My heart is broken and my words are few because of the news that this final blog brings.
Baneenâ€™s final breath left her around 10:30 Wednesday morning. Even with the slightest decrease in the ventilation support, her fragile condition responded as if to say â€œenough,â€ and her heart gave out. Her father described the situation, saying that doctors rushed into her room at the sound of a long beep and prohibited him from entering. Peering through the window, he saw doctors gently pumping her open chest and immediately knew that her life was barely hanging on. Once they all stopped, he walked away, crying. When Baneenâ€™s mother saw him she mustered up all the energy she had and ran toward Baneen.
We walked into her room to find her little body covered and both of her parents hovered over her, crying. Still convinced in hope, we humbly prayed over Baneen for her life to be given back to her.
Godâ€™s choice to allow Baneen to go is something we may not understand now, but His Word is true and God is still in control. Isaiah 55:8-9 states, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'â€ Only He knows the good that will come from this and we are left to trust Him and His will for Baneen and her family.
We left the hospital in Israel for Jordan that same afternoon. The six-hour journey with Baneen in a small coffin was nothing but depressing. Once there, Baneen was placed overnight in the hospital while the rest of us figured out the next steps. Baneenâ€™s mother, exhausted from weeping, made the final decision and requested that we take them to the airport in the morning and make arrangements for Baneenâ€™s burial in Jordan without them. She conveyed that another moment near Baneen was less than tolerable for her heart.
As we prepared to leave for the airport in the morning, both Baneen's father and mother told us emphatically how touched they were by the way people cared for them in Israel, and that they hadn't found such care in their own country. Jonathan replied that people are the same everywhere, and that the goodness they'd seen with us was simply God's grace as described in the scriptures. They left with a copy of Luke's gospel, bookmarked to the resurrection account.
The day came to a close at the Sahab cemetery where Baneen was taken. As tradition has it in Jordan, they took her to the burial site in a wrapped sheet. From there we watched as Baneen was gently placed into the ground. It was a moment in which I could only hold my bible close and pray for her parents who were not there.
In one of C.S. Lewisâ€™s writings, he comments, â€œWhen we lose one blessing, another is often, most unexpectedly, given in its place.â€ I do not believe that anything will replace Baneen, however I do believe that God will restore her parents' joy. And I pray that Baneenâ€™s life is not just a memory of loss and pain, but also of a time in which they encountered the love of the Messiah. He brings beauty for ashes, always.
It has been one day since our last visit with Baneen. Today we were told by the doctor that overall nothing has changed with her condition, for the better or the worse. A slight difference, however, is that administration of oxygen to her has been decreased, in order to test if her body will cope with the change. She is still in limbo between life and death. Doctors quote her outlook as 50-50.
Last night we prayed with Baneen. James chapter 1 encouraged us to believe â€“ â€œâ€¦for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the windâ€¦â€ So we are trusting that Godâ€™s healing will help Baneen through the present crisis.
Last night we received an alarming phone call from Baneenâ€™s father stating that her oxygen saturation had dropped to 30%, a dangerous level when compared to the healthy 90-100% range. In a brief moment after the call, the worlds of hope and doubt collided within our hearts and minds. Hope, however, overcame as we were all inspired by the words of Jesus and rushed off to the hospital for the second time that day.
After arriving it felt like the minutes were slipping away. With the anointing oil and scripture at hand (Luke 9: 1-2 states, â€œHe called the twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all evil spirits and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to healâ€), we made our way toward Baneenâ€™s family, all the while inviting Godâ€™s presence and healing hands to go before us.
Baneenâ€™s parents gladly invited us to pray. By faith, we prayed and stood by Baneen, believing (and still believing) that God will restore her health. Later in the night, doctors disclosed that Baneen is now suffering from multi-organ failure. Her heart, kidneys, and lungs have deteriorated to the point of non-functioning and she is currently dependent on several machines for oxygen, dialysis, and ventilation. Her chest remains slightly open, and through a clear plaster we were able to glimpse her little beating heart working hard for her life.
I spent the night with Baneenâ€™s mother, mainly in ICU pleading for Godâ€™s mercy and healing. She and I cried together and it was refreshing to release the emotion that had been building up as we both tried to remain â€œstrong.â€ No time seemed appropriate to take photos and so I leave this blog with no photo and a final thought:
We are called to pray for the sick, but we are also called to heal the sick. Last night and early this morning was a faithful effort to follow the words and truth that Messiah gave us, and in our faith we spoke of His promises that He may be glorified. We invite the body of Messiah, those reading this blog and those who are not, to come together and stand firm in the promise of healing.
Doctors battled for Baneen's life throughout the day today, closing her chest for the first time in many days, then reopening hours later when it became apparent that her heart was responding poorly to the change. They told Baneen's parents that they estimate she has a 50% chance of survival at this time. As we watched and prayed I felt a continued strong sense of hope, and this was echoed by the head of the ICU:
Baneen's father has just called to say they are working on his daughter now...we will keep you posted.
To be honest, Baneen is unstable. Her health has become more complex. The doctor stated today that she is now suffering from â€œcardiac tamponade,â€ a condition where fluid accumulates unnaturally in the pericardium (the small sac the heart rests in). This water puts pressure on the heart itself, and prevents the ventricles from fully expanding. The trauma of recent heart surgeries may have caused this fluid buildup. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, this condition is found in about 2 of 10,000 people, a mere .02%.
Baneen is lying on her hospital bed with her chest wide open, covered by no more than a gauze patch so that her heart may be easily accessed. The doctor explained that keeping her chest open will be necessary for â€œevacuationâ€ of the excess blood and other fluids. Any other method of draining the pericardium would be more difficult and include additional incisions.
Baneen is precious to God. He knew her before she was born along with every detail of her body and life before it happened. Psalm 139:13-14 reads,â€œFor you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my motherâ€™s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.â€
My observations of Baneen's mother and father show that they are both losing hope quickly, if it is not already lost. We can take encouragement from James 5:15, â€œAnd the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.â€
A rarity of .02% is no match for Godâ€™s healing hands, so letâ€™s pray.
For young and fragile Baneen, today marked yet another milestone in her four months of life. A diagnostic procedure, called a cardiac catheterization, determined that Baneen's compromised state was the result of a large thrombus (blood clot) in her left lung. This dangerous mass was blocking blood flow into her lungs, resulting in a rapidly decreasing oxygen level. Within minutes after this discovery, she was rushed into the operating theater for her third emergency surgery. Doctors feared her life would be lost if not for rapid intervention.
Against great odds, the thrombus was successfully detained and a new shunt was created, connecting the aortic and pulmonary valve. The end result is that Baneen's lungs are receiving adequate blood supply and oxygen once more. The surgeon reported that the next twelve to twenty-four hours are extremely critical. However, she is considered stable in ICU. Although I was denied access into the ICU to see Baneen, and could not take any pictures, I spent some poignant moment with her parents who seem to be at the end of themselves emotionally.
Baneen's mother wept uncontrollably, rocking back and forth in her seat. Her husband, though calm, wore an expression of deep pain. I sat with them, my arm around Baneen's mother, feeling completely helpless. I knew no words of mine could bring them consolation. So I prayed. I cried out to the Father who sees, who hears, who bears our pain. And I am asking you to do the same. Have faith that Baneen's life is precious in His sight. Have hope that her heart will continue to beat. But above all, let love for this child and for this family undergird your prayers. "But there abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Before arriving at Sheba Medical Center today, I was reflecting on how much God has done for the children who have come and gone through Shevet Achim. When I think about all of the miracles that I have been blessed to witness, I am reminded of how much God can do and does.
Baneen was still intubated when we visited today, and the doctor said that he is not entirely sure what her progress is yet. They need more time to monitor her and her responses to medication. He did mention that some progress has been made, but not enough to confirm that the operation has fully corrected the nerve damage.
It was a sweet time with Baneenâ€™s mother and father today as well. They seemed a bit more emotional than usual. At one point, Baneenâ€™s mother took one look at Baneenâ€™s head after the nurse had rotated her sleeping position and noticed a soft spot. It felt spongy, and it is a medical condition known as cerebral edema, water collected in the extracellular space of her brain. This happens for various reasons, and for Baneen the reason isnâ€™t entirely known yet. This concerned her mother and she promptly found a nurse who can explain why. The nurse told her not to worry and that if it was a major problem, doctors would have communicated with them about it earlier. Baneenâ€™s mother laid her hand on her chest, let out a sigh, and said, â€œOkay, Baneen okayâ€.
The last time I saw Baneen her eyes were fluttering uncontrollably and it appeared as though she was in an unconscious state. But today, I saw Baneen open her eyes on her own. Although it was a small movement, it was controlled, and gave me reason to consider it a small miracle and improvement. She is still very weak, but all praise to God that she had enough strength in her to move her eye lid on her own and in a conscious manner.
Before I left I noticed Baneenâ€™s mother holding Baneenâ€™s hand, and vice versa. There is still life in this little baby, and even though her responses are few and far between, that little grip of her hand is indicative of a functioning heart and the hope of a future. Baneen is in desperate need of prayer, and as we lift her life up to God through our words, letâ€™s ask Him to breathe life into her body to the point of overflowing.
It's official: Baneen has now acquired the royal title of "Queen of Sheba." Not only does she have the beauty required of a queen, but she also has the strength. Her reign continues at Sheba Hospital's ICU, with Baneen alive and breathing, but still very critical. Her surgery was still tentative for this afternoon, until 1 pm when it was cancelled due to a delay in the OR schedule. There is a possibility, however, that it may take place tomorrow. Usually, my heart feels heavy and overwhelmed when I walk into her room, but today it was different. Today, I felt a renewed sense of hope and the need to speak words of encouragement to her. I told her how beautiful she is, how much God loves her, and how one day, her heart will be made strong and new. As the nurse performed her assessment, I said, "I know you haven't seen her smile yet, but she has the most beautiful dimples." The nurse didn't say a word, but smiled as though imagining it herself. Baneen's body may be small and weak, but she testifies of God's power to sustain. The last two days, this Scripture has spoken comfort to my soul for all in need of strength: "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power." Isaiah 40:28-29
The morning began with a scheduling mixup: When I arrived at Sheba, I was prepared for Baneen to have a catheterization. But her mother was quick to inform me that her daughter would in fact be having open heart surgery. This didn't seem to match yesterday's report, but I trusted her word and sought out the doctor to hear the details. I recognized Dr. Katz from yesterday evening and he again took the time to clarify plans for Baneen. "I was misinformed the last time we spoke," he began. â€œThe catheterization was canceled, and doctors will jump straight into her third operation.â€
Now, rewind with me for a moment: In the midst of Baneen's original surgery, a nerve connected to her diaphragm was damaged. The left side of this important respiratory muscle was then paralyzed. Subsequently, her lungs were unable to fully inflate, deprived of the underlying muscular support. Dr. Katz said this was "a known problem" with the type of procedure Baneen underwent and not difficult to correct. The game plan of the surgery was to tighten her diaphragm so that her lungs can return to normal capacity. The hope is that a ventilator will no longer be required to assist Baneen's breathing.
At 4 pm, an ICU nurse reported that Baneenâ€™s surgery was rescheduled tentatively for tomorrow. Her parents received the news graciously, but I can imagine the hospital's schedule is weighing on their emotional and physical well-being. Baneen's father shared that he and his wife have been at Sheba now for twenty days. In spite of this, they have developed special friendships with staff and other parents alike. This, on its own, is a redeeming factor in their daughter's struggle.
Please pray that as we invest in their lives through prayer and relationship, they will find their burden lightened. Tomorrow morning, doctors will confirm a "yes" or "no" for Baneen's afternoon surgery. Thank you for your steadfastness in prayer for this precious one.
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful baby named Baneen. She had loving parents who searched far and wide for someone who could rescue their precious daughter's life. Two operations later and still this quest for hope continues. Baneen's story goes beyond the realm of a fairy tale as her health hangs in the balance. Though much like the princess Sleeping Beauty, Baneen lies sleeping in Sheba's ICU, waiting for the kiss of life.
It is a sobering thing to stand over her small body. Each breath is regulated, each heartbeat accounted for. Earlier this week, doctors attempted to wean her off the ventilator, but her lungs would not tolerate it. Twice today, I tried speaking with someone about her current condition, but to no avail. Finally, just as I was leaving, a doctor stepped off the elevator. Praise God for His perfect timing! Dr. Katz graciously explained the situation to me.
Whereas Baneen's lungs were initially not receiving enough oxygen-rich blood, they are now receiving a surplus. Thus, her lungs cannot function without the assistance of a ventilator. Before doing any further surgical repair, however, Baneen must undergo a catheterization tomorrow. This diagnostic procedure provides doctors with 3-D images of her heart. "We think we know what to do [for Baneen], but we want to know," Dr. Katz stated. He sounded confident that once a catheterization was complete, the proper surgery could be executed. The goal: to give Baneen's lung just the right amount of oxygen-rich blood, allowing her to breathe independently.
I appreciated his honesty as well as his desire to keep pressing on towards a solution for Baneen. Her parents, likewise, press on with hope-filled hearts. They are not willing to give up, despite the challenges. Baneen's father is faced with losing his job if he does not return to Iraq in two weeks, and relatives do not want her mother to stay in Israel without her husband. As you intercede for this family, consider these issues as well, asking God for wisdom and favor on every side. Nothing is too difficult for the One "in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." Job 12:10