Aryan's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Aryan Wide Awake and Breathing Independently

Posted on Wed, 03/07/2012 - 20:51 by Kristina Kayser

This week has been a gift from God in many ways. With each day, the earth shows signs of resurrection as winter surrenders to spring, and new life and strength are being granted to Aryan. His fragile body has withstood the rigors of open heart surgery, and today, he crossed another hurdle. The ventilator, which has given him full respiratory support since Monday, was turned off. This means Aryan's lungs needed to begin working on their own again. How the body responds to this transition is different for every child, and the risks can be great. I am happy to say that, so far, Aryan is breathing fine with a little help from an oxygen mask. His woke up right after I entered ICU, and his eyes were wide and bright. He didn't seem to like the fact that his arms are tied to the bed to keep from pulling on the many tubes connected to his body. Crying was not worth the discomfort, however, and he quickly calmed. Doctors continue to say Aryan is progressing well. His nurse, moreover, stated that they are taking things very slowly and monitoring him closely. The first 72 hours after surgery are typically the most critical. 

Aryan's mother was satisfied with my report and asked me to continue asking the doctors daily for his current status. A Kurdish speaker only, she is unable to receive or communicate any of the information that is so important to her. You can understand why having her questions answered and hearing in her own language what the doctors are saying gives her such a huge sense of relief. Something else that brought sweet relief to her today was a visit from a friend. Nyan's mother, a fellow Kurdish woman here for her child's heart surgery, accompanied me to the hospital. The two have formed a special bond over the last few weeks, and it was evident in their interactions today. Like any true friends, they shared in each other's burdens, simply by providing a listening ear.

After the two checked on Aryan together, we headed outside for some fresh air while Aryan rested. These two mothers sat on a children's swing set and laughed like school girls. If laugher is medicine for the soul, they each had a healthy dose today. When it was time to say goodbye, Aryan's mother was doubtless encouraged and refreshed. Indeed, "every good and every perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights." (James 1:17).

"If Aryan is well, then I am well"

Posted on Tue, 03/06/2012 - 21:08 by Co-authored

Today's blog was co-authored by Shevet volunteers Hannes and Kristina.

Hannes writes:

Today Lina, Muna, Yousif and I visited Aryan in the hospital. Just one day after surgery he continues to rest in the ICU and is stable. I also asked the nurse about his condition and she agreed, that his progress is doing well. Aryan

Surgery Day: Untangling Aryan's Heart

Posted on Mon, 03/05/2012 - 21:59 by Kristina Kayser

The long-awaited day for Aryan's surgery finally arrived. With it, came a splendid sunrise through the clouds as Madelyn and I made our way to Wolfson. My mind was filled with many thoughts, including how Aryan had endured an entire night without his bottle in the hospital. When we arrived, I learned that both he and his mother enjoyed a good night's rest. Aryan was waiting in the OR department as final preparations were being made. He calmly played in his mother's arms, disregarding her tears. It wasn't until nurses came to take him away that he joined in the chorus. After one last kiss, Aryan's mother reluctantly parted from her son. 

As she joined Madelyn and me, the surgery doors closed behind Aryan for what doctors knew would be an arduous and delicate task. This was due in part to the fact that TGA is more commonly repaired in newborns rather than toddlers. Aryan was born with an aorta and pulmonary artery (PA) that were flip-flopped in utero. His aorta stems from the right ventricle and his PA stems from the left ventricle. Today's surgery plan was to perform an arterial switch procedure.  First the arteries are cut at the point they connected to the ventricles and then sutured to their appropriate places. The end result is a heart with increased functionality and oxygen support for his whole body. 

Minutes ticked by slowly as the wait stretched into 7 1/2 long hours. Looking at pictures and videos of Aryan brought smiles to his mother's face. She stopped to kiss the photos on several occasions. Tel Aviv's warm weather brought further diversion outside as we sat and enjoyed each other's company. I loved seeing the lines soften in my Kurdish friend's face. Whether speaking together or sitting quietly, there was a beautiful level of comfort present. At twelve noon, the stillness was broken when Dr. Alona informed me that the surgery would not be finished for another two or three hours. Aryan's mother became instantly melancholy. Between praying and pacing the hallways, her faithful vigil continued. 

With Purim right around the corner, I shared with Aryan's mother how Queen Esther asked God to save her people from death, and life was given to all. In the same way, "God wants to help Aryan and give him life today," I added. His mother nodded in agreement. Shortly after, Dr. Alona appeared and said the surgery was complete and Aryan's heart was doing well! Madelyn and I excitedly relayed the news to his mother who embraced us with tears and smiles. A flood of phone calls began pouring in from Kurdistan as the news spread between family members. Elevator doors opened for Aryan's gurney en route to ICU. As we followed close behind, one doctor turned to give me a welcome report. Though the surgery was very difficult, a complete arterial switch was made without complication. "We had to re-do his heart!" he exclaimed. Before leaving, he reiterated once more how well the operation went.

Relief swept over Aryan's mother's face as I translated the details for her. "Hamu basha? ("Everything is good?") she asked incredulously. "Yes, everything is good! Praise God for this miracle!" "Spas bo Xua," ("Thanks to God!") she echoed.

One more hour passed before she stood at Aryan's bedside, kissing him tenderly. Her eyes met mine with overwhelming gratitude. My mind traced back to December 20th, when we stood in the same room, and I saw her eyes filled with fear and pain. Aryan's once blue-tinged skin is now fully pink, and he is resting in stable condition. Healing and deliverance belong to God alone. For the transformation I have witnessed in both Aryan and his mother, I give Him the highest praise!  

Aryan Admitted for Surgery Tomorrow

Posted on Sun, 03/04/2012 - 20:45 by Kristina Kayser

Despite his being a toddler, I believe Aryan knew today was going to be a big day long before the sun even rose. He tossed and turned throughout the night, and at four a.m., he was wide awake. Sleeping in a bed nearby, I looked over to see him sitting up and babbling enthusiastically. He seemed to be saying, "Hey! Hey! Let's play right now!"

In spite of the hour, it was good to see his morale was up on the eve of his heart surgery. Two months have passed since Aryan was last in the Operating Room for two preliminary surgeries in one day. Both he and his mother have endured the struggle of waiting. Nevertheless, hardship has been tempered with the deepening of friendships and new-found joy.  

As our community prayed for Aryan and his mother in the courtyard, I held him close and thought about how much I have come to love this little boy. Meanwhile, his mother smiled with tears in her eyes and said her goodbyes. No sooner had we settled into the van, that Aryan fell sound asleep. The sleep which had evaded him all night was suddenly upon him.

When our team (including Hannes & Sophie) arrived at Wolfson, we discovered a festive environment. Hallways were packed with Purim (Jewish Holiday) well-wishers passing out candy, and Aryan was awake and smiling once more. 

Suddenly, vital signs, needle pokes, and cardiac assessments brought everything back to an unfortunate reality for him. The nurses were much more excited to see Aryan and his new haircut than he was to see them.

With tests completed and tears dried, Aryan found solace in his mother's arms. Her response to my review of surgery procedures was a gentle, "Azanim" ("I know"). Our gaze met in a moment of deep recognition of all that tomorrow holds. More than anything, I want this woman, who has become a sister to me, to know the extent of God's love for her and her son. Please pray that in these last hours of waiting, they would experience His love even in a peaceful night's sleep. 

The Mystery of Aryan's Cough Solved

Posted on Wed, 02/29/2012 - 20:48 by Kristina Kayser

Just days before Aryan's scheduled surgery, I accompanied him and his mother to Wolfson Hospital in hopes of solving a mystery. Both his mother and I have observed recently that Aryan can rarely drink without coughing violently. He hasn't had any trouble eating, but for a boy who loves to drink milk and tea, this issue needed to be addressed. After expressing concern over the phone to Dr. Alona, Aryan was invited to come in to the hospital for an assessment. 

We were blessed to have two ENT (Ear, Nose, & Throat) specialists use their expertise to discover the root of the problem. A thin flexible tube with a camera lens was inserted through his nose and down his throat. Poor Aryan was wide awake and miserable during this procedure. Who wouldn't be? Thankfully, the endoscopy didn't last long, and a prognosis was immediately reached. It looks as though Aryan's laryngeal nerve was damaged during his last surgery, paralyzing his right vocal cord. Our vocal chords typically close over the trachea (windpipe) when we swallow, preventing anything from going to our lungs. However, Aryan's right vocal cord now remains stationary when he swallows, causing fluid to go "down the wrong pipe." Hence, the cough. The good news is that his vocal cord can gradually grow stronger and requires no intervention. Drinking thicker liquids, slowly, should also help him drink without coughing. Aryan's mother was relieved and thankful to know that this issue can be resolved with time and shouldn't interfere with his next surgery.  

Aryan's surgery to correct TGA is still set for Sunday, March 4th, His mother, nonetheless, is well aware that this could change, as it has in the past. Please pray for them both as hope hangs in the balance. When I think about Aryan, I am reminded of the Scripture which says, "A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish" (Isaiah 42:3). May he and his mother come to know this compassionate and faithful love of God towards those who are weak.

Disappointment: Aryan's Second Surgery Delayed

Posted on Thu, 02/16/2012 - 20:40 by Hannes-Christoph Buchmann

Much of the Shevet staff is in Amman, Jordan for a training conference, and only Sophie, Brian, Yousif and myself are at the Shevet center in Jerusalem. During the morning meeting today, Brian was outlining our day and asking God what plans he has for us. In that moment, Yousif came in and told us that Wolfson Hospital called, asking us to bring Aryan for tests before his Sunday heart surgery.

So we changed our plans and the new destination was Wolfson Hospital instead of Sheba Hospital. At Wolfson they told us that because of an emergency, Aryan

Aryan Preparing For Second Surgery This Weekend

Posted on Mon, 02/13/2012 - 21:59 by Kristina Kayser

The countdown has begun once again for Aryan, our curly-haired prince. Just one week lies between him and a life-defining operation. Unlike most children who come to us for an average length of two months, Aryan and his mother have already been in Israel for three and a half months. And there is still at least one month before they can presume to return home. The first surgery performed in December was a preliminary procedure to prepare Aryan's body for the main repair. 

Correcting Transposition of the Great Arteries is no simple task, and today, Dr. Alona had her mind fixed on both the benefit and gravity of his diagnosis. "Tov! (Good! in Hebrew) He is ready!" she exclaimed after reviewing Aryan's echo results. She seemed determined that nothing could interfere with their plans for his operation. Aryan's mother breathed a sigh of relief when she heard that her son would be admitted this Friday for surgery on Sunday. When I asked if his would be the first surgery of the day, Dr. Alona replied that of course it would be, because of its complexity. Essentially, Wolfson's lead cardiac surgeon will be working to correct Aryan's aorta and pulmonary arteries, which are in switched positions, creating a jeopardous error in blood flow through the heart. Skilled experience and precision are of the essence for this surgery.

With all of this in mind, I realize that the stakes are high emotionally and physically. But I also know that nothing is outside of God's capability to restore. A tangible reminder of His vast love for Aryan came in the form of earth, and sky, and sea this afternoon. Before returning to Jerusalem, Aryan and his mother were taken to the Mediterranean coast. The salt breezes and beautiful surroundings were like medicine for the soul. It was here that I saw joy on the face of Aryan's mother for the first time in a long while. When Aryan started crying, she simply hugged him and said, "No worries! We're at the sea!" Aryan soon cheered up, and for a time, the reality of beauty mingled with the reality of pain, and struggle, and waiting. Just like the sea in all its fullness, may this mother and son come to understand "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Messiah, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge." (Ephesians 3:18-19).

Unexpected Good News for Aryan and His Family

Posted on Mon, 02/06/2012 - 22:18 by Kristina Kayser

It had been nearly three weeks since I last laid eyes on Aryan. I wasn't sure how I would find him today, or his mother for that matter. The two were on my mind countless times during my absence from Shevet, especially because I was in Kurdistan and so near their home. How would I find them? Restless, discouraged, indifferent? Last I heard, doctors were undecided about their plan of care for Aryan, particularly regarding a future surgery date. I expected emotions to be high as his mother adjusted to the prospect of an even longer stay in Israel. Prepared to offer comfort to this woman and her son, I was surprised to receive some unexpected good news. 

En route to Wolfson, a nurse phoned me to say that Aryan could return to Jerusalem this afternoon and return for a follow up visit within a week. My anticipation in seeing them was now heightened. Once arriving at the hospital an hour later, when I turned the corner into the echo department, there was Aryan, arms reaching out for me. My heart melted as he laid his head against my chest and leaned in close. I love this little boy.

Dr. Alona then approached me to announce that Aryan is scheduled to have his second surgery in two weeks! His mother received the information calmly, while two other Kurdish families present filled the waiting room with exclamations. Everyone seemed encouraged, including Aryan, who smiled and babbled on happily. The only instant to bring him to tears was the removal of one small stitch from his side.

The medical staff consoled him gently by name, drying his tears. I could tell I wasn't the only who had fallen in love with Aryan.   

As I held this small boy, I took note of his lean frame, disguised by a thick winter coat. In addition to surgery, he is still recovering from the condition called chylothorax. Already addressed in previous blogs, his body has been overproducing chyle (fat triglycerides) in the pleural spaces of his chest cavity. The situation had become so serious that Aryan was on strict IV nutrition with nothing taken by mouth for several weeks. He is able to eat solid food once again, but is being maintained on a low fat diet. 

The operation set to take place on the nineteenth of February will be a complex repair. In the meantime, I believe both Aryan and his mother will benefit from a season of respite. May the comforts of home and the love of friends give them fresh strength for the days ahead. Please continue to pray that Aryan's heart will be fully mended and that, in spite of delays, his mother would find hope in the truth that God "has made everything beautiful in its time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11a).

Combating Aryan's Fluid Build-Up With Fat Free Foods

Posted on Wed, 02/01/2012 - 14:02 by Brian Mace

When I visited the hospital today with Lina, Shevet Achim