Aram's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Waiting and Trusting

Posted on Sun, 04/13/2014 - 22:35 by Ruth Zellweger

Holidays and feasts are taken seriously by the Jewish people. Some are celebrated over the course of one week, as is the case with Pesach (Passover) which starts on Monday at sundown. During these times it is common to see different groups of people (children, students, soldiers, etc.) coming to the hospital and passing out small gifts. Today was no exception. When we entered Dana’s Children’s Hospital, a group of firefighters was standing in front of the building, talking to children during a party going on for the little patients inside the foyer. Aram and his mother were not in the midst of them because they are still in isolation.

Miriam, Kristina, and I went up to the fourth floor and found both mother and son in a somber mood. Aram still cries a lot and only eats well when he is not in pain. The medical staff, however, is taking good care of him and has even thought of creative ways to communicate with Aram's mother past the language barrier. Also while we were there, some of the firefighters came to the ward and handed us some gifts for Aram, including a book and a little firefighter figurine. This little figurine stayed close to Aram for the rest of the time we were with him and distracted him for a bit.

During our visit, one doctor told us Aram’s case is one of the most complicated they have ever seen. After a meeting this morning with various doctors, it was decided to wait until all test results are in next week before beginning any treatment. 

We have seen much progress in Aram’s situation over this past week and are thankful for everyone who faithfully intercedes for our little friend and his mother. They still have a long road ahead of them, but we trust God will meet every need one day at a time. 

What a Difference a Day Makes

Posted on Fri, 04/11/2014 - 13:59 by Kristina Kayser

Today was the first day I've ever seen Aram look so calm and happy. “This is how I've always imagined him looking,” I thought to myself. Aad and I exited the elevator to the children's ward this morning to find Aram and his mother sitting in one of the lounge chairs. They were pleased to see us and offered us seats beside them. Due to the unknown nature of Aram's infection, the hospital requires mother and son wear protective gowns and gloves every time they leave their room. So there they were, swathed in light blue gauze robes and looking quite royal. 

The longer we sat, the more I marveled at Aram's change in behavior and disposition. He didn't hit his head once or become irritable. Instead, he smiled and laughed and chatted on like any little boy his age. His mother went on to say Aram had not been in any pain since the evening prior and he was eating and sleeping well. Her smile and laughter were beautiful to observe. Even though treatment has not yet begun for Aram, pressure in his head was likely reduced after some fluid was removed with the lumbar puncture on Wednesday. If this much improvement took place before medication and surgery, I can't wait to see how much more progress will take place in the future! 

Doctors plan to reconvene on Sunday to discuss Aram's case and move forward with his treatment. It may be the infection in his brain will be treated first, followed by a shunt surgery. Thank you for standing with us in prayer on behalf of Aram. God is doing great things, and we are rejoicing here in Jerusalem!

Another Step Forward For Aram

Posted on Wed, 04/09/2014 - 21:57 by Kristina Kayser

I was reminded this morning of the beautiful promises given in Psalm 103—promises of strength being renewed and God showing compassion like a Father to His children. My own spirit was encouraged by these life-giving words, and I went on to see them fulfilled for Aram and his mother today as well. 

Before I arrived in the children's ward, I called Aram's mother to say I would be with them soon. Her voice sounded cheerful and hopeful, a pleasant contrast from yesterday. When I entered their room, however, mother and son were nowhere to be seen. After searching for several minutes, I learned Aram had just been taken into the ICU for another procedure. I regretted not being there in time and stood outside wondering how I could enter this secure unit to assist with translation and support. At that exact moment, the door swung open and a nurse who recognized me from yesterday beckoned me in. 

I could see right away Aram's mother had been given new strength.

Her anxiety had been exchanged for peace, and she welcomed me with warm smiles and kisses. The attending physician approached us to say Aram's MRI results showed signs of significant and multiple areas of infection in addition to his hydrocephalus. The type of infection could not be determined from the MRI. Thus, an additional test called a lumbar puncture (spinal time) was necessary. We waited until the anesthesiologist was ready to sedate Aram, who was quite grumpy due to fasting for five hours. His mother spoke gently with him, and he soon fell asleep. 

While the doctors were busy drawing cerebral spinal fluid from Aram, his mother and I waited patiently outside. An Infectious Disease Specialist approached us with a few questions about Aram's health history. Her purpose was to try to determine if Aram's current condition could be drawn back to a specific event or sickness. One possibility, she offered, was an untreated case of meningitis. Another doctor also said Aram's cerebral infection was like nothing they had ever seen. In the end, we were informed a shunt surgery plus special medication are the likely forms of treatment for Aram. The results from today's lumbar puncture will be confirmed in the next few days, and from there specialized care can begin. 

Aram was awake and alert when I bid him and his mother farewell this afternoon.

I saw God's compassion poured out on them today, and I am so thankful for the attention and concern being given to Aram. In our greatest moments of weakness, God's strength is being perfected, and His name is to be praised! May we see this again and again in Aram's journey in Israel.  

An MRI At Last

Posted on Tue, 04/08/2014 - 23:41 by SV

We started our day with worship and prayer as usual but also with hearts full of intercession for the Shevet children. We prayed for healing and miracles for our children, and we are beginning to see these things happen. We were reminded throughout the day of the many instances where God opened the doors for our children, giving us hope to keep believing more miracles are on the way.

After our morning meeting, we headed to see Aram and his mom, as Aram was scheduled to have an MRI today. When we arrived, we immediately saw the brokenness Aram’s mom was expressing in her tears. Aram was in distress, as he was fasting for the MRI and was very hungry. This made him more irritated, and he was constantly hitting his head. Kristina and I began to pray over Aram and his mom for peace and healing.

Everything seemed to happen slowly from here on out, with us waiting a long time for the MRI.

Once it arrived, it took more than two hours. After it was finished, Aram was transferred to the ICU for recovery and stayed there for several hours before being moved to the surgical ward.

We left Aram sleeping after a long day for him and his mom. Today was an emotional day, especially because I can see Aram and his mom are desperately in need of help. All we can do is to continue to pray for them. Things have been slow for them, but we see God’s grace at the same time.

Aram is currently still at Sourasky Hospital, and we are waiting to hear news from his neurologist before taking more steps towards his healing. Please join us in prayer for Aram and his mom. We are in need of divine intervention and breakthroughs! God’s mercies are new every morning, and we believe He will open the doors for Aram to get immediate treatment. Please pray for strength for both Aram and his mom. 

Breakthrough For Aram

Posted on Mon, 04/07/2014 - 23:08 by Kristina Kayser

After five weeks of searching for, praying for, and struggling to find proper treatment for Aram's neurological issues, we finally had a breakthrough today! A decision was reached last night to try admitting Aram into Dana Children's Hospital's emergency room this morning. We had neither invitation nor formal plan, only an increasing awareness of the urgency of this boy's condition. I must confess my heart was running low on faith last night as I estimated the likely challenges we would face. Nevertheless by morning, my faith had been strengthened through prayer and the following scripture in Romans 8:31b-32: "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" 

Aram's mother seemed desperate for help this morning as we prepared to leave. And although the road to Tel Aviv took two hours due to traffic, Aram was unusually calm for most of the trip. This was just the first of many answered prayers today.

Before approaching the admission desk at the emergency room, Ruth and I stopped to pray and ask for God's mercy to be poured out on Aram. Imagine our delight as a very friendly receptionist helped begin the process of Aram's visit. After an initial examination in the ER, the doctor gave us the game plan: we were to go first to the neurology department, followed by the cardiology department, then on to the ophthalmology department, then to the emergency department again, and finally into the surgical department. 

Over the next nine hours, the Lord was our faithful Shepherd, guiding us from one doctor to the next. The longest exam was with the neurologist, who asked many questions about Aram's life and health history and carried out a lengthy assessment of his physical and mental capacities. Although Aram cried through much of this exam, he did stop crying long enough to enjoy the doctor's giraffe finger puppet. 

The cardiology team then performed an echo to confirm Aram's heart defect. When this was completed, the four of us traveled up to the hospital's eleventh floor, which gave us a bird'seye view of Tel Aviv's sprawling metropolis beneath us. The Mediterranean's blue waters could be seen just beyond the skyscrapers, and Aram's mother marveled at her first glimpse of the sea. 

After every necessary test was completed, the ER staff started an IV and drew blood for the lab. Their peaceful composure helped put everyone at ease through a typically difficult procedure. Ruth and I continued commenting on how well Aram was being taken care of and the peace surrounding us. There was even a point where I had to convince the doctor Aram's behavior had not been this calm for the last few days. 

Praise God the intervention for which we've been seeking came as an impressive breakthrough today. This same hospital which told us last week the soonest MRI appointment available was on June 24th is now scheduling Aram for an MRI tomorrow afternoon!

Aram and his mother were settled comfortably in their room by 7 PM tonight, enjoying every bite of their dinner.

Relief had replaced anxiety in Aram's mother. To be sure, Aram was quite spent after his battery of exams, and his crying, discomfort, and hitting of his head were still present, but his mother knows healing steps are finally in motion. Tomorrow's MRI will, God willing, provide the neurology team with enough information to determine whether or not Aram needs neurosurgery or special medication or both. Thank you for praying for Aram and his mother! May we continue to wait expectantly for the Father's good plan to be completed in this boy's life. 

A Trying Time

Posted on Sun, 04/06/2014 - 21:15 by Ruth Zellweger

Early in the morning we went with Aram to Wolfson Hospital for further neurological testing. Before we left, I found Aram’s mother in the upstairs living quarters with tears in her eyes. The previous night had been difficult for Aram and everyone else around him. He had not slept much, instead crying and often hitting his head.

Before we left this morning, we prayed for this precious, little boy and his mother. After that, we were on the road. At the hospital, Aram had a blood test before he was called in to an appointment with the neurologist. After some waiting time, he was carefully examined by the doctors while screaming and hitting his head the whole time. The doctors discussed the results after the examination while we waited outside.

We then had a short time of rest at the children’s ward before moving on to the next test-an eye exam to determine Aram’s intra-cranial pressure. Again Aram cried a lot and was not easily calmed down.

With the results from this test, we went back to the ward and waited to hear from the pediatrician about the next steps needing to be taken. Half an hour later we received a phone call from senior cardiologist Dr. Tamir informing us Aram should be hospitalized as soon as possible. Because Wolfson Hospital does not have the capacities to treat Aram’s neurological health needs, he advised us to go to a specialty hospital.

It is our hope in the near future Aram will be admitted for urgent treatment and surgery for his brain. Please pray God provides all the necessary support for these additional expenses, as well as for continued strength and peace for Aram and his mother. 

Clinging to Hope

Posted on Thu, 04/03/2014 - 22:26 by Kristina Kayser

The sun was barely casting its warm light on Jerusalem when our team of Shevet volunteers and Aram and his mother set out for Tel Aviv. Aram, who doesn't like to be anywhere else except in his mother's arms, was not keen on sitting in a car seat.

And despite our efforts to soothe or entertain him, he protested loudly throughout the journey.

The purpose of this trip was to pursue intervention on behalf of Aram's neurological medical needs. This small boy is clearly in distress, and many times his irritability is a result of the constant pressure on his brain. Armed with recent MRI results, Elsie, Aad, and I escorted Aram and his mother inside the Dana Children's Hospital—a facility we were told has one of the top neurosurgery programs in Israel. Outside the hospital, we took a couple minutes to admire a beautiful vertical garden and persuade Aram to smile for a photo.  

It took some time to work our way through a maze of unfamiliar hallways and departments. We found the neurology department, thankfully, and waited our turn to be seen. Because Aram is a patient at a different hospital (Wolfson) for his heart treatment, a few challenges were met in securing his consultation today. Nevertheless, the doctor kindly agreed to squeeze him into a very tight schedule on short notice.

Our hopes were high sitting in the neurologist's office. Even Aram, whose crying had been pretty constant, stopped and just stared at the man reviewing his medical documents. After asking us a few questions about Aram's health and behavior, Dr. Yonaton gave us the prognosis. The MRI results, he told us, were not high enough quality to properly treat him. Another MRI under general anesthesia is necessary along with a battery of blood tests and a lumbar puncture. He could, however, confirm that Aram has hydrocephalus and several lesions indicative of infection in his brain. Only once all of the necessary data is gathered can Aram have neurosurgery. This was not the news we were hoping to hear, but we determined to press forward.

Stopping next at the MRI department, I requested the soonest possible date for an appointment. You can imagine my dismay when the receptionist told me nothing was available until June 24th. Aram's MRI exam last week had taken nearly a month to secure, so waiting nearly three additional months from now is quite a stretch. One good piece of news, however, is Wolfson's neurology team is able to begin conducting some of his exams as early as next Sunday.

Fighting hard not to be discouraged myself, I wanted so much to buoy Aram's mother's hope for the future. Day after day, she cares so faithfully and lovingly for her son.

At times, her patience wears thin and tears well up in her eyes. Even a mother as gentle and quiet as her has moments of frustration and despair. She was clearly deflated upon hearing another MRI was required, and more tests did not sound promising to her. Sometimes, just showing love gives more comfort than words. This proved to be true today. Hugging her and helping her care for Aram did far more than anything I said. Additionally, a kind Israeli woman in the hospital gave Aram a chocolate bar when she saw him crying. 

This same chocolate bar was one of the only things to stop Aram's tears for a few minutes on our drive home. God's love is shown in many different ways. One of my final thoughts on today's experience was the reminder nothing takes God by surprise. Our greatest disappointments can be met with the truth He is all-knowing and all-loving. What is unknown to us is known to Him. Thus we can continue hoping and trusting Him to provide for Aram in His perfect time. Please join us in praying for healing and new life for this dear boy!

An Eventful MRI

Posted on Thu, 03/27/2014 - 21:30 by Lina Sara

I called the Maqqased Hospital in Jerusalem on Monday to see if it was possible for Aram to have an MRI there. They said yes, and the technician for the MRI told me Aram must be fasting if he needs to be under anesthesia.

Armed with this knowledge, Kristina and I took Aram and his mother to the hospital early today for his MRI scan.

When we arrived, we searched for and found the MRI section and the attending technician. I told him Aram had been fasting and we would like to make the MRI happen as soon as possible. He asked me whether or not Aram was awake. I said yes, but we would like him to go under anesthesia, as he would likely cry the whole time if he remained awake. The technician proceeded to tell me it’s generally not a good idea to put a child with Aram’s heart condition under anesthesia. He wasn’t willing to accept responsibility for the procedure and suggested a different route: admitting Aram into the hospital, feeding him, letting the mother walk with him, putting him to sleep, and then bringing him to the MRI scan.

With this in mind, Kristina and I went to the children clinic to see whether or not we could find a different, more manageable solution. We met with the doctor there, and she referred us to the head doctor of the children's ward. Moving quickly, we reached the head doctor and found her busy visiting children’s rooms. I asked her if I could take five minutes of her time, and she kindly looked at Aram's report. She told us Aram could go under anesthesia, but only by using a small amount to be put to sleep.

We backtracked to the MRI section, where I told the technician the doctor had approved Aram’s placement under anesthesia. The technician still wouldn’t budge. By this time, though, Aram was sleeping, so we tried to put him in the MRI machine. For five minutes we thought we were successful, but he soon woke up and started to cry.

As we withdrew him from the machine, Kristina and I debated what to do. I approached the MRI technician again and requested the anesthesia once more, accepting full responsibility for the consequences, but he refused to move forward. With no other option before us, we asked him if he could do the test on Aram while he was awake. The technician acquiesced to this request, so we decided to put Aram through the MRI test wide awake and without anesthesia.

Aram was thoroughly miserable and cried, but we didn't have any other choice. 

The exam concluded Aram does indeed have fluid pressure around his brain (hydrocephalus), but a neurologist will still need to review the MRI results and determine a final diagnosis and treatment plan. Please pray for Aram and for special wisdom for the neurologist.

Aram Back at Shevet

Posted on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 23:07 by Becky Lantz

We are so thankful to have little Aram back in our community today! This afternoon four Shevet volunteers were able to pick him up from Wolfson Hospital after he was cleared to head home. His mother looked relieved to be heading back to Shevet, and Aram even blessed us with a few smiles throughout the car ride home.

Right now there is no fresh news on Aram’s current medical condition, as we are still waiting to get him in for an MRI. The past few weeks have been trying for little Aram and his mother, as they are both in a season of waiting for treatment. We ask that you join with us as we pray for favor with the hospitals who will be providing Aram’s treatment and for his mother to be encouraged during this difficult time. 

Aram Admitted to Hospital

Posted on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 22:35 by Kristina Kayser

Due to several episodes of vomiting yesterday with little fluid intake, little Aram and his mother were driven to the hospital this afternoon. For a boy whose health is already in a fragile state, the risk of dehydration is much more serious. He and his mother seem quite exhausted, so it was a blessing both were able to rest en route to Tel Aviv. Aram's mother is a brave soul, who gives of herself continuously to bring security and sustenance to her son with hardly a thought for her own needs. Watching them sleep, I so wanted them to experience new strength and wholeness. Diane, a new volunteer, sat beside them on the way and was a loving source of encouragement as well. I later learned she had been up early this morning praying for Aram long before knowing she would be joining us for this hospital trip. This was to be a special day of ministering to Aram and his mother. 

Vital signs, a blood test, and an IV start were completed soon after we arrived. Aram was unusually subdued throughout this process, testimony to the fact he wasn't feeling well. In addition to his treatment for dehydration, his mother voiced her concern about his increasing complaints of pain throughout his body, especially in his head. We are still waiting for him to receive an MRI of his head to confirm a diagnosis of hydrocephalus (fluid around his brain), which may be the most likely cause of his pain. An eye exam was ordered this afternoon to measure pressure behind his eyes.

This was an unpleasant activity for Aram, who cried throughout. In the end, no new evidence was found. 

Perhaps the best part of the day was a twenty minute interlude between exams when Aram lay quiet on the exam table, and Diane and I were able to pray quietly with him and his mother. I sensed God's presence and peace with us in those moments. We prayed for healing, comfort, and peace, and we thanked God for His great love for these two and for their value in His eyes. What a privilege it is to share the struggles of these dear women and children who come to Israel and share God's abundant love for them. 

Please pray for Aram as he continues to receive IV fluids through the night. If he shows enough improvement by tomorrow, he and his mother may return to Jerusalem. I believe our great Shepherd is caring for these precious lambs in ways we cannot even fathom.