Arena's Heart Surgery


Bidding Beautiful Arena Farewell

Posted on Sun, 02/08/2015 - 21:22 by Kristina Kayser

Nearly one and a half years have passed since I first met this darling girl named Arena. She won me over with her coy personality and the way she wrinkled her nose when she smiled.

I remember the sadness behind her mother's smile when we bid farewell the first time. She and her daughter came to Israel, hoping for the completion of heart treatment, only to learn that yet another surgery would be necessary. But when they returned this December, I saw joy in their eyes. 

Hope was alive once more as Arena's mother looked to the day when her daughter would be fully well.

Sometimes, hope seemed to ebb like the ocean's tide as days of waiting stretched into weeks. Arena became even more like a little sister to me in the meanwhile. I loved when she would lay her head on my shoulder or gently put her small hand in mine. At times, Arena was sweet and sensitive, and other times, she could be precocious and full of sass! Her personality inevitably made life colourful for all of us. 

We rejoiced together when Arena's heart surgery was completed without a trace of complications. She was even home in Jerusalem a mere four days following the operation with a smile on her face! And the succeeding days found her growing ever stronger in health and closer in heart with our volunteers. 

As the time drew closer for Arena to go home, she and her mother were able to go on two special outings. The first was to the Garden Tomb, where we were all reminded of where our greatest hope lies – the risen Messiah! Both mother and daughter enjoyed the beautiful surroundings, particularly the fresh signs of spring. 

And only a few days later, a few of the ladies in our community accompanied this family and the other five to the sea. Arena's mother was one of the first to go into the water, while her daughter sat at a safe distance from the lapping waves. No amount of coaxing could persuade Arena to step beyond the picnic area and play in the sand or water. After an hour or so, I decided to bring the sea to Arena and placed a handful of shells beside her. She examined each one with curious delight and placed them carefully in her purse.

In the end, Arena went briefly to the water's edge long enough to take a few pictures. 

Our Shevet community bid Arena farewell this past Thursday evening with a special party. We remembered the Lord's work in her life and all the joy she and her mother have brought to our home. With gifts, sweets, and a photo DVD, life and healing were celebrated with thankful hearts! She and her little friend, Arin, left Israel the following morning with perfectly mended hearts – praise God! May she grow to know and cherish His deep love for her. I can't wait to see her life continue to flourish in years to come!

Arena's Final Echo

Posted on Sun, 02/01/2015 - 20:45 by Ruth Zellweger

With high anticipation we left for Sheba Hospital this afternoon. It was supposed to be Arena's final echo, and we all hoped that the results would be great. We had to wait only for a short while, and then Arena's heart was examined by the echo technician and Dr. Salem. He announced that Arena's heart looked great and wrote her discharge papers! With great excitement, we then headed for home in Jerusalem. We praise God for the wonderful work that He has done in Arena's heart. To Him be all the glory!

Arena's Heart Echo

Posted on Sun, 01/18/2015 - 22:43 by Virpi Tirkkonen

We headed for Tel Aviv this afternoon to check Arena's heart after her third heart surgery. When Arena heard in the car where we are going, she started to cry because she was afraid that she would have to stay overnight in the hospital. After lots of comforting, she overcame her fear, and we got to see her beautiful smile. Arena is such a cheerful girl, and she really enjoys being at the center of attention. While we waited for the echo exam, Kristina drew a picture of Arena, and she beamed like the sun.

Soon after that, she coloured a funny, rainbow-coloured elephant in a colouring book to show her artistic skills.

It's so important to give children quality time with adults where they get to shine and be affirmed!

After an hour or two of waiting, we were called in for the echo, which is a 2D ultra sound scan of the heart. It was my first time to see this take place, and I was absolutely intrigued to see a heart pumping blood with such force from so many different angles.

It's such a miracle that so much activity takes place inside us without us even noticing it. Our heart is busy and active till the day we die, and we take it for granted. If our body stops cooperating, we're done, that's for sure. So, we were all very happy to find out that, based on the scan today, there shouldn't be need for another surgery for Arena!! Woohoo! She has recovered exceptionally well, even without medication. The stitches were removed just before leaving, which was the most painful part of the day. Arena, however, was one big smile after that! Hopefully this was her second-to-last time in that department of the hospital, and she will be going home soon!

Arena Back At Prophet Street

Posted on Thu, 01/08/2015 - 20:34 by Ruth Zellweger

Our sweet Arena is doing so well that she was discharged today from Sheba Hospital, only four days after her open heart surgery on Sunday. The past days when I was visiting her it was hard to get a smile out of her, but today she was full of smiles.

When I arrived at the hospital, she and her mom were already packed. Before we left the hospital, her mother bought Arena a chicken sandwich which she devoured on the way home. There, she and her mother had a joyful reunion with all the other families at the house. We are praising God for His grace in Arena's life.

Healing Beautifully

Posted on Mon, 01/05/2015 - 20:36 by Ruth Zellweger

It was a great joy to visit Arena and her mother after her open-heart operation yesterday. When I entered the ICU, the doctor pointed me straight away to the children's ward, where I met Arena's nurse, Yulia. She told me that all of Arena's tubes and lines had been pulled today and that she was doing well!

Arena's mother greeted me with her warm and open smile. Arena, on the other hand, would not smile at all. She was rather quiet and withdrawn, but I had not really expected her being so well already anyway. The next hour we spent talking, singing, praying and rejoicing over the mighty work that God had done in Arena's heart and life. By the time I left the hospital, Arena had fallen asleep. She looked so peaceful; I am very thankful for her smooth and beautiful recovery and I am looking forward to see her smiling again soon.

Precious in His Eyes

Posted on Sun, 01/04/2015 - 22:41 by Ruth Zellweger

Madison and I had the privilege today to be at the hospital for Arena's heart surgery. We thought that we had left Jerusalem in time to be at the hospital when they would take Arena into the operation room. But because of bad traffic, we arrived at the hospital after the procedure started. Arena's mother met us in the hallway. She was emotional but kept her composure well. We made ourselves comfortable in the waiting room and then our waiting time started.

Arena's mother recalled Arena's first two surgeries. For the first one, Arena's mother and father had traveled to India when Arena was only eight months old. At the age of three, Arena had another surgery in Israel. And now they were back again. We could tell that it was not easy for her to have her little girl go through another surgery, but she also wanted only the best for her beloved girl. Several family members called to hear how Arena was doing. After four hours, Dr. Mishali, the main surgeon, came to us to let us know that they were close to finishing the surgery. Everything had gone well. The narrowed artery had been widened and the heart functioned properly. What a great joy and relief that was for all of us!

Arena was wheeled into the ICU around 2 pm.

She was still sedated and being mechanically ventilated, but after a while, she started to wake up and to move around. Her mother sat beside her bed, holding her hand and comforting her.

We left an hour and a half later. Arena was still intubated, but the doctors and nurses were preparing to extubate her. We learned later that they had successfully removed the tubes. 

When I reflect on the time today, I can clearly see God's faithfulness towards Arena. She is precious in His eyes. He has brought her through three open heart surgeries and provided the necessary visas and finances. In His perfect time, He mended and healed Arena's heart. He gifted the surgeon and medical staff. I can still see Dr. Mishali before my inner eye. He looked tired when he came outside to share how the surgery had gone. Repairing a heart is hard work. Yet still, he took time to talk to this mother, who didn't even speak his language, and he received her thanks graciously.

Thank you for everyone who has been praying for Arena. May she grow strong and never doubt how much she is loved by man and her heavenly Father. 


Posted on Wed, 12/31/2014 - 19:35 by Janice Kayser

Nick and I arrived at Sheba hospital this afternoon to find Arena and her mother walking the halls, eagerly waiting for us to take them home to Jerusalem. While we waited for the nurse to approve her discharge (which Sheba staff endearlingly call a 'vacation'), Arena showed us two giant stuffed animals in the children's ward. As you will see in this video, she liked them very much, especially the bear. 

The nurse then told us that Arena will return to the hospital Saturday evening for surgery on Sunday. When we got home, all of the mothers and children welcomed Arena and her mother with hugs and kisses. The Shevet home is always a place of comfort--a home away from home. 
Please keep this mother and daughter in prayer as they prepare for this important day. 

Caths and Chocolate Lollipops

Posted on Tue, 12/30/2014 - 13:33 by Madison Akins

 Yesterday, Arena and her mother spent the night at Sheba Medical Center in preparation for her catheterization this morning. Kristina and I planned to get there in time for the catheterization around noon, only to receive a surprising phone call at 9:30 in the morning – the procedure had already begun! We had wanted to be there beforehand to help with translation and to support Arena’s mother, but we were able to look on the bright side and be glad that it started early so that Arena wouldn’t have to fast from food and water for as long as she would have otherwise.

By the time we arrived at the hospital, Arena had already woken up from her anesthesia. We were happy to see that she seemed to be doing very well; she didn’t seem groggy and was already smiling her shy, mischievous smile. Arena’s mother, who had been so gracious and brave about facing the catheterization without any help, expressed how glad she was to see us now that we were there.

After greeting them both, Kristina translated some questions and answer back and forth between the mother and doctor. Everything seemed to be going well. As we sat with them, we pulled out some fun toys and a special goody bag. Arena had fun opening it and playing with the little stuffed dog inside.

She even posed for a couple of pictures with it and grinned when she got to look through the photos on the camera. When enough time had passed after the catheterization, Arena was able to drink some water. We tried to get her to eat, but she wasn’t hungry – at least not until we pulled out the chocolate lollipop.

Arena tried to offer a bite to each of us, but we insisted she keep it for herself. After munching on that for a little bit, she felt good enough to eat some of an apple. Before long, Dr. Danieli came back to let us know the results. After the catheterization, he reported that the procedure went well and that the main problem seems to be a severe narrowing of her pulmonary artery. Also, her pulmonary valve, which was in question, is well intact and in no need of repair! Arena's surgery is currently scheduled for Sunday morning.  After three weeks of patient waiting, things seem to now be moving very quickly. Arena and her mother will come back to Shevet tomorrow morning for a few days before heading back to the hospital for surgery.

Arena’s mother was very happy to hear that things are continuing to move forward. As we prepared to leave, we could see Arena’s eyes get heavy with sleep. She struggled to keep them open, but finally gave in to a nice little nap.

While she slept, we took a moment to pray with her mother. It was so sweet for the three of us to come before God in the middle of the hospital on behalf of Arena and her mother. Arena’s mother said that we seem to live good, holy lives. Kristina shared how it is because of our trust in God that we are able to live our lives doing what we do – the Messiah’s work in us.

Please continue to pray for Arena as she prepares for surgery next week that God would strengthen both her and her mother, showing them his love and care for them.  

An Open Door for Arena

Posted on Mon, 12/29/2014 - 22:13 by Kristina Kayser

Nearly three weeks have passed since lovely Arena arrived in Israel for continued heart treatment at Sheba Medical Center. But instead of Arena's care beginning straightaway, a financial dilemma with a previous patient created a prolonged delay. Meanwhile, she and her mother have been waiting patiently in Jerusalem while our community has been praying for God to open the right door at the right time. While our future partnership with Sheba remains questionable, the financial administration agreed this weekend to accept Arena at a discounted rate with an important caveat: she must be admitted for surgery by December 31st! 

With continued prayer and thanks to the Lord for His provision, we scheduled Arena's first appointment. Her mother was glowing yesterday when I told her the wait had finally ended. She and Arena were beautifully dressed this morning and eager to leave for Tel Aviv with Mart from Holland, my mother – Janice, and I. Arena behaved perfectly in the van and continued to do so throughout several hours of waiting upon arrival to Sheba. 

Her mother and I noted how much she has matured since her first visit to Israel. This once shy and tearful three-year-old girl is now a confident and exuberant four-year-old. The colorful playroom was a wonderful place to wait for her exam. We played on the train, blew bubbles, sang songs, took pictures, and made fun obstacles with giant stuffed cushions.

And when everyone started getting hungry, we all took out our snacks and shared together. My mom and I repeatedly marveled at Arena's laughter and patience.

"She is so happy today," her mother added. At one point, she ran up and threw her arms around me in the tightest hug. I think we could all feel the Lord's joy giving us strength today! 

I wondered how Arena would do when the doctor finally invited us into the echocardiogram room. Unnerved by the large computer screen and ultrasound probe, Arena lay with perfect stillness for the entire exam.

Even at such a young age, I thought she could begin to appreciate how beautiful her heart is. Thus, every so often I would say something about the amazing images on the screen, and she would turn her head quickly to see what I was talking about. Her eyes seemed filled with wonder as the whooshing sound of her heart reverberated throughout the room. At the end, she told us, "I didn't cry for the test!"

What a brave girl she is.  

Dr. Danieli confirmed that Arena needed further treatment because of a severe flow obstruction in her upper right chamber (ventricle). But in order to get the very best assessment prior to surgery, he suggested that she have a cardiac catheterization tomorrow. This semi-invasive procedure will provide a medical "blueprint" of Arena's heart and give direction for repair. 

Arena's mother was surprised to hear that they would be spending the night in the hospital but also thankful that her daughter's treatment was beginning. Arena, on the other hand, was not so enthused. When she realized that the hospital bed in the children's ward was for her, she burst into tears. We did our best to comfort her, and it was her mother's embrace that helped the most. 

Please pray with us for Arena's catheterization to go well in the morning and for a peaceful night's sleep for both mother and daughter. Praise God for His provision and faithful care! Truly, He is the One who holds the key to every door. 

Arena's Return

Posted on Sun, 12/07/2014 - 18:04 by Agnes Bruna

Arena came into Amman Airport in Jordan with her mother with a suspicious look on her face. She was clearly very tired and we are not sure whether she remembers coming about a year and a half ago for her first surgery in Israel. Even the wonderful Kurdish meal Michelle prepared for everyone once we got to Jonathan and Michelle’s house could not cheer her up or convince her to eat.

Laura and I met her again after a good night’s sleep. She seemed a bit happier and was definitely enjoying the lovely lunch we ate before we left for the long journey from Amman to Jerusalem.

And at long last I got some smiles and giggles in the car while we travelled to the border at Beit Shean. She was sweet and patient during the long wait at the border and even allowed her mother to be checked by security while she stayed with me. She slept during the trip through the Jordan valley and woke with a start once we arrived at the Shevet base in Jerusalem. Some tears were shed, but soon she calmed down.

We pray that her stay with us and the heart surgery she needs – hopefully the last one – will be a blessing to her and her mother. God is into giving people new hearts, in more ways than one!