We were in the middle of a quiet Friday when Doro called me from the family house next door. “Can you come over?” she asked. “I don’t think Ahmed is very well.” Ahmed’s oxygen saturations, normally in the upper 80s, were at 63%. Doro and I brought him straight to the emergency room at Sheba, where even after several hours of IV fluids and oxygen support, his saturations were still far too low.
There are no words to adequately describe the shock and grief felt by Haitham’s family and those of us here who had the privilege to know and love him. During his time with us here in Ashdod, he became a good friend to staff and families, always kind and patient with the kids and looking to help out wherever he could (in fact he earned a bit of a scolding when he cleaned the entire house from top to bottom after the doctors instructed him to rest before surgery.) He was our friend and our brother and we are devastated to lose him.
Five days after his hospitalization, Ahmed’s doctors decided to take him into surgery. His mother, with the events of the weekend quite fresh in her mind, was quite anxious for the operation.
“Let’s just pray for Ahmed, and God willing he will be well,” Lewan added.
Thursday brought long-awaited good news for four-month-old Brwa: he is finally cleared to return home to Kurdistan after three months in Israel:
One-year-old Lalo from Kurdistan had his interventional catheterization on Tuesday morning. The doctors placed a stent in the right branch of the pulmonary artery, and dilated the stent that was placed in the left branch last year. The very next day we found Lalo running through the halls of Sheba hospital!
You’d never have guessed that he’d had a big procedure the day before. “He doesn’t like the room in the ICU,” his dad explained. “All he wants to do is run.” Luckily for Lalo, his doctors decided to discharge him to our house in Ashdod, where he’s free to run and play to his heart’s content. He will have a follow-up echo next week at Sheba.
Tiny Hamza from Gaza has been waiting all week for his blood tests to improve before he could be discharged from Sheba. Finally on Wednesday morning his test results were good and he and his grandmother could return home, much to the delight of his family. Late Wednesday afternoon, I got a text from his overjoyed mother: “He has arrived, thank God!”
Two-year-old Taleen was also discharged from Sheba this week, three weeks after her big surgery. She’s warmed up to all of us volunteers over the last week and now blows kisses to us whenever she sees us:
Because she has to return to Sheba in three days for a blood test, she and her dad are spending the weekend with us in Ashdod. Pray for good results from her blood test so they can go home to their family.
Little Malak from Gaza was briefly reintubated over the weekend after she had some trouble breathing, but she is off the ventilator once more and doing well. What’s more, she is finally awake and responding to her mother’s voice:
Baby Liya from Gaza is also taking big steps in her recovery. This week we’ve often found her cruising the halls of Sheba hospital in her stroller with her mother, who is exuding joy more and more each day. And our coworker Laura was impressed with how well Liya is now drinking from her bottle:
Next door in the ICU, tiny Somaia is still struggling with only small signs of improvement. This week the hospital made steps to transfer her to a hospital back home in Gaza, still on a ventilator.
Our good friends Abed from Gaza and his mother returned to Sheba hospital for a couple of days this week after six months at home. Like Liya and Somaia, Abed had a long stay in the ICU at Sheba with a tracheostomy—nine months—and we’re so glad to see that he is now breathing on his own with just a bit of oxygen support:
Looking forward to next week, our beautiful Lewan will likely be called in for surgery.
As this week ends, we’re saying goodbye to two of our beloved coworkers. Esther and Laura from Germany have been with us for a month and have been such a blessing to us. They have both brought so much joy to our community, and served these children wholeheartedly and with great love. Please join us in praying for Esther and Laura as they return home to Germany:
We are so grateful this week to have so much good news to share about our kids in the hospital and home. Yet one of the most characteristic aspects of life here is the constant coexistence of joy and grief. Even as we rejoice with the families of Ahmed, Liya, Brwa, and so many others, we feel disappointment and frustration with Somaia’s family as she struggles without improvement. And many of us are still coping with the sudden death of our friend Haitham.
As I sat outside the ICU yesterday morning, waiting for Ahmed to come out of surgery, I began reading through the Psalms. A verse in Psalm 13 resonated with me; “How long, O Lord?” David asks. “How long must a wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?”
Yes, I realized, thinking back on a week that for many of us was filled with grief, anxiety, and sleepless nights, this sounds familiar.
But we are not abandoned in grief. Even this psalm of pleading for help from God ends with hope: “But I trust in your unfailing love: my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”
And just a little further down the page, in Psalm 16, David says, “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.”
This is the hope and joy that we are given, and it is in this joy that we carry on. Through bright, joyful days and dark, sleepless nights alike, the Lord is at our right hand, and he will hold us secure.
Thank you for praying with us,
Bria for Shevet Achim