Aresh's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Aresh: Son of Hope

Posted on Sat, 11/06/2010 - 00:00 by ryan

This is the final post to Areshs blog. Thursday night was his farewell party: Shevet Achim staff, volunteers, and friends gathering around the sparkling boy of our collective heart, eating and singing and giving thanks for the healing he has found in Israel. Friday morning we gathered again in the courtyard under a tender autumn blue, saying a last prayer of thanks and safekeeping for Aresh and his mother as they boarded the van and left for Kurdistan.

Before the celebration on Thursday night Jonathan asked if I would play my guitar and so contribute to the party atmosphere. Well, I am no concert musician, and in general am a private artist, but Shevet is my home, this is my family, so absolutely. I took my guitar upstairs, which my parents gave me as a high-school graduation present, and began to search the archives of my mind for a festive ditty or two. I first hit on Life is a Highway, covered by many bands, but originally done by Tom Cochrane. Then we went a little slower and more soulful: Save Tonight by Eagle Eye Cherry. People were passing out cake and eating, and Hastiyar, a new boy from Kurdistan, stood fixed watching me play, agog. I'm not sure he's ever seen a guitar. 
The next song that came to my mind then, as I previewed the lyrics in memory, seemed a good fit: a poem from a son to a mother about the dangers, sorrows, and victories of growing into manhood. The song is called Upwards Over the Mountain written by Iron and Wine. The refrain goes:


So may the sunrise bring hope
Where it once was forgotten
Sons are like birds
Flying upwards over the mountain

As I played this song, in a sulky minor key, some of the children and mothers began to clap. Then Aresh, the man of the hour, crawled up on the center table, and as everyone watched, danced. I repeated the song more than once, and for some minutes this went on, myself playing, Aresh dancing, a few people humming along, all of us lost in a shared world of private reveries.

So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten. Childhood is like sunrise, no? The dawn. Beginning. And should not hope accompany this moment? Is not optimism fit for the beginning of an enterprise? But what is hope, I ask? And where is hope? Because I live in a region of the world that has from ancient times known only warring for crowns and lands; humanity is a hunched and gnarled old man; can things change? Hope often seems long forgotten by a species accustomed and resigned to division and hatred. Shouldn't I just submit to the yoke of historical trends that condemn me to a world entrenched in an ethos of competitiveness? I confess that, in light of the dark headlines found in history books and the morning paper, often I find myself just hoping to hope, hoping for a sunrise that will remind me of things which I have forgotten that I forgot. Could childhood be this sunrise, reminding us, me, of hope?

Sons are like birds flying upwards over the mountain. Here I am, playing my guitar, strumming a tune Ive strummed in several different moods and continents. I dont care that I cant hit a note. I can hit a meaning. And the meaning occupying, stroking my mind at this moment is the potential of sons to fly upwards and over the black peaks that separate me from the world of shalom for which I long. Is it possible that?. No. Could children really?. No. Maybe? Could I live to see a day where the inhabitants of all the lands between Jerusalem and Aresh's home in Kurdistan live together in authentic conciliation? Could a son be a symbol of hope? Am I willing to refrain from the temptation to dissect the symbol, and allow it to be the nimble dance of meaning that transcends the artificial yet agreed-upon borders of human society?

These are my reveries, and this is why I work at Shevet Achim: the hope for the hope that this is all true. And I believe it to be so. I believe it is possible that the obscurity of single lives made whole can, with time and the touch of Jesus, gain critical momentum in societies of real people, and that historic aggression can be triumphed over by the rigor of love. I believe that diplomacy can be substituted by the goodwill of neighbors who recognize in the face of the person on the other side of the fence a common humanity. I believe it is possible that sons and daughters of hope can summit mountains of hatred, and carry the world there with them by the tremendous energy of frail, surgically repaired hearts. At least the little boy I saw dancing on the table Thursday night, healed, gives me reason to permit such hopes to lodge themselves in my own heart and mind.

Farewell, Aresh, my friend. You are a son of hope. Be what you are. We love you.

Aresh has his Final Heart Echo in Tel Aviv

Posted on Sun, 10/31/2010 - 00:00 by Donna_West
Sunday, October 31, 2010

A crew of us left Jerusalem today in plenty of time to have lunch and even an ice cream cone before our 2 PM appointment for Aresh. It was to be his final heart echo. In the medical field everything is subject to change at a moments notice: Dr. Tamir was needed in the operating room for an unexpected surgery, which made a very long day for everyone involved.

For over three hours we enjoyed Aresh singing his little "la la la la song" and playing the toy piano. He sang, danced and even wiggled like a miniature rock star (greatly encouraged to continue by our applause). Most of those sweet little curls were cut off over the weekend and it seems as if we have watched him grow from a baby to a toddler in the time he has been at Shevet Achim.

Dr.Tamir came to the echo department to apologize for the delay and explain why it was taking so long. There was nothing to do except wait and choose to enjoy the time with this little one of whom we have grown so fond. Everyone took a turn playing with him until Dr.Tamir was ready to do the echo.

Aresh still has not grown fond of the echo table, so Dr.Tamir sedated him somewhat to calm him. It was very touching to see this man whistling and humming and stroking this frightened two year old while the sedative was taking effect, never showing any signs of the long day he had also had. At one point Aresh took a handful of the gel Dr.Tamir had put on his chest during the echo and was rubbing it on Dr.Tamir's arm. Dr. Tamir said, "I'm not gelling him now, he's gelling me!" with a chuckle. In spite of the tense and worried look on Dalia's face, the report was excellent. Aresh is expected to be able to continue his life without further need of surgery for his heart.

Echo Reveals a Healthy Heart for Aresh

Posted on Thu, 10/28/2010 - 00:00 by Donna_West
Thursday, October 28, 2010

The ride to the hospital this morning was full of hope and anticipation. Aresh is so full of joy that it seems he doesn't care whether he is in Israel or long as he is not on the echo table. Nevertheless the short time he spent on the table this morning revealed a heart well healed. Dalya, Areshs mother, repeatedly asked about his medication, and it made us glad to tell her each time: No more medication.

Last week Dr. Alona had said that Aresh would need two more echoes before returning to Iraq, but Dalya was holding to the hope that he would need only one. Well, he does need two echoes, and the second one will be this Sunday, when Dr. Tamir will view his heart with a piece of machinery that was not available earlier in the week.

Harim, a 12-year-old boy also from northern Iraq and in Israel for heart treatment, has become like an 'older brother' to Aresh. Harim is going home this weekend, however, and I think that Aresh will be missing him when he leaves.

For the changes that we have seen in Aresh and his mother since coming to Israel we are very thankful. And thank you for your support in prayer.

Aresh Winning Hearts With His Smile

Posted on Thu, 10/21/2010 - 00:00 by Mary_Dailey
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Today we had quite a crowd at Wolfson Hospital for Aresh's and Harim's heart echoes, their first after surgery. David drove our new van, which is very dependable and comfortable to ride in. A Finnish film crew was awaiting our arrival at the hospital to capture footage of the day. Ruth and Amanda were there, a mother-daughter volunteer pair from England. And our Israeli Kurdish interpreter Mazal and her husband were also there. Plus the mothers, plus me. It was a crowd.

Aresh's mother was overjoyed at having a Kurdish interpreter because throughout the day, even in the echo room, she was able to understand everything and have her questions answered. And Aresh loved the attention given to him from Ruth and Amanda. He looked so cute walking with us, and with a big smile he reached up for my hand and kissed it. He looked like a little man.

The results from the doctors were good and they took out his stitches. He is to return Thursday, October 28, for another echo. If all goes well at that appointment then it won't be long until he returns to Iraq. There has been such a change in his mother during the last few weeks, and this reminds me of what Paul writes in Philippians 1:6," I am confident that He who began a good work in you will be able to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." This is what we believe God is doing. Please keep praying for Aresh and his mother.

Aresh Back Home in Jerusalem

Posted on Mon, 10/18/2010 - 06:41 by Jennifer_Chang
October 18, 2010

There was tentative indication recently that Aresh could possibly be discharged on today, and so after Suhail and I brought in a child with his mother from Gaza this morning and had him admitted to the Wolfson Hospital we waited patiently for Aresh's doctor to confirm if this little boy was indeed ready for discharge. He had been sent for a heart echo earlier that morning, the result of which would determine if he could be released. And when the doctor broke the good news to us after lunch that Aresh and his mother would be able to come home to Shevet with us, we were simply delighted!

During the waiting period, Aresh did seem somewhat unsettled as he moved in and out of little sobs and uncomfortable cries. He also refused to eat any food offered by his mother.We were not sure what was causing this unsettledness.The surgery and hospital episode taking him away from familiar surroundings of home and family comfort must have proven too much for such a young child to bear, I think.

His mother, though stressed by this episode herself as well, was probably relieved that she could bring her precious toddler out of the hospital today and get back to the homey environment of the Shevet community.

Well, Aresh is due for his next echo on Thursday. Let us continue to pray for complete healing and for positive results from this echo.

Out of ICU, Aresh Stable and Improving

Posted on Wed, 10/13/2010 - 00:00 by Jennifer_Chang
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Aresh was in his 4th day of recuperation from heart surgery and appeared to be doing well. We were glad to see that he no longer needed the oxygen mask which he had been using. In fact, the doctor said that his condition is now stable, and we thank the many people who have been praying for him, and also for Gods faithfulness. His mother was quite relieved that her little darling is doing fine. We continue to pray for a full and complete recovery so that Aresh can be up and about, enjoying a normal healthy life soon.

Aresh in ICU, Covered with Prayer and Love

Posted on Tue, 10/12/2010 - 00:00 by David_Jensen
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

While standing at the foot of his bed, I said a silent prayer asking the Lord to remove the congestion quickly and bring him to a speedy and full recovery. Aresh's mom looked tired and a bit stressed by the congestion problem, so I said a small prayer that she would feel the peace and rest that only Jesus can give. Lina joined Suhail and I as we went in to see Aresh and we all left together after about a five minute visit. We look forward to his release from the hospital and return to the Shevet Achim house in Jerusalem, where he will complete his recovery before travelling home to Iraq.

Aresh Recovering Well in ICU

Posted on Mon, 10/11/2010 - 06:41 by Mary_Dailey
Monday, October 11, 2010

I arrived at the hospital this morning with Harim and his mother before 7:00 a.m. to prepare him for his surgery. The day turned out to be a long one with much waiting, and as I mentioned in my last blog, God already knows whats in a day and it's all for His purpose. When we checked in at the nurses station we went to see Aresh. He was still in ICU, in much the same condition as the evening before. Daliah (his mother) pulled back his blankets so that we could see him better, and asked me to take a picture of him with all the equipment.

After this I went on to visit Harim and take his mother to eat lunch. She was fasting, though, so I returned to Areshs room in the ICU to take his mother to eat. When I arrived at the ICU the nurses had just extubated Aresh (removal of the breathing tube from the lungs), and he was wearing a small oxygen mask. He was crying and in much distress. They let Daliah give him water in a syringe. We stayed with him a while and then went to eat. When we returned later Aresh was in intermediate ICU sleeping, and the next time I saw him he was eating and was not on oxygen.

If Harim's surgery had not been delayed I would not have been able to see these important steps. This is what it means where God says in His word, For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little (Isaiah 28.10). All this takes patience and patience takes waiting on God. Thank you for your prayers and thank God for His time and His purposes.

In the Shadow of His Wings on Surgery Day

Posted on Sun, 10/10/2010 - 00:00 by Mary_Dailey
Sunday, October 10, 2010

Surgery day finally arrived after nearly three months of waiting. As God has proven over and over to us, He is the man with the plan and His plan is one that nothing or no one can stop. This was such an awesome day.

When we arrived around 7:00 a.m. they had just taken Aresh and his mom downstairs to the operating rooms, so we went right down and found them in the waiting area. Aresh was playing with his truck and when he saw us he started waving and clapping his hands.

We could tell his mother was worried, but she did cheer up after we were there a short time.

The head nurse carried Aresh into the O.R. around 8:00. a.m. The surgery didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would. We came back from lunch around 1:15 p.m. and he was already in the I.C.U and we didn't have to wait long to go in and see him.

The doctors said everything went very well with no complications at all. When we saw Aresh all his vital signs were good and he looked good. His mother noticed how white his fingers and his toes were.

We have a couple here from Sweden doing a documentary on the childen coming for surgery. Shilan (above right) is from a Kurdish background and she and Aresh's mom spent much time talking to each other while Nema (above left) was filming part of the surgery. They were such a great help. It was so neat having a translator with us who could tell us what Aresh's mom was saying and also what we needed to let her know. I know God sent this couple. Aresh's mother watched the video that Nema took of the surgery and was very interested in it and it didn't bother her at all. I believe it helped her. You may click the play arrow below to have a look at the video yourself:

The player will show in this paragraph

I know this is an answer to everybody's prayers, as we have been so concerned about this young mother's state of mind. As you can tell there is still a sadness in her face, but we have also seen a glimmer of light and a smile off and on today. Sometimes it's too quick to catch on the camera but it is there.

I want to close this with Psalm 36:7, giving thanks to our God for this miracle:

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children
of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.

There is no better place to be than in the shadow of His wings.

Spelled Out

Posted on Tue, 09/21/2010 - 06:41 by ryan
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On Monday afternoon our friend Aresh began to develop a fever and rapid breathing, so we thought it best to take him to the hospital to confirm with the doctors that all was okay. After taking his measurements, the doctors did not think he was having anything beyond a spell (a diagnosis that led to lively conversation at the Shevet dinner table Monday night). They asked, however, to keep him overnight at the ward in order to monitor his progress. Today the doctors indicated that the spell had passed and that Aresh and his mother were clear to return to the Shevet house in Jerusalem. We are glad to have our toddling smile addict and his mother back!