Jwana's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

A Dream Come True

Posted on Tue, 06/02/2015 - 13:16 by Ruth Zellweger

There are many beautiful children we meet at Shevet. Each of them is unique, and they all impact us in one way or another. Each of them is loved on by our community, but it is also true that there are some children with whom we bond in an even deeper way than with others. Jwana has been such a child for me. Two years ago, when she left Israel after several months with us, I cried. A very special friend was gone, and I felt the hole that she had left. Jwana's gentle spirit and quiet strength had inspired and encouraged me, especially when circumstances were difficult and challenging. 

This past Friday, I had the great joy of visiting Jwana and her family in Kurdistan. A dream had come true, and I was excited to see my friend again. We had only called a few hours before our arrival at Jwana's house to announce our visit, but we were received very warmly by her big family.

After a few minutes in the living room, we women separated from the men and went in a different room. There the atmosphere soon relaxed, and we enjoyed tea and fruit. Several of Jwana's sisters pulled out clothes and jewlery to give as gifts to Sophie and me.

We were touched and overwhelmed by their joyful generosity. The help that Jwana had received in Israel meant so much to her family that they wanted to bless us in any way possible. 

Jwana has become a young woman who radiates beauty and peace.

With a healed and strong heart, she is attending school. I am excited to see what God has in store for precious Jwana. May she come to understand how much she is loved by Him. I hope to some day see her again, and as I just experienced, sometimes dreams come true!

Redemption's Light

Posted on Sun, 04/28/2013 - 23:14 by Kristina Kayser

It has been said that "the darkest hour of night comes just before dawn." And in this hour lie the stories of countless children who come to Israel with broken hearts. For many, like Jwana, their hope is nearly spent. I first met this beautiful girl on December 30th when she arrived at Shevet --unassuming, shy, yet perceptive. She and her family had spent twelve long years in death's shadow, waiting for the sunrise. Then it came, with quiet beauty, and darkness was eclipsed in redemption's light. Jwana's heart was made whole.

What a joy it has been to share life in these past weeks and months with Jwana. She has warmed our home with a true spirit of friendship. To our community, Jwana was our beloved little sister with whom we could laugh or simply sit together. To the other Kurdish families, she was the compassionate older sister who cuddled babies, wiped away their tears, and rejoiced in victories big or small. Never once did I hear her complain about waiting a span of three months to have surgery. Hot tears would well up beneath her toffee brown eyes upon one delay after another. But this never led to bitterness. In fact, her strength seemed to grow in the waiting. Jwana's mother also experienced a transformation of her own in the form of joy. Once her daughter was healing well and beyond the threshold of danger, her burdens lifted. I loved watching her eyes sparkle when she laughed or the way she delighted in serving. Truly, hope realized "is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12b).

Jwana's season in Israel was crowned with a celebration last Wednesday evening. We had spent the afternoon in preparation, particularly with the fun task of baking and frosting sugar cookies, per Jwana's request. With aprons donned and flour flying, the end result was a culinary masterpiece and a lot of fun!

Our entire community gathered upstairs that evening to recognize all of the gifts God has given her. Words of love and admiration were expressed to both mother and daughter.

As I searched for a way to articulate my heart, I found myself reminded of this text: "And in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place" (Deuteronomy 1:31).

Grace Poured Out: Jwana's Final Echo

Posted on Mon, 04/22/2013 - 21:11 by Kristina Kayser

Rain had fallen through the night in Jerusalem, making the earth appear fresh and vibrant this morning. Ruth and I set out for Tel Aviv with a van full of expectant mothers and children. Three of our Kurdish children were returning to Wolfson today for echo examinations, with Jwana being furthest along in her post-op recovery. She gazed quietly out the window with a pensive expression as we drove along. I wondered what she was thinking. Nearly four months have passed since Jwana first arrived, and so much has happened since - both in her life and ours. We would soon learn that her return home, while imminent, was much closer than any of us presumed.

The doctors welcomed Jwana and her mother warmly into the exam room. They knew her well by now, and she seemed perfectly at ease. Without any prompting, Jwana readied herself for the echo. She may be only twelve years old, but this girl carries herself with poise beyond her years. Her mother tried hard to maintain a patient composure, but one look in her eyes, and I could see she was bursting to know the latest news. The presiding doctor turned her full attention toward Jwana and carried out a very thorough inspection of her heart. Today was particularly important to note whether or not unwanted fluid had remained at bay since being weaned off of all steroid medications last Thursday. Thankfully, the ultrasound showed no trace of fluid around her heart or lungs. The echo results were so good, in fact, that after being reviewed by a senior member of the cardiology team, the outcome was as follows: Jwana was officially dismissed! Neither further medication nor follow-up care at Wolfson was required. 

We were all taken by surprise and delight, rejoicing in this wonderful announcement. Only days remain until Jwana and her mother are reunited with their beloved family in Kurdistan. Our time with her before she departs will culminate in a grand farewell party at week's end. Looking at Jwana now, I see a young lady full of life and promise. Within her beats a perfectly mended heart with the outward reflection of good health and joy. As life-giving rain was poured out on the land these past days, so too has God poured out His grace on Jwana.

"You sent abundant rain, O God, to refresh the weary land...Praise the Lord; praise God our Savior! For each day He carries us in His arms. Our God is a God who saves. Our Sovereign Lord rescues us from death."

-Psalm 68:9,19-20

Beautiful Inside and Out

Posted on Wed, 04/17/2013 - 20:29 by Jenny O'Grady

Jwana received another follow up echocardiogram today, and she looks great! She is recovering wonderfully and responding well to the reduction of medicine with no additional fluids built up in her heart. Getting to spend the day with Jwana and the other children for the first time at the hospital today was a delight. She is one of the most incredible little girls I have ever met. The first time we played together two months ago I could tell how smart she was when she beat me at the game Memory three times and taught me small words in Kurdish. Today at the hospital, I could see that she is far more than smart. Jwana is beautiful inside and out. She is strong and brave. She is steady and holds on to an inner joy and peace through the most stressful of circumstances. She is a helper, willing to do little errands or whatever she can with a smile on her face. She is simply a delight, and although it is sad for those of us who have come to love her, we are excited that she is nearing the end of her journey here to go home to her family a healthier, stronger girl.

Jwana Recovering Well

Posted on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 21:10 by Ruth Zellweger

It is wonderful having Jwana and her mother back at our house. They spread much joy and laughter. Jwana does this in a more quiet way, while her mother is more vocally expressive. Today was Jwana

Jwana Returns to Jerusalem

Posted on Tue, 04/02/2013 - 22:35 by Sophie H.

Early in the morning we arrived at the hospital, and all our Kurdish families were sleeping. So we waited awhile and the second time we went to see them, they were all awake and happy to see us. We greeted each mother and child with hugs and kisses.

Jwana was waiting for her echo today to see if she could go home. While waiting, she and Shaida were playing together on her bed. Shaida trusted Jwana completely. Every time Shaida looked at Jwana, her eyes seemed to say,

Peace and Joy

Posted on Fri, 03/29/2013 - 15:43 by Eilin Midtbo

Driving out to the hospital today was very peaceful. Traffic was not bad and we arrived without any major delays. When we walked into the secondary ICU we found out that Jwana had been moved to the children

Jwana's Birthday

Posted on Thu, 03/28/2013 - 17:34 by Linn Magnusson

I was happy to go and visit Jwana and Shaida in the hospital today. I really miss them here in the house. Before we started our morning meeting we all gathered in the courtyard to take a picture and record a birthday song for Jwana.

Everyone signed a card for her and sent their greetings with us. We were also happy to bring Rand with us for an echo. So Ruth, Kristina, Johanna and myself left with a little boy and his mother, a big photo of everyone, a birthday song, a pink purse in wrapping paper and a heart shaped balloon, and headed off to the hospital.

We found Jwana in an arm chair beside her bed in secondary ICU and she looked a lot better and stronger than last time I visited her, which was the day after her surgery. The nurses took out one of her three chest tubes while we were there, and this was encouraging. Of course all of us wished that she could celebrate her birthday with all of us at Shevet Achim, but she was still happy and enjoyed the gifts she received. She especially appreciated the photo we printed for her of the whole community, and we left the photo beside her in her bed.

It was so good to see her improving in her health, to see her talk and smile and even eat a little. Thank God for healing Jwana!

Jwana: Weak but not Crushed

Posted on Mon, 03/25/2013 - 17:59 by Ruth Zellweger

After our morning meeting, Sophie, Eilin and I left for Wolfson Hospital to visit Jwana, Shaida and their mothers. I had not seen them since last Thursday and was eager to see for myself how they were doing. We were informed yesterday that it had been necessary to insert a third tube into Jwana

Pink Fingers Tell The Story

Posted on Thu, 03/21/2013 - 21:31 by Johanna Magnusson

Early in the morning Ruth, Linn and I went to Wolfson Hospital to be with Shaida