Brievan's Heart Surgery


Heart Filled With Joy

Posted on Tue, 06/17/2014 - 21:43 by Rahel Eschler

Today, I set off one last time to the hospitals in Tel Aviv to say good bye to my little Syrian and Kurdish friends, recovering in different wards. During the drive to Wolfson, I had to think about sweet Brievan, and I was wondering what kind of condition I would find her in. As I entered the ICU, I could already see her grandmother bending over the little body of Brievan. While I was washing my hands, I was gazing over at them again, and this time, the grandmother caught my eyes. She had a big smile on her face. I walked up to Brievan’s bed and gave the grandmother a big hug. Then I took a closer look at Brievan and, once more, I could only stand in awe of a wonderful miracle. She was extubated earlier this morning and her body seemed to be coping quite well with the new situation.

At first, she was in need of an oxygen tent, but it was soon after exchanged with a nasal tube for supportive oxygen. Brievan was still connected to lots of tubes and her small arms were fixed with blue foam so that she wouldn’t pull on all those things. But Brievan didn’t seem to care too much about these things as she would now and then drift in and out of her sleep. And whenever she started to cry, her grandmother comforted her with her calm voice. To watch them both filled my heart with joy and made me praise our Creator in heaven who is faithful towards his beloved children again and again. Thanks once more for your supporting prayers for a precious child in need.

The time came to say a final good bye to this special family since I’m heading home to Switzerland in only two days. It was an honor to be part of the medical Shevet team and to accompany not only this family but so many more through the last year. I found many friends along the way and God in His mercy let me be a part of so many miracles. Soon, I will be the one following the blogs and including all these precious kids in my prayers from afar. Thank you my Lord and Savior.

“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord. For he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 106

From Helpless to Healing

Posted on Mon, 06/16/2014 - 18:09 by Philip Rasmussen

More than a month ago, little, fragile Brievan set out for her first travel experience ever. She was found against all odds in a cold refugee tent in surroundings that do not call for much hope for help. Born with a heart defect, having lost her mother who died giving birth to her, and also being left behind by her father, she was indeed without any hope. Despite all this, though, I clearly see how God has taken care of her completely. He is always looking for ways to heal what is broken, and has not only found a way of treatment for her heart defect, but has also placed her in a family where the grandmother would become more than just a caregiver. She is like her mom, and she told me at least fifteen times this morning how precious Brievan is to her, and that she is more than just her daughter – she is something special which she cannot explain.

Ruth and I headed out this early morning to be with Brievan and her grandmother before Brievan would be taken into the operation room. Unfortunately, we arrived just after she had been rolled down to the operation area – a moment of transition and fears where we really wanted to be there with them. Amazingly, we were able to enter the operation area through different closed off doors, find the necessary operation garments, and find little Brievan and her grandmother waiting in the preparation room. Here we had a special time with them and got a lot of good pictures of adorable Brievan. We were all expecting a difficult separation between our two Syrian Kurdish friends. They have not been separated before, and they have bonded to each other in deep ways. It’s not only Brievan who needs her grandmother, but also the other way around. After giving a tearful goodbye to her granddaughter and receiving a good long hug from our Dada (Big Sister) Ruth, Brievan's grandmother made her way with us back to the children's ward.

Brievan's mother was very talkative and often let us know how precious Brievan is to her heart and how much she wants her to be healed. Later, I asked the grandmother how it was not having Brievan around her but to be in need of her every single minute. She replied she cannot find rest without her. She formed her arms as if she were cradling a child, and said that she feels best when she has Brievan in her arms.

We spend most of the waiting time outside, where the fresh air revitalized our minds and souls. All the while, the grandmother seemed calm and at peace. Often she would speak out prayers and ask God to heal her precious Brievan. Once in a while, her cellphone would ring, undoubtedly family calling to be updated on Brievan’s condition.

A little less than four hours after she was rolled into the operation room, Brievan was once again in front of our eyes, though under heavy observation by several doctors as they escorted her into the ICU. The grandmother became very emotional, and began crying when she saw her little jewel, nearly hidden in the mass of sheets and machines on her bed. We got the much-needed update from the staff that the surgery was successful and they were able to do a full repair. We had to wait outside the ICU, but now much of the tension was replaced with joy and thankfulness. After an hour we were allowed to enter the ICU, where we found Brievan looking fine and peaceful. This girl is exceptionally beautiful and sweet, regardless of whether she is styled up for a photo shoot, or just coming out of the operating room.

Hopefully Brievan will show good improvements and be ready to be extubated tomorrow. For this, your prayers are much appreciated. Thanks to God for a successful day where His care was obvious and tangible.

A Father to the Fatherless

Posted on Fri, 06/13/2014 - 17:52 by Ruth Zellweger

When I reflect on little Brievan and her young life, I see many sad events. Brievan was born with a congenital heart defect. She lost both of her parents, and she is growing up in a refugee camp because of the Civil War in Syria. You could say that with these preconditions the prospects for her childhood and life in general are rather bleak. And I would agree with you, if I couldn't see our loving Heavenly Father working in little Brievan's life. She is precious in His eyes, and He is watching over her. He gave her a loving grandmother, who cares for her as if she was her own mother. He made people aware of the heart defect Brievan has. He brought her into contact with our Shevet Achim community and opened the doors for her to come to Israel with only temporary travel documents. He has sustained her life and heart, and she is still operable, which the doctors were not certain would be the case before her first echocardiogram. Our Shevet family celebrated Brievan's first birthday last Friday. God has not forgotten her and He never will!

Today we joined in our front courtyard to send off Brievan and her grandmother for admission at Wolfson Hospital. Even though the surgery is scheduled for Monday, the doctors wanted her to go ahead and come today with her friend Niyaz, who was also admitted for surgery soon. Brievan's grandmother seemed relieved that the time of the surgery has finally come. She appears to be a strong and fearless woman, but she also has her worries and anxieties. May she experience the peace of God in these coming days.

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling." Psalm 68:5

Sweet Brievan Released and at Peace

Posted on Thu, 05/15/2014 - 22:49 by Philip Rasmussen

Today we traveled to Wolfson Medical Center to see how Brievan was doing. She has been hospitalized for the last two days due to a fever, but we were hoping she would be ready to be discharged back to Jerusalem today.

While making our way to Tel Aviv, we received a phone call from the hospital stating Brievan had overcome her fever and was ready to be discharged. Brievan’s grandmother was filled with joy over this news upon our arrival, telling us how her precious girl has improved and is much better today than yesterday.

Though her grandmother has had a tough time staying at the hospital (where she has been for her first three days of her stay in Israel so far), she is definitely able to put her wishes aside and look to her granddaughter’s needs. She loves Brievan so much, and I witnessed a beautiful moment today when Brievan reached out for her grandmother to get a hug.

Brievan is invited to return to Wolfson for surgery in two weeks’ time. Amazingly, she doesn’t need a catheterization between now and her surgery; her next step is her important operation. We are glad to have this extraordinary, beautiful girl in our house, and we are looking forward to getting to know her and her grandmother better. Thank you, Lord, for entrusting the sweet life of Brievan to us!

Can Brievan Be Helped by Surgery?

Posted on Tue, 05/13/2014 - 21:07 by Jesse Tilman

Is Brievan operable? That was the question of the day on Brievan's first day at the hospital, which included more than eight hours of testing, waiting, talking, and wondering. As we worked through each step of the process, it was a struggle to keep her grandmother upbeat and involved. She speaks a different dialect of Kurdish than our community is accustomed to, which made communication challenging. She also had a hard time seeing Brievan in pain. 

After the initial echocardiogram there was some question as to whether pulmonary hypertension may have developed to the point of ruling out surgery for Brievan. But thank God, after a long wait the senior cardiologist Dr. Tamir looked over her results and gave the good news that Brievan is ready to go forward to surgery.

She'll be staying in the hospital tonight, due to a urinary tract infection and a fever. Brievan's grandmother is having a rough time adjusting to the hospital, so your prayers would be appreciated. She did find some comfort, however, in talking with the mothers from Gaza in the ward as they shared experiences and encouragement. 

A Kurdish Welcome to Israel

Posted on Mon, 05/12/2014 - 03:00 by Jonathan Miles

After four months of requesting permissions from the bureaucracy of three nations, it was such a blessing to see Brievan and grandmother finally arrive at the Amman airport Saturday evening, together with another Syria refugee child Niyaz, and our coworker Jesse.

Grandmother and child were in good spirits and stayed with us for two nights until their Israeli visa (which had expired during the long waiting period) was renewed. We left immediately for the Jordan River border crossing, where there were delays as staff there are still struggling to come to terms with Syrians crossing into Israel on temporary travel documents. The wait gave us this chance to see how very close Brievan is to already walking on her own:

Finally we reached Israel, where guards kindly helped us past a slow-moving group of 89 visiting Indian tourists. Brievan won the heart of one young woman guard by smiling and waving during our long wait at passport control:

The guard was shocked to learn how critical Brievan's need for surgery is, and that she had no chance to live other than coming to Israel. And as is not uncommon in Israel, it turned out the guard had a Kurdish Jewish grandmother! So many unexpected connections between people in the rich mosaic of the Middle East.

Help on the Way

Posted on Tue, 03/04/2014 - 21:39 by Kelsey Cannon

The first time I met nine-month-old Brievan was this past January, just outside her UNHCR-issued tent home in one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s temporary Syrian refugee camps. The sun had just begun to set when Breivan’s grandmother brought her out, bundled in a wad of blankets.

Brievan looked more than a little slight for her age, with delicate features and startlingly deep, intelligent eyes. These eyes shifted between the members of our visiting group as we read aloud the verdict from her recent cardiology report. 

The report indicated Brievan had a large ventricular septal defect (VSD) - a hole between the two lower chambers of her heart. This hole allows oxygenated blood from her left ventricle, which should be sent to her body, to travel to her right ventricle and on to her lungs. If left untreated, this extra blood being pumped to her lungs will result in irreversible pulmonary hypertension and eventual heart failure.

In the meantime, Brievan's heart and lungs perpetually work overtime, leaving her gaining weight, having difficulty breathing, and increasingly susceptible to chest infections. In fact, her frequent chest infections, small size, and inability to access regular health care services left the doctors in our group worried she would not survive the winter before we could arrange for her to have heart surgery. 

Roughly two months after this initial visit, however, we’re happy to report Brievan has survived the winter and is doing well.

Brievan and her grandmother have since been invited for medical treatment at Wolfson Hospital in Israel and are waiting for the final governmental permissions to be granted before their groundbreaking travel for medical treatment can begin. We hope to see both of these precious souls here with us in Israel within the coming weeks.