Atwar's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Farewell Atwar

Posted on Sun, 03/17/2013 - 22:10 by Co-authored

There were many people who were touched by Atwar and his father. Below you will find the farewell words of several volunteers to this loving father and son duo.

Cassie shares:

On Thursday we took Atwar to what we hoped was his last echocardiogram. We arrived early and waited for quite a while and I could tell Atwar's father was nervous and just ready to receive the results. As we went in to start the echo, we were all holding our breath waiting to hear what the doctor would say.

As she began to look at the echo she said that Atwar could stop one of his medications which meant that he could go home! His heart looked strong and good! There will need to be another echo done once Atwar is back home in Iraq, but the news was that he could leave Israel and his heart is healing nicely. Atwar's father was over joyed to hear the news and his face lit up. He told the doctor that he had been praying for her and was so thankful to God for Atwar being able to go home. The weight lifted and we all left with smiles and Atwar running around very happy and contented.

Bev also adds:

We recently celebrated the home going of our little friend Atwar. Each time one of our Kurdish families returns home, it is a bittersweet time. Atwar was with us for a little more than two months but unlike others his father was with him, so they stayed downstairs with the staff and ate dinner with us each evening. So we are feeling the return of Atwar and his dad home to Kurdistan in a different way. It was nice to have a three-year-old running around the office, and running was just what Atwar's new heart gave him the energy to do. And his father had a much more energetic three-year-old to contain these last couple of weeks.

Our good-bye party included our traditional tea and cake, with a time of thanks to God for what he has done and an opportunity to share memories and give gifts. Several of our staff mentioned how they saw Atwar and his father become more at home as time went on and we were thankful that several of the men had chances to talk with Atwar

Stronger and Hungrier Every Day

Posted on Thu, 03/07/2013 - 19:15 by Kristina Kayser

After being in Kurdistan for only one week, I returned to find Atwar decidedly stouter than before. His already round cheeks now seemed to be at max capacity. Atwar's father told me he's noticed two significant changes in his son, one being that this boy is hungry all the time, and the second that he's constantly on the move. A key component in this added energy and hunger is a medication called Prednisone. Beside having the desired effect of fluid reduction around Atwar's heart, it also has side effects of increased appetite and weight gain. The last two echo exams have showed beautiful progress, leading Dr. Alona to begin weaning Atwar off of Prednisone. And today was no different. 

The road to Wolfson was laced with signs of spring, making the miles tick by quickly as we gazed out the windows. Soon after arriving at the hospital, Atwar was invited into the exam room for a smooth and simple echo. I was so proud of my little friend and how well he behaved while Dr. Alona studied his heart. He watched her with bright curious eyes, and his father chuckled when she commented on Atwar's chubby cheeks. Once again, the ultrasound showed a total absence of unwanted fluid. By this Sunday, Atwar will no longer need Prednisone, and he may even be released to go home by next Thursday. His father was overjoyed to hear this news and used his best English to thank Dr. Alona personally. 

It really has been remarkable to watch the steady progress Atwar has made -- a sure sign that we serve a God who heals. Atwar will return to Wolfson on Monday for what we hope will be his penultimate echo. May these last days with Atwar and his father be filled with much joy and praise.

Atwar: Healing and Happy

Posted on Mon, 03/04/2013 - 21:49 by John M.

While we were waiting for Atwar

Another Step Forward in Atwar's Healing

Posted on Thu, 02/28/2013 - 21:38 by Marie Baumann

Today Atwar had one more appointment at the hospital for a heart echo. As we drove there, he was really quiet, sitting in his car seat and looking out of the window. Then we arrived at the hospital and had to wait. Fortunately there was a corner for playing, and as Jesse went into the little house, Atwar had much fun and was giggling, which made me smile.

Finally we could enter the echo-room, but when Atwar

Celebrating Purim and Release from the Hospital

Posted on Sun, 02/24/2013 - 20:06 by Jesse Tilman

As I write these words I am on the way up to Jerusalem with Atwar and his father. They have been several days in the hospital working on Atwar

A Little Comfort From Home

Posted on Thu, 02/21/2013 - 00:05 by Jesse Tilman

Yousef and I took Atwar and his dad a few items today and helped to set them up for a little more time in the hospital. His dad especially requested and was glad to receive his sandals so he could visit the hospital bathrooms in his customary fashion. Middle Easterners have their own cultural etiquette when it comes to visiting the

Handling the Unexpected: Fluid Around Atwar's Heart

Posted on Mon, 02/18/2013 - 19:36 by Kristina Kayser

Atwar has been home with us for the past four days and, by all looks and appearances, seems to be healing perfectly. He walks around the office like a little man when he's not shadowing his father. And every meal has shown that his progress has an appetite to match. This has made his father very pleased indeed. From a medical standpoint, all daily assessments have been promising as well with high oxygen levels and no fever. We headed thus to today's echo appointment with high hopes. Atwar's father continues to feel the pressure of losing his job and reminded me of this just before Atwar's assessment began. I listened and tried to encourage him to trust God for the next step. 

Atwar settled quietly on the exam table for what we thought would be a routine check-up. You can imagine our surprise when the echo technician noticed, almost immediately, that something was wrong. Two doctors were then called in to confirm the initial results. It turns out that Atwar has developed a significant amount of fluid around his heart. Known as pericardial effusion, this is somewhat of a common side effect following surgery. The body feels the need to compensate for the repairs made by producing excess fluid. When pericardial effusion is present, a child is typically lethargic, feverish, and has labored breathing. Atwar, however, had none of these symptoms. Because the accumulation was progressive and not sudden, the problem did not manifest externally. 

The cardiologists concluded that due to the copious amount of fluid, they didn't feel comfortable sending Atwar back to Jerusalem. Instead, it seemed wiser to keep Atwar overnight and observe the situation further. Doctors were concerned that if the fluid increased, it could be dangerous. Medication treatment will be started this evening to prevent this scenario, and a repeat echo will be performed tomorrow morning. Atwar's father was crushed by this news and kept asking why and how long they had to stay. To him, it seemed as though a sudden thunderstorm had spoiled a perfectly sunny day. Everything had been going so well, and he was not prepared for the unexpected. 

It's in these moments that words and explanations feel thoroughly inadequate. I tried to assure him that we could trust the doctors for good care and that God could be trusted even more for Atwar's heart. Please pray for Atwar and his father to experience the all-consuming peace of God tonight and in the coming days. And may they find in Him all the hope they need for the things we cannot see.

Atwar Back in Jerusalem

Posted on Thu, 02/14/2013 - 22:34 by Ruth Zellweger

While I am writing this update on Atwar, I am looking outside one of our office windows. I see Atwar

Atwar on the Mend

Posted on Wed, 02/13/2013 - 20:58 by Bev Enright

This morning, my husband and I walked down the corridors of Wolfson Hospital for our third time. The other two times we were just visiting Israel and becoming acquainted with the work that Shevet Achim does. And today, just like each previous time, we went away very touched by seeing the children and their mothers and prayed specifically for them even after returning home. But the main difference for us today was that we now have a more intimate understanding of the families here since living at the Shevet base for four weeks now. We have been waiting with Atwar and his father for this time to come. We have ridden the waves of hope and disappointment with them. They came to Israel just before we did. They have joined us each evening for dinner. They are part of the family to us, even though we don't share a common language. We are now privileged to see our prayers and the prayers of many others beautifully answered in the life of little Atwar and his father.

Today, just four days after open heart surgery our dear little friend has been detached from all the monitors and moved to a room in the children's ward. When we arrived he was eager for his father to feed him the lunch that was waiting for him. He was okay with potatoes for awhile but soon he was speaking to his dad and pointing to the chicken, as if to say "Forget the potatoes and soup, Dad, give me the meat!" You might not be able to tell from the pictures, but Atwar is a very sturdy three year-old. He has always had a healthy appetite, and it seems to be back! I was also surprised at how well he was doing being stuck in bed. We had a great time blowing bubbles. He was most delighted to pop the bubbles and was able to blow some himself. We have really missed having them back in Jerusalem.

His Dad told us today that he will never forget everyone who has helped him here. And we hope that sometime in the near future Atwar and his Dad will be able to return to Kurdistan. I wanted to ask God to intervene and hurry up the surgery schedule because Atwar