Aro's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Trusting the Lord at All Times

Posted on Mon, 09/03/2012 - 02:20 by MadelynMiles

Last Friday our community gathered together for morning prayer and worship. We spent most of our meeting praying on behalf of baby Aro, still lying in ICU with his chest open. The hospital called in the midst of this to inform us that he was about to receive full support from the heart machine—discouraging news we were hoping not to hear. We had barely absorbed this new information, and only a few minutes had passed since our prayers had finished, when the hospital called again to say that Aro had gone into cardiac arrest and passed away. Because of the order of events, it is probable that the doctors were in the midst of fighting for his life, administering CPR and a defibrillator while we had been praying. Baby Aro and his mother had only arrived in Israel five days prior. Everything just happened so fast--arrival, surgery, ICU, death--that the jolting news of a life over so soon was the hardest to handle. Even in that short week, our volunteers had poured out much love on them both. We prayed, and cried, and clung to each other.

My heart hurt for Aro's mother. The previous Monday I had spent eight hours with Aro, while his mother agonizingly awaited test results in the ER. My time with this precious baby was invaluable, and when we were reunited with his mother, and she laid eyes on her baby again, I saw the relief wash over her, and flood her pale face with color again. She repeatedly thanked me for looking after him. This sweet young woman, who kissed me and loved me even as somewhat of a stranger, was now mourning the loss of her baby. A mother's broken heart for her child is the deepest of wounds.
With two of our co-workers, Aro's body and his mother were helped across the border to Jordan to await a flight home to Iraq. His mother was hesitant to leave so soon, but accepted knowing two of her brothers would be traveling to meet her as soon as possible. Upon arriving in Jordan she again stayed with my mother-in-law, Michelle, and brother-in-law, Zack. It is not difficult to grow fond of 12-year-old Zack, but most Kurdish mothers are satisfied with a courteous smile or nod of the head in his direction. I now have the privilege of sharing with you the unique bond that developed between my brother and much beloved Kurdish friend. This bereaving mother found an instant friend and source of comfort in Zack, kissing him on both cheeks, calling him by name, and otherwise paying more attention to him, and thus earning his attention in return. With a huge heart capable of much love and compassion, Zack went outside after the van taking her to the airport, waving good-bye as she left. And he wasted no time in sharing her sad story with his entire 7th grade class. I believe this mother has many more hearts praying for her than she realizes.
Kristina adds:
The moment we heard that Aro had passed away, I remember the whole effect being surreal. In the midst of making immediate preparations to travel to the hospital, I sat weeping, hardly able to catch my breath. The abruptness of death produces a feeling similar to the wind being knocked out of you. It's never something you're fully prepared for. The Scriptures I had read the day before turned over and over again in my mind: "This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." What did this mean now? Today? Just before walking inside to meet Aro's mother, I found myself clinging to the hope that these words reached beyond the tangible existence of this life and into the eternal. God's glory is not thwarted by grave's robbery. 
Entering the hospital was like entering another realm. Grief hung heavy like a cloud impregnated with rain. Aro's mother, reeling in the wake of her son's death, crumbled when she saw us. "What can I do?" she pleaded repeatedly. "Aro is dead." With gentle love, we surrounded her, allowing room for silence and tears, as well as carefully spoken words. Together, we entered ICU and approached Aro's bed. We were not the only ones affected. I could see in the eyes of all the nurses and doctors the sorrow of losing a life they had fought so hard to save. When we thanked them for their love and efforts to rescue Aro, I saw their need to be comforted as well. More tears fell as seven of us prayed and caressed this precious boy. His small solitary figure, free of all medical devices, looked so different from how I last saw him - now, cold, motionless, yet still beautiful. Confronted with my own pain and the pain of Aro's mother, my only hope lay in Messiah's promise, "I am the resurrection and the life." My heart yearned for Aro's mother to have this hope as well. As God allowed us to be a tangible expression of His love to her, she, in turn, received and reciprocated our affection. The last image I have from this day is Aro's mother carrying him in her arms as she walked out of the hospital and into a waiting car.  
Saturday morning found me heavyhearted and processing my response to this loss. When I finally prayed, "Lord, I want to trust You completely. Please help me!" He surprised me with His kindness and love. I read the story in 2 Samuel 12:15-23 when King David's infant son became sick and died. These Scriptures had a profound impact on me because of the manner in which David chose to respond to his son's death: He "arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped." He worshiped! What a beautiful picture of absolute trust. Like balm to my spirit, David's words in Psalm 116:8-9 further comforted me: "For You [Lord] have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living." Because Messiah suffered and overcame, He is able to fully identify with us in the white hot pain of our human experience and be our Deliverer.
By the end of Shabbat, God had graciously given our community time for absorbing, praying, and meditating and led us all to one conclusion on Sunday morning: "He who trusts in the LORD will be exalted" (Proverbs 29:25b). We continue to pray for his mother, for the Lord to heal a mother's broken heart. And we choose to trust in the Lord at all times.

One Heartbeat at a Time

Posted on Thu, 08/30/2012 - 21:56 by Kristina Kayser

Aro was my final thought as I drifted off to sleep last night and the first thing on my mind when I woke up the next morning. "Spare his life Lord! Be merciful to him," I found myself praying again and again. The urgency to intercede in this way felt as natural as breathing. An hour later, with the Scriptures opened on my lap, I read the story of Lazarus in the gospel of John. It was here that Messiah spoke the profoundly powerful statement, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." As though emblazoned on the page, these words spoke directly to my heart: "Yes, Lord! This is exactly what I ask for Aro!" Donna found me in the garden soon after, and I could tell she had good news to share. Aro had made it through the night without needing the Echmo (heart & lung machine) to support his fragile body. We rejoiced together as a community for the way God heard and answered our cries. 

This afternoon, I couldn't help but feel a bit hesitant as I stood waiting outside the door of Wolfson's ICU. What would I find on the other side? I took a breath and stepped in. Aro's bed lay directly in front of me. He looked miniscule on the hospital gurney, his body mostly covered, save his face and one tiny hand and foot exposed. The ventilator regulating his oxygen and respirations caused his whole frame to shake with constant vibration. His heart raced at 200 beats per minute. Even as a nurse who has seen many children in the ICU, I was still taken aback. And so I prayed. Initially, I said, "Lord, please be faithful to Aro," then realized, "Lord, You are always faithful. I don't need to ask this of You because that's who You are." Instead, I spoke over this precious baby the promise I had read this morning: "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it," trusting that in Messiah's name, there is life. 

His nurse then came to my side, and we exchanged thoughts on Aro. "He's so small," I noted. "Yes, but he is strong," she replied. As she asked questions about Aro's family and about Shevet Achim, I saw compassion in her eyes. She listened intently as I shared our hope for new life for this baby. I was thankful she was the one caring for Aro today. After expressing appreciation for all of her hard work, she paused, then responded with, "Um, how do you say it? God bless you?" "Yes," I said. "God bless you too!" 

ICU specialists Dr. Houri and Dr. Cohen are also on constant watch for Aro's life. Donna and I had a chance to speak with both of them as well during our visit to the ICU. Dr. Houri told me that while last night had been frightening, Aro was doing slightly better. He also emphasized the fact that being in this precarious position was normal for this surgery's degree of complexity. Dr. Cohen shared with Donna that he believed Aro "will be okay," and that his chest may be closed as early as next week. We took each hopeful word, however small or tentative it may be, with thankful hearts. 

Aro's mother, though sometimes weary and heartbroken at the sight of her baby, is trying hard to be brave. "The greatest gift for me," she shared, "is the life of my son Aro." We agreed that his life was, indeed, a precious gift and that we were all praying for this. Would you join with us in interceding for Aro and his mother? Every breath is an expression of God's relentless love. May He be glorified through the redemption of Aro's life one heartbeat at a time.

Aro Pulls Through Risky Surgery, Still Unstable

Posted on Wed, 08/29/2012 - 23:11 by Donna_Petrel

If today could be summed up in a word, I believe that word would be

Aro Resting Quietly, Waiting For Surgery

Posted on Mon, 08/27/2012 - 20:44 by MadelynMiles

Despite his rapidly rising and falling chest, baby Aro is easily contented. While his mother spent the day in the ER for various symptoms (pain, vomiting) I spent the day playing mom. For the first hour or so he didn't even stir. Eventually some crying led to a bottle, some burping, and a new diaper. I cherished his dark eyes that studied me while I fed him. His oxygen level bounced up and down quite a bit, as high as 70%, then gradually dropping to as low as 45%. The nurse warned me to alert her if it dropped to the 30s, but it never did and eventually steadied out in the 60s

The Race to Israel

Posted on Sun, 08/26/2012 - 22:39 by Jonathan Miles

Because of the urgency of his condition, baby Aro and his mother Maryam flew into Jordan Saturday evening without a visa to enter the country. We had received a verbal commitment from the Interior Ministry to allow them to enter, but I expected a bureaucratic battle of a few hours. Instead, by the time I reached passport control inside the airport the clerks were showing the finest of Jordanian hospitality and just putting the final stamp on Aro's passport.

Baby Aro looked remarkably well when we reached our Amman way station. His heart defect (transposition of the great arteries) is a life-and-death emergency, since it leaves the heart pumping unoxygenated blue blood out to the body instead of the oxygen-rich red blood. But by God's grace a second defect, a hole between the atria of Aro's heart, is keeping him alive by allowing the red and blue blood to mix while still inside the heart. Aro slept peacefully most of the time, even while my wife Michelle took a turn holding him for his tired mother.

We set out for Israel before dawn, catching the Sunday sunrise in the Jordan valley as a reminder of Messiah's resurrection and triumph over death on Aro's behalf, and on ours. By 10:30 we reached the hospital where a team of doctors and Donna, Ruth and Kristina from the Jerusalem community were waiting. 

Kristina's gloved finger helped pacify baby Aro as Dr. Livia confirmed the diagnosis by echocardiogram. 

Then the moment of decision. A full repair of Aro's defect--switching the arteries back to their normal places--is normally possible only during the first month of life. Today Aro turned six weeks old. Had we reached Israel in time?

Chief cardiologist Akiva Tamir told us the echo findings were borderline--but after consulting with surgeon Lior Sasson they decided to go for the full repair, despite an estimated 10% risk from surgery to Aro's life. Aro's mother broke into tears at this news, perhaps more from fear than relief, and our coworkers came alongside her with hugs and encouragement.

Tonight Aro and mother are resting in the hospital, and the Shevet Achim community is already in prayer for Aro, his mother, and the doctors as Wednesday's surgery approaches. 



Emergency Surgery for Baby Aro

Posted on Mon, 08/20/2012 - 03:15 by Jonathan Miles

One-month-old baby Aro was born to a family with connection to our Muslim-background friends who follow Jesus in northern Iraq. His condition, transposition of the great arteries, can be surgically corrected in the first weeks of life in order to restore a normal heart.

We have applied for an emergency visa for Aro and his mother and hope to have them in Israel within one week.