book activity though. It became a crayon war! Sarina giggled and smiled as she and the guys scribbled on the page, and on each other with great fervor.
All in all, I felt God's blessing upon our visit as Walter, Michael, and I prayed over her that the Lord would do His good work in her life. And I believe He will. I am already encouraged by her medical report. The nurse said the fluid around her lungs is decreasing, and the tube in her chest will most likely be removed tomorrow. She is stable and responding well to medication.
I ask you to pray that both mother and daughter stay encouraged as they wait in the hospital. May the Lord meet them in a personal and profound way. He remains faithful through it all.
After a successful heart surgery yesterday little Sarina has progressed very well. Just as we left her yesterday sleeping peacefully so we found her today. There is something profoundly sweet about this little girl. Yesterday, immediately post-op, I could sense the beautiful aroma of Godâ€™s sweet presence and Sarinaâ€™s ministering angels surrounding her in the ICU. That same peacefulness and sweet aroma was lingering today as first Donna visited Sarina, and then later I did as well, accompanied by Sarinaâ€™s mother.
The good news today is that Sarina is already extubated and is now breathing on her own with the assistance of oxygen nasal prongs. Her oxygen levels were consistently lingering around the 98% mark today, which is a dramatic improvement over the 50%â€™s that she was experiencing before surgery. Sarina was becoming more aware of her surroundings and her eyes remained open for short periods of time, just quietly taking in the activity in the ICU and checking out her little neighbours.
At about 2pm the nurse took out Sarinaâ€™s central intravenous line, and when Donna went down the corridor at about 2.30pm, lo and behold there was Sarina in the intermediate ICU.
My acapella group sometimes performs â€œThe Irish Blessingâ€ which includes the line, â€œMay God hold you in the palm of His hand.â€ I believe God is holding Sarina ever so gently but firmly in the palm of His hand, and I sense that He has a mighty work for this little girl as she grows into adulthood.
Sarina has inherited some of her sweetness and strength from her mother, who came and spent some time with us today socializing over lunch and ice-cream in the childrenâ€™s playground. I thank the Lord for this precious mother (at right in the picture below) who has been so patient over the past two months while waiting for this life-saving surgery for her sweet daughter.
We arrived at Wolfson Hospital early this morning for Sarina's long awaited heart surgery. Today marked exactly two months since she and her mother arrived in Israel and began to anticipate this day. I've come to know a beautiful strength of character in both mother and daughter in the month I've lived at Shevet. They've watched families come and go with successful surgeries, and have remained patient and content in the waiting.
Surgery day for most mothers is one of tears and anxiety, but today was a different story. Sarina's mother told us how her little girl set the tone the evening before. In complete confidence Sarina looked at her mother and said, "Don't cry for me like the other mothers. I'm good." This statement spoken by a precious four-year old humbled me. She discerned the situation, readied herself, and so wished to calm her mother's fears. And truly the peace of God covered every moment of this day.
Before surgery we found Sarina sitting up on her bed, quiet, contemplative, and as cute as ever! She smiled as we showered her with kisses and told her how brave she was. She had her "game face" on!
All too soon the nurses whisked Sarina down the hall at a pace that disenabled her mother from keeping up. We were separated at the elevator and were told she had already been wheeled into the operating room. Her mother could not say goodbye.
Expecting an emotional breakdown from her mother, I was amazed as she followed her daughter's council to a tee. No tears were shed, she was resolved to the reality, and had a smile on her face.
So thus commenced the wait! Four to five hours is usually to be expected. Kristina, Deborah, and I lead her mother outside to sit beneath the shade of two beautiful arched acacia trees. There, we three volunteers enjoyed a cup of coffee and Sarinaâ€™s mother an ice cream cone.
Later we moved indoors to wait closer to the ICU. Families from around the world surrounded us, each anticipating the news of their own children. But I have to say that the atmosphere was one of joy! Smiles, greetings, meaningful conversations, and hugs were abundant. Now don't get me wrong. Five hours in a hospital waiting room takes a toll on any mother or friend, but it was all together a special day.
And as quickly as Sarina had been whisked away in the beginning, so one set of doors opened as nurses wheeled her by, and another set closed to the intensive care unit. The surgery was complete.
We had risen to our feet to catch a glimpse of Sarina and all embraced with thanksgiving. The Lord worked a miracle in that operating room. He directed the surgeon's hands and gave Sarina a full repair. She had suffered from Tetrology of Fallot, equaling four defects (tetra) in her heart. The doctors were able to mend a hole in the wall of the lower two heart chambers. Her pulmonary artery, being too narrow, was fixed, along with her right ventricle, which had grown thick from overuse. Now Sarina's heart will function in a far greater capacity and give her body the oxygen it needs.
When it was finally time to enter the ICU, I felt privileged to accompany her mother through both double doors and walk to her bedside. A warm blue blanket covered her body and all the tubes were attached to her. Her eyelids were taped shut and a look of calm rested on her sweet face. It was as if the Lord himself was leaning over her and quieting her spirit. His presence lingered in the room as her mother smiled lovingly at her little girl. She held her hand admiring the pinkish coloring that had replaced the blue. Sarina now has a heart through which blood can freely flow.
Today was indeed a beautiful day. Sarina, who holds such a special place in my heart, was made whole. I cannot express the love God has given me for her. And just as I prayed the previous evening, standing at the western wall, God poured out His peace and covered her with His healing hands.
It's been two long months of waiting for sweet Sarina and her mother to arrive at the moment of admission for surgery, but today the waiting ended. We were all very thankful that during the wait both Sarina and her mother were able to have some needed dental work done. This is especially important for cardiac patients, and Dr. Alona gave approval to tomorrow's procedure knowing both the infected tooth and the antibiotic treatment are finished.
Sarina was deeply affectionate today along with her usual reflective countenance. Throughout the day she grabbed my hand and offered many kisses. This four-year-old has a penetrating gaze which seems to take in far more than outward appearances, and her response to circumstances seems to often depend on what she discerns from her searching inquiries. Today perhaps she understood that fulfillment of a lifelong need was before her, and the response I perceived was one of gracious acceptance. She thoroughly enjoyed time to play during the wait on the playground before admission tests began, but once under the care of nurses and doctors, responded with courage and quietness.
She carefully looked over the variety of roommates she had when her room was changed, and was pleased to see Hani and Mohammed when we returned after their assessments. Along with her patient and peaceful mother, Sarina seemed quite ready for the necessary fasting tonight before surgery, and the operation itself which will give her new life. I believe I sensed the deep well of a mother's emotions rising toward the surface today after such a long wait for such a vital milestone in her precious daughter's life. Before we left, we prayed for peace for both mother and child for tonight and tomorrow, and for a perfect outcome for Sarina's heart as God's hands guide those of the doctors. Please join us in praying for these dear ones as we await tomorrow's outcome, and see the effects of Sarina's new heart.