Ahmad's Heart Surgery


Healing Behind Closed Doors

Posted on Wed, 08/13/2014 - 19:45 by Ruth Zellweger

The heart of our precious baby Ahmad is healing slowly, but steadily. I met his father outside the hospital entrance, where he loves to sit, watch, and engage people in conversation. When he saw me, he got up and greeted me enthusiastically. Even though we cannot communicate much with words, we have developed our own unique way of communicating, which involves gestures and facial expressions. And so I was able to understand that his beloved son had been extubated today! I rejoiced with him and wanted to see Ahmad with my own eyes, and so I went to the Secondary ICU. I knocked at the door, and a nurse opened the door just a little bit. I asked to take a picture of Ahmad from a distance, but she told me that would not be possible.

But before the nurse shut the door, she confirmed that Ahmad had been extubated successfully, and that he still has chest tubes to drain fluid. I was granted one more glance and could see the oxygen tent around Ahmad's head, which some children have after being extubated. And then the door was shut. Ahmad's body is still fighting the bacteria, and our prayer is that he soon will be well enough to be moved to the children's ward, and ultimately be able to return with a completely healed heart to his mother and sisters in Jordan. Thank you for interceding with us!

Trust in the Great Healer

Posted on Sun, 08/10/2014 - 22:46 by Ruth Zellweger

Even though baby Ahmad has not been at our house in Jerusalem yet, our community loves him dearly and has been praying a lot for him. We started praying for him several weeks before his arrival, entrusting his little life into God's big hands. We prayed for him during his travel from the Jordanian hospital to Wolfson Hospital in Tel Aviv. We thanked God when we heard that Ahmad had just made it to Wolfson in time before his heart would have stopped working. After that, we hoped with his father that the yeast infection in his blood would soon be eradicated so that he could have surgery. On his surgery day, we came before our Heavenly Father, asking Him to intervene and heal Ahmad's heart completely. Through ups and downs in Ahmad's recovery, we asked God to comfort Ahmad's father with His peace. And He proved Himself faithful. 

I was looking forward to seeing Ahmad and his father today, as I had not seen them for the past four days. Abu Ahmad was still asleep in the children's ward when Rebekah, Konrad, and I arrived at the hospital early in the morning. We had come to accompany Wisam's father during the waiting time of his son's surgery, but of course, we were also eager to spend time with our other Shevet family members, that is with Raiyan and mother, as well as with Ahmad and Dana with their fathers. After a while, I went with Abu Ahmad into the ICU to see how his little son was doing. We entered the ICU at a time when Ahmad's heart rate had just dropped down dangerously low. A cardiologist started with compressing his heart, while another doctor injected some adrenaline. Ahmad soon stabilized, but his father was in shock and distressed. He started crying and praying to God. A little bit later, we learned that doctors had wanted to extubate Ahmad, but he had not tolerated that. In addition, he had developed a pneumothorax, a condition where air is collecting in pleural space between the lung and chest wall. As a result, Ahmad was reintubated, and a new chest tube was inserted to solve the problem with the pneumothorax. Later in the morning, Ahmad was transferred to the Secondary ICU, which usually is a sign that a child has improved in recovery. But it seemed a little bit strange, since we knew what had happened earlier. A talk with the ICU doctors helped us to understand the reason. After his open heart surgery, Ahmad had contracted a very aggressive bacteria that is resistant to most antibiotics. To prevent the bacteria from spreading in the ICU, they moved Ahmad to a more isolated area of the department. The doctors hope with time to get rid of this bacteria. In the meantime, they advised us not to get too close to Ahmad in order to not carry the bacteria to other children. 

Ahmad's father decided to come back with us to Jerusalem tonight. After a night's rest, he will return to be at his son's bedside tomorrow. Thank you for continuing to pray for both Ahmad and his father, as well as for the medical staff, who work ceaselessly on behalf of our precious children. 

Met with Joy

Posted on Wed, 08/06/2014 - 23:18 by Kristina Kayser

Even since early this morning, there was still uncertainty as to whether or not Ahmad would need a second surgery today. Imagine, then, our delight when Ahmad's father was the first one to greet us outside Wolfson with a big smile on his face. He told us with great enthusiasm that his son would not have surgery and that the doctors planned on closing his chest today. This was wonderful news to begin our day! 

An ICU doctor soon informed us that a special esophageal echo had been performed and confirmed that the mitral valve was functioning better than previously thought. Thus, doctors were able to confidently suture up his incision afterwards. We also learned that if everything continues to go well, Ahmed may be extubated this Friday! 

Our whole Shevet team shared Ahmad's father's great joy. What a blessing it was for Nick, Kirsten, Marisa, and I to all have the privilege of seeing baby Ahmad today. Truly the Lord is faithful to answer our prayers for this boy's precious life! "Oh Lord of hosts, who is mighty like You, O Lord. Your faithfulness also surrounds You." Psalm 89:8 

God of Wonders

Posted on Tue, 08/05/2014 - 21:38 by Kristina Kayser

It has been two days since baby Ahmad's complex heart surgery. His small body is engulfed in a large heating blanket, with nothing but his tiny face peeping through.

This morning, Ruth and I received the report that Ahmad's chest would remain open today; nevertheless, he is showing significant signs of improvement and remains in stable condition in ICU. His loving father was in such a peaceful and confident state today that he focused his attention on caring for Dana's father who was waiting for his son in surgery for six long hours. It was beautiful to witness him extending the gift of friendship and solidarity with such love, despite cultural and language barriers.

Based on an echo taken today, an ICU doctor informed us that Ahmad's mitral valve was not functioning properly and that a second surgery tomorrow may be necessary to correct this problem. The cardiology team will make their final decision tomorrow. Please pray for Ahmad's father who, understandably, is sad and burdened for his son once again. We trust God to provide the wisdom needed and for His perfect healing to take place in Ahmad's heart--He is the God of wonders! 

Relying on Love

Posted on Mon, 08/04/2014 - 22:10 by Jesse Tilman

Ahmad is healing steadily in the ICU. His father spends much of his time gladly saying hello to everyone in the hospital and thanking them for their work. Ahmad’s chest is still open, though we heard that they hope to close it tomorrow.  It usually only takes a few days for young children like him to recuperate. Ahmad’s little sleeping form below the blankets seems so fragile and precious!

I rested a hand over his tousled hair and his father let me pray for him. Thank God for His Healing work and care for each one of us! As we prepared to leave, Ahmad’s Dad passed along his greetings to everyone at the house. He has had company with Dana and his father there for a little while, and today we brought a third father and son. We chatted in the hall for a couple minutes, and finally said our goodbyes.

A Heart Beautifully Fashioned

Posted on Sun, 08/03/2014 - 23:12 by Kristina Kayser

Pink tipped clouds, spread across this morning's sky, greeted our team as we met the new day. It was on our way to Wolfson Hospital in Tel Aviv that the sun first revealed itself in blazing glory over golden corn fields. What a beautiful testimony of God's beauty and power on the way to baby Ahmad's surgery! Kirsten and I, along with Yousef and Ahmad's father, arrived in good faith for this boy's life. 

By 7:30am, all consent forms were signed, and we were following close on the heels of the transport team down to the operating department. Little Ahmad was already intubated (breathing from a ventilator) and rolled right into the surgical room. His father was quiet and tense, and I wondered what it felt like to give one's precious son away for heart surgery.  

The time passed slowly for Ahmad's father, I think. I watched him sit for brief moments only to disappear for long periods of walking the halls. As a limited Arabic speaker and a woman, it was sometimes challenging to know how to encourage and comfort. I was thankful Yousef was there to be a good friend. Nevertheless, this father seemed thankful to have others at his side to share this day--a very difficult day--with him. 

Kirsten and I had read in Psalm 33 this morning the verses which read, "He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works...Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield...For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name" (vs. 15,20-21). How true these scriptures proved to be today. As we waited and trusted the Lord, He was with Ahmad in the operating room, guiding the hands of Dr. Sasson and the medical team. He is the One who fashioned Ahmad's heart and the only One able to rescue this baby's life.

At 3:30pm, our hopes were realized when a long gurney carrying precious cargo appeared outside the elevator. The surgery, which had begun close to 11am, was finally complete. Achmad's father was so happy to see his son once more--his expression was a mixture of joy and disbelief, perhaps not unlike the disciples upon seeing Jesus after His resurrection. We followed Ahmad all the way to the Intensive Care Unit, where we were asked to wait until the staff had a chance to settle him. 

Dr. Sasson was close at hand, explaining to me that the operation to fully repair Ahmad's Transposition of the Great Arteries in addition to mending two holes (Ventricular Septal Defects) was a success! It was a very difficult operation and one that still carries great risk in the next days. Thus, in order to have quicker access in case of a problem, Dr. Sasson decided to leave Ahmad's chest open for at least a couple days. 

Dr. Sasson was still seated beside Ahmad's bed when we entered the ICU an hour later. And he waited, as it seemed, with fervent hope that this baby's heart would continue its steadfast and newly determined beat.

While there were no current complications, it was apparent that everyone was taking the greatest precaution and care. Ahmad's small body was swathed in a special blanket to increase his core temperature, so it was difficult to get a clear view of his beautiful face. His jet-black curly top, however, gave proof that he was tucked safely inside.

A glorious sunrise, a surgeon's work of art, a father's joy, and a once fragile heart now beating strong are all powerful testimonies of God's powerful love. So while we pray diligently for Ahmad's healing in these critical hours, we also seek to follow David's call to "rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful" (Psalm 33:1). 

Eyes Open to His Goodness

Posted on Thu, 07/31/2014 - 22:31 by Kirsten Perow

It was a pleasant surprise, upon visiting the ICU, to find Ahmad with his bright, brilliant eyes wide open, scanning his surroundings! He, like most children who wake up in the strange, unfamiliar place of the ICU, desperately cried and attempted to break free from his little bassinet. His diligent father was right by his side, lightly rubbing his tiny chest, arms and legs, whispering comforting sounds in his ears and letting his son know that he is loved and not alone.

We received more good news that Ahmad’s infection has officially cleared, thus paving the way for his imminent surgery, which is scheduled for as early as next week! Thanking our Father for opening our eyes to His intentional blessings and His perfect timing!

Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes! 1 Samuel 12:16

In Good Hands

Posted on Mon, 07/28/2014 - 00:27 by Nick Boyum

Ahmad, the beautiful miracle who survived the journey from Jordan with severely low oxygen, remains in the hospital under constant observation. He was discovered to have a serious yeast infection, which is now being treated with a bout of strong medications.

The doctors have postponed his surgery until this infection clears up. His father faithfully sits at his son's side, even refusing a furlow to comfortable Jerusalem for a few days while his son recovers from his infection. For the time being, let it be our prayer that the Lord keeps him in stable condition as he is now in the ICU.

The Rescue of Ahmad

Posted on Wed, 07/23/2014 - 23:26 by Jonathan Miles

Baby Ahmad's parents fled from Syria to Jordan in April. Just a month after arriving, their fifth child was born, their first son after four beautiful daughters. But their celebration turned to worry when he began turning blue a weak after his birth. Doctors soon discovered he was born with transposition of the great arteries. With these vessels reversed his heart was pumping blue blood right back to his body, rather than to his lungs to receive oxygen. Only a couple of small openings between the chambers of his heart were keeping Ahmad alive.

Ahmad's family turned to our coworkers Ryan and Lizzy in Jordan, who prioritized Ahmad's case after realizing that his life was at immediate risk. The Ministry of the Interior in Israel also fast-tracked Ahmad's visa application, and today we received the green light to bring Ahmad across the border.

We arrived at the hospital ICU in Jordan to witness the emotional farewell from Ahmad's mother as she gave her newborn son over to strangers:


We prayed right there that with God's help Ahmad will return to his mother in peace. Then our nurse Kirsten helped transfer Ahmad to our vehicle, still on oxygen and intravenous fluids.

Ahmad was crying frequently, and his father told us that his condition had deteriorated in just the past two days. Throughout our long journey the father lovingly comforted his son:


At the border we found unprecedented cooperation from authorities on both sides. Ahmad and his father never even had to leave the vehicle and we completed all the paperwork and security checks in just about one hour. 

Arriving at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Ahmad was rushed into the ICU where medical staff began immediate supportive care, and ICU head Dr. Sion Houri explained just how urgent a case this was:


When an echocardiogram was performed it was discovered that one of the openings keeping Ahmad alive these two months was now closed.


These may have been the last days of his life if he had not been transferred to Israel today.

Tonight Ahmad is under observation in the ICU. Doctors were able to restore the PDA opening through medication, and hope that Ahmad will be stable enough to wait for surgery to switch his great arteries at the start of next week. 

Kirsten adds:

In the event of picking up a very sick two month old and very attentive father, I was reminded of another Father who relentlessly loves His babies. I refer to us, His children, as babies because 1) I feel like I overuse the phrase “His children”—so much so that I take for granted its meaning and 2) Because we really are babies. We are the exactly like little Ahmad who sobbed and used almost all of his energy to hang on to life on the ride from Jordan to Tel Aviv. Ahmad's father bounced and comforted his tiny, screaming son the entire way to the hospital, not letting him go even once. This is precisely like our Father. He does not leave us, even when our battles look hopeless, and in reality, without Him, we would not even have a life to struggle to hold on to. Finally, we arrived at the hospital, where Ahmad was whisked away by doctors.

We waited while medical staff worked to stabilize Ahmad. At one point during the wait, despite a thousand other noises colliding in our ears, Ahmad’s father stated that he heard his son crying and added, after noticing our confused looks, that a father is trained to hear and recognize his son’s cry. I thought this was especially beautiful. It reminded me of a shepherd I once spoke to who said he knows the specific bleat of each one of his sheep and they, in turn, identify and trust his voice as the only one who provides for them.