Aras's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Catheterization Tomorrow

Posted on Tue, 12/04/2007 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

I found out when I arrived at the hospital that Aras had been admitted to the hospital today for his catheterization tomorrow. He and his mother were relaxing and visiting with the other families between preliminary tests for Aras.
Please pray for both of them as this procedure happens in the morning... Aras does not seem very anxious, and his mother was only a little anxious when I left them this evening.

Resting Tonight Gratefully in Jerusalem

Posted on Thu, 11/29/2007 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

I am thankful and happy to report that today all four of Iraqi boys and their mothers who came to Amman in the past two days crossed over into Israel. Although they are tired, they are glad to have successfully passed through the border. The crossings are particularly stressful for the families because they are entering this land they've heard so much about as an "enemy" of their people. And indeed, security is very strict at the crossing points, and seems to be getting tighter. Yet God has allowed us to establish working relationships with the officials at the border terminals which helps make these journeys easier for everyone. The officers and passport control workers on each side are as comforting as they can be to the families while still maintaining the necessary professionalism and protocol which is required to fulfill their posts. However, I've noticed that until we completely finish the process and are in the van on the way to the hospital there is a tension hanging in the air. Today was no different, and was even a little heightened due to a taxi breakdown on the way to the border. We needed two taxis to transport everyone, so I arranged for my driver and his brother to drive us, and was very encouraged when we left Amman on time, and made very good time through the mountains down to the Jordan valley. We were in fact only minutes from the entry point to the Sheik Hussein bridge when the taxi carrying Delir, Dilshad, their mothers and me came to a stop. Right away the two drivers looked at the problem and knew it could not be easily fixed, so they determined to take us one group at a time to the crossing point, which meant the other group had to stay with our broken taxi. This made the mothers nervous - understandably so - and yet I knew they would be safe with my drivers, whom I depend on around Amman regularly. I have trusted these men with my own luggage when I had to spend hours in the embassy in Amman, so I knew they were trustworthy with this much more precious cargo. They have driven several of our patients to the border, and enjoy helping us, and seeing the children come back healed. Even though it could have been quite a challenge, there was so much to be thankful for as the delay was probably only about a half hour.

The rest of the process in Jordan went smoothly, although there is no way to cross quickly with nine people, eight of whom are from Iraq! While we waited for the bus which crosses the river, we used our time for a quick picnic.

In the Israeli terminal Aras was quiet but thoughtful. He wanted to help carry the luggage, but it was hard for him. After clearing the security check, which took longer than we've experienced in the past, we made it to the hospital by mid-afternoon, still in time for the children's initial examinations.

On our way to the hospital I called the cardiologist Dr. Tamir to see where he wanted us to go with the children when we arrived. We discussed the seriousness of Delir's case, and he was also concerned that Diyar might need to be admitted right away. He felt that Aras and Dilshad could wait at our center in Jerusalem until Sunday and come them for their initial exams. We arrived to waiting film crews, which is another overwhelming part of crossing days. These people are not used to publicity, nor do they seek it, yet they find themselves in front of the lenses of very big cameras at a time when they already feel quite anxious and vulnerable. We try to act like they are not there so that the families too will not feel stressed over it - even while they have a fear from recognition of their whereabouts in their volatile homeland should the wrong people see this information.

Preliminary exams were done for Delir and Diyar, and it was determined that both of them should be admitted. Aras and Dilshad are with us in Jerusalem.
Martha had prepared two rooms for them and their mothers. The warm lights, a fruits-and-snacks basket, some materials for the boys to entertain themselves... all this exuded a cozy, welcoming ambience which made our Iraqi friends feel completely at home... and soon we could hear the two boys chattering away and running around! Aras and his mother seem humble and thankful; they act like our modest accomodations are a five-star hotel!

Phoning Home, Going to Israel

Posted on Wed, 11/28/2007 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

The group of children ready to travel to Israel was completed tonight when Aras and his mother arrived in Jordan, thank God!! They had to leave home this morning to get to the airport for their flight which we were told would arrive at 6 pm. We were notified by our partners in Iraq that they were very nervous and didn't know what to do, so we were planning quite carefully to be sure there were friendly faces on the ground to meet them at the airport. I had seen the passport pictures so I knew who to look for, and showed them to our friend Ruth while we waited for our new patient. We anticipated a pleasant meeting at the airport and short ride to Amman where our guests could rest up before traveling tomorrow morning to Israel.

What none of us knew was that in order for me to have all the necessary visas in hand, I would have a three-hour plus wait at the Israeli embassy to get the visa for Aras, which was issued yesterday, and the emergency visa for little Delir which was to be done today. I got that call at mid-afternoon, and went happily on my way to get this precious document, the absence of which had been standing between us and the journey ahead. I had planned to come back home and finish many preparations for the trip, and then go to the airport. Instead, my taxi drove me straight from the embassy to meet a friend who'd drive to the airport with me to meet Aras and his mother.

Because of my very late departure from the embassy, we arrived at almost 7 pm, and were hoping that we had not missed Aras and his mom - but then when we looked at the arrival schedule in the airport, we saw that the plane had been delayed for two hours. We were sure we had time for me to eat a sandwich, so sat at a small cafe in the airport for a bit. When we walked back to the arrival schedule, we saw that the delay had been increased to 2 1/2 hours, so we found a seat with a view of the passengers coming in, and chatted while we waited. It was a great shock to get a call from Jonathan just afterwards saying that he'd heard from Iraq that our guests were at the airport, and there was no one there to meet them!! I walked back to the board with flight arrivals, and even though it was about 8:45 pm, the board still said that the flight was delayed and arriving at 8:30. I began to search all the faces in the area around us - which is not a very big area, and I could not see anyone who looked like the pictures I'd seen. But as I began to walk around, I spotted one woman who seemed alone, so as Ruth was about to walk to the other terminal to look there, I suggested this could be the lady we were trying to find, even tho we could not see Aras - and 12 year-olds are usually easy to see. As we walked towards her, we could see nearby a luggage cart with a boy sitting on it, and then we realized this must be Aras, and she must be his mother. Although I was so happy to see them, I felt terrible that they'd had to wait! And we had been waiting and watching for them for several hours too... but niether of us knew the other was really there. Thankfully all the stress drained out of her face when she realized we were the ones she'd been lookiing for, and we headed to Amman where they are staying the night with me. Because of my rush to go to the embassy, I didn't realize I'd left my camera at the apartment, so I couldn't get photos of our guests until we arrived here.

When we arrived at the apartment, I called Delir's father on my computer so they could all be assured that everything was well with everyone, and share the travel plans. During the call, I found out already that Aras, like most of the boys we've helped, is quite knowledgeable about all sorts of electronics, so he was quite comfortable (see picture above) helping me dial out until we got all the right codes for their city - near the area of Halabja, where 5000 were killed in a notorious chemical attack in 1988, probably the most potent symbol of Kurdish suffering. How like our God to bring restoration like this into an area like that!!

Please pray for this special young man and his mother as we cross into Israel tomorrow for his long-sought treatment for this heart condition. May Aras' heart, and both of their lives, be restored in every way during this time.