Hamoudi's Heart Surgery


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Hamoudi
Age: 
4

Hamoudi in the heart of Europe

Posted on Mon, 06/29/2015 - 00:05 by Philip Rasmussen

Though many children called Mohammed have come through Shevet the past years causing difficulties keeping track of who is who, I think many friends of Shevet clearly remember Syrian Mohammed - better known by his nickname Hamoudi. He was the second Syrian child to receive treatment in Israel, but the first Syrian of many more to come to be escorted by the father. This meant that they were living right in the middle of the volunteers’ living quarters making a huge impact on the community over the duration of their six months long stay! It’s now almost one and a half year ago they left Israel and went back to their host country Jordan, but soon after, last July, the family were granted asylum in Austria through United Nations. 

Since then I have been looking for opportunities to visit this beloved family which I felt I became part of while there in Israel. Two years ago I had the privilege to pick them up in Jordan and accompany them through the border crossings, spending long hours with border officials and witnessing how the passport-less father and son eventually got the needed stamps and were allowed to cross the border.

I was therefore full of anticipation to reunite with them and on my way to Vienna (the capital of Austria - where they now live) I was curious to find out how the family was settling down in this completely-foreign region of the earth.

Hamoudi’s father met me in a junction to guide me towards their apartment. After a long hug he grabbed my arm and then we walked arm in arm down the street (a rather normal thing between male friends in Middle Eastern culture). If I only could describe what blessedness filled my heart that moment… I instantly recalled the truth that ultimately these families are the ones blessing us and not the other way around. 

I arrived just in time to join them in breaking the fast during Ramadan and Hamoudi’s mother had prepared a very delicious meal. 

It was lovely to see Hamoudi (in the middle of the picture above) again who was not shy at all, but full of life and energy. He was busy showing me around in their small two-room apartment and demonstrating some of his newest toys including a small bicycle. Though he is still the same little sweet boy it’s evident that he has grown a lot. His parents had only good news to share regarding his medical condition. He has been three times to the hospital in Vienna for cardiac follow-up and the doctors are deeply amazed by the successful surgery. Praise God for this good report as Hamoudi went through an extraordinarily uncommon and high-risk surgery in Israel.

The next day we set out with full speed towards a children’s playground in the neighborhood. Here I got to see the beautiful brotherhood between Hamoudi and his younger brother, Jalal. They are very close to each other agewise and have much benefit and joy from each others company. They go to the same German-speaking kindergarten five days a week and basically do everything together. 

At the playground they loved the swings and helped each other taking turns to push the other.

While the children were playing, Hamoudi’s father told me a little more detailed about their new life in Austria. All in all they are happy and content to be in safe surroundings and to have a bright future in front of them, but life is not easy as they live in an old, small two-room apartment and also struggle in learning the German language which is essential in order to find a job and become part of the society. Living far away from family and old friends is tough, but many Syrians live in the neighborhood so they do not feel isolated at all. A great joy for them in all the challenging changes is that Hamoudi’s mother is pregnant and very likely will give birth to a girl in a couple of months! 

Their hospitality and warmth made a great impact on me and it was sad to have to say goodbye to them. I realized how much richer my life had become from knowing this family. Meeting them again was such a beautiful gift. 

No doubt that the time in Israel was of great importance to Hamoudi and his father. If you look carefully at the top of the picture above, you will see a hand painted portrait of Hamoudi which was presented to them as a gift at their farewell party in Jerusalem. The miracle that God did is not a small thing in their eyes and Hamoudi will bear the scars of it for the rest of his life. 

The Shevet verse “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” is universally true. It does not set up any boundaries and can become reality wherever we are and whenever we want. Our time of fellowship wasn't in the usual Middle Eastern ‘Shevet’ setting but right in a vibrant capital in the heart of Europe. It was a great experience and a good reminder that we all can give life to this verse no matter where we find ourselves.

 

Hamoudi in the heart of Europe

Posted on Mon, 06/29/2015 - 00:05 by Philip Rasmussen

Though many children called Mohammed have come through Shevet the past years causing difficulties keeping track of who is who, I think many friends of Shevet clearly remember Syrian Mohammed - better known by his nickname Hamoudi. He was the second Syrian child to receive treatment in Israel, but the first Syrian of many more to come to be escorted by the father. This meant that they were living right in the middle of the volunteers’ living quarters making a huge impact on the community over the duration of their six months long stay! It’s now almost one and a half year ago they left Israel and went back to their host country Jordan, but soon after, last July, the family were granted asylum in Austria through United Nations. 

Since then I have been looking for opportunities to visit this beloved family which I felt I became part of while there in Israel. Two years ago I had the privilege to pick them up in Jordan and accompany them through the border crossings, spending long hours with border officials and witnessing how the passport-less father and son eventually got the needed stamps and were allowed to cross the border.

I was therefore full of anticipation to reunite with them and on my way to Vienna (the capital of Austria - where they now live) I was curious to find out how the family was settling down in this completely-foreign region of the earth.

Hamoudi’s father met me in a junction to guide me towards their apartment. After a long hug he grabbed my arm and then we walked arm in arm down the street (a rather normal thing between male friends in Middle Eastern culture). If I only could describe what blessedness filled my heart that moment… I instantly recalled the truth that ultimately these families are the ones blessing us and not the other way around. 

I arrived just in time to join them in breaking the fast during Ramadan and Hamoudi’s mother had prepared a very delicious meal. 

It was lovely to see Hamoudi (in the middle of the picture above) again who was not shy at all, but full of life and energy. He was busy showing me around in their small two-room apartment and demonstrating some of his newest toys including a small bicycle. Though he is still the same little sweet boy it’s evident that he has grown a lot. His parents had only good news to share regarding his medical condition. He has been three times to the hospital in Vienna for cardiac follow-up and the doctors are deeply amazed by the successful surgery. Praise God for this good report as Hamoudi went through an extraordinarily uncommon and high-risk surgery in Israel.

The next day we set out with full speed towards a children’s playground in the neighborhood. Here I got to see the beautiful brotherhood between Hamoudi and his younger brother, Jalal. They are very close to each other agewise and have much benefit and joy from each others company. They go to the same German-speaking kindergarten five days a week and basically do everything together. 

At the playground they loved the swings and helped each other taking turns to push the other.

While the children were playing, Hamoudi’s father told me a little more detailed about their new life in Austria. All in all they are happy and content to be in safe surroundings and to have a bright future in front of them, but life is not easy as they live in an old, small two-room apartment and also struggle in learning the German language which is essential in order to find a job and become part of the society. Living far away from family and old friends is tough, but many Syrians live in the neighborhood so they do not feel isolated at all. A great joy for them in all the challenging changes is that Hamoudi’s mother is pregnant and very likely will give birth to a girl in a couple of months! 

Their hospitality and warmth made a great impact on me and it was sad to have to say goodbye to them. I realized how much richer my life had become from knowing this family. Meeting them again was such a beautiful gift. 

No doubt that the time in Israel was of great importance to Hamoudi and his father. If you look carefully at the top of the picture above, you will see a hand painted portrait of Hamoudi which was presented to them as a gift at their farewell party in Jerusalem. The miracle that God did is not a small thing in their eyes and Hamoudi will bear the scars of it for the rest of his life. 

The Shevet verse “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” is universally true. It does not set up any boundaries and can become reality wherever we are and whenever we want. Our time of fellowship wasn't in the usual Middle Eastern ‘Shevet’ setting but right in a vibrant capital in the heart of Europe. It was a great experience and a good reminder that we all can give life to this verse no matter where we find ourselves.

 

A Happy Heart

Posted on Sun, 01/26/2014 - 23:33 by Jonathan Miles

Today Hamoudi had a follow-up echo after his return from heart surgery in Israel. Really the echo wasn't needed, for Hamoudi was obviously full of life, joy and energy, running and jumping more than any other child in sight:

Praise God!

A Miracle Complete

Posted on Sun, 01/12/2014 - 23:40 by Sarah Powell

When the Shevet volunteers were told Hamoudi was coming to us, it was a big deal. He was going to be only the second Syrian child whom we had been able to obtain permission to bring into Israel. He was going to be the first ever Syrian child to be treated at Sheba Hospital. And he was not coming with his mother as was the norm; it was his father who would be accompanying him. All this drama set the stage for the four-part epoch of Hamoudi's journey toward a new heart. 

Act I: Every Journey Begins with One Step

I remember being nervous when Hamoudi and his father first arrived at our Shevet home. Since Hamoudi had come with his father instead of his mother, they stayed downstairs with all of us in the guest bedroom off of the kitchen. (Children coming with their mothers live together on the second floor of our building.) This meant we saw them every day, all day. How on earth were we going to keep this then-three-year-old ball of fire contained and his father entertained? I have to admit, I was skeptical about how smoothly they would be able to integrate into our life at Shevet. All of my concerns, however, were proved unfounded. Hamoudi and his father quickly grew to be full members of our Shevet family. They ate our strange foods, laughed at our many cross-cultural and language-barrier-induced blunders, and became regular team members on our Shevet soccer game outings. 

In their first month with us, it was determined Hamoudi would not be able to undergo heart surgery until he had his many rotten teeth removed. His father explained to us he had reasoned it made no sense to take care of Hamoudi's teeth now because he was just going to lose his baby teeth. This mentality, coupled with Hamoudi's amorous passion for all things chocolate, had left his little teeth in a serious state of decay.

This put him at risk of getting a blood infection that could affect his heart. As a result, preparations were soon made for Hamoudi to undergo oral surgery as soon as possible to remove the bad teeth. This did not come as quickly as anyone hoped, but come it did. And Hamoudi's smile was ten times cuter afterward with all of the top front teeth missing. 

Having had that preliminary step taken care of, it was time to turn attention to Hamoudi's more serious health condition: his completely backwards heart. In order for this condition to be fully corrected, a child must typically have the operation done in infancy. Hamoudi, however, was now three years old, and though his condition had stunted his growth a bit, he was by no means an infant any more. After preliminary check-ups and assessments, Jonathan and Hamoudi's father sat down with Sheba's heart surgeons and were presented with two options for Hamoudi. The first option was for Hamoudi to undergo a smaller, safer surgery to simply close up a hole in his heart. This would increase his blood flow and oxygen level and could extend his life-span to anywhere from as little as ten years to as many as forty years. The second option was for Hamoudi to undergo a larger, riskier surgery to fully repair his heart. This surgery option had a 15% mortality rate (most heart surgeries our children go through have only a 5% mortality rate), but if he survived the surgery, Hamoudi would be able to live as long as any other healthy human. His father did not have to make a final decision about which surgery to pursue until the day Hamoudi was admitted for the surgery. Until then, he had time to think it over, and all of us at Shevet had time to pray hard that Abu Mohammed would make the right choice.

Intermission: The Moment of Decision

As it turned out, Abu Mohammed had more time to make his decision than we originally thought he would. The hospital told us Hamoudi would not be put on the schedule to receive surgery for at least another two weeks. Having already been in our Shevet home for a month and having a lengthy, projected recovery time after Hamoudi's surgery if all went well, Abu Mohammed decided Hamoudi and he would return home to their family for the wait. We were all shortly thereafter exchanging goodbyes laced with expectancy—expectancy that Hamoudi would return to us soon and that God would yet do a miracle in his little life. 

The two weeks Hamoudi and his father were expected to be gone gradually grew into two months as visa complications made returning on time impossible for them. This extra time of waiting, however, was a blessing for Hamoudi's whole family. This time Hamoudi and his father were away from us meant Hamoudi's mother and little brother were getting to see him before he went into his surgery. It also meant Hamoudi had his fourth birthday at home. And it meant his parents had more time to consider carefully what choice Hamoudi's father would make on that decisive surgery day. Jonathan shared with us questions Abu Mohammed was considering as he drew nearer to decision-making time: how would he explain it to his son when he was older if he chose the smaller surgery now, and his son could only then expect to live half of a full life-time? Would it be easier to lose his son now while he was young, or several years from now when he was older? These were serious questions, and I cannot imagine being a parent and having to honestly answer these questions. 

During this time Hamoudi and his father were away, all of us at Shevet took the opportunity to play our own part in the decision-making process through prayer, and I know many of you were praying faithfully for Hamoudi's family at this time as well. All of us wanted to see God's will done in His perfect timing, and I am sure those visa delays which brought Hamoudi back to us later than expected were a part of that perfect timing. 

Act II: Miracles, Plain and Simple

There was great rejoicing in our Shevet home when Hamoudi and his father finally returned to us. They only had to wait a week after arriving before Hamoudi's surgery finally took place. During this time of waiting, sweet friendships were revived.

It did not take Hamoudi long to get comfortable around all of us again. His outgoing (and slightly ornery) personality won all of our hearts anew. I don't think there is a single volunteer among us who was able to escape a play time with Hamoudi, whether that meant throwing paper airplanes with Nick, painting car pictures with Lina, kicking soccer balls with Sonia, building Lego creations with Marisa, playing guitar with Ben, endlessly blowing bubbles with me, making funny faces and noises with Philip, playing doctor with Kristina, or any number of other crazy antics he dragged each one of the volunteers into with him at one time or another.

One of my favorite memories with Hamoudi is of a night when it was my turn to set the table for dinner. Hamoudi insisted on helping me, even though I had to go around after him and reset all of the napkins and spoons sprawled haphazardly across the table. The part I loved about that evening was how Hamoudi knew everyone's name. As he laid down each spoon, he told me who would sit in that spot: “Sophie hon (here), Kelsey hon, Jonathan hon, Josh hon, Madelyn hon, Rahel  hon, Ruth hon, Jesse hon, Rinnah hon...” and on and on. Who would have guessed this little four-year-old with his backwards heart could have enough room in that heart for every single one of us?

Finally, the day came when he went in for his surgery. His father decided to go through with the higher-risk, full repair surgery, and somehow we all felt full peace about that decision. Kristina and Philip described the surgery day to us as nothing less than miraculous. God's peace was tangible to them that day. A few hours after entering the operating room, when they met Hamoudi being wheeled into the ICU, they received the joyous report that the surgery had gone well and Hamoudi was in stable condition. The only unexpected news was Hamoudi had been fitted with a temporary pace-maker to aid his heart in the recovery process. The rejoicing that day was only the start of the rejoicings to come in the days to follow. It was projected Hamoudi would need at least two weeks in intensive care before he would be able to move on to the regular children's ward. In only two days, however, he was well enough to be moved into the regular children's ward. After that, his recovery advanced exponentially. Every day we went to visit him, he was growing stronger, more eager to smile and laugh, and more like himself again.

Midway through his recovery, though, it was decided Hamoudi would need a permanent pace-maker in order to ensure the future healthy functioning of his heart. A few days later, he underwent a small surgery to exchange his temporary pace-maker for a permanent one. After this second small surgery, he was somber and exhausted for a couple of days again, like he was after the first surgery. He recovered quickly, however, and by the end of the week, he was laughing and playing like his usual self again. Only a little over two weeks after his high-risk surgery, Hamoudi was cleared to return to us at our Shevet home. It was a miracle. 

Back with us, Hamoudi continued to recover beautifully, and by the end of his time with us, no one would even be able to guess he had just come through such an intense life experience. Even I found it difficult to remember his incredible recovery was totally unexpected. The complete lack of complications almost made it seem as if all of our early anxieties were entirely unfounded. And maybe they were. God had Hamoudi's life in the palm of His hand from the very beginning—before time began. But I also know the anxiety we felt at the beginning of Hamoudi's time with us served a good purpose: it drove us to our knees before our Heavenly Father. And I know it urged many of you to the same. Looking back, I can see those moments of intercession for Hamoudi's life did not only play a part in bringing about the miraculous success of his surgery, but they also brought about changes in our hearts as a community and in my heart personally. And I believe they also brought about changes in Hamoudi's father's heart. God used Hamoudi to teach all of us to trust Him more and to remind us again it was not only in the past He performed miracles. Even today, He still intervenes miraculously in the lives of His children. 

Act III (Final Act): Arrivederci

The evening of Hamoudi's farewell party, we gathered upstairs in the Kurdish mothers' living area to celebrate Hamoudi's new life.

We shared tea, sweet memories and words, and of course, in honor of Hamoudi's first love, chocolate cake. Throughout the evening, Hamoudi knew he was the center of attention, and he hammed it up. When the time for presents came around, he was especially impressed by a dinosaur T-shirt, a monkey stuffed animal, and a quilt covered in Shevies (to him, every dog is called Shevy like our little Shevet dog). He was also surprisingly happy to see a pack of toothbrushes among his gifts! 

Hamoudi's farewell video, with most of the best pictures from his stay with us, was one of the longest we have created for a child yet. There were so many memories and moments we were trying to pack onto one DVD of pictures. I know those memories with Hamoudi will live on in all of our hearts. As much as his small life was changed and his future altered by his time with us here, I think many of us were changed just as much by his presence. Our home will not be quite as cheery, nor quite as loud, nor quite as full of spontaneous and unexpected laughter now Hamoudi is gone. But the growth of love he brought to our household will remain. And the story of the miracle God worked in his life will remain. It will be passed down by Hamoudi's family, by Hamoudi, by us, and—I'm sure—by you too. 

I want to thank you all again for your prayers that were such a huge part of this masterpiece healing of Hamoudi's heart. All that is left to be said is “thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind” (Psalm 107:21).

An Amazing Triumph: Hamoudi's Final Echo

Posted on Tue, 01/07/2014 - 22:46 by Kristina Kayser

Today was a milestone of magnificent proportions in Hamoudi's young life. Today was the day our dear friend was given the clearance to return home. 

While no one knew exactly what the outcome of the doctor's exam would be, our car ride to the hospital was full of hope and peaceful expectation. Shevet volunteers Yousif, Philip, and I had the honour of accompanying Hamoudi and his father to Sheba Medical Center this morning, and we were looking forward to a wonderful day together. En route to Tel Aviv, we were all surprised to see the first hints of spring green along the highway, none more so than Hamoudi. 

Once we arrived at the echo department, we had several hours before the cardiac exam would take place. The time was well spent, however, just by being with Hamoudi. I tried not to think too much about our imminent goodbyes as I savored his every giggle, hug, and funny expression, trying to etch his face and voice forever onto my memory. I love him so much! 

A fresh wave of awe and gratitude towards our Heavenly Father swept over me as I watched Hamoudi run and play. Just five weeks ago, we sat in this same hospital waiting and praying for his life to be spared while he underwent one of the most complicated heart surgeries possible. Hamoudi's swift and smooth recovery has been a gift to witness one day at a time, and I praise God for His overwhelming grace in this boy's life. 

When it came time for the echo, Hamoudi lay perfectly still and let the technician do her work.

When every view of his heart was documented and the echo pronounced complete, our little patient threw his arms up in victory!

This was a moment worth celebrating! His initial diagnosis of corrected Transposition of the Great Arteries once seemed an impossible obstacle, but now Hamoudi's heart is evidence that nothing is too difficult for the Lord. 

The cardiologist, Dr. Shai, reviewed the echo and pacemaker assessment with a trained eye and ultimately deemed Hamoudi healthy and ready to return to his beloved family in Jordan this week!

What an amazing triumph. While many thanks are due to the skilled team of doctors and nurses at Sheba, we give all the glory to the One who designed Hamoudi's heart and gave him life. 

The Miracle Boy

Posted on Mon, 12/23/2013 - 01:41 by Philip Rasmussen

We set off from Jersualem this morning towards Sheba Medical Center for an echo cardiogram follow up for Hamoudi.

We were having a great time in the van with a cheerful Hamoudi, and his good behavior continued throughout the day, which we were grateful for as we faced an unexpectedly long waiting time at the Medical Center. As each hour passed, Hamoudi entertained himself in multiple, creative ways. His always-present best friend (a soap bubble container) helped him kill a lot of time. I’m a little worried we don’t feed him well enough, as more often than not he liked eating the bubbles he blew. 

We also took many train rides to go visit his younger brother. We would take turns being the engine driver and passengers. 

Later he started cooking for us in the kitchen playhouse.

After having been with us for several months and joining our Kurdish families for lunch, I think he knows that ‘rice and meat’ is a safe choice – that was the answer he gave upon asking what he was cooking. 

When it was time to take his afternoon medication, he decided to switch roles and play the fun part of giving the medicine. We were all invited to get a shot by him.

This not only caused me to laugh, but also left me amazed at how Hamoudi is dealing with these medical realities in such a relaxed way. He doesn’t see them as his enemies. 

Watching Hamoudi playing and using his body actively only three weeks after his high-risk surgery is a clear sign of his miraculous recovery. We aren’t the only ones realizing what a great miracle Hamoudi is. A major Israeli newspaper wrote an article this week concerning Hamoudi being the first Syrian child to be treated at Sheba Hospital. During our waiting time, an orthodox Jew suddenly and loudly said, “this is the famous one – the miracle boy,” while pointing at Hamoudi. He continued: “everyone in Israel is talking about him.” We later learned this man is the coordinator of an organization which in particular tries to support families of heart patients. He was deeply moved by the story and was eager to know more about our work at Shevet. 

Hamoudi and his father are well known by many and receive a lot of love and interest from all kinds of people, from doctors to families to the normally silent cleaning staff—people of various backgrounds of religion, wealth, and situation. Hamoudi’s father is conscious of nurturing these relationships he has built. He asked me to go with him into the children’s ward to visit one of the families still there when he left Sheba a week ago.

A boy we visited in the ICU is receiving similar treatment (though less complicated) to Hamoudi’s. We heard his mother telling how her son, once so interactive and vocal, had not said a word since his major heart surgery this week. After realizing how perfectly his own son survived his high-risk surgery, Hamoudi’s father used a word he doesn’t normally throw around: ‘miracle.’ He is still in a stage of consideration, though, saying Hamoudi's amazing recovery is only a half-miracle. I immediately took the opportunity to give him something more to chew on, pointing out how he and his son had come all the way from war-torn Syria, were without hope for Hamoudi, and then ended up at an advanced hospital in Israel – the only place in this region where they could go for a full heart repair. All this could easily be categorized as the second half of a miracle. One-half plus one-half equals one. Here is your miracle! He didn’t seem to reject the truth that God has guided them step by step to pastures he once would never have thought existed. 

The cardiologist was pleased with the echocardiogram and pacemaker results.

Everything looks perfect with Hamoudi’s heart, and he might have his final exam in two weeks time to confirm the stability of his pacemaker. 

We praise the Lord for a beautiful day at the hospital and for seeing real ‘Shevet Achim’ lived out in our encounters today. Please pray with us for endurance for our Syrian family, as they are feeling the hurtful separation from the rest of their family and cannot wait to return home. We also ask God to help us share His love and care for them in these remaining few weeks. 

A Triumphant Return to Shevet

Posted on Sun, 12/15/2013 - 22:38 by Sonia D'Orso
As we prepared to pick up Hamoudi from the hospital, I couldn't wait to see him after a long week away from his bedside. Once there, I watched as he played with a red wheelchair and drove up and down through the corridor. After this great fun, Hamoudi was hungry and quickly downed a heaping portion of yellow rice. He enjoyed his meal, probably due to the attention he was receiving as we spoonfed him the rice. To see Hamoudi and his father in such good spirits warmed my heart.
Their room was quickly evacuated and their bags packed. The only thing missing was Hamoudi's discharge letter and medication. With much patience, we waited at the nurses' reception desk. There with Hamoudi and fellow Shevet volunteer Philip, we had lots of fun to help pass the time.
 
Before departure we went one last time to the indoor playground of the hospital, where Hamoudi admired the many colorful, wood-carved birds on the ceiling and made ​​it clear that he now wants to launch a banana.
The big challenge this afternoon was returning to Jerusalem safely, because the streets are still full of snow and ice from Jerusalem's record-breaking snowfall.
God guided us safely and comfortably home, however, and Hamoudi was at once greeted with hugs from the Shevet family. God is great, and He heals hearts in every respect. Hamoudi's miraculous recovery and swift release from the hospital are evidences of this. Please pray for the continued recovery of Hamoudi, as he is still overcoming a strong cough.
 

Hamoudi Walks Again

Posted on Wed, 12/11/2013 - 22:06 by Ryan Foley

During today's visit, Hamoudi's little body was still getting used to the new pacemaker he received yesterday. He is having occasional spells of pain, which is normal, but the doctors are hoping he will be able to return to the Shevet base tomorrow, praise God!

For the first time since his surgery, Hamoudi was able to walk around a bit today and play in the house we built him from the play area cushions. It's only been a little over a week, and the boy who was supposed to still be in the ICU is now on his feet and walking. 
 
 
 
God is indeed working wonders in Hamoudi. He is still fairly weak, however, and we did wear him out quickly. After getting settled back in his bed, he fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. We prayed over him with his dad before we left and are eagerly anticipating his return to our base tomorrow!
 

The Final Step

Posted on Tue, 12/10/2013 - 22:23 by Co-authored

Hamoudi’s need of a pacemaker has been known since his big heart surgery. The surgeon even calculated this factor into the procedure. The appointment for the pacemaker insertion was postponed several times earlier this week, but today was the day – 9 days post-op.

During our morning meeting, we received a phone call from Hamoudi’s father saying Hamoudi had already gone into the operation room. It was surprising he was rolled in that early – we would have liked to have been with the father during the whole procedure. On our ride to Tel Aviv we got another call from a very worried Abu Mohammed saying Hamoudi was now in the ICU with several medical devices attached (e.g., a chest tube). The poor father was left only with his imagination to watch his son in what seemed to be, at first glance, the same condition as directly after the big surgery. We quickly calmed him, explaining the normality of having these devices attached after being sedated and of having chest tubes after any kind of heart intervention.

We arrived at Sheba Medical Center and found Hamoudi sleeping. Once in a while he would wake up and cry for water, but he was clearly still affected by the anesthesia. After he had woken up for good, we were having a peaceful quiet time. Our co-worker Muna was making up a long story about our Shevet dog, Shevie (which Hamoudi loves), using a teddy dog. He was carefully listening the whole time, but kept a straight face throughout the tale. It was difficult to see the joy and cheerfulness he had been building up slowly day by day since his big heart surgery suddenly gone. Towards the end of our visit he warmed up a bit, thanks to volunteer Sonia who bought a lot of beautiful clothes in the hospital’s mall.

As it was decided to bring most of the clothes back to Jerusalem, Hamoudi was very particular in which clothes could stay and which clothes could be sent to our base at Prophet’s Street. What a good sign to see from a young boy in a weak condition.

Finally, just before we left, we saw the first, real smile from Hamoudi, and not just a smile but heartfelt laughter as well. All that was necessary was simply the sound of a laughing child which Abu Mohammed had stored in his cell phone. All our hard labor was foolishness compared to this small wonder of technology.

Today was a successful day with a smooth implantation of Hamoudi's new pacemaker. Lord willing, we will have Hamoudi and his father back in our midst at the Shevet base soon. Thank you so much for your prayers. God has been so faithful to our Syrian friends! 

A Blessed Recovery

Posted on Mon, 12/09/2013 - 20:36 by Sarah Powell

On our way to the hospital today, Philip received a call from who he thought was Hamoudi's father. It turned out it was Hamoudi himself, wanting to make sure we had brought all of the bread, tomatoes, and cucumbers he had asked for. When Philip got off the phone, he told us Hamoudi must be in a good mood today, and he was right. From the moment we entered the hospital till we said good-bye, Hamoudi was all contentment and ornery smiles. 

When we entered Hamoudi's room, we barely got through preliminary greetings before his father proudly pulled down the collar of Hamoudi's shirt to show us that his chest bandage had been removed. Hamoudi can now show off the battle scar that stretches from just below his collar bones to clear down his rib cage. Not many men, much less four-year-old boys, sport their scars as confidently as Hamoudi wears his. More than being unfazed by his scar, though, Hamoudi has also learned to take all other aspects of his life in the hospital in stride. Whenever his monitor started beeping, he would help us check all of the different wires attached to him to make sure they were still attached correctly. Also when the nurse brought in a syringe full of medicine (which she instructed me Hamoudi would need to take with food or juice because it was so disgusting and salty), Hamoudi sucked it right up, puckered his lips and scrunched his nose in disgust, and then laughed along with the rest of us at what had just happened. Oh, the joys of hospital life! 

Near the end of our visit, Hamoudi turned around in his bed to observe his monitor screen while the rest of us were watching it, trying to figure out what it all meant. After we had all watched it for a few moments, he turned back from the screen and asked his dad very calmly if anything was too low or if it was all okay.

I was amazed at the way he asked that question so simply, and yet I was still surprised when Philip shared that Hamoudi knows all about the things that had happened and were happening to him because his dad tells him everything. He knows he is waiting for another surgery to put in his permanent pacemaker. He knows how big his last surgery was. And he understands those squiggly lines on the monitor screen tell him his heart is doing well. This is weighty knowledge Hamoudi is carrying around, and yet he carries it with what seems to be such ease. 

During our time with Hamoudi, we all enjoyed several forms of entertainment, and Hamoudi was full of smiles and laughs the whole time. I brought his favorite puzzle of Noah on the ark full of animals. And true to his usual self, Hamoudi decided halfway through the puzzle that it was time to start over, and he pulled all the pieces apart again. Later we pulled out the Legos Hamoudi had received from his visitors yesterday and began to construct masterpieces of “fiil kebiir!” (big elephant) and alligators that could chomp on our fingers. His favorite Lego constructions, however, were always “saeearat kebiira” (big cars), which we proceeded to use in monster truck style to ram into each other and see which car survived the crash best. In the middle of our constructing, though, we were interrupted first by the arrival of a huge bear and then the arrival of a huge dog, both led by Philip. They were giant, stuffed animals from one of the hospital's playrooms. Hamoudi loved them, and he happily slapped the bear when it announced it wanted to eat him and kissed the dog when it came to sit by his bed.
 
Our playtime together was only complete, however, once we spent time playing with bubbles – blowing them, catching them, popping them, and eating them. 
 
 
Before we left, we presented Hamoudi with his bag of veggies and bread. He gladly received it and asked to eat a tomato right then and there. He even continued to eat his tomato when a couple of nurses came in and began doing a check-up on him just as we were leaving. I know the peace Hamoudi and his father are experiencing in the midst of this whole process is a miracle and all by God's grace, just as Hamoudi's life itself is. In response to all this, we can only say “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord...the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).
 

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