Gaza Children's Heart Surgery

Gaza Children
Paid in full

The Language of Play

Posted on Wed, 06/21/2017 - 22:53 by Shea Lindsay

I had the opportunity to be a part of the Gaza clinic this week! The three Gaza children that were taking part in the clinic were Nabil, Deaa, and Noor, and they all had the same check-up procedure done. The three boys all had surgery in the past and were back at the clinic to check their blood pressure, O2 saturation, and get an ECG done.

Nabil was four months-old when his heart problem was discovered, and the issue was that one of his valves was functioning improperly. He was a spunky little guy! Three years old and so full of life, he was running around and playing hide-and-go-seek from the doctor behind his mother. He had to get sedated because he was not super enthused about getting an echocardiogram (ECG) done.

When they were finished with their testing, the three boys and I played in the waiting area while we waited for the doctor to give the follow-up summaries. Nabil’s mother plopped his droopy, sedated body in my arms so the three mothers could go shopping in the main area of the hospital while I watched the kids.

Although I couldn’t speak to the children, because they speak in only Arabic, there is this beautiful universal language that every child seems to know how to “speak” - the language of play. We exchanged no words, but we played for hours- tic, tac, toe, puzzles, coloring, sifting through pictures of previous heart patients trying to find each other, etc. The children were so well behaved and fun to play with!

Once the three boys got their next check-ups scheduled, their appointments were concluded and I saw them off into the taxi back to Gaza. The mothers kissed me on the cheek and thanked me over and over again. By the end of the day, although we still couldn’t communicate directly, they had really warmed up to me and were being so kind and sweet.

Noor and Deaa both have holes in their hearts and will have another surgery when they turn 16, but they most definitely can use prayers until then. Prayers for healing and that there will be no complications until then.

Consider It All Joy

Posted on Wed, 05/24/2017 - 21:26 by Isa Mata

For the first time since I started volunteering at Shevet Achim, the Gaza clinic started out quite slow. We arrived at Wolfson hospital around 9-10 am, but things over at the Erez Border Crossing were going slowly, and the families still hadn’t been able to cross over. I could tell the staff was starting to get worried - as was I - about what time the families would arrive and whether they would still be able to get all the check-ups done in time. A SACH (Save a Child’s Heart) volunteer was playing Connect Four with one of the children from the West Bank who was waiting to get his results as we sat and watched.

I overheard people at the office say, “they’ve arrived,” and shortly after, at about half past noon, I heard from Yousef that the families from Gaza had reached the hospital.  Suddenly, the quiet waiting area was filled with seven families of children who would be needing a echo check-up. The doctors wasted no time checking the list of names and immediately admitting them. As you can imagine, there was a lot to do in very little time. I wasn’t able to photograph each family, but I did get to know four of them quite a bit.

This baby enjoying a peach from his grandmother’s hand is Ali Mohammad. He was very well-behaved throughout the whole process and was charming all of us with those big, brown eyes of his! Only one year and 3 months old, he came to Tel-Aviv about 4 or 5 months ago for surgery, and was returning today for his first follow-up. He and grandma went home with the good news that everything was doing well.

Here’s Judy, trying to decide whether or not to take that purple teddy bear from a SACH staff member.

Judy is three years old and came with her grandmother. When she was only two months old she had heart surgery, and has been back every year since. One of the things her grandmother was struggling with this time around was that she had just had an eye procedure herself, and it was quite hard for her to be around the light. But she “would do anything for her granddaughter,” she affirmed. Judy and her grandmother are very sweet, and Grandma didn’t leave without thanking all the doctors and Shevet staff that day.

This little girl is Maha. At a very young age they found out that she had a hole in her heart. Her great-grandmother says the doctors were expecting it to close on its own, but they’ve been monitoring it and have found that it has only grown wider. Maha was one of three children (and their families) who had to stay at Wolfson for more examinations and probable surgery. She has an adorable baby sister waiting for her with her parents in Gaza. Maha’s great-grandmother shared pictures of her with us.

“All she needs is that ipad to be happy.” -Maha’s great-grandma

These two ladies were making the families laugh all afternoon:

This is Sally and her mother. Sally is also coming for a follow-up from her previous surgery. They shared with me that doctors also found that her younger sister had a hole in her heart, but they were able to close it and she’s had no trouble since. This hasn’t been the case with Sally, who has had more complications. But doctors said she is doing fine and referred her for another check-up in 6 months.

Sally is 17 years old, and like her mother, feisty and funny. When I offered them sandwiches, her mother accepted, while Sally said: “No thanks, I’m fasting.” “Ramadan hasn’t started yet, honey!” Her mom replied sarcastically. “Fine,” she admitted, “I’m just trying to watch my figure,” and they both laughed.

Sally’s mom told me I look a lot like her niece in Ramallah, and after talking to her a bit, she said: “Wow, your voice is similar, too!” Before I knew it, she handed her cellphone to me and said: “Say hi!” Confused, I followed her instructions and greeted a stranger on the phone in Arabic, and asked how she was doing. A few minutes later I came to find out that she was pranking a family member in Gaza, making her think she and Sally were in Ramallah with their family. I accidentally played the part of her niece!

Of course, we couldn’t leave without a picture together.

By about 4 pm, all seven families had been taken care of and were all set to go. It was amazing to see how quickly and efficiently the doctors at Wolfson took care of them and still made time to answer their questions. And I also learned an important lesson from these loving, kind, and funny families who even in times of trouble, leave room for joy. 


Dwelling in Unity

Posted on Thu, 05/18/2017 - 23:55 by Mai Shahin

As I joined the Gaza clinic this week, I felt a mixture of many feelings.  We welcomed them as they came from Gaza, a place that is hard to live in or get out of. There are lots of challenges in all areas. I thought about how their children are very sick and they are not able to do anything but count on us to help. What a difficult place for a parent to be in. Thank the Lord, six children were able to come out of Gaza for the clinic today. 

Ibrahim is 15 years old and previously had a catheterization. Today he came with his mother to see the results. The doctors said he will need to come back in July for a full surgery. Eman is 3 years old, and was admitted yesterday for a cath. After that, she is scheduled to have surgery on Sunday.  The other four children - Mohammad (13 yrs), Salah (2 yrs), Naba (7 yrs), and Naem (9yrs) - came today for follow-up. All of them received good news that their health is good and they can return next year for another follow-up. Many children who have heart surgery spend the next several years having check-ups to make sure they are still growing and thriving the way they should.
I was deeply grateful and felt blessed to be a part of Shevet Achim and all they do, for not only the kids, but their families, also. I pray that the help they receive gives them hope for better health and life.
The whole day I was seeing, hearing, and being assured by all the families how thankful they are for our work. We stood with them during their time at the hospital, talking with them, and helping with their children. It gave me the sense of how important it is to be a light, showing the example of our Lord Messiah, standing up in faith and sharing it with them. It is through Messiah that we can continue to dwell in unity. 

Prayers for Abdulrahman

Posted on Thu, 04/27/2017 - 22:23 by Alexa Bigl

Today, Abdulrahman and his grandmother returned to Gaza. The doctors at Wolfson were not sure if they could surgically repair his heart. And then they were concerned about issues with his brain. In the end, the baby's parents chose not to have him operated on due to the unlikely success and the high risk. So, today Abdulrahman returned to Gaza via an ICU ambulance to the European hospital he came from just a few days ago.

We have been blessed by the presence of his grandmother in our home the last nights. She even joined us on Monday for a party, and we had the opportunity to lift her and her grandson up in prayer. It was touching Abdulrahman's grandmother spoke sweet and kinds words expressing her appreciation for us towards the end of our evening gathering. It's amazing something so simple as Ruth stepping out of her way to ensure this woman had a place to sleep was blessed so abundantly. It was an honor to know she had felt love surrounding her through Shevet. The Lord is faithfully using us. And He faithfully encourages us in many ways; Monday night this grandmother's words were a great encouragment to all of us. 

The grandmother can be seen peering around Floryan's mother here, from Monday's party.

The family of Abdulrahman has another very sick child in their home also. Please join with us as we lift this family up in prayer. Only the Lord of comfort can touch these people's lives in a real, meaningful way. And we pray for God to do just that. We ask for His comfort to descend on the whole family. May His name be recognized and glorified through Abdulrahman's life, amen.

You Did For Me

Posted on Sun, 04/23/2017 - 23:46 by Ruth Zellweger

"...Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40

Each life matters; each child matters. That is one of the reasons why Shevet Achim exists. Yet when there are many demands on us, and the number of families we are living with and serving is steadily increasing, we can easily miss out on someone: the one that is not so much in the foreground, the one that is quiet, the one that has no one to speak up for him.

There have been days recently when the demands on my co-workers and I did not seem to come to a stop, when one emergency followed the next. We pray, we support, we intercede, we advocate for our families, and in the evenings there is not much energy left. And then we hear about another urgent need, a very sick child, another guardian that needs our love, time and support. But we feel we have nothing left. We already gave everything we had, and all we want is to have some solitude and quiet. 

Baby Abdulrahman was born a month ago in Gaza with severe heart issues. This past Thursday our co-workers Laila and Agnes organized his transport to Wolfson hospital, as the cardiologists there had accepted him for treatment. As usual, it took some time until all the arrangements were made and the baby was on his way. By the time he reached the hospital it was already 8pm. Dr. Tamir examined him and told Laila that Abdulrahman arrived in very bad condition. He was accompanied by his grandmother, who came to Israel for the first time, didn't know anything or anyone, and did not really understand how things worked. Part of me wanted to ignore the information I had received, as it had been already a very full day, but the other part knew that Abdulrahman's grandmother needed some support. And so I went to the hospital to see what was going on. I found the grandmother sitting in front of the ICU and introduced myself. Then I went inside with the grandmother. Abdulrahman lay in his little bed, intubated, his eyelids swollen. Sometimes he tried to open his eyes. Seeing this precious yet so sick baby lying so helplessly there was not easy. Dr. Tamir told me that he had come to a different diagnosis than the doctor in Gaza, and that he was not sure yet if Abdulrahman could be helped. However, he would discuss his findings with the other cardiologists and surgeons. 

The grandmother was very tired and so we went to the children's ward were we found a bed for her beside another grandmother from Gaza. 

Today, with the start of the new week in Israel, the children's ward filled up again, and there were no spare beds for the guardians in the ICU. When I reached the hospital this evening to help support one of our Kurdish families, Abdulrahman's grandmother approached me and told me that she had no place to sleep. Again, my first reaction was that I did not feel I could deal with that right now. But Yeshua gently reminded me that this woman matters as much as the lives of the children, and the families that live with us. It took about half an hour to get the permission from the ICU doctors to take her home to our Jaffa base, but finally we had the paper and were on our way. The grandmother was welcomed by our Kurdish families and soon went to bed. I am thankful that we have the opportunity to serve the families from Gaza in this way. And I pray that my heart would always be soft and willing to respond to the needs of the next person right in front of me. After all, what we do is of course a help to the people entrusted to us - but more so do we serve our Lord. 


Mahmoud, Nawal, and Rahav

Posted on Tue, 04/18/2017 - 22:15 by Joseph Carter

Today’s Gaza clinic had only three children. Mahmoud, a 2 month-old boy, Nawal, a 3 month-old boy, and Rahav, a 5 year-old girl. It didn’t take very long for all three of them to have their echoes done. So by the time they left, I was only just beginning to be friends with Rahav.

Mahmoud and Nawal were both admitted to the hospital. Mahmoud for a cath, and Nawal was admitted to have surgery. Rahaf got to go home until her check-up next year!

Lord, we pray that you would sustain and bless these three children and their families. Amen. 

Gifts from God

Posted on Sat, 03/25/2017 - 17:36 by Sean Perez

This week's Gaza clinic hosted the famillies of Salma, Lena, Eman, and Ibrahim. What a gift from God to serve these beautiful people. 

Salma first came through Shevet when she was 20 days old.  It was one week after she was born, that her parents saw she was very blue, so their son who works at a hospital in Gaza encouraged them to get it checked out.  After visiting 3 hospitals, they found a small opening of the heart and a couple of other complications. 

Along their search for care, Shevet Achim became a reference point as to where the family could go to get extra help, since they were in need of extra assistance.  It seems Gaza has great doctor's, but are limited in resources which hinder the operations they can perform.  So, Salma ended up coming to Israel to have a heart catheter placement.  Which today we brought her in for a cath check, to make sure everything is still functioning and flowing efficiently.  
Lena's parents discovered she was having breathing problems at only one month old. 
So, her mother was prompted to take her to the hospital to see what was wrong.  The doctor's at a hospital in Gaza told them that surgery was required and they were recommended to have the procedure in Jerusalem or Holon.  
It just so happened that the hospital in Gaza was able to connect them with us here at Shevet Achim and we were able to assist in the child's medical care and expenses.  When Lena was first born she was also diagnosed with a possibly slight mental disorder, which there still may be possible signs of, but nonetheless she was in for her check up today at Wolfson Hospital and everything went great as we spent our morning in each other's company.

Seven days after Eman was born, she went to get shots and to have her heart listened to. As the doctor's in Gaza listened, she had an irregular heart beat.  Her heart was actually beating too fast, so they took her in for some echo exams, which ended up revealing she had 5 holes in her heart. Three of the holes were small, so they ended up closing on their own, but the other two required surgery.  

Shevet Achim came alongside of Wolfson Hospital to partner in the intervention of these two surgeries and today we brought Eman into the Echo Lab for a follow up to see how her heart has been progressing.  She was a ball of energy as she ran up and down the halls playing with Salma, making everyone smile at how much fun they were having.

Today Ibrahim is 15 years old and he ended up having his heart surgery last year (at 14 years old).  Today was his second follow up in the echo lab since his heart procedure.  When he was 13 years old, he was actually experiencing signs of fatigue and shortness of breath, so his family took him into a clinic in Gaza, where they discovered he needed to recieve heart surgery.

He and his mother were very conversational and lovely to be around as we all sat together in the Echo Lab awaiting his follow up scan.  He is able to enjoy playing soccer from time to time and he spoke pretty good english which made our time together very pleasant.
Please keep all of these children in your prayers for healing and restoration. They are truly gifts from God.

The Lord Sustains 6 Children from Gaza

Posted on Thu, 03/09/2017 - 21:19 by Paul Gerstmann
At this week's Gaza clinic, Suhail and Yusef picked up six children from the Gaza border and brought them to Wolfson hospital for get check-ups. Apparently they had been waiting at the border all night so the children were visibly tired; though the mothers seemed quite relieved to have their children safely at the hospital. I was able to sit down and talk with Bana's mother for awhile.
She was very patient and caring. Her daughter has a pre-existing condition (hyperthyroidism) which is being exacerbated by her heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). 
Bana has already had two surgeries at Wolfson, allowing her much better mobility than she had previous to her operations.The other children (in the pictures below) are Maryam, Mohammad, Khaled, Laura and Badzer, two of whom will be staying at Wolfson for more extensive procedures. It is beautiful to know how the Lord cares for each of them!
Thank you, Lord, for sustaining and loving these precious people!

Baby Abdalla

Posted on Thu, 03/09/2017 - 00:05 by Alexa Bigl

Last night we had a very special transfer. Baby Abdalla came from Gaza into Israel and arrived to Wolfson's ICU.

Abdalla was just 18 hours old when the process began to get him safely to Wolfson yesterday afternoon. Less than a day old, and this precious baby was already safely under the expert care of the Wolfson medical team last night around 8:30 p.m. Abdalla has Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA), and he is on a ventilator and special medications to keep him alive right now. The nurse in the ICU said they did not have a definite day for his surgery yet, but it will probably be next week. Later, a doctor speaking to Abdalla's grandmother said the team is trying to decide if they will perform a diagnostic catheterization before the surgery.

It was very special sitting beside Abdalla's bedside for a few minutes and being able to pray over him. Afterwards, I headed to the children's ward where I had the opportunity to meet his grandmother. She seemed a bit overwhelmed with the new surroundings, but the other Arab mothers and grandmothers were taking her under their wings - especially Gazan baby Jod's grandmother. Jod received surgery 11 days ago and is progressing, and his grandmother is hopeful he will be moved out of the ICU and into the children's ward in the coming days.

Sitting with the mothers and grandmothers of the Gazan and Palestinian mothers was a beautiful example of the friendship that is born in these special, difficult circumstances. God is so good and faithful, and we are blessed to be called by Him to show His love to these beautiful neighbors. 


A Short, but Precious Time

Posted on Wed, 03/01/2017 - 23:58 by Eva Markewitz
When we went to the Gaza clinic today, we had the pleasure of spending time with two sweet children from the West Bank and Gaza. The first one was a small, but strong willed boy, who had his surgery a few weeks ago. 
Two year-old Zhian was there with his father and his grandmother to check the condition of his heart. Watching this cute bundle of energy playing on the floor, it was easy to see that he was doing great after surgery. He was moving the children's table from one end of the floor to the other without growing weary.
Later, the nurse came out of the room and asked us if we could show another woman and her child the way back to the ward. It was was precious Alma from Gaza, who has been in the hospital since last Thursday.
The doctor has now confirmed that there probably won't be a surgery for her, since the medications she has been given are working well. Alma and her grandmother are staying at the hospital one more night and will return to Gaza tomorrow.
The grandmother was very sweet as she talked a little bit about her family and Alma's sibling. She kissed us on the cheek as we departed like we've already known each other for a long time.
Although, we we weren't there long, we had a precious time with these lovely families this morning. Please join us in praying for them.