Rising out of bed at 3:30 a.m. was totally worth it (even though I might regret it later in the day…).
When I went to their room, Israa and her dad were both deeply asleep. I said gently, “Wera era (come), it’s time!” I don’t know why, but when I carried my little sleepy Israa to the car, I was just filled with joy, so happy that they can fly home finally.
I am really thankful, because everything went perfectly and without complications – even the passport control was fun. When the security lady asked if Israa will need to come back to Israel, I looked at the girl on my arm and felt almost proud to say that she is healthy now and only God knows if she will need another surgery. Israa was just lovely in every way as always. She didn’t cry or run away or climb up somewhere (I have seen funny things at the airport with other kids).
I’m not sure if she was realizing what was happening. I would give a lot to see the reunion with her mum.We waved goodbye until her pink woolly hat disappeared in the crowd. It’s really hard to let her go.God, I cry out to you that you would reveal yourselves to this little girl and that she would get to know you cause cuteness doesn’t get you into heaven! Please don’t let go of her until she becomes a child of the Most High!
The Lord keeps watch over you
I am with Shevet now for almost ten months. For sure, Israa’s farewell will be the hardest one for me.
Watching her eating my apple with this passion as if it was the most delicious thing she ever ate was so funny. She just stole my heart with her cuteness. Nevertheless, I was more than happy when Dr Sharon told us that Israa is a little miracle, as she isn’t taking any medication currently and the result of her surgery is so so good.
I’ve got the feeling that the little girl is not a little girl any longer. To my surprise our cutie didn’t cry – neither during the echo nor during the ECG. She was just holding my hand and her milk bottle, as if she would know that this is her last echo for now.
That’s another good thing Dr Sharon said: “If Israa’s heart stays the way it is now, she won’t need any other surgical intervention in the future.”
Even though it’s breaking my heart (I have to learn to let go), I am so happy that Israa can finally go home. I know how much she misses her mum even though her dad was doing more than his best during his time here.
God willing I will meet her again. That’s what I deeply wish for. In the end it’s on my heart to proclaim these verses over Israa’s life:
“He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.”
Psalms 121, 3-8
I am more than thankful for today’s result of Israa‘s echo! She was so brave during her ecg and the echo and stopped crying after I sang to her.
Dr Tirosh said that she is very pleased with Israa‘s healing process! Her scar looks very good, her oxygen level is 100%, she doesn’t have any fluid…
However, she probably has a sugar shock as everyone gave her so many sweeties and I couldn’t say no (she is just too cute).
In about two weeks, the doctor would like to see her again and than she can go home. I am not sure yet if I am happy or sad about this, I love Israa so much.
Let’s pray that she will have two more lovely weeks here in Israel, where she feels completely loved and accepted.
Israa adores butterflies. She loves spotting the myriad of colorful butterflies and hearts on the wall of the cardiac unit. The process of transformation from egg–caterpillar–chrysalis–butterfly is extraordinary, and this cycle of metamorphosis is ongoing in our lives as well. Israa’s heart will never be the same after these two life-changing surgeries.
Today Israa was cleared to return to Shevet Achim. Her improvement has been wonderful. Her father was proud of how the doctor exclaimed the success of the surgeries, which was a complex two-stage plan. Israa’s father helped Israa wear her shoes and jacket, and he quickly packed their belongings.
He has been so kind in supporting the other families who are being helped by Shevet Achim and are stationed at the hospital. When one of the other children had a blood test, for example, he held the hand of that child.
Please continue to pray for Israa. We ask for transformation of not only her heart but her soul as well. We pray that she will grow and flourish in true freedom, as the butterflies roam freely. We also pray for her family. She has a sweet 4-year old sister. Today in the car ride home, her father eagerly exclaimed how his wife is pregnant with a baby boy.
We have been calling it “the big surgery” since we knew Israa required two surgeries, but only today I realized just how big the surgery must be. Even now, Jana has just responded to the news about Israa with “how can they even do this, her heart must be so tiny!” and it is really amazing to think of what the doctors here are capable of doing.
So in tiny Israa’s heart, the surgeon patiently explained to us afterwards, as follows:
1. There was a VSD which they closed.
2. There was a membrane below the aortic valve which was causing an obstruction, which they removed.
3. The mitral valve was closing abnormally, and they opened it and repaired it.
Israa’s father thanked the surgeon, and thanked God and everyone he could think of for doing this great work in his beautiful daughter.
He had been very calm as far as we could tell all day, as Israa’s surgery was quite long. He was extremely helpful getting involved with two new families and helping them to navigate their first assessments at the hospital. It was a blessing to everyone.
I also enjoyed speaking to Israa’s mother and older sister back in Kurdistan on the phone, as they also waited for the news that Israa had come out of the surgery.
Today at the hospital it felt a lot like we were family together, and I thank God for that gift.
Although the doctor told us that the surgical result looked good on the echo, I still found it surprisingly difficult to see Israa intubated with all of the cables and tubes attached to her. Please pray for Israa, as she rests in the hands of God.
Waiting for the second surgery
Today we received the good news that Israa would be admitted to the hospital today for her second heart surgery tomorrow. Coworker Lisa was able to drive Israa to the hospital to be admitted.
As this is Israa’s second admission for surgery, Jihad confidently walked down the halls of the cardiology department,
and recited the admission process and pertinent information to me. He was curious about the procedure planned for Israa and about Israa’s complicated heart. Together, with the aid of pictures of anatomical and congenital heart defects, I tried to simply explain the complexity of her precious heart. Israa’s father deeply cares for her. He also has been caring for some of the other new families here, and possesses a heart of hospitality.
This admission process was marked by hours of waiting. When they sent us to the unit, we then waited again for another couple hours for a bed for Israa. But during this time, it was filled with many little adventures and experiences. We called our dear Lawi’s family (he was previously at Shevet) in Kurdistan, called Israa’s family and met her sweet 4-year old sister, spent time taking photos of and with Israa, and even attended a party at the hospital where we celebrated with ice cream.
At last, at around 8 pm, Israa was finally admitted and prepared for surgery tomorrow. I love Israa with my whole heart, and I think we all do.
She has captivated the hearts of all the nurses at the hospital as well. Please pray for Jihad and Israa as they anticipate the surgery tomorrow in the morning. Jihad reiterated the need to stop Israa’s food at 2 in the morning, and to shower at 6 in the morning. He has been preparing for a sleepless night, so I pray that he will be able to rest and find rest in our God of peace.
The day began with the Echo of our beautiful Israa. She arrived at the hospital dressed up and with a huge smile on her face as always. Even though she recognizes the hospital she is never scared or sad to be there. Her smile keeps shining while she is running around and playing joyfully. As we went into her Echo Israa’s mood changed, tears started running down her face.
Her father reacted quickly and gave her a bottle with milk which calmed her down, the tears on her face dried up. Israa collected all her strength and stood through the whole Echo without crying. Her smart eyes scanned the room and the machine next to her. Her fear had turned into curiosity and she seemed to feel safe knowing her father was beside her. Furthermore, she wasn’t only accompanied by her earthly father, but also by her heavenly Father. She knew that she was safe and never alone.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?“ Psalm 27,1
As we left the Echo room all fears were forgotten and Israa started playing and laughing again. Her beautiful spirit filled the waiting area and spread to other children as well. Halbast, who was finished with his first appointment, was invited to eat an orange with Israa.
She stood in front of him with a bright smile on her face, holding up the orange her father had given to her. After her chat with Halbast, Israa invited Neena to eat some fruit together.
The two shared an apple sisterly and continued to play in the same manner. In the end Israa’s smile continued on her way back to the Shevet home. She will soon have her next surgery. We pray she will never lose her smile.
When I found out that I was going to go to the hospital today, I was really looking forward to a visit with Israa. I was hoping her chest drain would finally be removed so I could hug her; the last time I saw her she was constantly whining the Kurdish word for “arm.” I couldn’t believe it when her dad told me they were coming home. This unexpected news was too nice to be true.
After a nurse had confirmed that Israa could be discharged I quickly ran to her room and found her crying in her bed. The only thing she was wearing were these blue pants from the hospital. I was glad that she calmed a bit down when she saw me. Together her dad and I got her dressed which made her quite upset and she started crying again.
Her tangled hair reminded me of what she had actually been through, all of the pain and the fear and the loneliness; especially in these situations it’s even more beautiful to know that Jesus has sustained all of this when he went to the cross so that one day we could be free from this suffering forever.
It was so lovely to see how Israa finally recognized what was actually happening. When we were standing in front of the elevator with all her bags she finally gave me this smile again that I hadn’t seen since her surgery (the cutest smile in the world).
Israa will have her follow up appointment next week, but until then she will stay with us and get as many hugs as she wants. Thank you Jesus for this beautiful little girl.
Already showering after surgery
Praise the Lord for the recovery after surgery of our precious little Israa. Today she is continuing her fight. She is doing as expected, but still has the drain tube until tomorrow, and is having trouble keeping food and medicine down. When I checked on her this morning she had just been washed up and was not happy!
This was not a high point of her day since she dislikes showering very much. The good news is that she is doing well enough that they moved her to secondary ICU today, where she was pleased to be joined by her friend Daryan tonight, as he is going in for surgery tomorrow. Her tiny voice is weaker than usual and she sleeps a lot, but is doing well.
This has been a rough journey for her father too, not being able to speak to the doctors without a translator since he only speaks Kurdish, and not being sure of what they are doing with his little girl when the nurses come in. He was able to speak to a doctor this evening with the translator and get all of his questions answered and has been more peaceful since then.
The surgery yesterday fixed two of four problems with Israa’s heart and they are hoping do surgery next week to fix the other two. She will stay in the hospital until after that surgery is completed. Please continue to keep our tiny doll with her ringlet curls that stick out all over in your prayers. God has brought her safely this far and we trust Him for the rest of the journey as well.
The loving eyes of a father
She did it!
Our strong little girl Israa stood through her and long-awaited surgery today! There was Israa sleeping inside and her Dad worrying outside of the OR. There was no time where he was able to stay still. He constantly paced up and down the hallway, the Echo Area and the waiting room, showing how anxious he was. Though the situation must have been horrible for him, Israa’s Dad was still helping the father of Rahaf and trying to talk to the Aunt of Shahad. This deep love and connection between the families is very touching.
When the doctor told him that the surgery was over, his concerns weren’t fully relieved. He needed to see his little girl to know that she was safe and doing well. To keep himself occupied, he planned Israa’s return home by scrolling through the internet looking for outfits that she could wear when they would celebrate with family.
To me it is remarkable how these parents put all their own needs and wishes behind them and give their children all they have. Israa’s Dad, for example, misses his wife, his daughter and Kurdistan so much, but there is no place he would rather be than next to his beloved daughter.
As I was waiting with him he told me how much Israa loved all of the volunteers, that she was constantly talking about us and that he was very thankful for everything that Shevet Achim has done for him and his family. Finally the doctors brought Israa out of the surgery and into her room. Israa’s father was incredibly relieved and happy. He stood outside of the room so he wouldn’t disturb the nurses in their work. His worries still didn’t stop when she was out of surgery, but he wanted to give the nurses space so they could do everything for his daughter. As he finally entered the room he took his place at his daughter’s bedside. His loving eyes resting on his little girl.
Praise the Lord for Israa’s surgery and the strength He gave to Israa’s Dad.
As we did our first run to the hospital we thought that Israa wouldn’t be admitted today. We had no call and no notification but we kept praying and God came through. Checking the phone for the last time we got the message that Israa would be admitted. Praise the Lord! So we packed her up and her Dad and took them off to the hospital.
Once at the hospital, all we had to do was wait. Our beautiful girl enjoyed the time, smiling her gorgeous smile running around, sitting next to me, singing and making funny faces. Even though she clearly didn’t like the ECG, she stood through it bravely and it did not diminish her happiness.
It is such a privilege to get to know these kids. They’re beautiful masterpieces designed by our Heavenly Father. Israa‘s beautiful and smart mind gives her the ability to remember and sing English songs. This led to the two of us performing “Mommy Finger“ throughout the day.
Her Father took the wait as patiently as his daughter did even though he was worried about the surgery tomorrow. Lovingly, he took her on his arm whenever Israa needed it, which made her smile continuously.
As we finally entered the room where they would stay overnight, he did not leave her side and held her hand through all of the procedures that were needed. Israa’s Dad had a few questions regarding his beautiful girl which he couldn’t ask in English but God had taken care of the language barrier as well. Waiting for us to go home was also the Mum of Mustafa. She accepted her new job happily and translated all concerns and questions. The staff answered patiently and it seemed to take away a few of his worries. As we left , Israa had fallen asleep getting ready for her big day tomorrow.
Sweet Israa returns to Jaffa after cath
When I held Israa in my arms today I couldn’t even tell that she had a catheterization yesterday. She looked and behaved exactly the same as she did two days ago at home. Only the yellow band around her wrist and the bandage around her hand revealed that she had this procedure.
I wasn’t sure who was more happy that Israa was coming home: me or her dad.
As I can not really put in words how sweet this little girl is I include some pictures of her. I can see the beauty of God in her sweetness and I am so glad to know her.
The doctors are not sure yet when her surgery will be. Please pray for God‘s will to happen in Israa‘s life.
Our lovely Israa had her long awaited catheterization today! The doctors said she had quite a complicated heart and gave them a lot to talk about, so please be in prayer for the team of cardiologists who will treat her. The anasthesia wore off very fast, and in a drowsy state in between waking and sleeping she was already fighting to remove the oxygen band around her thumb. She was very hungry and upset, but the nurse said she could only have a little bit of milk, which didn’t satisfy her. There were a few minutes when she was calm and had closed her eyes as I stroked her hair, but eventually she would always turn over and cry for her father.
Shortly after this, we were given the okay to give her a full bottle which soothed her and made her sleep. We hope tomorrow she will come home! When we left, her dad came down to the outside but within a few minutes the secondary ICU called Georgia to bring him back because Israa had woken up and was crying! This is sometimes difficult for families because it’s very demanding, but it also grows and deepens the bond, in this case, between father and daughter.
Preparing for the long-awaited catheterization
Israa and her father have been waiting more than 80 days for this moment. Israa’s father dressed specially for this day.
He was nervous as he approached the heart unit. The plan was for Israa to be admitted to the hospital and to have a diagnostic catheterization tomorrow, in order to better plan for the anticipated surgery after this procedure. There was rarely a moment when Israa was not climbing on the multi-colored playground or walking around the halls of the cardiac unit.
During the time of her echocardiogram, before she even reached the examination bed, she started crying. After exhausting all the comforting words in my vocabulary in Kurdish, I realized that all she wanted was to be held. I asked if I could hold her during the echocardiogram, and the technician agreed to give this suggestion a try. As she laid in my arms on this examination bed, she was content. She even marveled at the different colors emerging on the echocardiogram screen, and I tried to simply explain that this was her beautiful heart.
Sometimes it is difficult to face difficult or scary circumstances, but when we walk through these circumstances together, often fears are relieved. Holding her reminded me of how God has us in his arms, and how we can gain comfort in knowing and trusting his nature of peace, faithfulness, and kindness.
After the echocardiogram, Israa had a chest x-ray. The doctor then discussed the procedure and information for the father to know prior to the catheterization. We then waited for the hospital bed to be ready for Israa. During this waiting time, she fell in love with the colorful cat sculpture in the hospital unit and the multitude of colorful butterflies on the wall. She brought so much joy to the nurses and those around her, as everyone exclaimed how cute Israa is.
When the hospital bed was ready, she fell asleep quickly after we laid her in her bed. Please pray for her catheterization procedure tomorrow, and for peace for her father. This is her very first catheterization and major procedure in her two years of life
Israa is such a sweet girl, and she looked very tiny and very beautiful as she stood at the top of our steps holding her file before we left to go to the hospital. It reminded me of a “first day at school” photo, as she was dressed so nicely, and had her hair done, ready for the appointment they have been waiting for a long time for. Israa is feeling very settled here at Shevet and is very well loved by all of us, volunteers and families.
It’s a full day experience going for an MRI scan, because Israa requires a general anaesthesia. The rather traumatic first stage for Israa was that we needed to cut her earrings to remove them. Her mother had sewn the hoops closed which meant that they were really difficult to remove. It was a three-person job for her dad, me and Julio, and although she was brave at first, eventually it all got too much for her and she cried as she clutched into me with her tiny little hands.
The MRI scan went smoothly, but the father had to wait with her a long time for her to wake from the anaesthesia. There were many other families in the hospital, and we all kept in regular contact with him on video chat to get the updates on Israa’s condition!
We collected her and brought her home, and will wait to know the results of the scan, which will inform her surgery.
Israa was in her father’s arms as they entered the welcome hall. Her big eyes took in everything around her. When they sat down Colin took her so dad could rest, and then she sat with me while Colin did the initial assessment. She didn’t make a sound the entire time, but merely clutched her sippy cup, King which I’m sure provided her with a sense of reassurance and comfort. I played with her hair while Colin took her saturation, and she reminded me of a little doll because she is so fragile ad fair. Please pray for her and dad as they transition into life at the Jaffa base. Her first appointment will be next week on September eighth!