Ilham's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

Our Delightful Little Dear

Posted on Sun, 04/26/2015 - 21:36 by Jesse Tilman

Ilham, our delightful little dear, has graduated from Shevet Achim with a heart whole and ready for the world. Her responsive nature, shown through shining eyes and a ready, toothy grin, will be much missed in our home.

Her body could hardly keep up with her spirit. She would scoot across the floor smiling and clapping her hands as she looked to whomever had reached out to her. Or she would practice her crawling (even in a dress!) and zoom across the floor.

In her short six weeks here, she made some fast friends with our volunteers. Her tireless efforts in energetic locomotion endeared her strong spirit to us. With her mother looking on, she would move all around our upstairs living room carpet from corner to corner, visiting each person and rejoicing in the life God gave her.

Konrad especially had a unique relationship with Ilham. She would return again and again to him, bringing trinkets and hugs. 

During her farewell party, we helped her to walk by holding her hands and relaying her from person to person as she stepped along. When it came time for her gifts, her face lit up as she saw the big bag coming towards her. All of the soft, fluffy gifts were held tightly for a few seconds, but she clasped onto one gift of colorful rattles in bright packaging longer than the others and held them up when everything was being repacked for travel.

Ilham's VSD, the hole between the two upper chambers of her heart, has been completely corrected, and Lord willing, she will have a fully healthy heart for the rest of her life.

She will grow and develop into a lively young girl with her whole life before her. Her surgery and recovery were very much on the fast side, and we are confident in her continued health.

Before she left, we were able to take her to see the Garden Tomb and share the story of the living hope we have with her and her mother. The lush garden was a new world for our little Ilham, and she looked around with wide eyes.

Trees and flowers were blooming and the scents and sights were many there. Down in the tomb, we listened as Yousef told us the history of the place. Ilham's mother listened and gave her thanks. Then we all got some good photos and looked around a bit more before heading up to ground level.

My last memories of her are of being part of her sending party as she left through Ben Gurion Airport to Amman. Her regular papers to pass through Jordan hadn't come through, and we had to send her home in-transit through the Jordan airport and then on to Kurdistan, northern Iraq. Her mother was very patient and trusting as we guided her through the hurdles of traversing an airport and exiting a country. She would have to navigate the Jordan airport by herself later, and we did our best to prepare her for that. Ilham was looking around curiously and smiled at us a few last times before we said goodbye at the airport. May God bless His precious children! No one is able to snatch them out of His hand (John 10:29).

Ilham's Final Echo

Posted on Mon, 04/20/2015 - 21:47 by Ruth Zellweger

Ilham's time in Israel has been very smooth and has gone by quickly. After her open heart surgery, she recovered so well that she came home to us only four days later. We are so thankful that there have not been any complications. Ilham's mother is a quiet, but very friendly and compassionate woman. She never complains about anything and delights in her beautiful daughter. Also, she is the mother that has been the most diligent about giving the medications to her daughter at the assigned times. Today, she came with high hopes to Wolfson Hospital. It was supposed to be Ilham's final echo! And it did not take long for Dr. Hanita to announce that Ilham's heart looks well.

She is allowed to return to Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Her mother smiled happily and rejoiced with Duaa and her mother, who will also return to their family this week. After lunch, Konrad and I took the three families, including Hemn and his father, to the nearby beach. It was Ilham's first time at the beach. However, she only liked the water from a distance. As soon as we took her closer, she started crying. She felt most comfortable in her mother's arms.

The beach was a great place to celebrate Ilham's healed heart. We will continue celebrating tomorrow evening with a farewell party in our home. We praise God for the mercy He has shown Ilham and her mother. 

In A Good Mood

Posted on Mon, 04/13/2015 - 21:49 by Sophie H.

Today was Ilham's second post-surgery echo. After our daily morning meeting, we started our trip to the hospital. Little Ilham peacefully fell asleep on the way there.

Ilham was in a good mood today, especially while we were eating lunch on the grass, accompanied by some wild cats that brought much laughter to us. After awhile, Ilham spent some time playing with the cats.

She was so happy!

After her echo, the doctor told us that everything is good! Next Monday will probably be her last echo. Thank God for her good recovery. 

Healing Beautifully

Posted on Mon, 04/06/2015 - 21:55 by Ruth Zellweger

Sweet Ilham was invited today for her first control echo after her discharge from the hospital a few days ago. It was a beautiful morning as we headed towards Tel Aviv - blue sky, warm sunshine, and green fields on the roadside. Ilham sat calmly in her car seat and eventually fell asleep. Soon after we arrived at Wolfson Hospital, Ilham was already on the examination table. Dr. Hanita carefully looked at her heart and announced that everything looks beautiful. She asked us to return the following week for another check-up. Ilham's mother was happy and relieved that her daughter is doing so well. After the echo, we went to the children's ward where Ilham got her sutures removed. We also visited Hemn and his father there and spent some time with them. We are praising God for Ilham's beautiful recovery, knowing only too well that we cannot take it for granted. Thank you for continuing to pray for precious Ilham and her mother.

Back In Jerusalem

Posted on Thu, 04/02/2015 - 22:35 by Kyle Carlson

Only four days after her surgery, Ilham was able to join us again in Jerusalem. This precious and adorable girl has recovered so well, and we are glad to welcome her back. Please continue to pray for her and her mother, and join us in thanking the Lord for the work he has done in her life!


Posted on Tue, 03/31/2015 - 21:14 by Rebakah Yang

By the time we reached the Wolfson Hospital today, it was almost near noontime. After settling in our dear Hemn in Children’s Ward, I was about to go to ICU to visit our two beloved daughters, Hiba and Ilham.

Suddenly I heard a very familiar voice crying from a room in Children’s Ward. I was Surprised to see our precious Ilham there with her happy mum. Hallelujah!! Praise God for His healing for Ilham and bringing her out of the ICU.  

Ilham Is Awake

Posted on Mon, 03/30/2015 - 23:07 by Kristina Kayser

It has only been one day since Ilham's surgery, and she is doing remarkably well. Doctor's extubated her (took her off mechanical ventilation) and weaned her from anesthesia early this morning. Konrad was able to briefly visit her and her mother in Wolfson's ICU and observed that she is making fine progress. Ilham's mother also shared with me her great joy and relief that her daughter is awake again. She added that Ilham is crying often, so she has been staying very close to her daughter's bedside for comfort and reassurance. Praise God for this sweet little girl and her smooth recovery after surgery thus far. 

A Smile in Her Eyes

Posted on Sun, 03/29/2015 - 22:47 by Camilla Madsen

Early in the morning, Kristina and I took Ilham and her mother to the Wolfson Medical Center in Tel Aviv.

Today, it was time for Ilham’s open-heart surgery. When we arrived at the hospital, Ilham was in a great mood; she was smiling and laughing. But as soon as the nurse started the examinations, her mood changed.

It was clear that Ilham could remember her last examination and that she definitely didn’t like it.

Thankfully, the doctor and nurses finished quickly, and Ilham could return to her mother’s arms. After the first examinations, the waiting time for the surgery was very long. Because of the surgery, Ilham has not been eating since 2am. Even so, her mood and patience was unbelievable. During the waiting time, we went outside to enjoy the good weather on the hospital’s playground.

The waiting time was a great opportunity for me to study the relationship between Ilham and her mother. Ilham is a very lovely girl who loves her mother so much. She is very addicted to her mother, and it is so hard for her to be separated.

Even a short second without her mother makes Ilham unhappy. Whenever Ilham is safe with her mother, she is a happy girl who gives us all a beautiful smile. 

About 2pm, it was finally time for her surgery. We went downstairs where the OR is. This was a very special moment because we all knew that it now was time to say goodbye to Ilham. When we got inside the OR-department, we waited a short moment in a waiting room.

Ilham was still smiling and unaware of what was going to happen. After few minutes, the nurse came; they were now ready for beginning the surgery. The goodbye between the strongly-connected mother and daughter was, of course, very hard. When the nurse took Ilham, she immediately began crying and scream loudly for her mother. Obviously, this affected her mother, who left the department silently and with tears in her eyes. The fear of the unknown was so clear in both Ilham and her mother’s eyes.

The waiting time during the surgery was long. It was obvious how worried Ilham’s mother was and how dearly she wanted to be with her daughter. But Ilham’s mother is a very strong and brave woman. Despite the fact that her daughter was in an open-heart surgery at the time, she was very calm and patient. I admire her and am very impressed with her amazing, peaceful way of tackling this hard time.

After almost three and a half hours, we saw a glimpse of Ilham’s bed and surgeons walking down the hallway. It was an amazing sight, a sight I won't soon forget. At the same time, I will probably will never forget how the worries in Ilham’s mother’s eyes disappeared and got replaced with a relieved smile and tears of joy and peace. 

“Ilham is doing great and everything went well” – these were the words from the surgeon when he passed us on his way to the ICU with Ilham. Praise God! Now we just had to wait a while before going into the ICU to see her. The relief after these hours was unbelievable.

One hour later, a doctor came and told us that it was time to see Ilham now. This message brought a big smile in Ilham’s mother’s eyes and in mine as well. When we got into the ICU, it was so amazing to see how Ilham’s mother relaxed when she finally was reunited with her lovely little girl.


We thank God for this day and the successful surgery. The doctors have repaired the hole between Ilham’s upper two chambers of the heart, which means that Ilham now is able to live a life as every other child. Ilham is now stable, and the doctors are planning to extubate her tomorrow. Amazing!

Join us in praying for strength and patience for Ilham and her mother. And praise God for what he already has done in her life!

Ilham Returns to Wolfson

Posted on Sun, 03/22/2015 - 22:11 by Kristina Kayser

Last Monday, darling Ilham was introduced to Wolfson Hospital for her first battery of tests and assessments. This was not a pleasant experience for her, to say the least. It was so bothersome, in fact, that doctors were not able to successfully complete all of their exams due to Ilham's tears and iron will. 

We were, therefore, summoned to return this morning for another attempt at an echocardiogram, an EKG, and a couple additional tests. Much like a week ago, Ilham would not fall asleep after receiving two sedatives. Her mother and I both looked at her in wonder as she fought heavy eyelids to stay awake throughout the echo. Dr. Alona deftly completed her assessment, despite our stubborn beauty, and the results were much the same as before: Ilham has a large VSD (Ventricular Septal Defect), but she is an excellent candidate for a complete repair. Praise God! 

Ilham's mother was calm and patient throughout the entire day, but she was clearly tired and ready to return home by mid-afternoon. Both she and her daughter rested well on our way back to Jerusalem. For now, we will continue to wait for further information from the doctors regarding a surgery date for Ilham. Thank you for praying for this lovely mother-daughter duo! 

First Day

Posted on Mon, 03/16/2015 - 22:31 by Camilla Madsen

This morning, we took Ilham to the Wolfson Medical Center in Tel Aviv for her first examinations. After we reached the hospital, we had to wait a while before they began the examinations. Ilham and her mother arrived at Shevet Achim last night, so the time in the waiting room was a great opportunity to get to know them.

Ilham is a very adorable and lovely little girl with the most beautiful smile. Even though they had a very long trip yesterday, both her and her mother seemed very happy and smiling. During the morning examinations, she charmed her way into the hearts of all the nurses. Quickly, we found out that Ilham is a patient girl, but every patient person reaches a point where it is no longer funny. After a lot of routine checks, among them drawing blood, taking Ilham's weight, and taking her blood pressure, the nurses gave her some medication, which could help her fall asleep. But sweet little Ilham was not in the mood for sleep. She was just smiling and having fun – such a happy girl.

In the late afternoon, we went to see the doctor to get a cardio echo. Again, the doctor gave Ilham some medication for sleeping, but Ilham is a resolute girl; she rejected sleep once more. Through the echo, her mood was changing. When she discovered what the doctor was doing, she began to cry.

However, her amazing mother got her to calm down. And with some songs, we were able to cheer her up.

Her mother was amazing all through the day . She was patient and very loving towards Ilham. The cardio echo showed that Ilham has a Ventricular Septal Defect, which means that she has a hole between the upper two chambers of the heart. The doctor told us that the hole between Ilham’s chambers is a bit larger than first expected, but at the same time, she told us that it is not a very complicated surgery. The relief in the face of Ilham’s mother was clear. She was so released and thankful, especially when the doctor could tell us that the hole between the chambers can be fixed in only one surgery.

After the last examinations, it looked like the sleeping medication finally was working. While we were waiting for results for the blood examinations, Ilham was sleeping safely in her mother’s arms. Ilham definitely has a very thankful and lovely mother. It was clear from the morning that her mother, of course, loves her daughter to the heaven and back; through the day we saw the love displayed perfectly. It reminded me of the love our heavenly Father has for us – a love that never fails and never ends. As we were going home, Ilham was sleeping in the car seat, but not alone. Her mothers hands were holding her. During the day she was never alone, as we are never alone in the presence of God.

Ilham’s surgery is not scheduled yet, so join us in praying for both Ilham and her mother, and pray for patience and pleasure through this process.