More thoughts on Alaa

Shortly before leaving Israel for a month’s leave of absence from my work at Shevet, one of the last things I did, was to go to the Adult Cardiology Unit at Sheba Hospital, and schedule an appointment for Alaa to be seen for an echo. This echo and the doctors’ subsequent reading of it, would be the first step towards his surgery.

Throughout the summer, people on Facebook had donated to his operation cost. By the summer’s end, there was still a substantial amount needed and this came within the first weeks of September from a church in Oklahoma. This church connected with Alaa’s story through Debi, a nurse who was volunteering with Shevet at the time. In a car ride back from Gaza, I was talking to Debi about how I really felt; I couldn’t look away from Alaa’s case. I felt there was a requirement involved, and that somehow God would come through in providing, though I didn’t understand how. So much was still needed to cover the total amount. Debi then told me about this church that had a ministry called ‘The Lord Sees,’ and they are generous and eager to give to others, for the glory of our Lord Jesus.

So she helped me apply to the church for support and within two days they had responded. They decided to give all of the remaining amount needed for Alaa’s surgery. “Truly,” they wrote in the email, “the Lord sees this man.” God didn’t let his case fall to the wayside. I tracked down the cardiologist at Sheba who was supposed to see him and made an appointment for early November. I had traveled home by the time he came for his appointments. His story touched not only me, but many others who also eagerly followed his case. The stay for the an echo turned into a stay for the major surgery he needed, and two weeks after this, I was so happy to see he could go home.

My parents and I were having dinner when my mom showed me the Shevet Sunday letter from 7 December, which detailed Alaa’s emergency return to Sheba hospital and his sudden collapse due to anaphylactic shock. I read this over and over, but it was surreal. Jonathan, amidst the shock and chaos of that night, kept in touch with me, and the last word was that he was placed on the ECMO machine and the outcome was not good.

For the next few hours, I steeped in the devastation. I re-read the journal entries from the previous spring, detailing my bewilderment as to how enough money would ever come in for Alaa’s surgery. However, right alongside that bewilderment was this undeniable feeling of expectation that God would see this through, and now here he was on the other side of the surgery, but he was potentially failing. It was a long night of crying and praying, balancing confusion and trust. I say all this to underscore the fact that up until recently I never thought I would see him alive. I desperately prayed for him to live; actually the words from Dylan Thomas’ poem came to my mind that night, “Do not go gentle into that good night/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” But everything pointed to that he was beyond the point of life.

Against all odds, he pulled through that night, and he continued, slowly, to recover. So when I say, “Today I visited Alaa,” this is a statement that I didn’t think I’d be able to say and is actually quite a miraculous one. I went to the Sheba Adult Cardiac Unit, and he was resting in his bed with his uncle sitting next to him. To see my friend again after all that’s happened, was something I’ll cherish for a lifetime.

We talked together about his time in Jaffa and Jerusalem, and how his wife and son are doing. It is crazy to think that over a year ago, he came for his consultation at Sheba which was when God made our paths to cross, and with all that has happened I am so thankful He did.

Later on today, I visited him a second time to say goodbye; I look forward to more visits next week with him and to watching him grow stronger and improve.