Chrakhan 's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

Chrakhan's Surgery: A Mother's Quest Relieved By Hope

Posted on Sun, 05/29/2011 - 00:00 by Kristina Kayser

Imagine being an eleven year old experiencing a milestone event which held the potential of changing the course of your life. Imagine being a mother of nine children who had a baby girl born with a broken heart and spending years searching for someone who could save your daughter's life. Today was the day a shy fragile girl from Kurdistan came face to face with destiny. Today was the day a devoted mother met her greatest fears and found hope in the end.

Chrakhan's calm demeanor this morning was a beautiful foreshadowing of a story with a happy ending. We sang together about God's greatness before heading to the operating room. His love for Chrakhan seemed to resonate in her as all pre-operative procedures were completed. Jeff, Shevet volunteer, was also present to give her extra encouragement. Chrakhan's mother stood by, her anxiety masked by composure and affection until the bed was rolled into the theater.

Once Chrakhan was out of her sight, the emotion building up within her burst like water from a dam. Mournful cries sounded as we proceeded to the waiting area.
Tetralogy of Fallot is a complex diagnosis that requires intricate repair of a heart that malfunctions in four critical areas. Two unsuccessful procedures in Iraq have done nothing more than add to the complication of Chrakhan's condition. Scar tissue has built up, and severe oxygen depletion has weakened her small body over time.

While physicians worked for five hours like skilled artisans laboring over a masterpiece, Chrakhan's mother waited breathlessly to see it unveiled. Arina's mother was quick to support Chrakhan's mother throughout this labyrinthine procedure, linking hands as they walked down the hallway, as one who had walked this road before.

As time ticked slowly by, emotions rolled in like breakers, cresting in an outburst of tears. She kept her hands open in a posture of surrender. Other Shevet mothers surrounded her, pointing her to God's greatness as well. I heard her repeat again and again "Xua Gowre!" ("God is great" in Kurdish). Prayers and pleading climaxed in shouts of praise when Chrakhan's gurney came down the hall towards the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). I asked a passing anesthesiologist how everything went. He said enthusiastically, "Khalas ("Finished" in Arabic)! It was a difficult surgery, but she is good now."

Upon entering the ICU, the first thing I noticed about Chrakhan was that her once blue-gray skin was now a beautiful pink! I pointed this out to her mother, who then kissed her daughter's small fingers. All the weight on this mother's shoulders came tumbling off in a daze of disbelief and wonder. Arina's mother helped explain the various machines and wiring. The good news I prayed for all day came like a cup of cold water to a weary soul (Proverbs 25:25).

All was well with this mother and daughter when I kissed them goodbye. Chrakhan eyes were closed in tranquil sleep, and her mother's eyes had a peace in them I had never seen before. Life is beautiful! "Blessed [be] the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things!" Psalm 72:18

Chrakhan Admitted For Heart Surgery

Posted on Sat, 05/28/2011 - 00:00 by Jeff Sheehan

This Shabbat afternoon Chrakhan & her mother were taken to Wolfson Hospital to be admitted for heart surgery, booked for tomorrow morning, Sunday, May 29. The surgery will repair Chrakhans Tetralogy of Fallot. Her check-in procedure involved initial introductions, ID stickers, vital sign measurements, and a chest x-ray. A cannula was inserted into her left hand, for pre-operative blood tests. The mother had some anxious moments and a few tears this evening, but Vereena helped calm her down. Chrakhan also cried when the cannula was inserted, but both mother and daughter settled soon thereafter. The doctor also obtained the mothers consent for the surgery, with a signed document. They have been admitted into a room with three beds, and Chrakhan has her bed by the window, close to the nurses station. Before we left we said a prayer for them, and promised to return tomorrow. The whole procedure went smoothly. I was informed by the nurse that the surgery is booked for tomorrow at 7:30am.

Chrakhan and Her Mother: Home Sweet Home

Posted on Thu, 05/12/2011 - 00:00 by Kristina Kayser

There's an old saying that says, "Home is where the heart is." I find that these words bear strange significance for our Kurdish families at Shevet Achim. The heart, both physical and emotional, is behind their every thought and motivation in coming to Israel and making this their new "home" for a length of time. Chrakhan and her mother, who arrived a few weeks ago, timid and skeptical of the Shevet community, breathed a sigh of relief today when I arrived at Wolfson Hospital to bring them back to Jerusalem, following her successful catheterization. Their hearts have warmed to the place they now find comfort and refuge in, a place where they are loved as family. Before leaving the hospital, Chrakhan's mother excitedly told me that her daughter's surgery would be next week. I confirmed with Nellie, a pediatric nurse, that Chrakhan's surgery might take place as soon as next Tuesday but to wait for the doctor's final decision. This news brought one of the first smiles to her mother's face that I have witnessed. Although she quickly returned to a stoic expression for our photo together, I'm sure she was still smiling on the inside.

Chrakhan also appeared happily content as Gaddy (fellow Shevet co-worker) kissed her lovingly before helping her into the van.

The warm afternoon sun and her mother's soft lap lulled Chrakhan to sleep as the van wound steadily upward towards the "City of Peace."

This week as we celebrate Israel's independence, my thoughts turn toward her blood-stained struggle for peace and the many hearts that have claimed this land their home. As tumultuous times continue, it is profoundly beautiful to consider how Israel has opened the doors of her heart to Chrakhan and, through life-giving measures, has made a way for peace.

A Seamless Catheterization for Chrakhan

Posted on Wed, 05/11/2011 - 00:00 by Kristina Kayser

Kristina writes from Wednesday:
Whereas last week's hospital visit for Chrakhan felt like a wild tempest, today's experience at Wolfson Hospital was as peaceful as a lake's glassy surface at daybreak. Dr. Iddo informed me that after Chrakhan's blood transfusion last evening, her platelet count had increased sufficiently enough for a catheterization this morning. This meant that there would be less risk for bleeding complications during and after the procedure.

When the transport arrived to escort mother and daughter to the cath lab, Chrakhan was full of smiles that seemed to reflect a tranquility within. It was such a stark contrast to previous moments of hysteria. Fear was a stranger to this brave girl today who was sent off with well wishes from an empathetic Israeli mother and was further encouraged by Dr. Tamir's warm smiles and compliments minutes before the catheterization.

This rather ingenious procedure will aid the cardiology team in properly assessing Chrakhan prior to surgery. A small tube advanced into the cardiac chambers gives doctors a clearer perspective of the heart's functionality and what exactly needs to be repaired.

Donned in surgical cap and booties, Chrakhan's smiles continued as she walked calmly into a blue-green sea of scrubs and medical equipment. Anesthesia was given, further soothing Chrakhan, as I led a sorrowful but composed mother out to the waiting room. Sitting side by side, I observed the fierce and tender devotion a parent has for their child. It seemed as though every breath lifted up was a plea for her daughter's life, and every time the door leading to the cath lab opened, her tear-stained face turned in hopeful expectation, yearning to see her daughter once again. Two women passing through the hall stopped intuitively to offer support, raising their hands heavenward before moving on.

Meanwhile, my eyes fell on these words in Psalm 33, penned long ago by a man acquainted with crying out to God: "He fashions their hearts individually...Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy...Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield..." Truly, the Lord was merciful towards Chrakhan today, whose catheterization went seamlessly and has given doctors the green light for surgery next week potentially. This step forward is an answer to her mother's prayers and a reason to rejoice for everyone following Chrakhan's journey in Israel.

Back in the children's ward, Chrakhan was gently roused out of slumber by the fun-loving clown, Pomadora. I marveled at how smoothly Chrakhan transitioned from anesthesia to waking up smiling at Pomadora's comedic play. Her mother hovered over her, ready to meet any need at a moment's notice. The same peace that filled my heart was present in their hospital room as I kissed them goodbye, reminding them of God's presence and great love for them.

In these tides of storm and stillness for Chrakhan, I long for the following hymn to resonate in the hearts of both mother and daughter: "When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul."

And Natalie writes from Tuesday:

Sometimes kids just need to be kids to play, to laugh, and to romp around outside. So to give the kids and their mothers a break from the stress and pressure of the hospital, we went to the beach in Tel Aviv for a few hours on Tuesday, which was Israeli Independence Day. When we first got down to the water, the children approached the sea timidly. Since they all come from a landlocked area, they had never seen so much water in one place before and the whole thing was a bit overwhelming! They clung tightly to our hands and slowly walked with us until the water was just past their ankles; however, they quickly became more and more comfortable and started happily splashing anyone who came within range. By the end of the water war, everyone was wet but very happy. Later, we enjoyed a picnic lunch, collected sea shells, made sand castles, and played around with a beach ball. It was wonderful to see everyone having such a good time!

To Hospital for Catheterization in the Morning

Posted on Tue, 05/10/2011 - 00:00 by Verena Leithner

After a wonderful day at the beach in Tel Aviv, Chrakhan was admitted for tomorrows heart catheterization this evening. It is the second attempt to do the catheterization, and we all hope that this time everything will be going well.
Please join us in prayer for this precious girl, who is in such a fear of the hospital. And please also pray for her mother, that she would experience the love of God and the hope he wants to give her!

Nach einem wunderschoenen Tag am Strand in Tel Aviv wurde Chrakhan heute Abend fuer ihre morgige Herzkatheterisierung im Krankenhaus aufgenommen. Dies ist nun schon der zweite Anlauf um die Herzkatheterisierung durchzufuehren und wir alle hoffen, dass dieses Mal alles gut verlaufen wird.

Bitte schliesst euch unseren Gebeten fuer dieses wundervolle Maedchen, das so Angst vor dem Krankenhaus hat, an. Und bitte betet auch fuer ihre Mutter, dass sie Gottes Liebe und die Hoffnung, die er ihr geben moechte, erfaehrt!

Weathering The Storm

Posted on Wed, 05/04/2011 - 00:00 by Kristina Kayser

Often the greatest tests of courage and love are born out of great pain. This was true for Chrakhan and her mother today as both were subjected to an anvil of adversity which called for strength beyond measure.

Disappointment rose early this morning as Dr. Iddo informed me that Chrakhan's lab work revealed elevated liver enzymes, indicating liver damage, and also thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), which effects the bloods ability to clot. Both of these factors contributed to the decision to postpone her cardiac catheterization and perform an additional blood draw for further testing.

For a mother who is already riddled with fear for her daughter's life, this news was the last straw for her emotional well-being. In an attempt to help ease the growing tension in Chrakhan and her mother, I escorted them to a courtyard outside for some fresh spring air and aesthetic diversion. Chrakhan's countenance immediately brightened as she picked flowers and stood in the sunshine. This was the calm before the storm as we returned to the nurse's station for the aforementioned lab-work.

Previous experiences of multiple needle pokes have created sheer terror in Chrakhan. Her attempt to run away and ear-shattering screams as I carried her to the exam bed, arms and legs flailing, marked the beginning of the drama which broke loose in Wolfson's pediatric ward. Dr. Iddo fervently attempted to draw Chrakhan's blood.

Meanwhile, a symphony of wailing and further screaming commenced: her mother was beside herself with anxiety, to the point that she suddenly fainted and collapsed on the hospital floor. Medical staff rushed in as Chrakhan fell to her knees beside her mother, slapping her face and crying out, "Dykee! Dykee! (mother in Kurdish).

As our volunteer Ryan aptly observed, it felt like a bizarre episode of the T.V. medical drama E.R. While her mother slowly regained consciousness, Chrakhan was taken outside the room, traumatized. Cradled in Andreas' arms (also a Shevet volunteer), her face was numbed with shock.

Nevertheless, extraordinary love took over in an unexpected role reversal as Chrakhan stood up and began attending to her mother, holding her head and gently spoon feeding her rice. Amidst such upheaval, peace took precedence as Verena, Andreas' wife, and I quietly prayed over them.

Just as Jesus stilled the wind and waves two centuries ago, so too He calmed the storm of fear for mother and child in this moment. It is no coincidence that just yesterday Chrakhan learned a new song in Kurdish that says, "My God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There's nothing my God cannot do!"

As we continue to wait for a surgery that offers the hope of healing, I am compelled to trust that nothing is too difficult for the One who fashioned her heart and knows Chrakhan by name. "I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far," says the LORD, who heals them." Isaiah57:18b-19

Mother and Daughter Sharing The Pain

Posted on Tue, 05/03/2011 - 00:00 by Donna_West

Chrakhans mother has spent the last 10 years of her life next to her daughter, the battle for life being an everyday reality. Chrakhan's thin, frail, blue body is a constant reminder of her precarious life-thread. When you see the scaring on her body from a previous heart surgery done in Iraq, and the deformation she carries on one of her arms from a burn, you cannot miss the fact that this mother and daughter have endured a lot of pain together.

Today was a difficult day for both Chrakhan and her mother. Chrakhan was admitted for tomorrows heart catheterization, and the daughters tears and screams during blood work pierced her mother's heart much deeper than the needles pierced the daughter. Afterwards, Chrakhan began to smile again, which was more than her mother could do.

Fortunately, our Father is good to provide what we need, even soothing companionship in times of trouble. Another of our mothers was also in the hospital today, and because Chrakhans mother and she share a language, they could also share the sorrow of seeing one of their children sick. Even while caring for her own child, this mother was embracing and encouraging Chrakhans mother.

When you pray for Chrakhan, please also pray for her mothers physical and emotional strength. This little one needs a strong mother.

First Hospital Day For A Special Girl

Posted on Tue, 04/26/2011 - 00:00 by Kristina Kayser

Getting to know Chrakhan is like discovering a beautiful treasure. Each day brings out new aspects of her lovely personality and tender spirit. Although she is only ten years old, Chrakhan has already assumed the role of "big sister" in the house, doting on the younger girls with genuine affection.

During her first visit to Wolfson Hospital today, she continued to reflect a maturity beyond her years as the hours passed. One reason for Chrakhan's remarkable maturity and grace may be that she has already endured previous attempts to diagnose and repair her critical condition called Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). She bears the evidence of these failed efforts with two large incisional scars on her chest and back.

TOF affects four distinct areas of Chrakhan's heart and has led to critically low oxygen levels in her blood, creating a bluish-gray tint to her skin and causing pronounced clubbing (enlarged/ rounded finger tips). She also tires easily, yet never complains when her fatigue requires her to stop and rest. Hope and desperation are mixed in her mother's eyes as she wonders if this journey to Israel will conclude with her daughter's first successful, and perhaps final, operation.

The morning at Wolfson began with a lengthy echocardiogram, during which Dr. Olivia remarked that additional cardiac imagery was necessary before proceeding to surgery. A cardiac catheterization will be necessary before full-on surgery. A catheterization is a semi-invasive procedure that involves a small tube (catheter) being inserted into her heart through an outlying artery or vein, providing graphic imagery which allow doctors to examine the blood flow and pumping functionality of her heart. This was not the news Chrakhan's mother wanted to hear as we moved on to completing additional pre-admission procedures (i.e. vitals, EKG, chest X-ray, lab work).

Calm smiles graced Chrakhan's face from one test to the next except when a blood sample was taken. Fearful and wincing cries were uttered as she shielded her eyes from seeing the sharp syringe poking her small hand. Her mother fully sympathized with her, tears streaming down her face while she attempted to console Chrakhan.

Once every procedure was completed, this brave girl was diverted in the company of a newly adopted baby doll. Her joyful smile reflected the relief of being released from tests and doctors, at least for now.

I trust that God is strengthening Chrakhan for each new challenge she faces, and in the process, allowing us to discover just how priceless a treasure this girl truly is.

A Concert for Chrakhan

Posted on Wed, 04/20/2011 - 00:00 by Jonathan Miles

Tonight Chrakhan and two other Iraqi girls were the guests of honor at a benefit concert held at the historic Christ Church, just inside the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City. Surely it was the first time in such a setting for this young woman from a rural village in the mountains of northern Iraq. But as you'll see in the video below, she was a perfect lady:

The lyrics to the final song "Hava Nagila" translate as follow:

Let's rejoice and be happy
Let's sing and be happy
Awake, awake brothers with a happy heart.

New Hope as Chrakhan Reaches Israel

Posted on Sun, 04/17/2011 - 00:00 by Jonathan Miles

Ten-year-old Chrakhan and her mother from northern Iraq crossed from Jordan into Israel today en route to her life-changing heart surgery.

Chrakhan has oxygen levels of only 60% of normal in her blood due to her heart defect (Tetralogy of Fallot), and is small and weak and very blue as a result.

But she handled today's long journey well, and even picked a daisy to admire during the wait at the Israeli border crossing terminal.

The player will show in this paragraph

On arrival at the Shevet Achim center in Jerusalem she was warmly greeted and settled in as she awaits her first visit to the hospital after the Passover holiday.