A little before seven, Archie and I organized everything, and drove to Jerusalem. As we entered the Jerusalem house, we met everyone there, including Rahaf and Akram, her father. It was clear that they are a part of the Shevet family. Rahaf was playing in the hall. Amar told me that Rahaf has already been to Israel a year ago to have a previous surgery.
We packed everything and started our journey towards the North of Israel.
On the way to the Dead Sea, I heard Akram singing softly to his daughter. I remembered my conversation with Akram, two or three weeks ago, about Syria. He was telling me that they just want a simple life. To live, to support their family, no politics. I was considering how, despite everything he experienced, he is still a sensitive dad to his daughter, and a nice friend to us. His difficult life has not made him a hard man.
At the border, Rahaf was running around. We took her on the bag-trolley, and later she went around looking curiously at all the people.
When the bus has arrived, we hugged each other. He invited me warmly to his house in Jordan. Rahaf waved with her little hand.
As we drove back, I was thinking about them making their way back home. We pray that God will bless her time in Jordan and keep her healthy. We are thankful for the healing she received here and for the beautiful time we had with her.
It was a happy start to the day for Rahaf. She was in a very good mood and that almost showed clearly! Her heart is doing better. Nothing to complain about. She was sitting on the table in the Jerusalem Guest House, knocking on my bag and showing me the cutest smile that makes my heart feel so warm.
The transport from Jerusalem and examination at Sheba was not as happy an experience. Rahaf wasn’t sympathizing at all with the nurses in the blue coats, even though they were very kind to her. But everything is a little less scary if you have a biscuit and a patient, calm dad on your side as Rahaf has.
After we managed the Echo, the ECG, the oxygen test and the blood pressure test she was already moving again, feeling the need to clean the examination room and bring every little piece of trash to the trash bin. Yes this is our little Rahaf!
Always active and moving, always she wants to help and clean, run around and play with other children. Praise God that this is more possible since she had the last surgery.
The results of the tests today showed that her heart is working much better now than before! And I, as the privileged volunteer who was sharing day to day life with her since she arrived in Jerusalem two months ago, can confirm it. She is able to move longer, she is happier, she is looking better (not blue anymore) and she is stronger.
And it is so touching to see this improvement, what God did in her life by the surgery, the doctors and Shevet Achim! We have a God who sees her and cares for her! And we hope and believe that she and her father felt that when they were here and became a beloved part of our little Jerusalem Shevet family.
So it is not easy, but we need to let them go back to Jordan, back to mummy, sister and brothers. The farewell party is already over, only one more night and we have to let our baby go. Knowing God is continuously holding her in His hands, we are praying for her and hoping to meet her again at least in heaven. We will miss you Rahaf!
In the morning, Rahaf was warmly and appropriately dressed for this festive Christmas season.
The first echo after surgery can be anxiety provoking, as this echo often is indicative of whether the child is responding well to the surgery. As we prayed for peace, I was reassured that God’s orchestration of life is always perfect. Rahaf’s oxygen saturation has improved significantly, from 63% in October to 95% in December! She has no evidence of pericardial effusion, or fluid around the heart. This is all wonderful news and we praise God for this. The cardiologist was not concerned, and recommended the standard follow-up in two weeks.
However the cardiologist recommended visiting the emergency room to conduct a further assessment on her lungs. The last two days Rahaf has been coughing more and breathing more frequently. While waiting for the emergency room doctor, Rahaf conducted an eye assessment on her father. Akram always is so gentle with Rahaf, and looks at her so lovingly. Though Rahaf was quite fearful of anything medical related, we still had a wonderful time together spotting all the fishes on the wall in the emergency department, visiting her friend Shahad, and walking around the hospital.
After the doctor listened to her lung sounds, he suggested that she has an upper respiratory infection, or the common cold. Though this is often normal for children, they exercised extra precautions due to her cardiac history. The father was relieved and maybe even surprised that her prescription was simply to wait for it to resolve on its own.
Rahaf and her father will now return to Jerusalem to stay there at the guesthouse until her next appointment. We praise God for the progress in her health, and continue to pray for her as she battles her respiratory infection.
Sweet Rahaf has been settling into her new home in Jaffa over these past few days, which has been a bit difficult for her.
It seems like the hospital experience was quite traumatic for her and we have seen her here being upset and timid. Gradually she has been becoming more comfortable with being outside of her father’s arms for a few minutes, so it seems like today it was painful to have to take her to hospital to have a blood test. She cried in such a sad and hopeless way as the nurse took the blood sample.
But there was joy to be had afterwards, as Rahaf was able to go and see her “Jerusalem sister,” Shahad, who is currently admitted at the hospital. Rahaf pointed and smiled beautifully as she realized that she could see Shahad.
Hopefully we will be seeing more smiles from Rahaf over the coming days.
After a morning of waiting for her report to be finished, Rahaf was finally discharged and has come to stay in Jaffa with us. She was looking so well when I saw her at the hospital today – it’s going to be so nice to have her in Jaffa.
A reminder of God’s perfect timing was having Shahad and Rahaf in hospital at the same time. Rahaf’s dad and Shahad’s aunt are good friends from their days in our Jerusalem guesthouse, and both seemed glad to be able to talk in the waiting period. God’s hand is in these little things just as much as in the big things. It is amazing to see him at work every day.
Today it was a joy to see Rahaf after her surgery, awake and without a breathing tube, just a nasal cannula. With this oxygen support, the monitor was showing her oxygen saturation at 100%. This is especially good news, as Coby wrote about the extubation earlier this week when her oxygen levels dropped quite low.
Her father of course was lovingly by her side, firstly watching videos of “Baby Shark” together, and then later Rahaf’s mother called to see her. Rahaf was not really herself, as she was very quiet and relaxed, but she did try and wave her hands to the song and towards us and her mum on the phone.
Thank God for the good news of Rahaf’s extubation. She is a well-loved child, and this news is very welcome by many people
Last year Rahaf, at three months, traveled with her father to Israel. Her father recalled his memories of her previous hospital room and the experiences associated with it. above photo is from 2018, after Rahaf was extubated after a catheterization.
Now, one year later, Rahaf is in the same cardiovascular intensive care unit. Today marks six days from her surgery. After multiple intubation and extubation attempts, she is still intubated.
Her upper airway edema has thankfully decreased, enough for another extubation attempt. The doctors were hopeful in extubating her today, but are waiting for her to “wake” from her sedative medications.
Mark writes, “You can see that she is a fighter. By her side every hour of the day is her father. He seems hopeful even though it is a difficult time. He is an amazing man and you can just see the love he has for his daughter.
During the day the doctors decided that they wanted to try to extubate her. However, they wanted to wait a bit until she got less sedated. We did not get to experience the doctors waking her up. Right now we are just waiting for the hopefully good news. Please pray that she will wake up in good condition and with good oxygen levels.”
Please continue to pray for Rahaf and her dear family, including her mother who is patiently waiting for Rahaf to finally return to her arms.
This morning I was very excited to go to Jaffa. Rahaf was for a month with us in the Jerusalem guesthouse. I will be leaving in two days time back to the Netherlands so before going home I had a great desire to see Rahaf and her dad once more to say goodbye.
Rahaf had a successful operation last Thursday and they had extubated her the same day. This was my latest news. Therefore I was wondering how our lively and active little girl was doing. When I saw her room in the CICU, I was surprised to see that Rahaf was intubated. They explained that after they extubated her Thursday late afternoon, she was very agitated and her oxygen level dropped. They needed to intubate her again to give her body more time to recover.
This morning they wanted to extubate Rahaf again. She was starting to wake up when I entered the room. Dad and I were holding her arms because she became very uncomfortable with all the lines and tubes in her mouth and nose.
Around midday they extubated her but Rahaf was not doing well. She had difficulties with breathing. They put her on ventilation and tried to clean her airway through meds and mucus suction. It was hard to see how she struggled to breath on her own. Her heartbeat was over 200/min and also the color of her skin didn’t look good. After one hour the doctor decided to intubate Rahaf again.
There is a swelling in her throat due to the intubation tube. This was the cause of her struggle to breath. The doctor will give her steroids and then try to extubated her again in two days. Dad and I were very sad but I know that this is the best for her now. We prayed and asked our Lord to heal our little girl.
Please pray that the swelling will decrease and that she will have a succesfull extubation in two days time. We are longing to see our active, enthusiastic, outgoing, beautiful little girl back again.
We know the beautiful verse that inspires the name of our community. Today we experienced Shevet Achim in action. At the most basic level – we sat. We sat together. We sat together for nearly eight hours. We spent a portion of that time sitting with Abu Rahaf – but he seemed exhausted and noticeably anxious and mostly paced and went for cigarette breaks. And we sat as a large community, expressing loving support for Rahaf and her sweet family. We can not think of a better expression of what Shevet Achim is all about.
The gathering of Shevites grew and grew & at one point we snapped this photo that represented supporters from 7 nations – Columbia, England, Kurdistan, Syria, Germany, America & Israel. How amazing.
After six hours we were informed that the surgery was complete and successful. Rahaf’s VSD, the hole in her heart, has been completely repaired and she received a conduit replacement for her ventricular stenosis. An initial problem with bleeding was brought under control.
By the time we left the hospital, after eight hours, Rahaf had been extubated and was waking up, showing signs of the feisty little girl in pink that we know and love.
Grant returned to the CICU room one more time to say goodbye and was privileged to be able to pray with Akram before departing.
We are constantly noticing the high esteem that Shevet Achim holds among the hospital staff. In the ICU room Grant & Margarit introduced ourselves to the doctor as volunteers with Shevet. She responded, ‘Oh, I know who you are because you are the ones always standing nearby with so much concern and love for these children. I know who you are and I think you are amazing!’
What an honor and blessing to be a part of this day that the Lord has made. Who other than our amazing loving Father could orchestrate an intersection of lives such as this. Thank you Father, and thank you Shevet Achim.
The Jaffa community shared tender moments this morning during our devotional time together. After the security alert yesterday, we all affirmed our hope in the Lord’s steadfast love and offered praise and worship with the words ‘It is Well With My Soul’. Our Father is the source of unwavering, undeserved, relentless and boundless love.
Our hearts ache for the families in Gaza who are affected so negatively by recent events in Israel, and were reminded by Jonathan that the mission of Shevet Achim started in service to these people. Our study in Hebrews 13 began with verse 1, ‘Let brotherly love continue’. Lest we skim over this passage, we were reminded by our Palestinian brother, Amar that his Arabic translation for love here is Thabt – describing a love that comes from deep within, that is firmly established and unmovable. I took this message to mean that we are to love our brothers as the Lord loves us – unwavering, undeserved, relentless, boundless.
With that message on our hearts we moved into our daily tasks. We are local leaders for both Neena in Jaffa and Rahaf in Jerusalem and were so excited to see that both children in Jaffa this morning. Rahaf has come down to prepare for admission for her heart surgery tomorrow. Events transpired quickly and we were able to join with Rahaf’s Father, Abu Rahaf, Akram – transporting them to Sheba and completing all the tasks for her admission. Our team was sent off with a powerful blessing, a prayer in Arabic from our brother Amar and the whole community wrapping us in love, waving goodbye. Rahaf is a bundle of energy – only slowing down for a brief nap during the van ride to the hospital. At all other times she is on the move.
It was a bittersweet to leave Rahaf and her father at the hospital, but we reassured them that we would be returning in the morning and that we have shared with hundreds of friends around the world who will be praying for success with this surgery tomorrow. We know our actions fall far short, but our prayer is that we were able to show even a dim reflection of the Father’s love, wrapping this sweet family in Thabt. We pray that this sure hope reaches deep into the hearts of Rahaf and Akram, bringing healing and hope to the whole family.
In the early morning we started our way to Sheba Hospital.
Rahaf is not a morning person, she sat in the car, looking like she would sleep with her eyes open. In the hospital we met Daryan and his mother who were, just as Rahaf, waiting for a CT-scan. We spent the time with walking around and Coby played with Rahaf with a hand full of toy animals.
Rahaf did very well! When she went for the CT-scan we prayed together with her Dad. After she woke up from her anesthesia she was very hungry. She also wanted to run around right away but still had a little bit wobbly knees, so she couldn’t.
In this beautiful picture she is “calling her mum” with her toy-phone to tell her, the CT-scan went well. She also “called” me a few times and we had a lot of fun. We are really proud that she wasn’t crying much the whole day.
Back in Jerusalem Rahaf was happy to see her “big sister” Shahad again. The two of them are a gorgeous team. Rahaf is imitating everything Shahad does and Shahad cares wonderfully for Rahaf.
How great to know, that we can call our heavenly Father at every time even when we don’t have a toy-phone. So let’s call him and pray for good results of the CT-scan and wisdom for the doctors on what to do next!
Rahaf and her father are waiting patiently at our Jerusalem base for a CT which will help doctors study the anatomy of her heart in preparation for surgery. Meanwhile this newborn–who came to us emergently last year–has now emerged as an adventurous, fearless, and cheerful toddler. Here’s a sample of her playing with an inflated hospital glove with Johnny B., part of a group from Denver visiting with the Jerusalem community this week:
Today Rahaf had her first echo exam at Sheba Hospital. While we had to wait she was very relaxed and happy and ran around. Her Dad and I always had to watch her because she is exploring everything and loves climbing things. Especially she loves other little kids. When she sees a baby she always runs to it and wants to socialize. When you see her like that, you would not expect that her heart is not working properly.
When they did the echo Rahaf was not relaxed anymore and we could only calm her down with some music from the phone. The doctor decided to do a CT scan soon. Please pray for sweet Rahaf!
Today started bleakly. After a 13-day tour of northern Iraq, I landed at the Amman airport at 06:00 am and drove across town to the Jordanian interior ministry. On the way out to Kurdistan I’d filed a request there for the little Syrian refugee Rahaf to return to Israel for a second heart surgery. I felt then a new and surprising level of resistance, and when Rahaf’s father went back Thursday to pick up his permission, they chased him off with talk of a new policy requiring a Jordanian guarantor and a deposit of 5000 dinars ($7000).
After sleeping for an hour, I scraped myself off the front seat of the rental car and limped bleary-eyed toward the chaotic hall, where the unfortunate come to plead with bureaucrats for their personal status through little circles in glass windows. I could only pray as I walked in, Lord this has to be your power, I’ve got nothing.
When the man responsible for Syrian refugees saw me through the hole in the window, he laughed, and said “You’ll never give up.” And as I stood there looking blankly the pile of Rahaf’s paperwork started shuffling from window to window. By the time Rahaf’s father showed up the permission was in my hands. I’d said and done nothing. Sometimes all we’re asked is to show up.
We drove to pick up Rahaf, and there was a tearful farewell as mother and sister gave up their precious one into the Lord’s hands:
Tonight Rahaf and father entered Israel, where they were met by Ben, Coby and Jana, who came to take them to our base in Jerusalem.