Dawod's Heart Surgery

Northern Iraq

Admitted for Catheterization

Posted on Tue, 04/29/2014 - 23:12 by Violet McCombe

Dawod and his mother traveled with Rachelle and I after lunch to Wolfson Hospital on this beautiful afternoon. As usual, he was smiling broadly during his noisy send-off from Shevet. His capable, unflappable mother, however, no doubt had a slightly different outlook as Dawod was checked in to the ward to prepare for his cardiac catheterization on the morrow. This is his second catheterization and is likely to be partly operative as well as explorative. 

As we spent time with mother and son, we were joined by Dyako and his mother. It was good to share some time together. No specific time was given for Dawod’s procedure tomorrow, but it will most likely be in the morning. We all have grown to love Dawod and his mother, and it is our prayer that the surgeons will succeed both tomorrow and in upcoming surgeries to bring about a very successful outcome for him.

May those who read this blog hold him up before the Lord who is Savior and Healer.

A Gracious Young Man

Posted on Tue, 04/22/2014 - 21:37 by Ruth Zellweger

On our way to Tel Aviv early this morning, we witnessed a beautiful sunrise, which stayed with me throughout the day. The main reason for our early departure was Dawod’s scheduled surgery. When we arrived at the hospital, everything was still quiet. The nurses had just started their morning shift, and Dawod was still asleep as his mother met us in the corridor. She was thankful for our support.

I checked with the nurses to confirm Dawod was still first on the surgery schedule. He was, and I went to his room to check on him. After a while he woke up, the same charming and cheerful young man he always is. Even though he was hungry and thirsty from his pre-surgery fasting, he didn’t complain. Instead he refilled his mother’s water bottle and handed her a piece of pita. They have such an open and loving relationship.

Around 9:30 AM, a nurse came into Dawod’s room and told him his surgery was canceled and he was allowed to eat now. She did not have much more information to offer at this point, and I hoped to soon find out more. In the meantime, Dawod and his mother adjusted to these new circumstances quite well. They had lunch in the cafeteria, and Dawod spent time in the company of other children at the hospital.

A little bit later I was able to talk with the doctors about how they wanted to proceed with Dawod. They had discussed his case in the morning and had come to the conclusion that they wanted to do a catheterization instead of a surgery to repair his aortic coarctation (an abnormal narrowing of the aorta). The hope was to do this tomorrow, but because of their already-full schedule it is not possible, so Dawod was discharged to Jerusalem. He and his mother accepted this news well, even with the knowledge that their stay in Israel has been extended with this delay. I am so impressed by this lovely mother and son.

Back at the Shevet house, Dawod was all over the place, greeting every volunteer with a big smile. We pray he and his mother retain their positive attitudes and that in God’s perfect timing Dawod’s heart will be healed. 

Who Can Be Against Us?

Posted on Sun, 04/20/2014 - 10:45 by Jonathan Miles

At our Resurrection Day picnic today came word that Dawod should come to the hospital for admission in advance of his surgery Tuesday morning.

The brave little gentleman beamed with joy, rattled off details of what would be done in this the first of his three planned surgeries, and then ran off to play football as if he hadn't a care in the world:

By 4 pm Dawod was leading us into the hospital:

We thank God that Dawod's confidence is not misplaced, for "if God is for us, who can be against us?"

Moving Closer to Surgery

Posted on Sun, 04/13/2014 - 23:55 by Miriam Svensson

Today Dawod had an appointment at Wolfson Hospital for another pulmonary test to determine whether or not his lung capacity has improved after his inhalations over the last few days. Ruth and I brought him and his mother to the department for the examination this morning, and he was cheerful and joking around as usual.

When it was his turn, he sat down in the strange-looking machine and performed the test as instructed, exhaling as hard as he could into the mouthpiece. He was then given an inhalation, and after twenty minutes he did another test.

We then had to wait a while before coming in to the doctor's office. She was nice and friendly towards Dawod. We were told Dawod's lung capacity is a little better after taking the medication, but she wants him to continue inhalations and then do another test before surgery. The doctor then proceeded to show Dawod how to use an inhaler and gave him a special one without medicine for practicing inhalations.

Thank you for praying with us for this sweet boy. Every step takes him further towards his operations.

What a Day!

Posted on Thu, 04/10/2014 - 23:00 by Aaron Meyer

We were blessed with a glorious drive to Wolfson this morning with little traffic and the sun shining brightly. The walk from the parking lot to the children's ward took me past a plethora of newly-blossomed flowers filling the air with sweet fragrances. As I walked through their aroma, I knew today would be a great and blessed day!

Dawod had his heart echo before we arrived, and the doctor met with us to discuss the results once we reached the hospital. He informed us Dawod still has many complications, including a large VSD (hole in the heart), deformed valves, an abnormal narrowing of some blood vessels, pulmonary hypertension, and a recently discovered PDA (an unwanted, open connection between the aorta and pulmonary artery). The doctor said they hope to perform a total of three operations to correct these abnormalities. They also told us the operations are extremely risky. The first two surgeries can be completed within a day or two of each other, but the third will have to wait until they observe how his body reacts to the first two operations.

As the doctor emphasized the seriousness of these surgeries, I could not help but remember the power of our Father. When things seem bleak in the eyes of man, God's grace and healing shine their brightest. Paul reminds us in the book of Timothy that "God remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is." May we remember our God is The Healer.

I eventually made my way to Dawod's room, where I found him lying in his bed with a doctor giving him a quick check-up. He didn't fuss or give anyone problems, and I kept thinking to myself how amazing a young boy he is. Once the doctor left, Dawod sat up and locked eyes with me. The moment was so beautiful, because as soon as our gaze met his face lit up and his smile brightened up the entire room! He said "Oh Ben!” which is becoming a common exclamation whenever he sees Ben or me. It seems as though all of our children have the ability to make even the saddest of hearts burst with joy.

I then led Dawod and his mother around the hospital in an attempt to find the area for his lung examination, but as this was my first unassisted trip through the hospital corridors, we quickly found ourselves waiting in the wrong lobby on two separate occasions. Usually this would be a frustrating experience, but what is life without a little adventure? So our wanderings became our own adventure through the twists and turns of Wolfson's halls. From time to time, Dawod would show a small limp in his right step, but through it all he showed tremendous strength for someone of his small stature. I am so proud of our little Dawod for fighting this battle and still keeping his contagious joy. 

While we were waiting in the wrong lobby, I called Ben so Dawod could speak with him. When I handed Dawod the phone, he placed the microphone near his eye and again exclaimed, "Oh Ben!" As the expression goes, it's the small things in life.

Finally we made it to the right examination room, where Dawod underwent a short examination of his lung capacity. He sat in the chamber his mother said looked like a small car and exhaled as much as he could. 

After the testing, the specialist informed us Dawod will need to have four inhalations (similar to what asthma patients use) every day in order to try expanding his lung capacity.

Once we finished speaking with the specialist, we were off to the children' ward to gather Dawod’s belongings and finish up the discharge process. Soon we were on the way home together. This Sunday, we will be taking Dawod back to Wolfson for a follow-up examination on his lungs to see if any progress has been made.

Also, we took Dawod to the park a couple days ago, and he blessed us with his debut performance of song. I hope you enjoy the captured moment below!

A Calm Catheterization

Posted on Wed, 04/09/2014 - 20:22 by Philip Rasmussen

We received the news last night Dawod would be the first in line to have his catheterization procedure today. Armed with this knowledge, Ruth and I headed out of a golden, sun-bathed Jerusalem this morning to be with Dawod and his mother when they were taken to the catheterization department.

We found them in the hallway when we arrived, ready for their first big step of treatment. Upon checking to make sure Dawod had kept his fast since last night, we soon started joking about how he was not hungry at all and how it was my stomach making sounds, though I had just eaten one-and-a-half hours earlier. I said I was so hungry I could eat him right away, and then I started to put my teeth towards his arm. Laughing out loud, he made sure to tell me he was nothing but skin and bones.

Even though this was an enjoyable moment, I was again reminded what a difference it makes to have been born with a heart defect, not only physically but also psychologically. I can’t imagine how many times Dawod has felt different from other boys his age in various social settings. Nevertheless he seems to have great confidence and a huge appetite for life. He has a wonderful, open personality and thrives upon interacting with other people. This is so pleasant to see!

A little while after we arrived, Dawod was rolled up to a waiting room where he was asked several health questions and informed about his upcoming procedure. We also had time for a short photo session.

Dawod’s mother then followed him into the operation room to be with him until the anesthesia started working. She was calm as she exited the room again, and we found some nearby seats to rest and wait. This was a good time of waiting, with occasional periods of silence and reflection and also times of chatting and asking about family, Kurdistan, and faith. Dawod’s mother had recently been in a conversation with an Arab-speaking man who said there is no God. She listed several reasons why such a thing is nonsense, and we were glad to agree with her.

Dawod’s catheterization took longer than expected, and after two-and-a-half hours a doctor came out to talk to us. Today’s operation took place in order to explore Dawod’s heart and if possible widen his aorta with a stent placement. It was a great procedure to get a better understanding of Dawod’s complicated heart, and the medical staff had made a new discovery along the way. They found out Dawod is also suffering from a PDA (an unwanted, open connection between the aorta and the pulmonary artery). After discovering this new complication, the cardiologists decided it is necessary to close the PDA by surgical intervention before placing the stent, which puts Dawod's aorta-widening on hold. His mother received this news with a calm spirit and somehow didn’t seem surprised by the new discovery. She told me she had heard talk about this before when Dawod had a catheterization in Kurdistan years ago.

We were able to find comfort in the thoroughness of the doctors, though Dawod’s journey towards healing is now prolonged with an extra step. His mother was waved in shortly after the catheterization was over to catch a glimpse of her son sleeping. Later we escorted a still-sleeping Dawod to the children’s ward, where he soon woke up with a clear understanding of what was taking place.

Progress For Dawod

Posted on Wed, 04/09/2014 - 00:51 by Jesse Tilman

Dawod was up to his usual capers as we spent a few hours with him this morning in Wolfson Hospital. On his plate today was getting the typical battery of check-ups in the children’s ward and then heading on to some more involved screenings in specialty departments on the other side of the hospital.

First we went to the Ear, Nose, and Throat Branch, where Dawod found a new friend in the Arab assistant who talked him through the Israeli doctor’s process. They told us they were making sure he would be an acceptable candidate for surgery by seeing how robust his health is. He smiled and did well, only pulling away when they probed his nose.

Next was some waiting back at the children’s ward and getting situated in a room for the night.

We met his roommates (from Tanzania!) and ate some bread from our neighbor Rozhgar and her mother.

Then we were sent out to visit the pulmonary department to get a consultation on Dawod’s respiratory health and ability. Dawod breathed into a machine measuring his lung volume and strength. He got to sit in a windowed, plastic apparatus he said looked like a small car to him as he mouthed engine sounds.

The presiding doctor met with Dr. Tamir and discussed the possibility of a future surgery for Dawod. Dawod’s cough upon arrival in Israel worries her, but his current clear breathing is a good sign. His breathing strength, however, is only a little over half of what a boy his age is normally able to do. The doctor gave us hope as we left, though, saying Dawod is doing well. 

After a planned catheterization tomorrow, the hospital staff will have an even clearer picture of Dawod’s health. Back in the children’s ward, we were also told he is up for more tests on Thursday as well. We said goodbye to this joyful boy and entrusted him to both God’s and the hospital's care for the night. His catheterization is the first one on the schedule tomorrow morning.

First Assessments

Posted on Mon, 03/31/2014 - 21:51 by Jesse Tilman

Dawod immediately reached out in companionship when I went to meet him this morning. His smile was open, and it felt like greeting an old friend as I began to speak with him and his mother. Rahel, Aad, and I were transporting them and another recent arrival to Wolfson Hospital for their preliminary assessments. I shook Dawod’s hand, and we headed out into the sunny day. During our staff meeting this morning, we had just discussed Luke 9 and the healing effects that take place when the Kingdom of God comes near us, and I was determined to be the best witness I could be for Dawod in deed and word.

The tenth of thirteen siblings, he is small for his age and looks like he could be eight or nine. His slight frame, though, is superseded by his cheerful face.

Throughout the day we enjoyed showing him around as he grinned and jumped into whatever we came across, whether it was children’s play areas with life-size foam toys or outside plastic playhouses and slides or even his various tests and health checks.

Like many young boys, he had a hard time sitting still for the tests. During the blood-drawing, he looked away and closed his eyes. When the nurse asked him to sit still for a mucus sample, he could only manage until the swab got within an inch of his face, and then he would tug away. We ended up having to hold him securely for that one.

His heart is a complicated case and requires discussion amongst the doctors about whether or not he will even be able to have a surgery. An operation on his heart may present risk outweighing the potential benefits. During Dawod’s echocardiogram, Dr. Alona kept up a running commentary on the many abnormalities of his heart to the two other doctors in the room.

They discussed first steps in a case like his and potential medicines. Dr. Alona also commented on how Iraq has been sending her some complex cases lately!

Dawod has a catheterization planned for further mapping of his heart. Right now we know he has a large VSD (hole in the heart), deformed valves, and abnormal narrowing of some blood vessels, as well as pulmonary hypertension. Despite this, however, his oxygen levels are in the high nineties, and he seems almost normal. But for a full, long life, his heart needs to be set right. The catch is the exact way to correct his now-teenage heart is not a regular procedure and would be hazardous; the surgeons will have to carefully plan and consider each step of the process to ensure one step will not adversely affect anything else.

Please keep this precious boy in your prayers as the doctors deliberate his case. And let us remember as the Kingdom of God comes near through His people we can expect to see healing of hearts in spirit and mind!

Seeking Healing

Posted on Mon, 03/31/2014 - 00:12 by Kelsey Cannon

Thirteen-year-old Dawod arrived in Israel tonight. He and his mother have traveled all the way from northern Iraq with the hope Dawod might be able to receive surgical treatment for his congenital heart defect and Shone’s Syndrome at the Wolfson Medical Center. 

Let us pray he is able to undergo surgical intervention. As it stands now, doctors at Wolfson believe Dawod may be inoperable but have invited this young man anyway for a thorough evaluation, including a cardiac catheterization, with the promise that if anything can be done for him, it will be done. We hope these steps of faith both Dawod and his family have taken in seeking treatment will be rewarded.