A heart struggling to beat

Dear friends,

Thank you for your continued prayers for three-year-old Akar from Iraq. Up until today there were some positive signs as the condition of his liver and kidneys improved and he was taken off dialysis. There is apparent paralysis of his right side, but no cause for this was found in the brain CT the doctors ordered two days ago. As of yesterday he was stable and his support was able to be lowered slightly. But because of a drop in his blood pressure today, he is now again with the highest amount of medical support that can be offered. After this the doctors have no other options.

akar in icu bedBefore asking for prayer for Akar, I want to recount an interaction between one of the cardiologists and another Kurdish patient. He asked the doctor what she would decide for him if he was her son; she responded that that is how she thinks of all the decisions she makes for this patient, as if he were her family. I truly see that in this doctor and in all of the doctors at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center. I think then that we should take our cues on how to pray for Akar from how these doctors treat their patients. When we pray for Akar we should pray as if he were family. I don’t know if he will live or not, but then again no one is ever given that information. His situation looks very grave now, but as one of the doctors in the ICU said, we will wait and pray.

Baby Rifan from Gaza stabilized through the weekend and on Sunday morning the surgeons closed her chest. In the coming day they are planning to extubate her. Her mum has been exuding happiness these past days as her daughter’s condition slowly improves:

rifan sleepingRohat, newly arrived from Kurdistan, is still intubated because of a respiratory virus; he is having frequent exams to check if the virus is getting better and he can be taken for the urgent surgery to switch his great arteries:

rohat waiting surgeryMonth-old Ibrahim who arrived with Rohat from Kurdistan had that same surgery last week to switch his great arteries and close a hole in his heart. He was extubated on Sunday, and is now awake and on high-flow oxygen:

ibrahim awakeBaby girl Balsam returned to Gaza yesterday after her life-saving surgery; she will return for monthly check-ups to see how her heart is growing until she is ready for the next surgery in the future:
 balsam returns homeZheer from Kurdistan has had a post-operative fever this week and is being treated for it. In addition to this the doctors decided they will do another operation to close a residual hole in his heart and fix one of his valves. Meanwhile Zheer’s father has had heart treatment himself back home; let’s pray for these faithful and long-suffering parents:

zheer and motherMohammed L has improved in this past month since his cath; but please be praying fo the road ahead. It will likely be another two months before he is fully recovered and then there will be a decision about further treatment for him. May God bless him as he struggles to recuperate and may God bless the physicians treating him who work with the utmost care and excellence on his behalf:

mohd l checkNewborn Musa from Gaza is still in hospital after his emergency heart surgery, now just for issues related to feeding and his cleft lip. He seems to have a problem with swallowing, so the speech therapist has ordered a fluoroscopy. We have purchased for him a feeding pump, because he cannot gain enough weight with only eating by mouth; please be praying for him as his family prepares to receive him home in the coming week:

musa cleftAnas from Gaza has had repeated attacks of life-threatening heart arrhythmia throughout his six years, and today came through an ablation procedure which doctors at Sheba believe may have cured him. Let’s pray for this cheerful boy and his very grateful family:

anas post cathPlease also be praying for six-year-old Mizgeen, he and his mother have been waiting patiently for surgery, however he must first have two cavities filled so as to not leave an infection in his teeth that could adversely affect his heart after surgery. Because he has a heart condition the dentist needs to coordinate an anesthesiologist to come to administer general anesthesia. Usually these appointments take time to get, but we’ve asked for more urgency because this is the only thing Mizgeen needs before surgery:

mizgeen waitingHis mother and he are absolutely wonderful, and every chance they are at the hospital they visit Akar’s mother with whom they are close friends. Knowing of Akar’s current situation is causing more worry and stress for Mizgeen’s mother, so please pray for her to rest in the Lord.

And this evening after four months we said goodbye to Mariya and her mother. It’s been a long road since Mariya first arrived on continuous oxygen, but one that Mariya’s mother knew was necessary for her daughter. She was cleared from a cardiac standpoint to return to Kurdistan over a month ago, however because of many other physical issues she stayed hospitalized to receive treatment for. It worked out that they could travel just in time for Mariya’s mother to see her own father who is very sick and not doing well. Please pray for their whole family as Mariya and her mother are finally traveling home:

mariya mother and briaIt’s a bit overwhelming to see how much healing is flowing through our community week by week. Only our Father has resources to meet the needs of this world; please join us also in praying for the funds to meet our year-end commitments to our partner hospitals in Israel.

Lastly, as Jonathan wrote in the Sunday Letter, we had a really lovely Christmas at Shevet. Even the day after we still were singing Christmas carols for worship in our morning meeting, particularly Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Written by Charles Wesley, this Christmas hymn stays with me all year round, especially the lyrics:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate deity.
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Immanuel

It took me twenty-four years, but I finally understood that ‘Immanuel’ is made up of the Hebrew words Immanu being ‘with us’ and El being ‘God.’ As I wrote in the beginning of this letter, the doctors said that if Akar deteriorates there is no more support that they have to give; this is not the first time we have heard that this year. The children come here with hearts which struggle to work properly, to contract and relax, to pump blood to the lungs for oxygen and to the rest of the body.

The significance of ‘God with us’ this Christmas is that of another heart struggling to beat. If Immanuel is Jesus, then on the cross his heart struggled and then eventually failed. His heart beat, and then stopped, and then beat again, and so the Bible tells us, is still beating for you, for me, for Akar, for this world.

Thank you for praying with us,

Alena for Shevet Achim