Dalya's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Rejoicing with Dalya's Family

Posted on Sun, 05/04/2014 - 23:19 by Agnes Bruna

Those of you who remember Dalya, will also remember that for her second surgery she came with her aunt, Habiba. During our visit to Kurdistan, we got to visit Habiba in her home in a small village. Jonathan, Jesse and I  were welcomed with the usual enthusiastic Kurdish hospitality, and introduced to her extensive family - five sons and their lovely wives.

But when we asked Habiba where Dalya was, it appeared she doesn't live near her aunt at all, but in a small town quite a distance away! It was great to catch up with Habiba and see how lovely and how much fun her family is, but the one we especially wanted to see was Dalya.

So when we visited someone near Dalya's town and had trouble contacting some of the families who live there, Jonathan managed to get in touch with Dalya's family who were very happy for us to visit and even stay the night in spite of the late hour. None of us had met Dalya's parents before so this was an amazing opportunity.

Dalya looks well and happy though she still has some fluid around her heart, but the doctor expects that to be cleared up within half a year of her return to Kurdistan. It just means she is still on some medication, and due to concern over infection cannot go to school until the new school year.

Spending a day and a half and two nights with her family made us understand why she was so homesick while in Israel. She has eight brothers and sisters who all live near each other and are very loving, fun and caring. The brother's family who live upstairs even vacated their apartment to give Jonathan and Jesse some private space to sleep.

On Friday they took us up into the mountains for a picnic and some Kurdish dancing.

It was great to relax after all the hard work and to be included in Dalya's family.

I was thankful to be reminded that God includes us unconditionally in His family. I also realised how important one day's rest is every week - God knows we need it so we can pause from our busy lives and refocus on Him.

A Rescued Life

Posted on Sun, 03/02/2014 - 21:42 by SV

It was a long journey for Dalya. She was here in Israel for almost three months, and during this time she and her aunt went through a lot of ups and downs. We shared many tears of both joy and sadness over the course of her lengthy and slow recovery. But after many months of waiting, Dalya was discharged and able to go back home. Happiness invaded the entire base, and we all celebrated with Dalya during her last days in Israel. Each one of us took part in her journey, and we collected many memories along the way.

Dalya’s story reminds me of the reason I'm here working with Shevet. The entire process of her surgery, the help Wolfson Medical Center and Shevet gave her, and the knowledge of the bright future ahead of her devoid of any fear of having an abnormal life all remind me of the change Shevet is bringing about in the lives of these children.

I recently came back from a humanitarian medical trip to India, and I saw the great need many children are in. They don’t receive help if organizations like Shevet don’t step out and answer the call of serving the needy, regardless of religion and race.

Dalya will grow as a beautiful young woman and will have a normal life thanks to the surgery she underwent here in Israel. She will finish school and continue to university and pursue her dream of being a doctor, as she mentioned many times while at Shevet. Goodby, Dalya. We wish you all the best in your journey of life!

Bo Kurdistan!

Posted on Thu, 02/27/2014 - 21:59 by Shannon Kelley

With a warm lunch, some beach towels, and big hopes in tow, we set out for Tel Aviv with Dalya and her aunt for what we hoped would be Dalya's final heart echo exam. Sara and her mother also joined us for the festivities! Before we reached the hospital, however, we had a few pitstops to make.

First on the agenda was a stop at Ikea for a piece of furniture needed by the Shevet community. Then we enjoyed a couple two-shekel ice cream cones from the food court.

After that it was off to the beach for some sun, waves, and a picnic lunch. 

The girls enjoyed wading in the sea, running along the beach, and splashing us with water! It must have been present in the back of Dalya's mind that this might be the last time she would travel to the Tel Aviv beach to play in its clear water and dance on its soft sand. She soaked it up, taking pictures with us to preserve memories as well as frolicking with Sara. After feasting on a delicious Kurdish dish, we shook off the Mediterranean sand and headed for Wolfson Hospital.

The doctors were ready for us immediately, and after a quick echo Dalya received great news: her discharge papers would be waiting for us downstairs because she is able to return to Kurdistan this weekend!

Walking out of the hospital to the van, we saw an airplane flying overhead. Dalya pointed at it, grinning, and said, “Bo Kurdistan!” This sentence translates to “to Kurdistan!” To Dalya and her aunt, however, it means much more. Soon Dalya will be reunited with her mother, father, and siblings, as well as with all of the familiarities accompanying being at home. Tonight was Dalya's going-away party, complete with cake, a photo slideshow, and gifts. These items represented only a small fraction of our endearment towards Dalya and her aunt and how dearly they will be missed.

Please join us as we celebrate the Lord's work in Dalya's life and praise Him for His faithfulness!

More Good News For Dalya

Posted on Thu, 02/20/2014 - 21:03 by Eilin Midtbo

We started out early for today’s hospital trip, leaving the Shevet base just past seven in the morning. The weather was already looking promising with blue skies and mild temperatures. With Sara joining us, we were traveling to bring Dalya in for another echo. Her echo this past Monday was good, so we were hoping for more positive news.

Since we arrived so early, Dalya was able to get in quickly for the echo. The exam didn’t take long, and when she came out, she had good news. Everything looks good, and if her health continues like this, she will be able to go back home soon. Her next, and possibly last, echo will be a week from today.

We had already planned for a trip to the beach in anticipated celebration of Dalya’s good news (and since the weather was so nice), so when we were done at the hospital, we headed toward the ocean. The weather was just perfect for a couple of hours at the beach. The sun was shining from a bright, blue sky and the ocean was sparkling like diamonds. The girl enjoyed their time together running along the water, splashing each other, and laughing a lot.

They explored the water's edge and the beach, talking and laughing all the time. Ruth became their main splashing target, and they managed to soak her with the help of Dalya's aunt.

In the end the towels we brought came to good use.

We spent time taking pictures by the water before we settled down on blankets to enjoy the picnic lunch we had brought with us.

Today was just a perfect day, and I am especially grateful for the opportunity we had to spend time with the girls and see their joy and friendship grow as they spent time together. Driving home, the girls were looking at all the pictures with more laughs and joy as they recalled the experiences of the day. They also took a short nap, a clear indication of their busy time. I hope Dalya’s new friendship with Sara, along with her healed heart, will always remind her of her time here and of the great gifts God has given her. Our hope and prayer is for Dalya to experience God’s peace as she enjoys her last days here at Shevet Achim.

Hope Shines Through For Dalya

Posted on Mon, 02/17/2014 - 22:35 by Kristina Kayser

One week has passed since Dayla was last at Wolfson Hospital for an echo appointment. That exam resulted in hot tears of disappointment as Dr. Alona informed us that, although the fluid around Dalya's heart was receding, three more weeks of treatment in Israel were expected. It was difficult to comfort this homesick young lady and her aunt, who were desperate for good news. Nevertheless, this charming duo has found fresh strength in recent days, and it's been a pleasure to walk through this journey day by day with them.

As we set out for Wolfson this morning, I couldn't help but recognize a night and day contrast between last week's excursion to today's. First of all, Dalya was not alone in her venture. Just last night another teenage Kurdish girl, Sara, arrived in time to accompany Dalya to the hospital.

Although the two of them had barely met, they became friends quickly, laughing and chatting all the way to Tel Aviv. Truly God knows and cares for all of our needs, and friendship is one of His greatest gifts. 

Dalya was a bit nervous, yet brave when called in for her echo. I imagine her heart was racing with anticipation to hear the results. The biggest question for both her and her aunt was whether or not any unwanted fluid (pericardial effusion) was still lingering around Dalya's heart. After several silent, intense minutes, a prognosis was made.

Drumroll please...

For the first time since her surgery, there is no trace of unwanted cardiac fluid! Dalya and her aunt were smiling from ear to ear and quietly whispered, "Spas bo Xua!" ("Thanks to God!"). Inside, I think, they were shouting at the top of their lungs. The next piece of good news came when Dr. Alona confirmed that, if positive results continued, Dalya could be discharged a week from this Thursday after three more echoes. More exclamations of celebration and relief ensued. 

In conclusion, the road home was a happy one.

Dalya and Sara giggled over pictures from the day, and joy was tangible. As we ascended towards Jerusalem, bright sunlight burst through looming thunderclouds.

What a fitting picture for Dalya of hope shining through despair. May she continue to see evidence of God’s grace in her life again and again. 

A Time For Patience

Posted on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 18:19 by Eilin Midtbo

Today we drove to Wolfson hospital for another follow-up echo for Dalya. We did not really know what to expect, as her medication had been increased last time she was there, but we hoped for good news. We had to wait quite a bit before the medical staff was ready to do her echo, but Dalya kept her spirits up by playing tricks on Kristina and fixing her hair.

We also had our friend Suliman take several pictures of us during our waiting time.

When Dalya finally had her echo exam, the results were mixed. The good news is the fluids around her heart have lowered since her last echo. The bad news is she will continue on the same dosage of her medication for another week. This means she most likely will not be able to return home for another three weeks. The news was not what any of us wanted to hear, and it brought tears to Dalya's eyes.

We decided to have a quick lunch outside before heading back to Jerusalem. This gave us an opportunity to process the news. Both Dalya and her aunt went through many rounds of frustration and sadness both during lunch and the drive back, but by the time we walked through the door at Shevet Achim, they were both laughing.

Please pray for Dalya to experience God’s peace during this waiting time and for God's healing hand to continue to work in her.

One Step Closer to Saying Good Bye

Posted on Mon, 02/03/2014 - 23:44 by SV

Emotions were running high inside our van as we drove to Wolfson Medical Center this morning for follow-up echoes for most of the Shevet children. Today was a decisive day for many of them, as we were expecting to hear from the doctors that they could finally go home. Dalya, unfortunately, was not one of these children. After her echo, the doctors told us she needs to return to the hospital for two more echoes. We explained this to Dalya, letting her know of her echo this coming Thursday and her final exam next Monday. If everything goes well, she will be flying home soon.

After the hospital visit, we took Dalya and her aunt along with the other children to the beach, which is close to Wolfson. We were all excited about our visit, especially since this was the first time Dalya and her aunt were going to see the ocean. Smiles wouldn't stop as Dalya approached the beach and touched the water with her feet.

Even though Dalya didn’t receive the discharge news she was hoping for, she was still able to enjoy the beach and have a good time. Dalya is very close to saying good bye to Shevet Achim, and we are happy to know she will have a long lasting life, thanks to the doctors of Wolfson Medical Center and the Lord.

Encouraging Smiles

Posted on Thu, 01/30/2014 - 18:27 by Gabriela Powell

It was a beautiful experience as a family member only visiting Shevet Achim for two weeks to have the opportunity to visit the hospital with Dalya and her aunt. Dalya is an incredibly strong woman for her young age, radiating a true joy to those around her. Watching her courage and perseverance after being away from her family for so long gives me great encouragement. 

Dalya and her aunt knew exactly where to go and what to do when they entered the hospital. They waited in eager expectation of her results as the thought of home brought smiles to both their faces. After the check-up, Dalya was told the good news that only a little fluid is left around her heart. These results mean her intake of medicinal steroids has been reduced and one of her medications discontinued. This is good news showing her improvement, but a bit discouraging for Dalya and her aunt as it means at least three more check-ups for Dalya.

With an obvious familiarity with the doctors, Dalya tried her best to convince them two more check-ups would be enough, but she was unsuccessful. Dalya and her aunt can definitely use some extra voices petitioning to God on their behalf. They do their best to push on and be patient, but they need more of God's strength. Both Dalya and her aunt greatly encouraged me on their way back to Shevet as they once again put on their beautiful smiles and their voices rang with laughter in an attempt to make the best of their day.

Step by Step Towards Home

Posted on Mon, 01/27/2014 - 22:11 by Ruth Zellweger

Waiting has been a big part of Dalya’s time in Israel. First she eagerly anticipated her open heart surgery, which was then postponed several times. After that she spent time waiting to return to Jerusalem to stay at the Shevet base during her recovery. And now she waits for the day she will be cleared to return to her family in northern Iraq. Each follow-up echo brings her one step closer to that goal. 

All four of our children who had open heart surgery at Wolfson Hospital were part of the big group heading out for follow-up echoes today. When we arrived at the hospital Dalya felt a little nauseous from the car ride, but she soon recovered.

We had to wait for an hour and a half until it was her turn for an echo. She lay completely still while the cardiologist thoroughly examined her heart, and after the examination was done, we discussed the results with Dr. Alona. Dalya’s heart is healing well, we discovered. The pericardial effusion is about the same as it was before, and the doctors feel confident enough to reduce the steroid medication Dalya is on.

During our discussion, Dalya took the opportunity to ask the question that burns in her heart the most: "How many more echoes until I can return home?" Dr. Alona thought for a moment and then said, "Maybe three." This brought a big smile to Dalya and her aunt’s faces, as it means there is a chance they could travel by the end of next week. 

Our car ride back to Jerusalem was a joyful one. May the next three hospital visits also hold good news. Thank you for praying with us for continued patience and peace for this precious teenager and her wonderful aunt.

Patient Trust

Posted on Thu, 01/23/2014 - 18:38 by Shannon Kelley

Dalya and her aunt aren't strangers to the Wolfson Medical Center. As a newer volunteer here at Shevet, the twists and turns of the multi-building hospital seem like a maze to me, but Dalya and her aunt reassured me with a few Kurdish words, as well as their smiles, that they could successfully navigate to the children's ward and the echo department, as proved by our visit today to the hospital for one of Dalya’s follow-up heart echoes.

She and her aunt both know the results of this and any subsequent echoes indicate how quickly they will be able to return home to Kurdistan. After printing images and recording the results, the doctors informed us the echo looked great and the fluid around Dalya's heart was still decreasing. Dalya's medication, however, is to be continued as prescribed.

Even though these are positive results and good indicators of Dalya’s continued healing, they push back Dalya and her aunt's return home. The dosages of some of Dalya’s medication must be incrementally reduced over a span of a couple weeks. This means, even though her echo exam went well, she is not yet ready to completely come off of her medication, which translates to more time spent at Wolfson. For at least the next two weeks, Dalya and her aunt will continue to wait for the day they will finally reunite with their family in Kurdistan.

In Isaiah, the Lord says, “Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?” (Isaiah 45:11). Instead of questioning the Lord, we must continue to trust in His timing for Dalya's healing and know He has the best in mind for His children. We pray for Dalya and her aunt, asking God to give them peace that surpasses understanding during this trying time and encouraging results from Dalya’s next echo on Monday.