Dawod's Heart Surgery

Northern Iraq

A Joyful Return

Posted on Thu, 06/05/2014 - 21:56 by Ruth Zellweger

Today was a special day for me. I was able to see all the children I knew from before my five-week-long vacation, one of whom was sweet Dawod. Liliane and I arrived early in the morning at the hospital and met Dawod’s mother in little Dyako’s room. She told us Dawod was still asleep. After a while, however, I peeked into his room and found him awake. It was wonderful to see him again after so many weeks. He was as joyful and happy as I remembered him being before my vacation. We spent some time catching up with what had happened over the past few weeks. Then we waited for the doctors to finish their rounds in order to find out whether or not today was the day to return to Jerusalem.

Around lunchtime it was confirmed Dawod and his mother would be returning to the Shevet base. We were all happy about this good news and rejoiced with Dawod and his mother, who were planning on buying a box of chocolates to celebrate with their friends upon returning to Shevet. But before we were able to leave the hospital, a large group of medical students entered Dawod’s room. One by one they assessed him, listening to his heart and lungs. Dawod handled this well.

On our way home, Dawod and his mother fell asleep and only woke up a few minutes before our arrival in Jerusalem. At Shevet they greeted the other families and the staff, and Dawod happily offered chocolates to everyone around. His smile and happy attitude are infectious, and we are glad to have him back with us. 

Today we were not able to get any update on how the doctors want to proceed with Dawod’s treatment. There is the possibility of another catheterization to open up the pulmonary artery, but nothing has been confirmed yet. We continue to trust God for His right timing in Dawod’s life. And in the meantime, we enjoy his presence in our community all the more. 

Improving By Leaps and Bounds

Posted on Sun, 06/01/2014 - 22:38 by Kristina Kayser

Last week, I had the privilege of being with Dawod and his mother during his big surgery day—a day that went remarkably well and concluded with Dawod in stable condition in the ICU. I rejoiced each day to hear nothing but good reports coming from those who visited him as well as from conversations with Dawod over the phone. I was really looking forward, therefore, to seeing his progress first-hand this afternoon. His cheerful presence is missed in our home, and I was hoping to get a taste of his joy once more during my visit.

I arrived in the secondary ICU to find Dawod resting in bed. His eyes were closed, but opened wide in an instant as I approached. He shouted, "Kristina!" and promptly sat up in bed and began to converse with me in his typical charismatic style. He laughed and smiled as I shared all the latest news, especially new information about our dog Shevy. Minutes later, his mother entered the room with a hot plate of food for her son.

She was equally bright and full of gladness. I loved seeing the light in her eyes as she proudly spoke of her son's good health. 

Dawod is not on oxygen or IV medications at this point. He has also been up and walking the halls with minimal discomfort. And much to his mother's delight, his appetite is getting better by the day. The doctors say Dawod's heart is doing well, and the only reason he is still in secondary ICU is because there is no bed space in the children's department.

His echo from this morning gave good results and enough evidence to point Dawod towards a catheterization in a few weeks’ time. He still has some pulmonary stenosis (narrowing of the pulmonary artery) which may need correction via a cath. As for any additional surgeries, they still must be discussed with the cardiology team before any further steps are taken. 

I am so happy for my friend and thankful for the beautiful healing from the Lord he is experiencing. It won't be long before he is back in our midst, filling our home with his joyful presence once again!

A Beautiful Child

Posted on Thu, 05/29/2014 - 15:08 by Benaiah

Rahel and I had the privilege today to visit Dawod in Wolfson Hospital as he continues to recover several days after his surgery. I’m not a normal participant in our staff’s regular hospital runs, but I journeyed today to show support to my young friend as he undergoes this long healing process. For some reason, Dawod has chosen to actively pursue my friendship during his stay at Shevet, and though he is a friend to all our staff members, I like to think he and I have a special connection.

We arrived at the hospital early in the morning and found Dawod still in Wolfson’s ICU, his mother standing close by while a doctor asked them questions and filled out paperwork. His mother greeted us happily, but Dawod was subdued and quiet.

We talked for a bit, but I could see Dawod’s normally irrepressible spirits were low. Although he said he is in no pain, he appeared uncomfortable at times and unenergetic. 

Within a few minutes of our arrival, we helped wheel Dawod into the Intermediate ICU, where he will likely be staying over the next few days. Several medical staff were in the Intermediate ICU when we arrived, working on another child stationed across from Dawod’s bed. One of them turned, saw Rahel and me approaching with the mother, and quickly shooed us out of the room to wait, probably to keep us from disturbing whatever procedure was happening with the child.

A doctor soon came into the room to perform an echo on Dawod, and we moved outside into the children’s play area to sit and wait for Dawod to be available again. This was an excellent chance to speak with the mother, and Rahel and I were able to engage in some light conversation using our limited language skills. In contrast to Dawod’s lack of energy, Dawod’s mother is in great spirits. She was laughing, smiling, and happily chatting with us during our entire visit and seemed comfortable with the idea of staying at the hospital during Dawod’s recovery time. This mother’s ease is something to praise God for, as she could easily be in low spirits during her draining experience of living in a hospital and watching over her son.  

After a brief waiting time, we were able to re-enter Dawod’s room and provide him with company before we left. The medical staff observing Dawod assured us he is doing well, and I believe he is pulling through with strength and courage. Even with his subdued mood today, he still managed to give me eyebrow winks, stick out his tongue at me, and engage with me in some of the banter we normally have back on base at Shevet.

I trust the Lord will continue the healing process He has begun in Dawod. Over the short time I’ve known him, I’ve seen Dawod’s carefree, cocky attitude he likes to project, but I’ve also glimpsed the tender sweetness of his character and his desire to reach out in friendship and love to those around him. I believe this is a special child and God has great plans for him. Please join us in lifting Dawod up in prayer as he continues to heal. He is a beautiful child, and I know God desires him to be made whole.

Two Great Blessings

Posted on Tue, 05/27/2014 - 21:09 by Sarah Powell

It's hard for me to visit any of our children their first day post-op, but it was especially difficult to visit Dawod today. The first day after surgery, children always look so exhausted, and their eyes reflect the difficult and sometimes traumatic experience they’ve been through. Dawod is typically so lively all the time, which made seeing his condition today even more difficult. The look in his eyes made it seem as if he had aged ten years. Yet the same irrepressible personality which made Dawod's somberness today stand out so starkly gives him the strength to smile. It is only his first day after surgery, and he is already extubated, talking quietly, smiling, and even giving gentle high-fives. 

While I was with Dawod and his mother, his mother asked us if we knew yet whether or not Dawod would be getting a second surgery at a later date (not all of his defects were repaired in this surgery). Later as I sat outside the ICU while Jesse went in to say hello to Dawod, I found myself praying Dawod would not have to go through another surgery. Then I caught myself. Why wouldn't I want his heart to be completely repaired if it could be? I realized because I hated seeing the pain Dawod had to go through to have surgery, I felt it would be better if he didn't have to undergo another operation. But then I thought about his mother. I know she hates seeing the pain Dawod has to go through a thousand times more than I ever could. Yet she traveled to a completely different country and trusted complete strangers in order to give her son the opportunity to have this surgery, even when it wasn't certain he really could be helped at all. Which of us was showing the greater (or wiser) love? I, who simply wanted to keep Dawod from immediate pain, or his mother, who is willing to stand with her son through his pain knowing in the end it will be better for him? 

Thinking it all over, I realized two things. First off, I had been praying for the wrong thing. If it is possible for Dawod to have a completely renewed heart if he undergoes another surgery later, I should be asking God would give him and his mother strength to go through another surgery, not asking for God to prevent the surgery simply because it would be difficult and painful for Dawod.

Secondly, Dawod's mother's choice (a choice which all of these children's mothers make) to stand with her son through a difficult and painful surgery and recovery process in order to give him a better life shows she has a heart very close to our heavenly Father's heart. He often allows us to go through difficult experiences, even though it hurts Him to put us through them, simply because He knows in the end it will be for our good. And just like these mothers standing by their children, He faithfully stands with us as we go through difficult times. So today I am thankful for two great blessings: Dawod is healing and growing stronger by the minute and each of us can confidently trust our heavenly Father, who has our ultimate good in mind and will be with us through all of life's seasons.

A Heart Full of Love

Posted on Mon, 05/26/2014 - 22:32 by Kristina Kayser

Before I came to Shevet, I didn't appreciate the beautiful, intricate design and workings of the heart the way I do now. God fashioned the heart as the life-giving, life-sustaining organ which serves the rest of the body unceasingly. What a powerful picture of love. And when I think about Dawod, I see a heart full of love and care for others. He is forever seeking the fellowship of friends and willing to help at a moment's notice. It was this generous heart that underwent repair in the operating room today, and it was this heart we all prayed would come through the surgery better than before. 

I arrived at Wolfson early this morning to find Dawod and his mother waiting in a pre-op room, dressed in hospital attire.

Both seemed relieved to see a familiar face and immediately asked after everyone at the Shevet house. Dawod was being brave and laughed when I told him our dog Shevy really wanted to be with him today but the doctors wouldn't allow her in the operating room.

Several nurses came to check on him and kindly offered words of encouragement. We prayed together for God's hands to guide the doctors just before the transport team came and whisked him away. It happened so suddenly I was concerned his mother didn't have time to properly say goodbye. She, however, assured me she was fine and calmly followed me upstairs. 

Unsure of the length of Dawod's surgery, we prepared ourselves for a long wait and found a lovely spot to sit outside. The spring breezes, colorful blossoms, and shady trees provided a peaceful backdrop. Some mothers are anxious and restless on surgery days, but not Dawod's mother. She showed remarkable ease and strength throughout the day, letting tears fall on only a couple occasions. This woman has been waiting a long time to see her son's heart restored. Their journey to Israel was one of faith, as it wasn't even certain when they left Kurdistan whether or not Dawod's heart would be operable. We praised God for the gift of seeing Him provide a way to heal Dawod. 

Jesse arrived later with Dyako and his mother for an echo, and their company was most welcome. Dawod's mother loves Dyako and is often seen cradling him in her arms and caring for him while his mother rests. Friends bring comfort and fresh strength, both of which are needed on days like these.

As the afternoon stretched on, I could see the wait was wearing on Dawod's mother. Concern could not be hidden in her eyes. Nearly six hours passed before our group finally saw Dawod's gurney being wheeled into the ICU.

We all praised God together that the surgery was over! Relief was instant for Dawod's mother, who agreed to eat some lunch after fasting all day. It was a rich time together, eating under a tree, talking about life, and laughing at Dyako's sweet baby ways. 

Afterwards, Dawod's mother and I waited to go inside the ICU. Two more hours passed until permission was granted, but the reward for the long wait was precious. Dawod looked so well, and he was resting in stable condition.

Chief surgeon Dr. Sasson came to tell us a complicated (due to a significant mechanical defect and narrowing) repair was made of Dawod's mitral valve. It took a long time to make this valve function properly, but Dr. Sasson's efforts succeeded. A band was also placed on the pulmonary artery to prevent his heart from being overloaded with increased blood flow. Several weeks must pass before the doctors will know if a second operation is possible to repair Dawod's two remaining heart defects and whether or not it would be beneficial. Nevertheless, for now Dawod's body is tolerating this first surgery well. 

This young man has come so far and received so much grace from God's hand. Step by step, the healing which once seemed impossible is now becoming a reality. May we never cease to trust the Lord with whom all things are possible. Please rejoice with us in Dawod's triumphant heart surgery and give God all the glory!

A Brave Heart Approaching Surgery

Posted on Sun, 05/25/2014 - 23:14 by Rahel Eschler

The first medical intervention in Dawod’s heart took place a few weeks ago via a catheterization. The following time of waiting for his first surgery has been filled with joy but also with struggles. Dawod grew through this time even closer to our hearts, as he loves to be around our community as much as possible. He’s a whirlwind of cheerfulness throughout our whole house.

Today I had the honor to admit Dawod to Wolfson Hospital in preparation for his first surgery tomorrow. This morning I found him in the front yard, sitting in a chair and looking troubled. After trying hard to be brave and convince me everything was alright, he confessed he was actually afraid of the upcoming surgery. I took his hand and assured him we know an almighty God, and He is our best doctor, as He designed our hearts and gave us life. A shy smile flitted across Dawod's face.

Once at the hospital we met Philip, one of our volunteers and a good friend of Dawod able to chat with him in Arabic.

It seemed Dawod took full advantage of his last hours before surgery. Yesterday he enjoyed the park with little Masa and me as he used all his limited energy for jumping and splashing around in the waters of the small streams.

And today at the hospital he wisely used the waiting time in between medical assessments by proving his skills in climbing trees, gold mining on the computer, and playing soccer with soldiers.

As you can see, Dawod is a smart and skilled boy and also sensitive at heart. During the insertion of the IV line by the nurse at the children’s ward, he tried hard to be a big boy, fighting back his tears.

But his smile came back soon as one of the doctors teased him.

Then the time came to say good bye to our dear friend. It was wonderful to witness how this young boy could lay aside his worries and how he made the best out of his time at the hospital. I can’t wait to see this precious boy with a fully-repaired heart having full strength for the first time in his life. But before that day arrives there are still several steps to take and hurdles to overcome. But as we know from King David, we can leap over even a wall with our God. I ask you to pray with us for comfort, peace, and a brave heart for Dawod and blessed hands for the surgeons.

Many Nations Shall Come

Posted on Mon, 05/12/2014 - 01:23 by Jonathan Miles

As I walked along Jaffa Road this week at the height of Israel's Independence Day celebrations, I realized that the sight of Dawod from Iraq and Hussein from Syria in the midst of the revelry was a picture (and a video) worth a thousand words:

Joyfully Approaching Surgery

Posted on Thu, 05/08/2014 - 20:12 by Benaiah

Philip, Rahel, and I traveled to Wolfson Hospital today to bring Dawod and his mother in for a follow-up echo after Dawod’s catheterization last week. The weather was dreary, with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv receiving unexpected rain showers lasting all day, but Dawod was in high spirits. No storm clouds could dampen his sunny disposition as he climbed eagerly into the van while we prepared for departure. He acted as if our visit to the hospital was the most normal thing in the world, simply another part of life to enjoy.

This joyful attitude lasted throughout our entire hospital trip. Dawod was calm during the car trip to the hospital and back again, but while we traversed the hospital halls and waiting rooms he chatted away to Philip and I the whole time. Jokes were made, games were played, and hugs were given. Leading the way through the hallways, Dawod was relaxed and at home, and he shared his happiness with everyone around him. Honestly, his optimistic outlook and energy are contagious.

Dawod’s echo was short but encouraging. After a few technical misfires in the beginning, the scan was successful. The echo revealed his catheterization last week is holding up well, and Dr. Alona confirmed Dawod is ready to go into the first of two surgeries to repair his heart. This first surgery, however, will not take place for another two weeks, due to the operating surgeon attending a conference next week.

Dawod’s mother was slightly discouraged upon hearing of the two-week delay, but she kept a positive face and maintained her good cheer. Like her son, she’s open, friendly, and big on smiles. I can see where Dawod inherited his good spirits from.

Please join us in lifting this big-hearted boy and his mother up in prayer over the next few weeks. They will need patience, trust, and hope as they face this lengthy surgical and healing process. 

Back On Base

Posted on Thu, 05/01/2014 - 22:29 by Philip Rasmussen

After a successful catheterization yesterday and a positive recovery today, Dawod has been released from the hospital. He met us this afternoon dressed up and eager to return to the Shevet base. Medically-speaking, he is discharged without any pain or complications, and his main focus now is to adjust to the new physical changes made yesterday. Because of his complex heart defect, Dawod is in need of several more interventions on his journey towards being healed. Each step will shape his heart better, and the doctors will attentively watch how his body adapts to each enhancement and carefully step forward when he is ready.

Dawod may possibly have his second operation next week, which is a good sign of God’s healing hand in his life. We are rejoicing with him, and we are also happy to see him back in our house again, as he continually enriches all of us with his humorous, well-behaved, and loving nature.

Dawod's Daring Heart Repair Begins

Posted on Wed, 04/30/2014 - 23:00 by Kristina Kayser

Before Dawod even set foot in Israel, his story long preceded him. Our whole community had been informed we were expecting a young man whose heart condition was possibly inoperable. The cardiology team at Wolfson, nevertheless, reviewed his case and invited Dawod to their center to assess his heart first hand. Their conclusion was his repair would be risky and require several stages but it was possible. This was reason enough for great rejoicing in our home. We looked to the Lord for the next steps in Dawod's life. 

Fast forward now one month since this joyful boy arrived. Today marked the beginning of his heart treatment with an interventional cardiac catheterization. The last catheterization Dawod underwent a couple weeks ago was purely diagnostic. This time, however, doctors planned to repair the first of four defects without even opening his chest. This innovative approach requires the use of very fine tools and computer imaging through a small catheter threaded into Dawod's heart. 

When Philip and I arrived at the hospital, our friend's bed was empty. Had we missed him? Was he already in the catheterization lab? Thankfully, we found him soon thereafter, happily working on puzzles in an activity room.

Dawod greeted us cheerfully and appeared happy to see familiar faces. His only complaint was a grumbling stomach, the result of compulsory fasting prior to the catheterization. At twelve-thirty, Dawod was transferred to the catheterization lab. I admired his courage and also observed how he drew strength and comfort from those gathered around him. At one point, he took Philip's hand in his and held tight.

Even just before anesthesia was administered, Dawod was still giving high fives to the nurses in the exam room. His joy is truly contagious!

The afternoon stretched on, but Dawod's mother remained calm and strong throughout the two-and-a-half hours of waiting time. As a mother of thirteen children, I imagine she has had her share of challenges. It can also be said, however, that she delights in being a parent and still has much love to give away. After spending some time in the courtyard with several other women, including Dyako's mother, we headed towards the waiting area outside the catheterization lab.

Dr. Tamir appeared around three pm to say all had gone well and two defects were repaired. Dawod's narrow aortic vessel was widened and a small hole called a PDA (patent ductus arteriosis) was closed. Time is now needed to allow his body to adjust to the changes made before the doctors continue on to the next stage of his treatment. We praised God together for the safe and smooth completion of the catheterization. Once Dawod was transferred back to his original room, I was thankful to observe his easy transition out of anesthesia.

His mother faithfully watched over him, looking for every way to keep her son comfortable. Just before leaving, our friend became fully awake again and was in good spirits.

Please pray for Dawod in the coming days as he heals and prepares for two open heart surgeries. Our God has been faithful to sustain him his whole life, and I believe He'll continue to do just that.