Arina 's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

Arina and Her Mother Journey to Israel

Posted on Fri, 01/14/2011 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

Yesterday noon our recent visit to Iraq came to a close with the opportunity to fly back to Jordan with Arina and her mother. A heavy sandstorm had begun Tuesday afternoon, and we wondered if the flight might be cancelled. But we headed to the airport with faith that we would make the trip. We boarded the bus which would carry us from check-in to the terminal, and I was sitting opposite a beautiful little girl and her mother. When we asked if she was Arina, we were delighted to find out it was her indeed!

And so our travels together began. We cleared customs easily, noting the flight monitor which said our plane was departing on time, and found a seat until came the time to board. Soon the boarding time on the monitor was replaced by "Delayed, and in all we were about four hours late leaving Sulaymania as the sandstorm failed to abate. Arina was quite lively during our wait as she explored her new surroundings unhesitatingly - bringing forth comments from other passengers of "She's not shy!" She sang, she climbed, she drew pictures, she re-arranged chairs in the snack bar area, all to better enjoy her time. But as any five-year-old would, she became restless after several hours.

There were still flights coming and going, and finally ours came in, and we were on our way, rising above the sand into the heavens above. Arina was thrilled, enjoying the whole experience. She looked out the window until our dinners were served, and then fell asleep soon after eating. This gave her weary mother a break for a nap too, which proved to be much needed. Arina didn't wake up again till morning, meaning her mother had to carry her all the way through the visa, customs and baggage portions of our arrival process.

After a good night's sleep we left Amman early this morning for Israel. The drive through the mountains down to the Jordan Valley caused Arina's mother to struggle with some car sickness, and a long delay through customs was hard for her to endure. Thankfully Arina was able to entertain herself (and us!) by pretending to cook some Kurdish bread which she served with invisible tea under the palm trees at the border terminal. When we were on our way again she fell asleep and slept all the way to Jerusalem! It was wonderful to arrive and be greeted by the staff and Hawraz and her mother. Before long Arina was feeling at home enjoying exploring and coloring along with Hawraz, and the two mothers were getting to know one another, with Hawraz's mother sharing her experiences about what to expect.

Arinas first appointment at the hospital is not scheduled until Sunday, so she and her mom will have a few days to catch up on their rest. Please keep this precocious girl and her family in your prayers while they wait. It will be beautiful to see how God wants to bring about her healing and we look forward to it!

A Week Later...Arina Released From Hospital

Posted on Tue, 01/11/2011 - 00:00 by

Arina, though still noticeably weak, perked up when given permission to return to Jerusalem this afternoon. This last week tried both Arina and her mother's patience, but struggle was soon forgotten in celebration!

Dr. Iddo was on hand to update me on Arina's current status. "She has Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), not CMV (cytomegalovirus)," as previously diagnosed. These two viruses share similar symptoms, including fever and fatigue, and both can be transmitted through close contact with an infected individual.

Because Arina's fever has diffused, the only care instructions given were that she is not to share food, drink, or kisses with anyone. The doctor further stated that her surgery is potentially set for two weeks from now.

Like the butterfly craft Arina made today, she burst from a cocoon of hospital humdrum to soaring joy! She danced to music from her booster seat all the way home to Shevet, exclaiming, "Dilxosh! Dilxosh!" ("Happy" in Kurdish). I invite you to celebrate Arina's happiness with us and pray for a speedy recovery from this virus as she makes progress towards surgery.

Dolls and Dancing, And Disappointment

Posted on Sun, 01/09/2011 - 00:00 by

Several Shevet volunteers traveled to Wolfson Hospital this morning with the aim of bringing fresh hope and encouragement to Arina and her mother. Arina has now been stationed in the children's ward for nearly one week. Broken down into days, and hours, and minutes, you can understand how difficult this would be for a mother and child sharing a room with two other families who speak different languages in addition to facing fear, monotony, and many unknowns.

All of these emotions were painted on their faces as our Shevet crew approached them. Arina, this ordinarily spritely songbird, had a quiet demeanor today. She sat listlessly beside her bed, appearing uninterested in her surroundings until a new Raggedy Anne doll was place in her lap. Clouds of despair lifted as her child-joy was unveiled in a beautiful smile, the doll wrapped tightly in her arms.

Until now, her post-catheterization fever had continued unabated. It was a relief to learn that her temperature was within normal limits this morning, but the culprit behind Arina's condition is reason to keep her under further observation. The nurse caring for Arina reported that she has Cytomegalovirus (CMG), which she most likely acquired in the hospital. This common pediatric virus is highly contagious and is typically found in areas where children are in close contact with one another. This means that Arina cannot recover at home due to the risk of infecting the other children at Shevet. As with many viruses, the only solution, besides treating the fever, is to simply wait it out.

"Wait" was not the word Arina's mother was longing to hear. Since the day they arrived in Israel, existence, as they knew it, was put on hold, and waiting for surgery became the primary focus. Waiting now for an unexpected virus to pass has not made things easier.

Nevertheless, this mother and daughter are not biding alone. The sunlight in all these shadows is the fact that they are surrounded by a community who deeply loves and cherishes them and by mothers and children who have walked this road before them and are cheering them on through rainy days. Please pray that as time ticks by, they would cling to hope and like the Israelites in the wilderness, they would pass from strength to strength.

Our visit with Arina ended with a glimpse of this very hope. With a burst of energy, she stood to her feet, linked hands with Joshua and Andreas, and began to dance! As Kurdish music filled the air, Arina's eyes lit up, showing us all that this virus has not got the best of her. Today, I learned from a four-year-old that one must dance in the rain.

The player will show in this paragraph

Arina's Fieber zieht sich hin<br> (Arina's Fever Dragging On)

Posted on Thu, 01/06/2011 - 00:00 by
Nach der gestrigen grossen Enttaeuschung erwarteten uns heute Arina und ihre Mutter mit der Hoffnung, dass wir sie mit in ihr derzeitiges zu Hause nach Jerusalem nehmen wuerden. Auch ich war voller Hoffnung, dass wir die beiden vor Shabbat mit nach Hause nehmen koennen. Doch als wir Arinas Zimmer betraten und ich sie dort schlafend und verschwitzt liegen sah, war schon fast klar, dass daraus wohl nichts wird. Die Krankenschwester teilte mir mit, dass sie nicht glaubt dass Arina heute entlassen wird, aber dass wir auf Dr. Alona warten sollten, sie wuerde das entscheiden.
(After the great disappointment of Thursday Arina and her mother were waiting for us today with the hope that we would take them home with us. Even I was full of hope, that we could take them home before Shabbat. But when we came into Arinas room and saw her there sleeping and sweaty, it was nearly obvious that this hope wouldnt become true. The nurse also told me that she didnt think that Arina would be released, but that we should wait for Dr. Alona, who would make the final decision.)

Im Laufe unseres Besuchs im Krankenhaus ging es Arina immer besser: zuerst begann Ryan mit ihr Luftballon zu spielen, dann ass sie ihr Mittagessen und nachdem konnten wir sogar ein wenig auf den Spielplatz im Innenhof des Krankenhaus gehen und so stieg unsere Hoffnung, dass wir sie vielleicht doch mit nach Jerusalem nehmen koennen. Vor allem Arinas Mutter war muede von den Tagen im Krankenhaus und versuchte mich davon zu ueberzeugen, dass es Arina schon viel besser geht und dass sie heute wieder heim gehen koennten.

(During the time of our visit in the hospital Arina began to feel better. At first Ryan began to play balloon with her, then she ate her whole lunch, and we were even able to go to the playground. Thats why our hope rose again, that we could take her home today. Especially Arinas mother was tired from the days in the hospital, and tried to convince me that Arina is much better and that they are ready to come with us.)

Nach dem Mittag war dann aber die Entscheidung gefallen, dass Arina noch bis Sonntag im Krankenhaus bleiben wird, da sie nun Antiobotika bekommt und die Aerzte ihren Zustand weiter beobachten moechten.Wir alle wissen, dass es das Beste fuer Arina ist im Krankenhaus zu bleiben und trotzdem war es schwer eine entaeuschte Mutter mit ihrer ebenso enttaeuschten Tochter zurueck zu lassen.

(But after lunch the decision was made that Arina must stay in the hospital until Sunday, because she is now on antibiotic and the doctors want to watch her. We know that this is the best for Arina, despite the difficulty of leaving a disappointed mother and daughter in the hospital.)

Sunday, May 8 The hospital again did not release Arina today, saying that her fever continues to require monitoring by the medical staff. Her mother is obviously disappointed once again, and must be feeling a great deal of loneliness, boredom, and concern for daughter. Please keep this situation in prayer. The hospital has directed us to call again tomorrow morning, and we are hoping for a Monday return to Jerusalem for Arina and her mother.

Divine Delays

Posted on Wed, 01/05/2011 - 00:00 by Donna_West

Often we wonder why a 45-minute drive should take more than two hours, but, sometimes it is a divine delay. This is what happened to me today en-route to visit Arina and her mother in the hospital, and it gave me an opportunity to choose between frustration or praise. It has been my experience that frustration breeds more frustration and praise breeds more peace. Therefore whenever possible, I choose praise and prayer. Sometimes, I've found, the revision of our expectations is a good thing.

When I finally arrived at Wolfson Hospital, I encountered a similar situation. Arinas mother was expecting to come home to Jerusalem today, and had her bags packed and ready to go. But the nurses informed me that Arina is running a high fever, and that they will keep her at least one more night. If there is a problem more serious than a fever underlying her situation, then a hospital is the right place for her to be at the moment, and we hope that she and her mother discover for themselves in these revised expectations a divine delay.

Catheterization Prepares Way For Surgery

Posted on Tue, 01/04/2011 - 00:00 by ryan

Today Arina had a heart catheterization, which doctors described as encouraging. A catheterization is a pre-surgical exploratory procedure, in which the doctor makes an incision in the groin, and via a small camera snaked up through the body, minutely examines the defects of a patients heart. The findings of the catheterization allow the surgeon to better prepare for surgery.

Wolfson Hospital seems at times a microcosm of our increasingly small world. Citizens of every nation walk its halls. The Hebrew one hears is peppered with slangs and accents Russian Israelis, Arab Israelis, Canadian Israelis, Iraqi Israelis, British Israelis, etc. The anesthesiologist today was a resident in training from Nigeria. A British radio journalist from Oxford reconnoitered the corridors, microphone in hand. And yet, with all this coming together and cooperation across borders, there remained a sense that Arina and her mother feel alone. Certain primal fears and pain no amount of external comfort can extinguish.

A friend of mine introduced me to the journalist, who is investigating peace-building activities in Israel-Palestine below the level of government. She flipped on her recorder, and started asking me questions. She asked: Are Arab mothers afraid of Israelis when they come? I tried to relocate the question: You know, I think the biggest fear at play is the fear a mother feels for her dying child. Parental love seems universal, and fiercely strong. From what Ive seen, the strength of a parents love for their sick child exceeds the strength of the fear of anticipated enemies. But the beautiful thing is, when love for a child compels cooperation with your enemy, the story usually turns out with a healthy child and no enemies at all.

Our conversation was interrupted by Arina and her mother walking out of the room and heading down the hall, ushered by the pediatric resident Ido to the catheterization lab. I said thanks for the talk! and hustled off down the corridor to catch up.

At the cath lab we encountered more waiting, as the room for the procedure was being prepared. Observing us in the hallway, several of the hospital staff slowed for a moment and expressed interest in Arina and her mother. You know, when a shared language does not exist, the things a language cannot speak are reverted to a blown kiss, a mussing of the hair, a rubbed cheek. In an environment designed to arrest contagions, contagious smiles spread freely.

Soon Arina, who takes after her mothers big eyes and round features, was brought into the procedure room. Her mother carried her in her arms. I imagine that from Arinas perspective, as she began to fade from consciousness, these arms seemed a purple amaranth of comfort in a cold sea of blue green foreignness.

The mother and I sat together on a hallway bench for ninety minutes as the procedure took place. As I said, we do not share a tongue or gender, so no kind words or touch could really pass between us. I hope my being there was somehow a help. As she nervously thumbed her daughters hair tie, I browsed a few pages of Chinese poetry. The words of Tu Fu, an 8th century Chinese bard, reminded me of the things I was seeing, of the power of compassion:

(speaking of a phoenix sitting high in a tower, surveying)
His wings are folded, his mouth is closed, but his mind is working
With pity for all the birds that are caught in nets,
From which even the tiny oriole can hardly escape:
He would dispense to them ants and fruit of bamboo,
Provoking hawk and vulture to scream their threats.

Somehow caring and acting for those who cannot care and act for themselves contains truth. As a Christian, this is what I believe God did and does for humanity. This is, I believe, the way of Jesus. And when I see it flown off the page and into the halls of a modern hospital, I want to stop, blink, and then laugh and laugh without end.

After ninety minutes Arina emerged unconscious on a rolling bed, and the doctors passed along the good report. Even so, as we rode in the elevator to the childrens ward, I glanced the mothers face, under head scarf, quietly raining tears.

In the ward, we converged on a Shevet Achim reunion: all four families currently with us from Kurdistan, and a number of volunteers, were suddenly there.

However, Arina began to rouse from anesthesia, wailing and screaming against the sedatives.

The children vacated, and the room became the calm domain of experienced maternity.

Our nurse Christina explained things to the mother,

who soon bent over her daughter for a kiss.

They are spending tonight in the hospital, and we anticipate their return to Jerusalem tomorrow. Arina's date of surgery is yet undetermined, but I overhead two doctors discussing perhaps an appointment next week.

Arina Admitted For Heart Cath

Posted on Mon, 01/03/2011 - 00:00 by Donna_West

Arina was admitted this afternoon to the hospital in preparation for tomorrows heart catheterization. Her tests and vital signs were conducted in an atmosphere of mingled anticipation and uneasiness, as both she and her mother look to what comes next.

Our friend Efrat, a native Israeli photographer, thought to call our mutual Kurdish speaking friend Mazal so that Arinas mother could have a conversation partner. It's hard to imagine, if you are from America, how many people it takes to have a conversation with so many different languages coming into play in such a small setting. But when you are away from family and friends in a serious, life-threatening situation, it really helps to be able to communicate in your own language. We are thankful our Father is so good to provide for all our needs, with many of those needs met by friends we meet along the way.