Essa's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Surgery Successful: Essa's Chest Closed

Posted on Sun, 09/23/2012 - 23:04 by Kelsey Cannon

It is cold in room number eight of the children

Essa's Condition Serious But Stable

Posted on Sat, 09/22/2012 - 20:00 by Ryan Gregg

I am writing from Essa

Essa's Life in Hands of God

Posted on Thu, 09/20/2012 - 22:52 by Jonathan Miles

We've learned anew the fragility and brevity of human life over the last 24 hours. 

Essa was moved to the ICU Wednesday night, and at 2:15 Thursday morning the call came that he was failing. Before Ruth, Donna, and I could reach the hospital another call came: they were working to resuscitate Essa and needed us there immediately to help restrain his mother.

We prayed and worshipped as we drove on, honoring our Father as the one who gives and takes the breath of life. We entered the ICU not knowing what to expect, and found the medical staff in good spirits. Essa had returned to life after a half-hour of resuscitation.

The surgeon and ICU head had come in from their homes, and emergently opened Essa's chest right in his ICU room. The resulting explosion of water confirmed that it was severe pressure from fluid buildup around the heart that was causing the sudden deterioration in Essa's condition. 

Essa's condition stabilized but remains critical, with doctors saying they hope he will make it through the night and they can close his chest Friday morning. His kidneys have stopped functioning due to the stress and he is receiving dialysis.

Donna stayed all night and much of today by the side of Essa's mother, who is often childlike and irrational in the midst of all that she is experiencing. She has made the work of the hospital staff difficult, and is not following their instructions. Her insistence on giving Essa more fluids than the doctors allowed may have contributed to this crisis. Donna shared these thoughts to help us know how to pray:

Spending the day with Essa's mother, most of the time sitting by his comatose side, was like a lesson in the neccessary paradox of the strength and the tenderness of God's compassion, both of which are impossible by any human effort. God's love was fully available for every moment: the fear-filled ones, the frustrating ones and the weary ones; the confusing ones, the painful ones, and the hopeful ones. I found it in the strong love between mother and son, the persevering efforts of doctors and nurses for their patient, in seeing strangers reacting to a grieving mother, and in watching interactions between parents who understand one another in spite of many differences. I felt it in the bluntly honest communication of excellent medical staff, immediately accompanied by their tender comments to help Essa's mother manage the information she needed to digest. I truly felt God with us, Emmanuel, just as He promises He is, as weakness became a platform for His strength. How thankful I am that because Jesus laid down His life and then received it back again, this love, which is stronger than death, can be known in a human heart. How sweet to know so many ways God's love is never failing. How comforting to realize this love is the very foundation on which we can stand as we watch in prayer for the life of Essa, and peace and comfort for his mother.

Not The Day We Had Expected

Posted on Wed, 09/19/2012 - 23:22 by Ruth Zellweger

What was supposed to be a day of joy

Getting Close to the Finish Line

Posted on Wed, 09/12/2012 - 22:33 by Ruth Zellweger

When leaving in the morning for Sheba Hospital, his mother had already set her mind on the outcome of Essa

An A+ Echo for Essa

Posted on Sun, 09/09/2012 - 21:25 by Kristina Kayser

Essa's first follow-up echo this afternoon produced soaring results! Though we waited over an hour for Essa to be seen, the time passed quickly enough with pleasant conversation. Essa's mother also entertained Ruth, Jesse, and I with her comical personality. She, along with her son, were in good spirits today.

Finally, it was Essa's turn, and he entered the echo room confidently. A surprisingly succinct exam gave everyone a reason to rejoice. Dr. Danielle confirmed that Essa's heart is free of any post surgical fluid, allowing several of his medications to be reduced. His cardiac function is excellent, which has led to increased strength and oxygen levels as high as 97%!

The only medical setback of the day was an elevated INR level (clotting factors), meaning that his blood is currently too thin. As with all our patients on anti-thrombus (clot) medications, finding the perfect dosage of Coumadin after surgery is a game of give and take.  One day, he made need more Coumadin, and the next day, less. Thus, Essa will need blood tests every other day until his INR level falls between the therapeutic range of 2-3. Dr. Danielle expressed his hope that this issue will stabilize soon, so that Essa can return home in the near future. 

Essa and his mum were thankful to hear that the outcome of his echo was so positive. But wanting to confirm that the first report was not too good to be true, Essa's mother asked every person who walked into the echo room how her son's heart was doing. She was ultimately satisfied when, after several inquiries, every answer was the same: a resounding "Basha!" ("Good!"). Mother and son then requested a picture with the echo technician to document another milestone day. 

After bidding Sheba goodbye, our crew set out for Jerusalem contentedly. It is presumed that Essa will only need two more echoes before returning to Kurdistan. The challenge we now face, however, is helping them through the process of waiting for his blood tests to balance out. We pray for patience and complete wholeness on Essa's behalf. Likewise, we acknowledge that God has granted this young man an amazing gift: another chance at life with a heart made new.

Hungry For Home: Essa Dismissed From Hospital

Posted on Fri, 09/07/2012 - 12:31 by Kristina Kayser

This afternoon, Ruth and I had the pleasure of bringing Essa and his mother home from Sheba Medical Center. The two have been my most frequent callers this week, anxious to know when they would return to Jerusalem. While his heart is healing soundly, Essa needs close monitoring of the clotting factors in his blood. Doctors have been working hard the last few days to find the perfect dosage of Coumadin (a blood thinner) to prevent dangerous blood clots. A place of stability was finally reached yesterday, thus allowing Essa's dismissal. I could hear joy in his voice when I gave him the good news. "Tahwow?!" ("finished?") he asked incredulously. "Yes, you're coming home!" I assured. Perhaps, more than anything else, Kurdish cuisine is Essa

A Visit To A Restless Patient And Mother

Posted on Sun, 09/02/2012 - 22:35 by Jesse Tilman

Visiting Essa and his mother today took a bit more patience than usual. As we walked into the room, Essa

Essa Up And Walking!

Posted on Wed, 08/29/2012 - 22:14 by Kristina Kayser

Something told me I should look for Essa elsewhere before going to his room in the ICU today. As soon as I opened the door to Sheba's pediatric cardiology unit, a nurse saw me and said, "Come!" He led me into a normal recovery room, and there was Essa! He was sitting up in bed with a big smile on his face. All of his chest tubes had been removed, and his oxygen saturation was 95% without any supplement. His voice sounded a little weak, but still carried youthful enthusiasm as we spoke together. His mother was overjoyed to see me, particularly because I brought homemade Kurdish food for her son. "He's hungry all the time, and he doesn't like the hospital food!" she exclaimed. The few hours we spent together were sweet, and I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know this mother and son even better through conversation, laughter, and the ever-popular game of Uno. Essa beat me every time, by the way. 

His nurse came in at one point and said he could now get up to shower. With his fresh incision exposed, I marveled at this testimony of courage under adversity. I continued to be amazed as he stood to his feet and kept a steady pace across the length of the room. Rejuvenated from his shower, Essa sat down promptly at his mother's instruction. Towel in hand, she made sure that every hair on his head was dry. This photo captures the moment when Essa began dodging the towel and his mother began scolding him. With a wink and a smile, she said, "You see how my son is making me old? Look at my white hair!" I love seeing this woman's anxiety abated and her sense of humor returning. Essa had no major complaints today, aside from his mother's doting and a few minor discomforts. It was a blessing to see them both in such good spirits. 

When Jonathan later joined us, Essa was up on his feet again for a short walk to the nurse's station and back. We congratulated him for his progress and thanked God for the new strength given day by day. As you'll see in this video, Essa's progress was rewarded with a tasty meal of rice and beans. He ate to his heart's content, and his mother was truly satisfied. Her teenage boy was clean, warm, and well-fed - every Kurdish mother's trifecta.  

I am so thankful for how smoothly Essa is recovering and for the restoration taking place in his heart. My prayer and hope for him today comes from the ancient words of the prophet Isaiah: "He [the Lord] gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:29-31)