Ali's Heart Surgery

Northern Iraq

An Expression of Joy

Posted on Thu, 08/11/2011 - 00:00 by Kristina Kayser

While one chapter in Ali's story ended today with his departure from Israel, another began as he headed home! He has been the sweetheart of Shevet these past two months, winning us over with his big brown eyes and countless expressions. The Ventricular Septal Defect that prompted Ali's venture to Israel was fully repaired without any complication. We have watched, through Ali, how a mended heart is outwardly reflected in a child's development. Though fairly docile prior to his operation, Ali took on somewhat of a feisty nature afterward, not unlike his young mother. His face says it all in the picture to the left.

With new vitality, Ali has been making up for lost ground. His progress continues in both muscular strength and motor skills; it won't be long before he's crawling all over the place. He also went from drinking only formula to having his first taste of spaghetti, among other things. On Sunday evening, a party was held in Ali's honor, along with two other children, to celebrate God's grace in his life.

A DVD made by Donna Jo (Shevet member) captured Ali's story with each photograph and was thoroughly enjoyed by all (except for the "star," who seemed a bit preoccupied with his bottle). Ali may be too young to remember the trauma of open heart surgery or appreciate his mother's vigilant care during this time, but one thing is sure - he will forever bear a mark of courage that testifies of life overcoming death.

This morning, the Shevet community gathered in the courtyard to send Ali and his mother out with our love and prayers. My prayer for this lovely duo, who brought so much joy to our household, comes from Isaiah 12:3: "...with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." May they drink deeply of the One who has granted them both life and deliverance, finding fullness of joy therein!

Ali Riding High, On His Way Home

Posted on Mon, 07/25/2011 - 17:35 by Kristina Kayser

Today marked Ali's final medical milestone here in the land of Israel. Since his arrival two months ago, Ali's small heart has endured invasive heart repair and is recovering beautifully. His final echo this morning was like the cherry on top of sweet success. For a nine-month-old who doesn't have the vocabulary to articulate his feelings, Ali's facial expressions today were worth a thousand words. Before the echo began, his face lit up in a smile while riding atop a stuffed lion: pure joy! Soon after, Shevet member, Joshua, procured a look no words could describe that had us all in hysterics (captured in the picture below). 

Ali's expression shifted to "wide-eyed wonder" (a face he is notorious for) as the echo technician babbled in Hebrew baby talk with him. Emotions then escalated as the doctor began assessing him. Ali protested loudly, his demeanor growing more piqued by the second. Thankfully, the echo was completed despite his cries and wriggling. 
Medically speaking, his heart continues to mend without complication. Dr. Alona reported that Ali was now officially ready to return home!
His mum received this news with delight and poise. When I congratulated her, she smiled in a sweet and knowing sort of way, as though the doctor confirmed what she already knew in her mother's heart. Her baby grows healthier by the day, and that is more than enough for her. 
In closing, I am reminded of a scripture that perfectly describes the way in which Jesus heals. The crowds say of Him in the gospel of Mark after He restores a deaf and mute man, "He has done all things well." How true this is for Ali. His surgery and healing demonstrate, once again, the miracle of a life saved.

Smiles and the Beach and a Clean Bill of Health

Posted on Thu, 07/21/2011 - 22:51 by Kristina Kayser

Dressed in stylish summer attire and a new hat, little Ali and his mother set off for Wolfson early this morning for what proved to be a very rewarding day. Although an echocardiogram (echo) was the main event on the agenda, Ali's mother was as giddy as a schoolgirl for the beach excursion planned afterwards. One look at Ali's captivating eyes and dimpled smile told me that this baby is truly healing well. Moreover, a fresh pink chest incision is outward evidence of a beautiful miracle taking place within.

The pleasantry ended for Ali once laid he was laid upon the examining table, as smiles gave way to tears. All hands were called on deck to help keep him still while the doctor completed the echo. When all was said and done, the doctor issued a clean report and discontinued Ali's post-op medication. The Ventricular Septal Defect remains efficiently sealed with a Gortex patch, providing optimum cardiac function. The doctor also stated that Ali would have one final echo next Monday before being discharged home.

I marveled at God's blessings in this little man's life. Not only has his heart been repaired, but since his operation, Ali has made huge strides developmentally. At nine months, he is now beginning to eat solid foods, to sit up without assistance, and to stand on his feet with a little help. It won't be long before he's walking all over the place! 

As Wolfson faded in the background, warm Mediterranean breezes beckoned us to the seashore. Ali's first beach experience began with lounging on the sand, just taking in the scenery. Next, his enthused mother scooped him up in her arms and carried him to water's edge. Waves and surf brought mixed reviews. One moment, Ali's wide eyes seemed to take in the vastness of the sea with wonder. The next moment, he squeezed his eyes shut and screamed as the water splashed around his feet.

His mother, however, could not have been more delighted! Coming from a land-locked nation, I have no doubt that this experience will remain fixed in her memory for years to come.

As the ocean is known for its mysterious depths, so too, is God's love for Ali and his mother. May they come to understand "how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge..." Ephesians 318:19a

All Eyes On The Screen

Posted on Thu, 07/14/2011 - 18:29 by Donna_West

Baby Ali must have wondered what everyone was looking at today as eyes were intent upon the echo monitor instead of him for a few minutes. But at this his first echo following release from the cardiology ward, it was important to know if improvement is continuing in his newly healed heart, or if excess fluid continues to develop.  
Ali's report today was a good one. All looks good for him. His medication has been cut in half and the doctors want to check the progress in another four days.  Stitches were removed  from his incision, and it looks as though this bright eyed little one is well on his way to returning home after another echo or two. We pray this progress will continue. 

With Ali in the Hospital and Jerusalem

Posted on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 21:55 by Donna_West

Today's blog is a double blog, both authored by Donna West. 

From July 7, 2011

A group from Shevet Achim found Ali bright eyed, alert and in great spirits, if that can be determined in an eight-month old. Ali seems to be a very special 8-month old. You can tell by how he is so responsive to interaction when his mother talks to him and plays with him. He just "lights up" when he sees his friends. 
AND at eight-months old he knows the difference between a nurse and someone who just wants to love on him and play with him. He also seems to know he is "safer" (from the nurses) in a sitting-up position than in a lying-down position. It is written all over the expression on his face. When we had a "popsicle party" this afternoon to brighten up a hot afternoon, Ali made it quite clear he would rather have the popsicle than the medicine. 
Thank you for your prayers for Ali and his friends. May you know the Father is hearing and answering them.  Thank you Lord!
From July 10, 2011
A call from the hospital and some shuffling of transportation late this afternoon, and Ali was back in Jerusalem in his own bed away from home. A bottle of milk, a little nap in the car, and a diaper change gave this little bundle all the comfort he needed. Ali left the hospital only assigned one medication and in receipt of a good health report.

Ali's Big Eyes Testify To A Successful Surgery

Posted on Tue, 07/05/2011 - 21:33 by Natalie Wisely

Ali's big eyes were wide open this afternoon as I walked into the ICU. The little guy had an excellent night and is doing very well today. He is off the ventilator completely and the monitors showed his oxygen level to be excellent. It looks like his heart surgery was a success! His mother, ever attentive to his care, kept the baby entertained by clapping and snapping. I quickly jumped in and added to the fun by making funny faces at the boy. This made Ali smile which was encouraging since I'm sure he is still sore from surgery. It is wonderful to see him awake and doing well. We pray the rest of his recovery goes just as smoothly and that his mother continues to have strength and joy.

Ali Called Suddenly To Surgery

Posted on Mon, 07/04/2011 - 23:08 by Co-authored

Donna West writes Sunday night, pre-surgery:

We received an unexpected call from Wolfson Hospital Sunday evening saying, "Bring Ali NOW for surgery tomorrow morning". The long awaited time had suddenly arrived. A tearful mother and an unsuspecting infant took an evening ride with me and Jeff to be admitted and weighed-in for tomorrows' surgery. We would so very much appreciate your prayers for this young mother and delightful little boy. Thank you so much.
Alyse Flack writes Monday morning, pre-surgery:
After all the waiting and paperwork, the day for Ali

Ali Spikes a Fever

Posted on Mon, 06/27/2011 - 22:12 by Kristina Kayser

As the summer sun swathed Jerusalem in a blanket of heat today, baby Ali's temperature also rose. Fluids, cool compresses, and an anti-pyretic medicine were not enough to combat a fever that spiked early this afternoon. 
The next step was to take Ali to Wolfson to be evaluated by doctors. It just so happened that another of our children was to be admitted today for surgery prep, and a trip to the hospital was already in motion. Despite Ali being uncharacteristically fussy due to his fever, he still managed to keep smiling. 
Children's nursery rhymes and games of patty cake helped lift his spirits after a painful blood draw. A chest x-ray was taken as an extra measure of precaution. The ER doctor believes Ali may have a viral infection and decided to keep him overnight to observe his condition and await test results. Ali's mother was her ever-graceful and patient self, lovingly caring for her son at every moment. She's crazy about him, and his happy personality shows that he soaks up her affection like a sponge! 
Similar to their reflection in a mirror, Ali and his mother reflect a beautiful love for one another. Please pray for this little one to recover quickly and bring his sweet laughter home soon!

Ali's Introduction to Wolfson Hospital

Posted on Thu, 06/23/2011 - 12:10 by Kristina Kayser

Ali's sweet spirit and his mother's tender love carried him through a rigorous first day at Wolfson Hospital. Most babies vocally express their disdain for car-seats, but Ali just smiled and cooed all the way to Tel Aviv. 
Whenever a new child arrives from Iraq, they are subjected to a series of pre-surgery procedures that establishes a basis for proper treatment. Taking center stage at the nurse's station, Ali completed each test like scenes from a play, displaying a wide variety of character portrayals. After playing with his feet for a while, it took one nurse all the creativity she could muster to distract him while measuring vital signs. He stopped fussing to fix his bright eyes on her as she clapped and sang Hebrew nursery rhymes. 
The most humorous event of the day centered on collecting a urine sample. After nearly soaking the same nurse early in the afternoon, we waited over three hours for another specimen that never came. This baby was on his own time schedule! Blood work drew painful cries that echoed down hospital corridors, but a mild sedative allowed Dr. Olivia to complete his echocardiogram in hushed slumber. 
The ventricular septal defect (VSD), detected shortly after Ali's birth, will soon be repaired through open heart surgery. Despite his oxygen level being excellent, this large cardiac aperture threatens to cause great harm if left unrepaired. What a blessing that his heart can be corrected so early in life. 
Holding Ali in my arms at day's end, I admired God's handiwork of silky cheeks and long eyelashes. I remember too, that beating within his small frame, an artistically crafted heart is waiting to be made whole. Truly we are "fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are [God's] works and that my soul knows very well." Psalm 139:14