Laveen's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

A Life of Full Expression Ahead

Posted on Sun, 01/01/2012 - 18:21 by Stephanie Ventura

Laveen and her mother are two individuals that really made their presence known here in the Shevet community. Both of their charismatic personalities always made each day a surprise, and the subtleties of their charm provided for the community moments of embracing Laveen as a sweet little daughter and her mother as insightful sister.


A Better Idea For Cooperation

Posted on Mon, 12/26/2011 - 21:05 by Donna_West

After last week's very noisy echo, the medical team had a better idea for quiet cooperation with Laveen. There are two sedatives which are regularly used to help children sleep during their echo. One is swallowed, slow to take effect and slow to wear off. The choice for today was the other method: a fast acting squirt up the nose. It took five people to hold Laveen down while administering the medication. But very shortly she was quiet, relaxed and even funny.

The echo today was a longer echo, due to measurements taken of the inside chambers of the heart. The doctors were very pleased with the repairs and the healing of Laveen's heart. They want to see her again in four days after the prednisone, a special steroid, has been stopped. If her heart is still free of fluid at that time, she will be released to return home to her family on Thursday.

The hospital was full of clowns, face painting, balloons, music, and donuts in celebration of Hanukah. The little girl, who is not always the happiest child around, was still unsteady and giggly from the lingering effects of the medication.

Laveen Is One Intense Little Girl

Posted on Mon, 12/19/2011 - 23:03 by Donna_West

Laveen's trip today to see a photography exhibit (sponsored by our Israeli partners at Save A Child

Echo Shows That Laveen Is Making Progress

Posted on Thu, 12/15/2011 - 17:39 by Kristina Kayser

Four days after being discharged from Wolfson Hospital, Laveen was back for her first follow-up echo. An early morning car ride allowed her an extra hour of sleep and her mother, some peace and quiet. This toddler gives her mother all the exercise she needs and more.

Laveen was full of smiles while waiting for her appointment, charming Dr. Alona with her warm personality. Smiles faded once Laveen was on the exam table, but she cooperated enough for the doctors to make an accurate evaluation. The ultrasound showed that the pericardial effusion (fluid around her heart) had dramatically decreased from 5mm to 1mm. The amount remaining should continue to wane with the assistance of a steroid medication called Prednisone. Pleural effusion is quite common for children after open heart surgery, and in spite of the slight delay in recovery which it causes, Laveen's heart is responding beautifully to all the repairs that were made. Before leaving, two stitches on her stomach were removed where chest tubes had once been.

Laveen will have another echo next Monday to determine if the PE is resolved. If so, doctors will begin weaning her off Prednisone and we will gain a better understanding of when she could be released. Her mother is thankful for this progress and looking forward to their reunion with family in Kurdistan. Meanwhile, all of us at Shevet enjoy each day God gives us with precocious Laveen.  

"Not Leaving Without Me!"

Posted on Sun, 12/11/2011 - 18:48 by Donna_West

What are friends for but to come and stay with you when you are in the hospital?  When I arrived today, Laveen was seated on her bed with her big stuffed dog, while her roommate Rawezh was packed and running all about. 

After Dr. Seggi came in to remove the wires from Laveen

Some Fluid on Laveen's Recovering Heart

Posted on Sun, 12/11/2011 - 11:01 by Liliya Semenyuk

This was my first time meeting Laveen, but she did seem a little unnatural for a child. As I reflected on her previous blogs, I realized she was missing the

Laveen Is Out Of ICU

Posted on Thu, 12/08/2011 - 17:44 by Mary_Dailey

(Laveen's surgery blog, with pictures from the operating room, is posted below the present blog.)

Today I went to visit Laveen at Wolfson Hospital to see how she was doing. She just had her surgery on Tuesday, and we thought she'd still be in I.C.U. But we were very suprised to see her being wheeled down the hall with her mother walking behind her to a room where some of our Gaza children are. She was already extubated and had only the small mask around her nose and mouth.

At first she was sleeping but I went back in her room after I had visited some of our other children and she was awake and was even eating some lunch and drinking water. She looked so good. Please continue praying for her, that she will continue healing quickly and that there will be no complications. Working with our children and seeing how much God loves them and cares for them makes us realize what a great and wonderful God we have. Thank you for your prayers.

In the Operating Room for Laveen's Surgery

Posted on Tue, 12/06/2011 - 20:44 by Kristina Kayser

Some experiences in life are poignant beyond expression. They stir the soul and give substance to our existence. Today gave me one such experience. I had the profound privilege of witnessing Laveen's open heart surgery in its entirety. My mom and I arrived at Wolfson early this morning and headed directly to the operating room (OR) department. Laveen sat waiting with her mother, spunky as usual. I marveled at how calm she remained after her mother kissed her goodbye with tears in her eyes. As I continued talking to Laveen with reassurance, she offered no resistance to the nurse's prepping. Within seconds of anesthesia being given through her IV, she was sound asleep. In this situation, ignorance was certainly bliss; unaware of surgeons with scalpels in hand, Laveen dreamed on. 

Because Wolfson is a teaching hospital, the operating theater was a hub of medical personnel, including a team of visiting doctors from Uzbekistan. The tongues of Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, and English swirled around the room in hushed tones. Laveen lay center stage with high voltage spot lights directly above her. Doctors and nurses moved in perfect motion, like that of a choreographed dance. And when one stepped away, another stepped in lithely. After an entire hour of preparation, including ventilation, IV access, and an echo, doctors confirmed their course of action to begin.

Layer by layer, skin, muscle, and cartilage were filleted open to reveal a beating heart. With extreme precision, Laveen's entire body was then cooled intravenously through a calcium solution, bringing her heart to a complete, though temporary cessation. This cardioplagia, or paralysis of the heart, allows doctors to repair the muscle in a still and bloodless context. Meanwhile, an extraordinary device called a cardiopulmonary (heart & lung) machine kept Laveen alive through a system of centrifuges that pumped and recycled her blood, returning it to her body fully oxygenated. I remember looking up at the large flat screen, displaying her vital signs, and seeing her pulse suddenly flat-line. For the next three and a half hours, her heart lay motionless in the hands of the surgeons.

At this point, I was standing at the back of the room, watching this all take place via video coverage on a TV. Much to my shock and delight, a nurse beckoned me to stand at the head of the operating table. Only a sheet, serving as a sterile backdrop, separated me from Laveen's open chest. I peered over cautiously, trying to grasp the reality of my position. My own heart began to race as I watched nimble fingers handling this precious organ.

Laveen's diagnosis of Tetralogy of Fallot required several major corrections. Her right ventricle had hypertophied, meaning that the muscle had become thickened from overuse. The excess layers were cut away, returning this lower chamber to a normal size. Physicians continued hunched over in unbroken concentration sealing a large breach between her lower two chambers. A gortex patch was cut to the perfect size and sutured over the hole. Finally, her pulmonary artery, whose narrowed diameter was constricting blood flow to the lungs, was opened and revised. 

As the clock ticked on, my sense of awe and wonder grew. Just inches away lay one of God's most intricately designed masterpieces. The heart is more than just a muscle with innovative functionality. God also crafted it to be aesthetically beautiful. We are "fearfully and wonderfully made," as David writes in Psalm 139. I watched as Laveen's body was gradually warmed and her heart suddenly wakened to life again. It swelled and decompressed gracefully, picking up speed with each beat. Likewise, her lungs revived in adjacent motion like the wings of a bird. It was the perfect union of science and art.  

An unspoken, deep relief was felt throughout the room. Before closing the chest cavity, Dr. Alona was called in to perform an echo. This assessment helped determine the cardiac response to the internal adjustments made. Thankfully, the echo showed positive results, and the surgeons proceeded with final suturing. Each layer required a different type of material for closure. Thick steel wiring fused breastbone together again, whereas fine silk-like thread composed the seam for her skin. 

When all was said and done, the operating theater emptied out one by one, save Laveen and one surgeon making his finishing touches. Some people compose art with notes and melody, still others with strokes of brush and paint. For this craftsman, however, the beauty for which he labored, lies hidden within, perhaps never to be seen again by the human eye.

What is more beautiful still, however, is the little girl who carries this heart. Each day she is given will bear evidence of the gift of life bestowed to her on this day in this room. When I thanked the doctor for the work he had done and told him I had been praying during the operation, he responded, "It's just a job." "It's more than a job," I replied. "It's a miracle."

Anxious to share the good news with her mother, I rushed upstairs to find her waiting with my own mother. She had been slowing pacing the hall when her gaze fell upon Laveen's gurney heading towards ICU. Steps quickened into a run and she was once again at her daughter's side crying tears of joy. My mom described it as watching a love story unfold. Two more hours passed before Laveen's mother was able to enter ICU to be with her. But I'm sure she would say that it was well worth the wait. The expression of love and thankfulness she bore was priceless. She soaked up every word I could use to describe how well the surgery went.

As I savor the events of yesterday, my thoughts rest on the scripture which declares that God "fashions [our] hearts individually. He considers all [our] works...For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name." Psalm 33:15,21.


*Update from Tuesday December 6: Today, one day after the open heart surgery described above, Laveen was extubated - the breathing tube was removed from her lungs. This is a good sign of a quick recovery. 

Laveen's Flawless Surgery

Posted on Mon, 12/05/2011 - 22:24 by Kristina Kayser

I am happy to report that Laveen's TOF repair today was flawless. The reason I can say this with such confidence is due to the fact that I was present with Laveen in the operating theater today. It was certainly one of the most beautiful and meaningful events I have ever witnessed. As Laveen's heart endured intensive repair, I grew in awe of God's handiwork. I hope to recount this occasion in greater detail with both text and photos tomorrow, so please check back for a full report.

Presently, Laveen is resting in stable condition in the Intensive Care Unit at Wolfson. Her mother is overjoyed with the outcome of the surgery and thankful to be at her daughter's side. I praise God for His faithfulness toward Laveen and the restored heart which beats within her.

At Long Last, Laveen Admitted for Surgery

Posted on Sun, 12/04/2011 - 22:59 by Kristina Kayser

Nearly one month after Laveen's debut in Israel, Wolfson called today with exceptional news: Laveen's heart surgery is scheduled for tomorrow. I ran upstairs and found her mother busy cooking in the kitchen. She took one look at me and said, "What?!" I was so excited to tell her what she has been longing to hear. The incredulity on her face read, "This is too good to be true." In a flurry of activity, bags were packed and mother and daughter were dressed and ready to go.

En route to the hospital, I noticed that my passengers had become very quiet. I glanced through the rear view mirror to find Laveen drifting off to sleep and her mother reading her Koran. With the pages held close to her face, her eyes seemed in search of hope. I began to pray that Messiah would speak words of comfort and truth to her heart. 

Upon arrival to Wolfson Hospital, the admission process went smoothly with all necessary tests completed. Thankfully, it only took the doctor one attempt to get an IV started, so Laveen's tears didn't last long. One thing I love about this little girl is her spirited personality. When something catches her interest, she lets you know with exuberant screams and giggles. Bubbles brought out this reaction today, much to the delight of her mother and other onlookers. 

Tomorrow morning, this charismatic toddler will undergo major cardiac repair. Her condition of TOF, though serious, is most successfully treated in the early years of life. For Laveen, who is soon to turn three, this is very good news indeed. Please pray for her and her mother as they prepare for tomorrow's physical and emotional challenges. May the steadfast love of God be the strength which sustains them both!