Shadâ€™s last few days in Israel were full. Yesterday we drove to Wolfson hospital to have his final echocardiogram and pacemaker check. Through each test his mother worried and constantly questioned Ruth and I as the doctors and nurses made comments or had questions themselves. So close to going home, she couldnâ€™t help but be nervous as she waited to hear the all clear and good to go conclusion from the authorities. Upstairs in the international clinic area we waited for Shadâ€™s echo appointment in a hallway lined with chairs attesting to the areaâ€™s most common use. Angolans, Romanians, Gazans, and others were some of the countries represented there, waiting.
When it came near to our turn, we gave Shad some sedative to help him sleep through the test so the doctors could better work with him. Partly because of his condition, Transposition of the Great Arteries, his chest protrudes around his breast-bone in a way that makes it more difficult to probe his abnormal body structure. During the echo he never quite went to sleep, but he did not become as hysterical as he usually does. His echoes are longer owing to his â€œpoor acoustic windowsâ€ â€“ it is difficult to get a reading of his unique chest. Dr. Alona came in and looked at him for another while, and then pronounced him finished there and ready for his pacemaker evaluation by the Devices Department downstairs.
There, through another worrisome 45 minutes we found just what we had been expecting: that Shad was ready to go home! Dr. Geist told Shadâ€™s mom that the pacemaker is a top-of-the-line model with redundant wiring. It is like multiple tiers of safety. His heart is near-normal, and the pacemaker simply adds lines of defense should his heart ever beat very irregularly, slow down, or stop. Heâ€™ll need to get the battery checked after three years and replaced after five, but that can be done in Iraq.
As we waited for Shadâ€™s discharge papers, his mom voiced her many thanks to the doctors and beamed with joy and gratitude to all her friends in the hospital wards. After a few hours we were on their last trip to Jerusalem.
We arrived home as the evening light began to fade. Shad and mother quickly stepped up the stairs to share the good news with the other mothers at the Shevet building. Downstairs we enjoyed a good dinner and planned out the farewell party for Shad and Parwana (a precious young girl also going home to Kurdistan). As the time came near, we gathered in the Kurdish style living room and talked as Ryan played some fun songs on the guitar. Shad loves music and began dancing in his own way to the tune as you can see in this short video!
After that Shad was getting sleepy and his mom took him to lie down, but Josh recalled them to receive some presents. Madelyn presented a bag of gifts to each child going home, including personal handmade blankets given by caring women from the United States. Next we spent some time sharing our thoughts and special memories of their time in Israel. Then we turned down the lights and enjoyed some slideshows put together commemorating their journeys. As the films played, all the children in the room seemed to feel the happy atmosphere and began giggling and pointing to different people in the room as photos of each came up on the screen. It was their party and they knew it! After the deserts and cheer we filtered out to get some rest for the next day.
The next morning most of the Shevet Achim community once again gathered to wish them farewell. After a bit of extra packing and taking care of details, we formed a circle, prayed, hugged, and said our goodbyes.
On the car trip to the Jordanian border both kids had some crying fits and then settled down. Shad would occasionally give some amusing murmurs as he devoured a bag of crispy chips. He happily ate them while sharing by spreading fragments around the vehicle! As we neared the border, Parwana began whimpering but Shad didnâ€™t join in this time, and gave his mother an easier trip through the different border stops. At one office window he amused himself on the smooth tile floor, playing in a mound of contents from a handbag as his mother emptied and repacked it. We said goodbye as they boarded a bus to take them to the Jordanian side, where they met Jonathan for the trip to Iraq today. Shad was busy observing the world with his perceptive eyes. Precious soul in the Lordâ€™s sight!
If the Lord has touched your heart through Shadâ€™s story, would you consider giving to cover his medical costs? He is returning to Kurdistan as I write this and yet his hospital bill remains. This is an opportunity to directly sow into Godâ€™s Kingdom and show His love to the Kurds.
Today we got the news that Shad was being released to come home. When Yosef and I arrived at the hospital and went to find him, we met his mom already halfway down the hall with her arms full of bags and her face full of smiles! She was so joyful to be finally getting out of the hospital. Just getting to our building in Jerusalem, not even back to Iraq yet, is a welcome step for her. At the hospital it took us another half hour to get all of Shadâ€™s medicines in order and then load everyone in the van. We were taking another couple of Gaza families back to their homes as well, so our trip back took twice as long. During the trip Shadâ€™s mom asked a few times how close we were and when I told her she would just groan and settle back. Her trip home was a trial in endurance. Itâ€™s holiday season in Israel and many of our roads are full of traffic or police blocking the way. So it took extra long just finding our route home. Shad was exemplary, though, and just played in his own little world the whole way. After we parked in the Shevet parking lot, Shad and his mom practically bounced into our courtyard and up the stairs.
Today was Shadâ€™s second surgery. Because of his arrhythmia he needs a pacemaker. Yesterday was the highest Jewish holiday â€“ Yom Kippur â€“ and the staff was small at the hospital, so we couldnÂ´t even figure out when exactly the surgery was scheduled. We only knew it would be in the morning, which is why Anna and I left Shevet Achim at 7.00 am.
We arrived somehow not as soon as we wanted, at 8:10 am. Shad was already in the surgery and his mum was with him downstairs, which took us some time to figure out. Then she came back upstairs and was a little bit sad that we hadnâ€™t been there when everything began, and also that neither Jesse or Donna came with us, our good Kurdish speakers.
Most of the time during the surgery we sat all together around HeroÂ´s bed. We knew the surgery wonÂ´t be as long as his first one, so ShadÂ´s mum wanted to go to the elevators and wait there for her son. On the way there we met the head surgeon who said that ShadÂ´s surgery is finished. "Shad hallas" was all I needed to say to his mother in order to revive her smile.
It was something around 11 am when Shad was transported to the ICU. We waited outside, and after a couple minutes one of the surgeons came out and he told us about Shadâ€™s condition. He said the surgery went very well, the pacemaker installed, everything easy, no problems at all, and now he is doing well also in recovery. The nurses just need to prepare him in the ICU before his mother could enter and see him.
I called Donna to translate, and ShadÂ´s mother was really happy about this great news. Then around 11:45 am we went in and ShadÂ´s eyes were already open and he was moving. She was smiling about the good situation and I used one of my phrases in kurdish: "Spas bochoa" â€“ â€œThank God.â€ She felt so content with the situation that she left the ICU and went with Anna and me to the cafeteria for lunch.
When we were finished and said goodbye to everybody, ShadÂ´s mum was thankful that we had been there, especially to me, because I joined ShadÂ´s first surgery, what makes me in her eyes an important and close companion to her son. We headed back to Jerusalem after a successful morning.
On the way to Wolfson this morning I called Dr. Houri to get the latest update on the tentative plan for Shad's pacemaker surgery. He said that the hope is for Shad to go into surgery this Thursday morning. I looked forward to seeing Shad and his mother for a chance to encourage her perseverance. She was deeply focused on her sleeping son as I entered, and since her face was turned away from me, I was able to slip into a chair near her without her realizing it. When she turned her head once she sensed someone near, her face broke into a big smile of welcome, followed by mutual greeting hugs and kisses. From that moment it was obvious that Shad's mother had a new peace about her as the wait continues in Shad's long recovery. She seems to have shifted directions in her heart, and seems to be recognizing all the good around her: the true concern of the doctors, the kindnesses of the nurses, the blessing of Shad's good surgery which trumps the problem of arrhythmia that is soon to be solved. Instead of a fear-filled conversation, we had a forward-focused one. Her emotions rose to the surface as she asked about Essa's condition, and commented about other children in the hospital whose mothers were not with them, and who spent so much time attended only by a nurse. She appreciates that Shad is alive, and that surgery for the pacemaker is on the near horizon. Praise God for such a beautiful difference! I'm thankful to the ICU staff who took interest and took time to request our presence on Saturday so that together we could address all her concerns and questions face to face.
It wasn't long before Shad awoke, and it was so sweet to see him smiling happily as he sat up in bed. His mom went for a bowl of home-cooked Kurdish rice and chicken sent from the Shevet house, and he began enjoying it right away. As if he was planning what to do next, he asked that his favorite toys be moved beside his food while he ate. Before he finished, it was time for us to go. We bade a peaceful mother and smiling baby farewell with gratitude in our hearts as we headed for home. Please praise God with us for the changed countenance of Shad's mother, and that she will remain at peace as his surgery approaches. Remember Shad in prayer as the pacemaker is implanted on Thursday morning.
Tabea and I visited Shad today, and as soon as we entered the room the questions and requests started flying. First off, the stand-by nurse asked us to tell Shadâ€™s mother all that she had already heard for the last few days. Shadâ€™s condition has not changed, and he and his mother are basically in a waiting time. His arrhythmia is still under observation and if it does not improve the doctors may make the decision to insert an internal pacemaker. After hearing from the nurse, a doctor came in and repeated the same conversation. They were both very kind, and in word and action communicated to Shadâ€™s mother how much they cared for her and her son. The doctor did add that today a specialist in electro-therapy would be coming, and with his help the doctors at Wolfson hospital will be better equipped to make decisions for Shad.
While visiting another patient, Hero, I was called back to translate for the doctors; they were almost done meeting in Shadâ€™s room with the specialist. No new decisions were made, except to wait two additional days before reviewing again the internal pacemaker option. The doctors are still hoping that Shadâ€™s heart will return itself to normal.
Please pray for the distraught mother who is under extreme pressure from all sides, even her family. She says she is not eating right now. The staff tells us that she often disrupts their work with frequent crying and questions. She has heard the same explanation of the situation many times, and I believe she will only triumph through it all by holding onto faith in God.
Three AM normally finds all of the Shevet community asleep and resting up for another day. However, at that time yesterday morning, staff member Donna was awoken by an urgent call she received from Shadâ€™s mother. It seemed that Shad was being moved out of secondary and into primary ICU, and his mother wanted a translation in Kurdish as to why this was so. After discussing the details with his doctors a short time later, Donna found out the following information concerning Shadâ€™s current condition: Shad had a fever and his heart rate was alarmingly low, even with the aid of an external pacemaker. Both of these factors were severe enough to prompt doctors to move him into the ICU, where they could administer the proper medications and monitor his physical condition more closely. He was also on â€œstand byâ€ for an emergency surgery to insert an internal pacemaker lest the anti-arrhythmia medication they were dispensing failed to elevate and regulate his heart rate.
In light of this news, it was with feelings of trepidation that a small group of us approached the Wolfson Medical Center later that day. We walked into the ICU, expecting to find sweet Shad hooked up to various devices and his mother beside herself with worry. But we didnâ€™t find Shad in the primary ICU. He had been moved back into secondary ICU, and though he was only hooked up to two intravenous drips (one being an antibiotic for his fever and the other an anti-arrhythmia medication for his heart), his mother was still fraught with fear and anxiety. But after conversing with her a short while, it was found out that the main source of her uneasiness was because of the language barrier she faced in the hospital. She simply did not understand why Shad was being moved from one room, to another, and back again. But she calmed down considerably once his current situation was explained thus: The antibiotics reduced his fever, and the anti-arrhythmia medication stabilized his heart rate enough so that he no longer warranted being on â€œstand byâ€ for an emergency surgery. However, there is a caveat. If in four days time Shadâ€™s heart fails to produce a steady, normal beat without the help of an external pacemaker and medications, he will have to undergo the procedure for the insertion of the internal pacemaker anyway.
With all of this uncertainty concerning Shadâ€™s current status of physical health, let us keep in mind what Paul has written in Philippians 3:6:
â€œBe anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.â€
Indeed, let us thank God for the major surgical hurdles he has faithfully brought Shad over. But let us continue to humbly pray and ask God to give strength, determination, and clarity of mind for the medical staff working on Shadâ€™s case so that his heart might be restored to a normal rhythm and his â€œcommon coldâ€ be cured soon.
I was delighted to see Shad's mother pushing him down the hall today as we entered the children's ward at Wolfson, but her worried countenance drew my attention right away. She had been waiting for me to come so I could help her understand Shad's status in the intermediate ICU. She is fearful because he still needs an external pacemaker, and wonders what is going on. I began by asking Shad's nurse for an update, and she explained that Shad has a â€˜common cold,â€™ for which he is receiving breathing treatments to keep his lungs clear. She assured me he has no pneumonia or any other complication. Further, she said that Shad's heart rate is still too slow, but they hope that it will return to a normal "sinus rhythm" (the normal rate of the heartbeats) on its own; the pacemaker is regulating his heart for now while he's not feeling well. I explained this in simple terms to his mother, but it was clear she was still perplexed since we cannot say how soon Shad will be finished with this small machine, and be able to leave the hospital.
When I visited Shad later, he was lying in bed watching cartoons. His mother and I were both surprised to see him begin reaching for his oxygen mask and applying it to his mouth over his pacifier. It was very cute, and humorous, and we began calling him Dr. Shad. I was thankful for some light-hearted moments with his mother, since I believe the words in Proverbs 17:22 which say, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength." Long hospital stays for fearful mothers have a tendency to break the spirit and sap the strength of these brave and special women. For this reason we look for opportunities for laughter as part of the way to encourage our families, and today little Shad was an inspiration for joy.
Later in the afternoon, while I was sitting with Hero and her mother, Shad's mom rushed in asking me to come quickly since the doctors were discussing Shad's case. I was glad to get information from them about everything she wanted to know, and thankful to find Dr. Houri among the doctors meeting together. He updated me about Shad's status, and the news I received was not as encouraging as I'd hoped. If Shad's heart does not return to normal sinus rhythm within two weeks after surgery, he will need another small operation for an internal pacemaker to regulate his heart. The two-week-window ends in five more days, and doctors will watch him closely in the intermediate ICU. I carefully explained everything I'd just heard to Shad's mom, knowing it would be very difficult for her to hear. She burst into tears at the thought of another operation for Shad, and was trembling with fear for the first few moments. I reiterated that it was a small surgery and that it may not happen at all if Shad's heart returns to normal on its own. I assured her we would pray for this, and that I would share this prayer request by internet so that many others would also be praying. I entrust Shad's needs for healing to your prayers â€“ for his cold and irregular heartbeat. Shad's mother also needs prayer for strength and endurance, so let's join our petitions as we call out to our great God.
As we saw little Shad today, he seemed to be pretty energetic. He was seated in his bed, playing with everything he was able to reach with his left hand.
There are 2 main reasons why Shad is still in the secondary ICU:
1. His heartbeat isnâ€™t regular at the moment
2. He doesnâ€™t drink enough, so isnâ€™t able to urinate
As soon as these two â€œproblemsâ€ are solved, he will be able to leave this station and to move on to the regular childrenâ€™s ward. We were told today that he should be able to leave the secondary ICU within the next two days.
We tried to give him different drinks and to find out what his favorite would be, but he refused everything. At the same time he seemed to be very happy while playing with us.
His step-mother was happy as well that we came to the hospital and brought some food for the next two days, which are holy days here in Israel (Rosh Hashanah â€“ New Years). She seemed to be thankful as well, that Jesse translated her questions into English in order to communicate with the nurse. Even though she was a little nervous about Shad, who isnâ€™t drinking enough, she had a smile on her face and is looking forward for his next steps to come.
We wish her all the patience she needs and that she might find peace in the arms of the living God!
Today was the first day after Shadâ€™s heart surgery and Iâ€™m glad that l was there with him and his mother. When l first went in to see Shad, he had his eyes closed and was crying. His mother wisely suggested giving him a pacifier, and when she placed one in his mouth, his tears stopped. Then his mother and I happily tried talking with him. Sometimes he opened his eyes to see us, but other times he kept them shut.
Whenever Shad woke up, his mother didnâ€™t want to leave him for one minute. But when he fell asleep, she went to see and give support to Heroâ€™s mother who was waiting for her daughter to come out of the operating room. There was a particularly precious point during the day when Shad woke up from resting, opened his big eyes, looked right at me, and gave me a big smile. His mother said, â€œShad was smiling at you!â€ l was so excited that I completely forgot I was in the ICU and started to sing some Kurdish songs to keep him smiling. Then the time soon came to say goodbye for the day. But overall, he seems to be healing quite well and I wish both love and joy to be with this mother and son.
This morning at 6.00 am we headed out of Jerusalem, looking forward to the surgery in Tel Aviv that would make possible a new heart for Shad. I was excited the whole night, because I received permission from Dr. Alona to be in the operating room during the open heart surgery.
At the Wolfson Medical Center we found Shad still sleeping in his room next to his mother, who seemed to me full of hope.
After a little bit of waiting, a staff member came to bring Shad in his bed downstairs. Donna and ShadÂ´s mom followed with me, happy that the surgery finally will happen now. Downstairs ShadÂ´s mom had a few minutes to give him kisses and blessings, and she felt very glad that I would be joining and "taking care" of her son.
I followed some staff members and Shad into the surgery room. I fulfilled the rules of this clean area, and wore a net on my head, a mask on my face, and fresh clothes given to me by a nice young lady in the preparing room.
The preparation began. Shad was already under anesthetic and they attempted to find an artery where his blood pressure could be measured during the surgery. But it was not easy, and even if they found one, they could not really handle it because ShadÂ´s blood was so thick. They used the echo machine to search for an artery, and finally their try at the hips was a success. All other preparations, like connecting the oxygen resuscitation apparatus, were already done. Usually the preparation requires thirty minutes, but this time it was ninety minutes, as it was explained to me by a nice surgeon from Tanzania who is in Tel Aviv for training.
Then two other surgeons began doing their work. So quickly that I didnÂ´t realize it, suddenly half the flesh of ShadÂ´s chest was opened. I walked straight around the table to the top, where I stood most of the surgery and began to watch, taking pictures and videos and honestly, enjoying this special moment.
They divided the middle chest bone by a saw in order to reach the heart. Tubes were inserted into the heart to drain the blood; the heart must be empty during the surgery. The blood goes then to a machine which regulates the blood pressure in the body. Now the surgeon could really begin his work.
Because the arteries in Shadâ€™s heart are switched, the doctors in Iraq made a hole in the heart allowing oxygen poor and oxygen rich blood to mix; this was necessary to allow more oxygen into the blood that was circulating through Shadâ€™s body. But doctors in Iraq were not able to repair the entirety of Shadâ€™s heart.
The first thing surgeons did this morning was return to the hole in the wall of Shadâ€™s heart, and patch it with gore-tex material that will artificially recreate the tight heart chamber. This gore-tex material will remain in the heart for life, and allows the native flesh of the heart to grow around it in time.
They proceeded to reposition the aorta and pulmonary arteries in order to improve the flow of oxygenated blood. This took a long time and there really wasnâ€™t much to see: it was so deep down in the chest, and only the surgeons staying very close could see it. The head surgeon had a camera at his glasses, so I could watch this part on a screen.
When this was done they reactivated ShadÂ´s small heart. It ran so fast in the beginning, at a pulse of 210. Using the defibrillator, the heart beat became normal and stable again.
After this stressful moment, they began with preparations to close the chest again. This they did, using thick wire to fix the sternum.
The work is done! Spas bochwoa! (Thanks God!) Shad has a repaired heart! His oxygen level is already improved dramatically, and heading from the OR to the ICU the staff was in a good and easy mood after a job well done.
ShadÂ´s mother saw him for a brief moment on the way to the ICU, but she had to wait more than an hour while nurses stabilized him before being allowed to join his bedside.
IÂ´m really thankful for this awesome experience! It was amazing to see life in its most natural way, and to enjoy a new beginning of the pulse of living! Thanks God for his protecting hands! I want to thank Shevet Achim and the Wolfson Medical Center for this great experience!