Hussein's Heart Surgery


A Blessed Admission

Posted on Wed, 05/28/2014 - 20:49 by Jesse Tilman

Hussein was ready in the courtyard today when it was time for us to head out, and his father was outside the gate and talking with a few people at the gate of Ort College across the street. We were preparing to admit Hussein into Sheba Hospital for his catheterization tomorrow. Driving down the Jerusalem hills, we listened to Hussein’s Arabic music on his phone and kept turning it up at his request!

Upon reaching the hospital we pulled up to the top of the parking garage and were treated to a good view of the front of the International Congenital Heart Center we were about to enter.

Walking into the hospital, we first went to check in. Hussein quickly showed a willingness to learn as he asked about the buttons in the elevator. We soon stepped onto the floor he would be staying on for the night and headed to the central desk to take care of paperwork.

Soon enough Hussein underwent preliminary checks of his pulse, blood pressure, height, and weight, along with receiving an EKG readout of his heart.

Next we crossed the hall to the room for his echo. It was a quick one, and the doctor spent more time with questions afterward than he did with the test. He was specifically concerned about Hussein's amount of physical activity, asking about his swimming, running, walking, and even construction working. Those of us at Shevet hadn't heard anything about Hussein's construction working skills before today! Hussein can only do a moderate amount of work before he gets too oxygen-depleted to continue (usually he needs to rest after a few hundred meters of walking), so hearing he is a "working man" was heartening!

Towards the end of his time with us, the doctor mentioned Hussein, since he is eighteen-years-old and able to handle the procedure, would receive local anesthesia (localized pain numbing) for his catheterization tomorrow rather than the general anesthesia (total unconsciousness) usually given to the children we bring.

Another difference in the normal catheterization routine due to Hussein's age came about when Hussein was able to sign his own consent papers. A nurse initially brought the papers and handed them to his father to sign, but as Abu Hussein was writing, a doctor came by who knew them and directed Hussein to sign the papers since he is eighteen. Hussein smiled as he signed under his father’s name.

Finishing there, we waited for papers and then headed downstairs for an x-ray. This took about fifteen minutes of waiting and only two minutes for the actual procedure. Then we headed back upstairs for admission to the ward.

The friendly nurse on duty soon had Hussein situated in his bed for the night and began her own checks and blood drawing. During the interim waiting time, I went with Abu Hussein for a tour of the floor and facilities. He was happy to see the quality shower rooms, bunk-beds, and especially the kitchenette. Another hospital staff member soon brought no less than four food trays and six steaming hot vegetable soup bowls! Hussein and his father smiled warmly and offered the food to us.

Currently Hussein is scheduled to have his catheterization early tomorrow morning. The doctor mentioned 8 o'clock as the target time for the operation. Hussein and his father are in a room with two other Arabic-speaking families and seemed glad for the company. After the instructions for Hussein’s catheterization preparation and rules for the ward were explained, we said goodbye and gave handshakes all around. Thank God for a good admission!

Hussein's First Step

Posted on Mon, 05/19/2014 - 20:49 by Philip Rasmussen

After more than two months of waiting and uncertainty, Hussein finally went to the hospital today, this time to be the patient and to be the center of attention. Life at Israeli hospitals is not a new thing for him, as he has faithfully accompanied his father during his father’s cancer treatment.

On our ride to the hospital, I tried to place some motivation and hope into this young man as he set forth on the first step of his medical journey. It is obvious he is still in low spirits, having been separated from his family and friends for months and having spent most of those days not having much to do. The thought of not returning home soon is difficult for him. He shared his frustrations with me in the van, and I was looking for a way to encourage him. But I felt I only had clichés on my tongue. Then I was reminded about an earlier conversation I had with Hussein concerning God’s will and guidance. Some of the most common phrases you hear Muslims say circle around the idea of subjecting to God’s will, and I once asked Hussein what his understanding of God’s will is. He gave me an example. Months ago while staying in Jordan, Hussein tried to go back to Syria to help his people without his parents’ knowledge. He had already found his seat in the bus when his mother suddenly knocked on the window, telling him to get off as she had received news he might be able to receive medical care in Israel. He told me without hesitation it was God’s will for him to come to Israel.

Today I reminded him of our conversation and the fact that he is still in God’s will, though God’s timing and our timing are often different. Thankfully Hussein doesn’t seem to believe God turned His favor away. Rather in the midst of waiting for his treatment to begin, he has seen God’s favor in the way He took care of his father.

After arriving at Sheba Medical Center, we unpacked our lunch and soon had our mouths full of sandwiches. While we were eating, the doctor came out to wave us in for our appointment after telling us “Bon appétit.”

Hussein stayed calm through the whole examination, and there was no need for either a children’s cartoon or soap bubbles to keep him from crying. One of the medical staff was joking with us and Hussein, asking why we weren’t blowing bubbles.

It was a long examination, and four medical staff members were standing around the echo machine as pictures of Hussein’s heart showed up on the screen. The doctors were quite surprised by Hussein’s good condition. He is suffering from a transposition of the great arteries (his aorta and pulmonary artery are in opposite positions) and tricuspid atresia (lack of proper development in his tricuspid valve), but amazingly his heart has found a way to function which has allowed him to grow into a man. Surgery could possibly improve his condition, but the doctors want to do a thorough examination of his heart through a cardiac catheterization before taking any other steps. He might also need to undergo an MRI. From there, the cardiac team will discuss if a surgery would be suitable or not.

We hope to receive a date for Hussein’s catheterization admission soon. In the meanwhile, please pray alongside us for patience for Hussein in this time and for him, as well all of us, to become better at counting blessings rather than hardships.

Abu Hussein Home Again

Posted on Fri, 05/16/2014 - 15:33 by Kristina Kayser

Shabbat is nearly here, and its arrival coincides with the glad return of Abu Hussein to our Shevet home. After a successful surgery on Tuesday, he has recovered well enough to leave Shaare Zedek Hospital. We were told his discharge would be around noon today, but just as our morning meeting ended, Abu Hussein called and, much to our surprise, told us he had managed to secure a ride on Jerusalem's light rail with his son this morning. The train runs by the hospital entrance, but it is quite impressive that this father and son took the initiative to travel across the city on their own. They arrived shortly after the phone call at the Shevet base.

We are quite happy to have Hussein and his father back in our midst. Abu Hussein has some mild discomfort post-surgery, but he has it under control. He seems calm and content at the moment. Praise God his health has made such progress, especially since Hussein's heart treatment is expected to begin at Sheba Medical Center next week. We have been praying long and hard for a breakthrough for Hussein, and God’s timing is perfect. What an amazing answer to prayer and what a loving and powerful God we serve! Please rejoice with us in these good gifts and join us in praying for Abu Hussein’s continued healing. 

Healing for Abu Hussein

Posted on Tue, 05/13/2014 - 22:15 by Philip Rasmussen

Last night we received the news from Shaare Zedik Hospital that Abu Hussein could come for his second surgery today. Glad to see things progressing, we headed out early this morning to the hospital after gathering for prayer in the front courtyard. 

Our first step was to take care of the payment for the surgery, and we were thankful to hear the hospital is charging us less than what they first had told us. We have encountered much good will from this hospital, and they are very much on top of things.

After a smooth admission at the urology department, we were confronted by the marketing director of the hospital, who was interested in hearing more about Hussein and his father’s story. Abu Hussein is not afraid to tell what he has witnessed during his time in Israel, and the friendliness he has experienced at Shaare Zedek has made a big impression on him and has been his primary way of getting in touch with the local people.

Later while waiting in the room to be called into surgery, Abu Hussein was Skyping with his wife and children. They keep in close contact through modern technology, and I believe it is a huge gift for both parties. Hussein was quite satisfied after having shown his younger brother on the camera what fancy, remote-controlled moveable beds they are sleeping in!

A little bit before noon, Abu Hussein was rolled down to the surgical area. There he underwent some final tests before traveling to the operation room. Abu Hussein was in a good mood and at peace right up to the surgery. His son Hussein was also calm about the procedure. This being the second round for Abu Hussein, Hussein knew where to expect to see his father again, and we found a good place to sit and wait patiently. Hussein and his father are open to prayers, and Hussein and I were able to stop for a minute and put this surgery in God’s healing hands.

While we waited for Abu Hussein, we Skyped with Yousif and Lina who were at Wolfson Hospital helping the Gaza children come in for follow-ups. It was good chatting with them, and I realized how important it is to have friends to stand by your side and encourage you during times of trial. We are already seeing the fruit of time invested with Hussein and his father.  

After one-and-a-half hours, we were called in to see Hussein’s father briefly and then told we would have to wait another two hours before Abu Hussein would be taken back to the department. We tried to get a hold of the surgeon to discuss the surgery's results, but the only information we were left with was what Abu Hussein himself had understood from the medical team. They said they removed the rest of the tumor, but they might still have to do a third operation. We are working on getting this information clarified.

Abu Hussein is in a remarkably better condition post-operation than after his first surgery. He seems to be in much less pain, and I think his spirits were lifted after finding out he is sharing a room with Syrian Jews in the ward. It was a ‘once in a lifetime’ moment to experience this meeting, and it seems like a divine appointment. They have a lot in common, and of course the current condition in Syria was discussed. Abu Hussein is, Lord-willing, coming back to our base soon, and we have much to be thankful for as we reflect on this day. There are still different, unknown factors, however, that you can intercede for. What will happen in the near future with Abu Hussein (surgeries, chemotherapy, etc.) is still uncertain. Let us pray the Lord’s will be done with Abu Hussein.

Many Nations Shall Come

Posted on Tue, 05/06/2014 - 03:00 by Jonathan Miles

As I walked along Jaffa Road at the height of Israel's Independence Day celebrations, I realized that the sight of Hussein from Syria and Dawod from Iraq in the midst of the revelry was a picture (and a video) worth a thousand words:

Bearing One Another's Burdens

Posted on Thu, 05/01/2014 - 22:51 by Kristina Kayser

One of the most beautiful and powerful aspects of community life is the frequent opportunity to lighten each other's burdens. I see this demonstrated daily at Shevet in the way we pray for and seek tangible ways to love people in moments of pain, fear, and uncertainty. Paul spoke rightly when he encouraged the early church to "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). An unexpected challenge that has arisen for Hussein's father is the recent awareness of a large tumor in his bladder. Hussein was operated on to have the mass removed, but a significant portion still remains due to the doctors’ inability to eradicate the entire tumor in one attempt. Since then, Hussein's father has been recuperating at home with us. The healing process has been a slow one, with some continued discomforts. We have also been waiting to hear what the pathology results from the operation confirmed.

For these reasons, last Tuesday's follow-up appointment was much anticipated. Shaare Tzedek Medical Center maintained their praiseworthy efforts to assist us by reducing the cost of the consultation by half. The staff was quite friendly and helpful, even personally greeting Abu Hussein (which made him happy). I really see God's hand in every detail of this Syrian man's treatment here. Hussein remembered where each department was located and insisted on escorting me from place to place, while his father waited in the lounge. He cares deeply for his father and wanted to help in any way he could on this day. 

When Dr. Gnessin called us in to his office, he shared the prognosis and plan of care for Abu Hussein matter-of-factly. Pathologists determined the bladder tumor is malignant and high-risk. Even though the doctor surmised after the first assessment that cancer was likely, it still sounded surprising to hear those words verified. The good news is the cancer is non-muscle invasive. This means the remaining tumor can be uprooted without having to remove any part of the bladder. In addition, the cancer has not spread to any other organ at this point. The doctor went on to explain they hope to do the second, and potentially final, operation in two weeks. This will be followed by six weekly installations of localized chemotherapy into the bladder. 

Hussein's father took the news in stride, without any significant reaction. He mostly wanted to know when his discomfort would be relieved. Only once the second surgery is completed and some time has passed will he feel the greatest ease. Before leaving the hospital, Hussein, his father, Philip, and I went upstairs to the urology department to determine the details of Abu Hussein's hospital admission on May 14th. The operation will be the following day.

On our car ride home, the four of us spoke about trusting God when we don't understand the reasons behind our struggles. As we walk forward in light of present trials, our faith rests in God working out His will for us in His time. My prayer for Abu Hussein in this season of facing his mortality in a new way is that he will experience the power and life-giving hope found in Messiah. Please keep praying with us as we walk beside this man, who has become our brother and our friend. Pray for his healing. Pray for his comfort and joy. Pray the community of believers here and around the world will truly bear this burden with him. To God be the glory!

Hussein's Miracle

Posted on Sun, 04/27/2014 - 20:14 by Sarah Powell

Today was the fifth or sixth time Hussein has come with me on Shevet's bi-weekly grocery shopping trip. I remember the first time he came and insisted on pushing the grocery cart for me, following me through the supermarket which has seen my face so many times. But Hussein's face was new. It was the man at the spices counter who spoke to Hussein first, a quizzical look in his creased brow: “Who are you? Where are you from?”

“I'm from Syria,” Hussein declared proudly.

That spice man's look of surprise and excitement was only the first of many such reactions I would witness later that day and on consecutive shopping trips. After such expressions, the same question would always follow: “Why and how are you here?”

Hussein would then explain to his inquirers he is a refugee in Jordan and he is in Israel for a heart surgery. The excitement on his listeners' faces would continue to grow as he explained the complexities of his situation and the circumstances surrounding his stay in Israel (a stay now going on two months). They clearly realized it must have taken a miracle for Hussein and his father to be here. 

Now Hussein asks me every Sunday and Thursday (shopping days) if he can come with me to the grocery store to see his friends. And on the days he is unable to go, he asks me after I get back whether his friends there asked about him. I think his new friends are just as proud to know Hussein as he is to know them, as they introduce him to their friends all the time. “Come here," they'll say, "He's from Syria! His name is Hussein.” And then Hussein has another new friend. 

Reading through our children's blogs, there is one word I find comes up often: miracle. Sometimes I wonder if we risk causing that word to lose its power through overuse. But then I have to remind myself truth can never be overused, and thus the truth God does – and is doing – miracles should never become trite to us. So I shall say it again. Who would have guessed Hussein, a teenager from the heart of Syria, would be making friends with Israelis? If you had asked Hussein a year ago, I'm sure he never would have imagined it. If you had asked his father, he probably never would have guessed it. If you had asked anyone at Shevet just over a year ago, the prospect of helping Syrians would still have been a dream-like goal hopefully being pushed towards. But now Hussein is the third Syrian in need of heart surgery who has lived under our roof, and there are men at a local Israeli grocery store he calls his friends. How crazy is that? It must be a miracle. 

It is the beauty of these little miracles God is bringing about daily in Hussein and his father's lives that gives me the hope to look ahead with assurance towards the miracles still needing to take place in order for Hussein and his father to get all of the help they need. This coming Tuesday, Hussein's father will have a check-up at Shaare Tzedek Hospital (where he had his surgery) and will meet with the urologist there to discuss his treatment's next steps. Please pray God will continue to do miracles in opening the necessary doors for Hussein's father to receive the healing help he needs. 

Hussein, on the other hand, has not been able to move forward at all toward his medical treatment. And after nearly two months away from home and nothing to show for it, he is getting more and more restless. Please pray with us for Hussein and his father to be able to trust God for His perfect timing and wait patiently as long as they must remain in this stage of waiting. And please pray the time of waiting will come to an end soon and Hussein will begin receiving his treatment at the normal, discounted cost quickly. And finally, please pray for the staff and volunteers here to have wisdom and understanding in their interactions with Hussein and his father in order to best love them and serve them during this season of their lives. 

Thank you all for standing with us as we journey with Hussein and his father. You are a blessing, and I hope each of you is encouraged today by the fact our heavenly Father is in the business of doing miracles – beautiful miracles that never grow vapid. 

Running the Race

Posted on Thu, 04/17/2014 - 22:03 by Aaron Meyer

As of right now, Hussein’s status remains unchanged. We have yet to find a hospital willing to accept him for the discounted rate all our children are treated with. But we remain hopeful and trusting in the Lord for His guidance.  

Despite this lack of medical activity, Hussein has been a blessing around the base with his willingness to help in any way he can and to engage with those around him. Today he joined us on our grocery shopping trip, and yesterday he traveled with us and Dawod to the park to play some futbal (soccer) and frisbee.

He told us he wanted to be a goal keeper, so we gave him the chance to shine as we put his skills to the test with some penalty kicks. I must say he certainly has potential!

We continually pray for this amazing, young man to experience a healing touch from our Father the Great Physician. We ask that you join with us in asking God to give Hussein the strength to continue running the race.​

Abu Hussein's Surgery

Posted on Mon, 04/07/2014 - 23:38 by Agnes Bruna

Today was surgery admission day for Abu Hussein at Shaare Tzedek Hospital here in Jerusalem. Early in the morning, Philip and I took the light-rail with Hussein and Abu Hussein to the hospital. The admission procedure went smoothly, and Abu Hussein seemed fairly laid back about it all. To our pleasant surprise, there were a number of fluent, Arabic-speaking doctors and nurses involved. Everyone made an effort to cooperate, and they even agreed to Hussein staying with his father during the hospital stay and receiving the same meals as his father. What a contrast with last week’s experience and a big answer to prayer!

We had a short chat with the senior urologist while waiting for Abu Hussein’s room to be cleaned. We were then approached by some doctors who asked whether or not Abu Hussein would mind if he had his surgery this afternoon rather than tomorrow due to a surgery cancellation. Abu Hussein agreed – he was probably relieved to get it over with sooner rather than later.

Philip spent the day with father and son, and I took over with Yousef just as Abu Hussein was taken to the operating room. He looked weary, and Hussein appeared rather worried as he was wheeled in.

The surgery was only expected to take about an hour, but in the end it took almost two hours, which was rather stressful for Hussein. The doctor came to talk to us and explained they had not been able to get the entire tumor out – it is rather large and too intertwined with other organs. They are awaiting the lab results, but are fairly certain the tumor is cancerous. All in all, this is not such good news, but we believe in a God who heals and does miracles. Let us all pray fervently for a good outcome!

Abu Hussein’s recovery time was quick, as he was not under general anesthesia, but as I left the doctors were slightly concerned about some increased bleeding.

Please keep praying for his healing and for the doctors’ wisdom in deciding what the next steps should be. Also please pray for Hussein, who feels rather vulnerable waiting in this foreign country for his own surgery while his father is sick.  

A Soft Answer Turns Away Wrath

Posted on Tue, 04/01/2014 - 23:03 by Kristina Kayser

One of the greatest privileges of living and serving in Israel has been the opportunity to personally witness miracles. By "miracle," I mean an act of God's grace extending beyond purely human intervention. I see Him at work in the way doors continue to open for patients from Gaza, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Syria. He is moving every time a child's life is extended through heart surgery. And day after day, our needs and the needs of those we serve are being met because of His unfailing provision. He is a God who reconciles, a God who heals, and a God who redeems life. May we never take His grace for granted. 

A miracle which has only just begun to unfold is the story of Hussein and his father from Syria. The fact they are even here is astounding. Coming from the interior of one of Israel's most hostile neighboring countries to the heart of Jerusalem is, once again, an act of divine grace. Why shouldn't we then look to our Heavenly Father for the critical medical treatment both father and son are seeking? Hussein's cardiac surgery has been indefinitely postponed as we wait for hospital partnership. Meanwhile, his father was recently diagnosed with a large and possibly cancerous tumor in his bladder.

Just last Thursday, we spent ten hours with Hussein's father in Shaare Zedek Hospital's ER for lab work, a CT scan, and assessment of the tumor, all of which came to a total of nearly 10,000 shekels. We, however, walked out that night without paying a single penny (or agora)! The cashier had been informed our friend was a Syrian refugee and we were requesting to pay the normal Israeli tariff instead of tourist prices. A few phone calls later, the news arrived that all fees had been waived. Needless to say, our crew left a little stunned and rejoicing in God's goodness that night. 

I was hesitant to expect the same today when we returned for a follow-up consultation with a specialist in the urology department. Seeming surprised, yet pleased, the doctor said Hussein's father was his very first patient from Syria. He proceeded to try his best to communicate with Hussein’s father using the Arabic words he knew throughout our meeting. Philip was also there, thankfully, to provide necessary translation between the two. The doctor very directly and thoroughly informed us the tumor will need to be removed in the next six to eight weeks. A tentative surgery date will be determined next week, which the doctor hopes will not interfere with Hussein's surgery. He went on to say tumors in the bladder are often cancerous and may require ongoing treatment. After asking us a few more questions about our work in Israel, he shook our hands and directed us to the payment department.  

We were bounced to several different windows before arriving at the appropriate desk. "What kind of insurance do you have?" the receptionist inquired.

"None," I responded. I added quickly, "And last week, we didn't have to pay."

"No one leaves this hospital without paying—ever!" she retorted, while snatching the documents from my hands. In addition to the receipt from last week was a letter from Jonathan requesting that we pay only half the Israeli price for surgery. "I must go speak with my manager about this!" When she returned, her irritation grew to heated contempt as she discovered we were assisting refugees from Syria. "Why are you helping them?! Don't we have enough problems of our own here? Who let them come in? The Israeli people do not want them here. They're taking up beds in our hospitals, and we're paying for them! If a Jew goes to Syria, they would cut off his head! Why don't you take them back and tell their leader to help them!" By now, her ranting had carried throughout the office, and another receptionist joined her in her argument. I suddenly felt like Daniel in the lion's den. Part of me wanted to run away and hide, but the little courage remaining prompted me to speak.

"This son and his father don't feel that way about Israel. They're thankful to be here," I offered gently. "And didn't God tell Abraham through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed?" (Genesis 12:3)

She huffed and added several more criticisms before saying, "Well anyway, he doesn't have to pay. Now go upstairs to pre-op!" 

I thanked her for her help but soon realized that rather than charging us for the consultation, they were prepared to admit Hussein’s father for surgery today at no cost. Upon returning to the cashier to sort out the confusion, I prepared myself for another verbal volley. Instead, I found the tides beginning to turn.

"Why are you back here? I'll go with you personally and see what needs to be done," she said. The two of us walked upstairs, and I felt her softening as we spoke together. "I'm sorry I had to speak to you in that way," she said. "But you must know how the Israeli people feel. We have had a difficult past. It's good that you understand both sides."

In turn, I responded, "I know this is a difficult situation, but I also know God is doing miracles here. One of my favorite verses says, 'Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things' (Psalm 72:18). He is still doing wonderful things through the people of Israel because He loves you."

"But we don't love them," she quipped.

"But He loves you. You are the apple of His eye. Thank you again for your help today," I replied.

As we said goodbye, her final remark was, "Continue in the good work you are doing." Solomon was right when he wrote, "A soft answer turns away wrath" (Proverbs 15:1a).

On our way home, Philip and I reflected on the way God poured out His favor on all of us today. Despite receiving difficult news for Hussein's father, it is clear the Lord is taking care of him in a special way. This is how we texted the news to our office manager Joshua: "Cost of consultation: 0 NIS (New Israeli Shekels). Parking: 20 NIS. Experience preceding the outcome: priceless." Truly, nothing is too difficult for Him!  

I pray many hearts, including those of Hussein and his father, will be impacted for God's kingdom through their story. May the people of Israel also continue to find fresh vision in their calling to be a light to the nations!