Aveen's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq


Posted on Mon, 02/22/2016 - 16:53 by Alexa Bigl

This morning Aveen complained of having a headache last night that was continuing. After Miriam thoroughly assessed her, it was clear we needed to urgently get to the hospital. While all her other vital signs and other assessment parameters were very good, Aveen's oxygen saturation was only 40%. We put her on supplemental oxygen and were immediately off to Tel Aviv. The oxygen had her saturation back in the mid 90s, where it should be. During the car ride Aveen was feeling very poorly, but we are so thankful to our faithful Heavenly Father she arrived safely to Wolfson. After checking in at the emergency room and the doctor at the children's ward did an assessment and inserted an IV cannula, we headed up to the echo department.

The echo showed us Aveen has pleural effusion--fluid around her lungs--especially on her right side. We are happy to report her heart repair still looks very good! The fluid accumulation is most likely related to the leak in her lymph system. Aveen, her father, and Ruth then headed for a chest X-ray. While the results were being processed and read we hung out in the children's ward. Aveen was dependent on supplemental oxygen throughout all of this. Next step was transfer to the ICU for a chest tube to be placed.

The doctors were reassuring towards Aveen, that her discomfort would soon be over, which really helped her since she was still having pain. We are praying for the fluid to quickly drain and her pain to be gone. We also pray her lymph system fully heals soon and that Aveen is not afraid or discouraged. Thank you for joining us in these prayers to the One who can heal this beautiful young woman.

Ready to Come Home

Posted on Sun, 02/21/2016 - 22:26 by Valentina Jaimes Vargas

Today Miriam and I made a trip to go visit Aveen at the hospital. With some rain and traffic along the way, we prayed that God would open the way and we could do everything fast.

Arriving at the hospital, we saw Aveen with a smile on her face, dressed, and ready to come home with us. We had to wait a few minutes to complete all the paperwork and nurse recomendations and also for a boy from Gaza named Mahmud. Then, with smiles on our faces, we said goodbye to the hospital.

On the road we made just one stop at the Gaza border to let Mahmud and his father get back to their home. Also we enjoyed the trees and the sunset in Israel, at the end of our trip. When we got back to our home in Jerusalem, Aveen only had happiness in her heart because she was back at Shevet.

"The king rejoices in your strength,Lord. How great is his joy in the victories you give! You have granted him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.
You came to greet him with rich blessings and placed a crown of pure goldon his head. He asked you for life, and you gave it to him—length of days, for ever and ever. Through the victories you gave, his glory is great;  you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty. Psalm 21:1-5

Our God Is An Awesome God

Posted on Tue, 02/16/2016 - 17:33 by Alexa Bigl
Aveen has been moved to the children's ward! She had her chest tubes removed and continues to mend. Aveen has a leak in her lymphatic symptom, a common complication after open heart surgery, and has been put on a special diet to help the lymph vessel heal. The leaking often requires continued treatment with chest tubes to drain the fluid, but we are thankful to God that Aveen was still able to have the chest tubes removed. Her special diet appears to be controlling the symptoms associated with the condition.
Aveen enjoyed getting to know some of our Danish volunteers here for the week.
They enjoyed playing cards and Aveen also got her finger nails and toe nails painted.
I was a bit torn today on what was most exciting to see; the monitor reading Aveen's blood oxygenation level was 97% or seeing her beautifully creamy skin glowing with life. Of course, the two are inseparably related. God is so good. Seeing His healing in such a visible way is an excellent reminder that our Creator is active in our daily lives, and His care for us is tangible through Aveen!

Strength Will Rise

Posted on Sun, 02/14/2016 - 23:27 by Naomi Knight
Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."
It was my first time in meeting Aveen today. I was struck by her strength and her courage. Despite not having a reference, apart from pictures I have seen from previous blogs, she looked well, and I am so thankful I have had the chance to meet her. I praise God for pouring his continuing strength into her life after such a big operation.
She has now been moved to the Secondary ICU and the nurses were happy to report that she is good and everything is looking as it should which is amazing news!
She was in good spirits, despite complaining of a pain in her side coming from the chest tubes. She enjoyed the company of an entertainer, delighted us with colourful drawings, and played noughts and crosses (aka tic tac toe) with us--beating me on several occasions.  
Aveen's father seemed fatigued, and I believe he has been struggling to sleep in the hospital. Despite his tiredness, his compassion for Aveen is relentless. He encourages her to laugh, eat and smile. 
We are so happy that Aveen's heart is mending and we thank God for His faithful hand on her heart. We pray for continued healing and that more strength will rise within her and her father, removing all fatigue and providing him with a restful night sleeps, as they continue in her post-op care.

First Day Post-Op

Posted on Fri, 02/12/2016 - 12:22 by Valentina Jaimes Vargas

Today we went to visit Aveen on her first day recovering from surgery, and she looks really great. She has had so many advances, and also she has the grace of God giving her strength. She can not move so much, but did give us a smile. Her dad is really strong now but we also pray that he can put all his trust in God, and that the Lord gives him strength. We believe that we must always wait on the Lord. As Psalm 27:14 says, "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

It Was Worth the Wait

Posted on Thu, 02/11/2016 - 00:47 by Alexa Bigl

We arrived early to Wolfson this morning to spend some time with Aveen and her father before Aveen’s surgery!

After we headed down to the operating suite, Aveen, her father, and I got to hang out for a while in the prep room.

15 minutes later, the time had arrived!

Over seven hours in the operating room, and now Aveen has a fully repaired heart! Praise God Aveen's surgery went very well today. The lead surgeon and head of the ICU both had positive reports for Aveen's surgery and immediate post-surgical time. As always for cardiac surgeries, Aveen's coming echocardiograms in the future days and weeks will be critical in monitoring the surgical repair. We will be continually praying Aveen's heart handles the massive changes it underwent and that her body heals quickly and without complications. God has been so present in our time with Aveen, and we are excited to see His works in her post-surgical time in Israel!

Last week during Abdullah's surgery, Aveen's father made the trip to Wolfson to be there as support for Abdullah's father. Today, this blessing was returned as Abu Abdullah traveled with Suhail and I to Tel Aviv. And what a blessing it was. Abu Abdullah was a faithful, constant companion and support the whole day. The two fathers have a wonderful friendship, and as Aveen's father went through the torrent of emotions associated with having your child in a major 7+ hour-long surgery the presence of that friend was very meaningful!

When we went into the ICU to see Aveen after her surgery, she was already fighting to wake up from the anesthesia. It is best for Aveen's healing that she stays asleep for the rest of today with the ventilator breathing for her. Please join us in praying for her to rest peacefully until tomorrow, and that her father is able to rest some this evening and tonight.

Take at look at these before and after pictures of Aveen’s hand. Before the surgery, Aveen's fingers were clubbed (the distinct round shape you see in her fingers) and blue due to low oxygen levels, and improper circulation. After the surgery, her fingers look healthy and pink thanks to oxygen properly circulating in her extremities!




Her healing is so visible; it brought many of us to tears!

Aveen’s oxygen saturation used to be an average of 50%. Now that it’s 99% her hands have a beautiful color and the progressive clubbing has now stopped. Praise God and rejoice in His marvelous healing!


Admitted for Surgery!

Posted on Wed, 02/10/2016 - 08:24 by Christelle Fonjallaz

Aveen can finally have her surgery! Such good news! 

Yesterday was the day of her admission, so Miriam and I went with Aveen and her father to the hospital. As we arrived, some doctors took us immediatly and performed the tests needed. Aveen was, as usual, cheerful.

As we were waiting for the next tests, we spent some time with Aveen and her father. Aveen taught me how to make some bracelets. We had fun doing that and trying to talk as much as we could. 

The rest of the day was spent taking some more tests (such as x-ray), with some clowns who came to distract us, learning a little bit of Kurdish, and finally drinking some tea. Abdullah's father spent a lot of time with us, too. It was great to see how he took care of Aveen and her father. He was supporting them the best that he could, having already gone through this same process with his own son!

Aveen will have her surgery Wednesday morning, and we're so happy for her. We pray that everything will be alright, and we trust the Lord that he has Aveen in his hands.

Sweet Sixteen

Posted on Sun, 01/17/2016 - 15:37 by MadelynMiles

Our Shevet Achim community had the distict honor of celebrating Aveen's sweet sixteenth birthday today! Unfortunately, we missed the actual day, because her passport listed January 1st. This is a common occurence for our families, and usually indiciates that they do not know the actual day. However, after talking with her father, we found out January 1st is her real birthday. We were sad that we had missed it, but we knew that Aveen would be genuinely surprised today!

Sixteen is a precious milestone in the life of a young woman, and we are especially thankful that God has preserved her life all these years. This birthday carries an extra weight of meaning and beauty, because many children do not live this long with the serious heart defect that she has--Transposition of the Great Arteries. Our sweet Aveen is very weak and cannot walk far without needing to be carried as a result of living with this defect for so long.

It has not, however, dampened her joyful spirit! She loves playing with and caring for the smaller children, Zanyar, Nardeen, and even my daughter, Nava! She shows attentive gentleness and love to them, and I pray that she will one day know the joy of caring for her own babies. 

Aveen contines to wait for her heart surgery to be scheduled, which has not yet happened because the ICU at the hospital is completely full with difficult cases and needy children. Please pray for the recovery of these children, and for God's perfect timing for Aveen's surgery. 



Aveen's Grand Day

Posted on Tue, 12/22/2015 - 21:02 by Alexa Bigl

Late Sunday night Jonathan came back to Jerusalem with two new families. This included beautiful Aveen and her loving father. We got to spend Monday getting to know them a bit and getting them settled into their new living quarters. Today was a full day at Wolfson for Aveen's first Israeli hospital assessment, and initial assessment day for (almost) 16-year-old Aveen was a success! Through all the tests, pokes, and prods Aveen did wonderfully. All the typical initial assessment day activities were completed today. The nurses did their assessment and took blood, the doctors did their assessments, the 1st step of the ppd (to test for tuberculosis) was completed, an echocardiogram was performed, and lastly we went for a chest X-ray.

The echo showed Aveen is a great candidate for surgery. They will switch her arteries so the left ventricle will pump blood to the body and the right, via a conduit, will pump blood to the lungs. This is opposite how her heart is now, but the correct way it should be. It is a miracle Aveen has survived 16 years with this defect! It is also a blessing. Since Aveen is much older, and thusly bigger, than most kids who undergo this surgery it is more straight forward with less intricacies than would be dealt in a small baby. Praise God the doctors are feeling very positive about the probability of a full repair with Aveen's surgery!

There is a company that does 3D printing here in Israel and they have offered to do two 3D prints of hearts for Wolfson for free. Doctor Alona said Aveen would be a great candidate for this program due to her diagnosis and the larger size of her heart, in comparison to most younger children coming for cardiac surgery. So her case will be looked at by the other doctors and they will decide if they will do a CT scan to obtain the necessary information to complete the 3D print. We are praying Aveen will be selected for this because it will allow the surgeons to see exactly what Aveen's heart looks like before she goes into the operating theater.

After a very long day at the hospital we had a very special outing. We went to the beach for the sunset!! It was Aveen's first time to the beach and she enjoyed picking up shells and took lots of pictures.

We are so excited Aveen and her father are now part of our Shevet family and praise God we have the time to get to know them and show them the love of Jesus.

Looking Forward

Posted on Wed, 11/11/2015 - 15:24 by Sarah Powell

Aveen is a fifteen-year-old girl from Kurdistan in northern Iraq. She was born with several heart defects, including a Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA). This means that her aorta and her pulmonary artery are switched, meaning that oxygenated blood is constantly passed through her lungs, while the de-oxygenated blood is constantly sent to her body. The only reason she can survive with this defect is that she has a small Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) also, which is simply a hole between the chambers of her heart that is allowing the oxygenated and de-oxygenated blood from the two chambers to mix. This sort of defect always requires surgery for correction, so we hope to have Aveen with us soon so that she can receive  the help she needs.