Handsome Zakaria arrived yesterday evening to our Jerusalem guesthouse. His mother was very happy to see other Kurdish moms also staying in our guesthouse because they know each other very well. Today in the morning, I took them all together to Sheba Hospital for different appointments. Zakaria’s mother wanted to make a Selfie before we left, so we took one.
Zakaria had an appointment to check his PEG today. The nurse was very helpful, and wanted to make sure that Zakaria’s mom understood everything. They know each other well from the last appointment, when the same nurse checked his PEG. During this checkup, the nurse were affirming. She said things were excellent and very good. The nurse said she would like to see even better, or a change in the PEG which would come with some risks to Zakaria. This is not an urgent change needed, but she would like to get it done at some point in the future. She needs to talk about this at length with the cardiologist. Also Zakaria is having an Echo tomorrow which may or may not indicate Zakaria needs another procedure. Thank you for your prayers. After the Echo tomorrow, little Zakaria will get a new appointment to check his PEG again in two months.
Today was one of the days in Sheba hospital when a lot happened. Just when I didn’t know how to divide myself by three because three of our children were in Echo-cardiograms at the same time and the doctor wanted to talk to me about one of the children. I was thankful when Co-worker Sebastian came at just the right time. The Lord knows exactly what we need even before we ask him.
He has grown so much in these last months, and we can’t wait to see him and his mother again.
Zakaria’s life is an incredible gift from God; it is hard to believe this was the same boy who was so near death in September, and is now flourishing. There are no words to describe my joy over his life and the state of his health. Thanks be to God that when his survival seemed beyond hope in September, that these moments of Thanksgiving awaited us.
The first thing we saw entering Zakaria’s room this afternoon was him looking up at us expectantly from his car seat. Somehow he knew that after three months at the Sheba Medical Center it was time to go home! Alongside him were copious amounts of medication and equipment put together by the dedicated Sheba nurses and doctors, with support from the Shevet community.
On our way to the car virtually every one in the unit came out to to embrace Zakaria and mother with an outpouring of love:
On the drive home we talked with the mother about the calling of the people of Israel to be a blessing to all the families of the earth, and she could only acknowledge it was true now in her own experience.
His beautiful mom is doing a wonderful job taking care of him. We pray that soon he will be able to be well enough to be discharged back to Gaza!
We hope that Zakaria one day will be filled with so much joy, and that he would smile often.
It was a few minutes before he wanted to return to the much more familiar arms of his m0ther, but at any rate I treasured this time. He is still struggling with restlessness, but after many inquiry tests, the best hypothesis is that his restlessness is doe to an intense period of post-operative care, and this will take time for him to adjust and situate his surroundings.
I was recently reading from the works of a Catholic theologian. He expounded on the metaphysical significance of the first experience a person has in beholding the love of their mother. Amidst all the trauma Zakaria has undergone in his first few months of life, his mother is a place of love and safety, and I pray that this would bring him peace.
Today , as I was with co-worker Alena in the Sheba Medical Center to visit Zecharia. We found him peacefully sleeping on his mother’s bed which is what he likes, according to his mother. He is still receiving some food by tube, hoping this will help him to relax.
While we were there, Zakaria’s mother and father were also visited by an Israeli husband and wife. The Israeli man and Zakariah’s dad had work connections they discussed with each other. Zakaria’s mother looked peaceful during this time.
Please pray that this peace continue for the time laying before them, and that they feel covered from many prayers.
Zakaria has spent all of his time in the Intensive Care Unit, but today he was transferred to a lower Acuity Unit. We exchanged greetings and she welcomed me to see Zakaria.
It was my first time seeing Zakaria, and I am thankful for the opportunity to have met him. Zakaria is a strong fighter. He was without oxygen support today. His mother has been working with him to improve his movement and strength. His eyes were able to follow the little mobile hanging above his bed,
I found Zakaria today still in the PICU, but off of the ventilator and breathing on his own! His mother seemed very happy for our visit.
Zakaria has made much progress in the past few days. He has been weaned off the intravenous medications previously required to keep his blood pressure normal and his heart functioning. In fact, today his mom was allowed to hold him and offer him a few drops of milk from a bottle!
This amazing, resilient little guy still needs many prayers: his brain has been affected by the days and weeks of low blood pressure and oxygen levels; he could still lose part of his fingers on his right hand due to the many days of extremely poor circulation; several of his organs still need to recover; and his neurological or brain function outcomes are uncertain.
So please pray for little Zakaria and also for his sweet mother, that she will be wrapped in loving arms during this prolonged time of concern for her son and for the strain of hospitalization to be eased.
The last blog I wrote on Zakaria was when he had surgery to be taken off the ECMO machine. He was thankfully able to be weaned from it. Weeks later, he is on mechanical ventilation and his heart function remains poor. There is no possibility of further intervention until it improves.
In the previous blog there was so much more I wanted to articulate but found myself at a loss for words the night after these events. Things can change very fast. On his surgery day I didn’t know Zaria was having surgery until a few hours before. I wasn’t fully prepared for all that might happen to him. It was also a catheterization for another child, and these procedures overlapped by a half hour or so.
While I was waiting with another mother, Zakaria’s crib from the ICU was wheeled into the operating room, his mother wept as she trailed behind him. Before he went beyond the sliding doors to the theater itself, one of the nurses said to his mother that she could kiss him. His mother sobbed, said his name with a pained voice, and bent her head to his to kiss him, his hands, his feet. I went to her and brought her to sit down, as we settled in for whatever the next hours would bring.
One of the nurses who came out from the OR, double-checked with me that I knew the gravity of the situation, that it was extremely precarious and Zakaria might not make it, and to make sure Zakaria’s mom understood this. The statistics of coming off of ECMO are only 50/50, and this I kept in mind. After a while Zakaria’s mother and I conversed somewhat, then a lot. Initially I was stressed about the logistics: what happens if he doesn’t make it, I’ll have to translate that to her, what about bringing her back to the border, what paperwork must I get for him to go back, and other thoughts like this.
But within a few minutes, it’s not that those concerns disappeared, rather the Spirit worked in me to engage with this woman sitting beside me. Somehow my attention, though scattered before, was now fully on her and how to support her. I have no other explanation of how the time passed, other than we spent it by sharing so much of our lives. She showed me pictures and told stories of her life in Gaza with her other kids. She is a master chef and loves to cook and makes everything from scratch. She has a teenage daughter with an incredible aptitude for interior design. They, like many Palestinian families, go on family trips to the beach, and the beach-side coffee shops. We talked about homeschooling kids or sending them to public school and many other things. She came alive when talking about her family. Her love for them radiated from her expression and words. This time made me love her more but simultaneously to dread more the possible outcome of the surgery.
So when two hours had passed, and Zakaria had been able to come off ECMO by the end of it, I was surprised and overjoyed. But I don’t think either of us were prepared for what his body looked like after the surgery. They allowed me this once into the ICU, and his mom came out of his room and asked why his hands and feet were blue. I’ve seen children with blue discoloration before, but never with extremities that are so deeply blue it looked similar to the end stages of frostbite. When I looked at him my brain didn’t comprehend what I was seeing. We were able to inquire via an Arabic speaking nurse the reason for this, which was due to a lack of oxygen circulating to his hands and feet.
We sat together in his room for a few minutes, and I could tell she was disturbed. A lot of the hope that came from him surviving the surgery and in many ways beating the odds of getting off ECMO, now dwindled at the image of his body
Now two weeks on, he is still in critical condition. Today at the hospital, I saw his beautiful mother who was gracious and kind as always, and my heart hurt more. What she must be experiencing, I can’t imagine. Suffice it to say that even if I could, no words would grasp the breadth and width of it. But I think that at precisely the point at which words fail, that is the place where the power of prayer in its rawest and most true form, begins!
Zakaria’s mother was among them. She told me Zakaria was having surgery today as a means of taking him off the ECMO. As planned, nurses took him into the OR at 2:30 p.m. His mother, weeping, kissed him goodbye before they closed the doors.
This would be a risky surgery, but they had hope his body would work without the machine. Around two hours later, he came out of surgery having been successfully weaned. This good news was balanced however with the seriousness complications caused by having been on life-support, everything struggling for its proper order within his little body.
This is a really critical time for Zakaria, so please, please keep praying for him. He does not look well, and the dark blue shade of his feet and hands was very upsetting.
The nurse coordinator and nurse for Zakaria gave us somewhat discouraging news when we visited there today. A special medication infusion was given to him yesterday, then an attempt was made to wean him off of the ECMO support. Unfortunately, his heart did not respond well, and he was quickly returned to full support. He remains in critical condition at this time. Fortunately, he has not suffered any serious complications from this support.
In the natural, this is quite concerning for Zakaria and his family. Please join with us in prayer for his healing, and comfort and peace for his family.
Please continue to pray for Zakaria as he recovers from this major operation. Please pray for Zakaria’s family, and the other children in the family waiting at home in Gaza. Please pray for strength for the mother as she supports Zakaria.
When I asked medical staff about his operation, they said it would be a full repair: an arterial switch for his TGA, a VSD closure, and correction for the Coarctation of Aorta; all of this and he is he’s just under two months old.
His sweet mom seemed quite nervous, so please pray for strength and peace for her, and that our staff could practically minister to her tomorrow. Thank God for the doctors who will do this surgery and for our Gaza team who worked all weekend for Zakaria to be able to come and receive treatment.