Hero's Heart Surgery

Northern Iraq

Fluid On Her Healing Heart

Posted on Sun, 09/16/2012 - 15:48 by Tabea Schnidrig

As we visited Hero this morning, she was brought into her room in a wheelchair by her mother. Later we found out that she had just been at an echo. The nurse told me that she has a fever and is a bit weak and tired, which we could see and feel too.

At the echo it was found that Hero has too much fluid around her heart, and the plan is to insert a thoracic drainage tube to pull this fluid away. For the moment she is not allowed to eat or drink, until the drainage is over. Our precious girl was a bit afraid of what would be coming to her. The nurse told me that Hero will be sedated to make the procedure a bit

Hero's Healing Progresses

Posted on Wed, 09/12/2012 - 21:04 by Donna_Petrel

We entered the ICU today to find Hero resting serenely and her mother sitting attentively by her side. When Hero's mom realized we were there and spoke her words of welcome, Hero woke up to welcome us too. She had already been extubated (removed from mechanical ventilation), and while we were there, the central line, placed in her neck to direct the administration of medicine, was removed. 

One of the first things Hero said to us was "Look, my surgery is finished!" She had a look of satisfaction and contentment, almost as if she was proud of herself for the accomplishment; it was a sweet moment. Yesterday in order to quell her fears, her mother indicated that she was being taken not to surgery, but for some tests. I'd wondered if Hero might be angry this morning when she woke up and realized she'd gotten more than she expected from that trip downstairs yesterday. If there was any anger at all, her mother had already addressed it and settled her daughter's heart, for Hero was peaceful throughout our visit. The only difficulty of the day was that Hero is extremely thirsty, but can only drink a small amount of water, and not very often. She tried tears, begging, and reasoning with her mother, Kelsey, and I to get more water, but the nurse instructed us not to give her more till later. Eventually she lowered her expectations and asked only occasionally, and some of those requests were granted. 

Just before we left them, the respiratory therapist came in to work with Hero and strengthen her lung capacity. She obeyed his instructions and had a very successful session about how to keep her lungs clear of fluid. We thanked God together for her good surgery, and her rapid healing so far. The doctors making rounds today spent a lot of time at her bed discussing the residual VSD. But their comments were that she was healing well, and Dr. Sasson enjoyed sharing the simultaneous comment with Hero's mother, one in Hebrew and the other in Kurdish, as he looked at her pink fingernails: "Beautiful!" Please join us in thanking God for the good report so far as you continue praying for her healing to be complete.

Hero's Long Surgery Day

Posted on Tue, 09/11/2012 - 23:19 by Donna_Petrel

Early this morning three Shevet staff members arrived at Wolfson to find Hero and her mother waiting for her call to the operating room. She was glad to be entertained and distracted from the fear which was hidden not far below the surface of our interactions. Her mother on the other hand, was calm and strong, refusing to give in to anxiety as the most important day of her daughter's life dawned. Indeed, throughout the long day of waiting, she remained steadfast in her determined hope for a good outcome. 

We had almost an hour to enjoy each others' company before it was time to go downstairs, and as soon as Hero knew she was leaving, her tears began. She became more distressed when her bed was wheeled into the pre-operation room ahead of her mother and I, as we had to find the scrubs which are normally available before we could accompany her. It only took a few minutes before a nurse assisted us, but for Hero it must have seemed an hour. We joined her quickly, but her emotions were definitely ruling the moment, and understandably so. Neither her mother's soothing words nor my attempts to encourage her were effective at first, but then I thought to begin one of her favorite songs, which focuses on God's greatness, and states the truth that nothing is too difficult for him. When she heard these words, she settled down and peered into my eyes as if to see if I believed what I was singing. And I do believe these words, so I could confidently assure her they are the truth as we waited together until the nurse came to say it was time to go. She became so fearful and tearful at this point that the nurse went to beckon for the anesthesiologist to come to us. He administered a small amount of anesthesia, after which Hero was wheeled to the operating theater (OR), still tearful, but calming quickly.

Hero's mother was amazingly and beautifully stable as we began the wait. She was thankful for her daughter's surgery, saying she trusts God with everything. I see a strength in her which I believe has been gained as she's adjusted to widowhood, along with having the firm, loving support of her family. She remained talkative and positive while being appreciative of the companionship and love of Shad's mom along with Sophie, Anna and I. Throughout the morning she received many calls from her family, and five hours into surgery, they increased.

Yet there was no news to give her anxious family. At the six-hour mark, we all began to wonder if there was cause for alarm, and I sought some information from the medical staff. All we found out was that the post-operative echocardiogram was being done, which usually signals us to expect our patient in the ICU relatively soon afterwards. This time, however, it took two more long hours - for a total of eight - before we finally saw Hero being quickly wheeled towards the ICU.

As we walked with the gurney, one member of the surgical team explained that because of Hero's prior surgery, they had a difficult time getting through the layers of scar tissue before they could begin the actual heart repair. He said she was doing "ok", but we had to wait for about another hour to get the full overview of her situation. 

The news is full of hope, but also calls us to fervent prayer. After the lengthy procedure to remove scar tissue and complete the repair needed for Hero's heart, the final echocardiogram revealed a residual VSD (a hole existing between the two lower chambers) of Hero's heart. Doctors in the OR felt the risk of placing Hero back on the heart-lung machine to close the VSD was greater than any problem it might cause. Therefore, their course of treatment is to observe her through the night, and review her condition by echocardiogram in the morning. As of late tonight Israeli time, Hero remains stable in the ICU, thank God! Will you please join us in prayer for Hero to remain stable, and begin to heal immediately? If everything is stable in the morning, Hero will be extubated then. Meanwhile, Hero's blue pallor no longer exists! Her mother refers to her new complexion as "white", but to us, she looks a healthy pink. Already the clubbing in her fingers is nearly gone, and her mother and I rejoiced over the sight. We left Hero resting soundly and her mother preparing to do the same.

Hero Scheduled for Heart Surgery Tomorrow

Posted on Mon, 09/10/2012 - 23:09 by Sophie H.

Yesterday, we received a surprising phone call from the Wolfson Medical Center. They asked for Hero to come in early for an ultrasound of her kidneys. It seems that the doctors had discovered during her catheterization ten days ago that she only had one kidney, and so wanted to confirm this and make sure that everything else was okay internally before moving ahead with her heart surgery. And so we set out for Hero

Hero Returns To Jerusalem Following Catheterization

Posted on Thu, 08/30/2012 - 21:34 by Donna_Petrel

A jubilant Hero greeted me late this afternoon when we arrived to bring her back to Jerusalem following yesterday's catheterization. Apart from a little pain and slight bruising on her upper leg, she is back to her expressive, happy self. She was thrilled to see the Shevet workers again, as well as Shad and his mother. Hero's mother and Shad's mother engaged in deep conversation for a long time as they enjoyed each other

The Face of a Fighter

Posted on Wed, 08/29/2012 - 21:51 by Kelsey Cannon

This is the face that greeted Ruth, Donna, Tabea and me upon entering the children

In Good Spirits, Hero Admitted For Catheterization

Posted on Tue, 08/28/2012 - 22:36 by Anna Maria

Hero woke up with an adventurous spirit today, as she anticipated her next trip to the hospital. She was admitted for a cardiac catheterization, scheduled for tomorrow, which will allow for a closer investigation into her heart.

Hero knows very well that I am usually the bearer of toys and activities, so she grinned ear to ear and screamed "Annana!" when she realized I was going to the hospital with her.  We colored, blew bubbles, sang, and laughed as we waited... and waited. She was full of joy, and turned everything into a game.

As time went by, Hero started to become nervous and uneasy. She then became sick, and lost all the contentment she arrived with. Still, she ended the day with a smile, hoping tomorrow would be better.

As I was with Hero and her mother today, I continually prayed that God would give them His peace which surpasses all understanding, knowing that more difficult days will come, and that they would be drawn to their loving Creator. Please pray for them as they continue in this trying journey.

Hero's First Day at the Hospital

Posted on Mon, 08/06/2012 - 23:39 by Jesse Tilman

Getting to know Hero at our Shevet Achim house in Jerusalem last night was much easier than I thought. Most Kurdish girls are conservative in getting to know foreign guys because of their culture and their age and tend to stay out of sight during visits. I think the fact that she had traveled so far amongst foreigners already and was amongst a group of Kurds all relaxed and resting after their journey helped her settle in and enjoy talking to the new people around. She was happy to find that I could speak her language.

Today at the hospital Hero showed her outgoing personality the whole day as she engaged Ruth or Donna or me during breaks in the testing processes. Three new children including her were getting their initial tests done today, and we spent a long day of going from office to office and waiting in between. Blood tests, echocardiograms, urinalysis, x-rays, vital signs, all these were measured, examined, seen to and fussed over (including attention from a helpful clown). We didn

Hero's Long Road to Jerusalem

Posted on Mon, 08/06/2012 - 13:21 by Jonathan Miles

The toll taken by Hero's heart condition was immediately apparent when we met her and her mother at the airport in Kurdistan Saturday morning. It wasn't just her blue, clubbed fingers and toes--periodically Hero would squat down (as Tetralogy patients naturally learn to do) or lie down in order to force blood into her lungs.

When it came time to board the plane after a five-hour wait, Hero struggled to pull herself up the short set of stairs.

On board an airplane for the first time, Hero seemed to alternate between glee and terror, occasionally reaching a hand back to grasp mine.

High over a sandstorm in the desert between Kurdistan and Jordan, the pilot abruptly announced in English an emergency descent and landing in Baghdad. As we bounced our way down through zero visibility, with no idea what was wrong with the plane, Hero and the other Kurdish-speaking passengers were blissfully oblivious. I prayed as I tightly clutched the armrests, trying to trust that God does well in whatever He chooses, and yet asking for mercy for Hero and the two other children and their mothers who I'd brought with me on this seemingly ill-fated flight.

By God's grace Baghdad finally appeared through the sandy haze, and we changed planes and were back on our way to Jordan. By the next morning Hero was refreshed enough to challenge me to ping pong in our Amman office:

And by nightfall, we reached the sanctuary of Prophets Street in Jerusalem, where a waiting Kurdish meal was a welcome sight for all. 

First exams for Hero and the other new children are scheduled for Monday morning.


Four Good Reasons To Come To Israel

Posted on Sun, 07/15/2012 - 18:09 by Ryan Gregg

From a town in the mountainous northeastern corner of Iraq, miles from the border with Iran, Hero is a twelve-year old girl with a complex heart defect. Her diagnosis is known as Tetralogy of Fallot (see the link at right), a syndrome with four distinct defects. Each defect compensates in some way for the next defect, and this defect for the next defect, and so on, in a circular fashion.

In 2010 Hero received a shunt in her heart. However, a long-term repair making possible a normal, healthy life is still needed. Hero experiences clubbing of the fingers and toes, along with cyanosis