Lizan's Heart Surgery

Northern Iraq

The Unexpected

Posted on Wed, 11/26/2014 - 23:32 by Laura Bourn


Today was an emotionally challenging day at the hospital. We were expecting Lizan to have a catheterization, but upon arrival at the hospital we, and especially her mother, were completely  unprepared to hear that she wouldn't receive the valve implant they had been waiting on for the past three months. Instead, the catheterization today would be diagnostic, in order to discern whether or not Lizan could receive the valve via a second catheterization.  I guess life is full of surprises, but it's exceptionally hard to accept it when our hopes and expectations are not met.

There were several prognoses, but they all involved more treatment, including the possibility of a surgery.

It was very hard for the mother to leave her daughter with tears of fear behind the closed doors of the catheterization laboratory. We sat down at the closest place we could find, and immediately started praying all together, declaring that good news would come out of that room, hoping for the best possible outcome. We read scriptures to encourage this tearful mother, including Psalm 139 and Romans 8:37-39. We also sang a piece from the "Oceans" song, which Lizan's mother loves:

"Spirit lead me when my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me; take me deeper than my feet could ever wonder, and my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my Saviour." 

Three long hours passed by as we waited in those seats. We ended up having some coffee and talking about different wedding traditions around the world, which lightened up the heavy air to some extent.

Suddenly, we were interrupted by a doctor who came to tell us the procedure was finished, so we rushed to the laboratory to hear the news: praise God, he answered our prayers in that her additional treatment will not be delayed. But the difficult news is Lizan's artery is actually too wide. That means it will not be possible to properly place the new valve through a catheterization. She will need an open-heart surgery. The doctor asked us to wait outside , and at this point, her mother burst into tears; she hadn't even envisioned that possibility. She shared her many fears with us, asking, “What if Lizan can't ever run and play with the other children anymore? What if she can't ride her bicycle anymore - which she loves to do at home?” We tried to reassure her the best we could, telling her the surgery would only make things better, not worse.

As we were called to Lizan's hospital bed, we found her in great pain and discomfort, having just woken up from the anesthesia. The only word she could say was "water," and she repeated it over and over, begging for something to soothe her aching throat. Sadly, she had to wait an other hour before it was safe for her to drink a small amount. She struggled for air, tears streaming down her pale cheeks. Her mother had to turn away to quiet down her own sobbing.

We tried our best to comfort her, stroking her tangled curls and playing with  Dalia the turtle and Shevie junior, her soft animal friends.

Nothing could make her smile, though, like a phone call from her Dad, back in Iraq.

After a while, it was time to move her back to her hospital room. The nurses walked so fast her mother had to run alongside the bed so as to never leave her daughter's sight. It was beautiful to see her demonstrate her great love for Lizan throughout this whole day. Lizan became calmer from then on, but the pain kept brushing over her in waves of varying intensities. We played UNO to make the countdown until her first sip of water go faster. She was very brave, even after vomiting she said, "I don't care how much I vomit, as long as I'm allowed to drink water!"

We were supposed to take one of the Gaza children home afterward, but we had to wait for a discharge signature from a doctor who was working in the catheterization lab. That meant we had most of the afternoon to spend with Lizan and her mother. Lizan started to look better by the hour; she even had a good laugh when a clown from the hospital came to visit.

But her mother's forehead was lined with anxiety. She hadn't yet been able to tell her daughter that her treatment wasn't finished and that the actual surgery was still to come in the next few days.

We must pray that Lizan's parents will receive strength for what they have to face to go through with the surgery. Lizan also needs to be bathed in our prayers so that she may fully understand what is happening and accept it with supernatural peace. May the whole family be granted faith to trust in the doctors and the medical technology, but also, especially, to fully trust in God.

The day before THE day

Posted on Tue, 11/25/2014 - 21:40 by Julia Binder

Today was a big day for Lizan, she is now in the hospital for her catheterization tomorrow.

This morning, Ruth and I drove with Lizan and her mother to the Wolfson hospital. On our way we picked up a family from Gaza to bring them to Tel Aviv. When we arrived we first ate lunch at the outside playground and took the chance to play a little bit. After that we went to her room for the night and Lizan got a first body check, to make sure that her body is in the right condition. During the body check, some journalists from Germany came in and started to ask questions about Lizan for their newspaper. The journalists then wanted to take some pictures with Lizan, and several other children from different nations, with the hospital-clown. Lizan told us later how surprising it was for her to hear the clown speaking. For her clowns are mute! 

After this photo shoot, which Lizan enjoyed a lot, we played UNO and did arts and crafts. We cut out paper dolls and then made clothes for our dolls. In the meantime, Lizan's mother and Ruth played Games with Zombies and boogers on their iPad. The whole time Lizan spread a lot of joy, and Samira was just thankful that finally the day of the catheterization had come. Then Lizan had to take two blood tests. She cried a little bit, but all in all she was very brave. However her initial pure joy was a bit chastened and turned into uncertainty and anxiety for tomorrow. In the end we all prayed together for the big day tomorrow. 


Please pray with us for a succesful catheterization and especially, that Lizan and her mother can experience God as her comforter and healer. 

Progress and Smiles

Posted on Wed, 11/19/2014 - 21:03 by Madison Akins

Today, a couple of us went with Lizan and her mother to Wolfson Hospital in Tel Aviv for Lizan’s CT scan. Although it was extra early in the morning and Lizan was not yet fully awake, there was a sense of excitement in the air because this was Lizan’s first appointment in preparation for her catheterization in over two months.

After arriving at the hospital, we waited for a few minutes in the waiting room, and several of the doctors walked by and greeted us. They were glad to see Lizan again and asked how she was doing. We are so thankful for their kind and generous hearts that make it possible for kids to receive treatment at this hospital. We went with Lizan so that she could receive a quick check up and blood test before her CT scan. She had to change into a hospital gown, but even in those pajamas she looked fashionable and cute! As the nurse inserted the IV, Lizan was very brave.

Afterward, we had to wait a little while longer for the blood test to come back, but Lizan and her mother continued to be very patient and cheerful. We had fun drawing zoo animals and playing tic-tac-toe in the hospital room.

When it was time for the CT scan, Lizan did very well.

At first the medicine hurt her IV, and the machine looked large and scary, so a few tears were shed. However, her mother was there to make her feel better. She was rewarded afterward by being able to break her fast (which she had been on in preparation for the CT scan) and order a big shawarma sandwich with meat only - just how she likes it, and a Coke!

Before we left, we were also able to visit a few of the Gaza children in the hospital, and Lizan was given a book by the fun clown there, which made her very happy.

After the hospital visit today, we are very hopeful that Lizan will be able to have her catheterization next week. She is one step closer to the day she will be able to return home with her mother to their family in Iraq. 

Waiting Game

Posted on Mon, 11/03/2014 - 16:02 by Sophie

The eve of Sukkot was a very special day for Lizan; a group of new israeli friends came to visit her, through a contact we made on the open-house day. They were the nicest and most well behaved kids most of us had ever met! They taught Lizan some new games, and were very good at communicating although they did not know a word of each other’s languages. We learned a lot just from watching how they made themselves understood with gestures, noises, and even drawings!

There were four girls and a young boy, who much preferred helping Lizan’s mother and me in the kitchen than playing with the other kids. “I didn’t come here to have fun, I came here to cook!’ he exclaimed, his mother translating. But eventually, he joined in with the girls as they started showing Lizan how to make special paper decorations for Sukkot. We were later told that most Israeli kids know how to make these for the holidays. We hung them in our own Sukkot that the men had built on the roof, and Lizan was proud to have everyone congratulate her about them at dinner time.

Then, they moved on to rubber band bracelets. Lizan is a very good learner, so she got the hang of it very fast and seemed to enjoy making them so much that the teacher who brought the group gave her severel packets of rubber bands to keep. She was thrilled, and started teaching her mother how to make some, as soon as the children had left. Lizan has been making us all bracelets and paper gifts since then! And I have also noticed her saying a few hebrew words every now and then! It was beautiful to see children from two nations which are hostile toward each other come together to play, with so much joy and love! They learned a lot from each other, and I believe Lizan was very blessed by these wonderful new friends. The mother (also a teacher) said she was hoping to bring more children over from her school to spend time with Lizan, because many wanted to come and cheer up a little girl from Kurdistan who is waiting for heart surgery.

"How good and pleasant when brothers dwell together in unity", that is the picture I saw with these children. They love each other no matter where are they from or what religion they are! During the time we went to Kurdistan, we had chance to see Lizan’s father, that was a such blessing for us. We shared the situation about why Lizan needed wait for her surgery, and showed him Lizan’s picture I took recently. Because Lizan’s father misses them so much, sometimes he puts great pressure on Lizan’s mother, often times driving her to tears. I hope that showing him these photos and explaining the situation will help him understand a little bit! Please keep praying for them; Lizan’s catheterization on schedule for the upcoming weeks, and her parents will need more patience for the waiting. If it is God’s will they will see each other soon! He was so happy to hear the news from us about his beloved daughter and wife! Here is his greeting from home to his wife and daughter: "I love you, I hope you can come back soon after treatment."

From Coffees and Playgrounds

Posted on Mon, 10/27/2014 - 21:25 by Julia Binder

Some time ago I spent a wonderful day with Lizan and her mother. We started at Cofizz - a coffeeshop, where every drink costs only 5 shekels. Lizan had an ice passion fruit drink, and her mother an iced coffee. But in the end, they ended up trading drinks, with Lizan drinking her mother's sweet iced cofee.

Later, on our way to Independence Park, we came to a race course, which was built through Jerusalem. A big crowd stood around the course, and I asked Lizan's mother if she wanted to stay for a while and see the car race. But she didn't want to stay, so we continued on our way.

At Independence Park, we went to a big and modern playground. Lizan's mother and I were sitting on a bench while Lizan tested the different play equipment. But after testing things out, she stayed the rest of the time on only one part of the playground.

In the beginning, she was a little bit afraid of the hight of this piece of the playground, and we had to hold her every time she wanted to shimmy up the ladder. But after a while, she was brave enough to climb by herself.

While Lizan was playing on the playground and observing the other kids from a platform, I had a really good conversation with her mother. We talked more than two hours about our culture, traditions, our family, and God. She gave me some interesting insights into her life in Kurdistan, and it was a precious time I could spend with her.

When the evening was closing in, we had to go back, to the grief of Lizan, who loved being on the playground. 

All in all, it was a great day and a good chance to build a deeper relationship with Lizan and her mother.

Shopping Parties!

Posted on Mon, 10/13/2014 - 13:57 by Laura Bourn

Yesterday, we went to the Mahane Yehuda indoor market with Lizan and her mother. It turned out to be very busy because most of the shops and stalls were only just opening again after three quiet days of Sukkot holiday. We walked through the crowded market hall, smelling all the different herbs and spices, dried flowers, fresh bread, and pastries.

We actually bought a few for Lizan and her Mother to try; it was a great success! Lizan's mother was looking for little gifts for her numerous nieces and nephews, and she told me all about her very large family. All of us just love to hear the stories she has to tell! We also found a very cute hat and an umbrella for Lizan, as fall is slowly making it's way here. (We had the first downpour of rain during our Shabbat dinner last week.)

I love to see God have fun showing us his fatherly heart in the little things. For example, after buying an umbrella for Lizan, we went into another shop where she found an umbrella she liked much better than the one we had already. It was also better quality, a little more expensive, and – of course – it was a Hello Kitty umbrella, so that makes all the difference. I remembered how many times Jesus said "ask and you shall receive," so we asked the shop owner if we might be able to exchange the umbrella, since he had similar ones to the one we had bought, and we could just pay him the difference in price. Not only did he accept, with a big smile, he also told us we didn't need to pay anything!

We ended the outing with some frozen juice, since it's still quite hot outside, and we watched a beautiful performance of two circus artists on the façade of a shopping mall!

It really made Lizan's mother's day; it was as if it had been set up just for us! God is good – all the time! 

Brave Patience

Posted on Tue, 09/02/2014 - 11:26 by Kristina Kayser

Lovely Lizan returned to Israel seven years after an open-heart surgery to repair Tetralogy of Fallot. At that time, a full repair was completed and no further treatment was indicated for the future. However, due to changes in her heart's physiology over time, namely the pulmonary valve, doctors in Iraq recommended that Lizan come back to Israel for a follow-up operation. Now eight years old, Lizan is a cheerful, energetic, and intelligent girl. It did not take long to see that she loves exploring new surroundings and is quite curious. This is an excellent trait to have in life, and especially on one's first day at the hospital. She and fellow patient and friend, Arkan, were invited to Wolfson today for heart echos and full medical assessments.

Both mothers seemed a bit concerned about how their children would respond to the slew of exams, particularly the blood tests. Lizan proved herself fearless throughout the day; she smiled and even giggled during the measurement of her vital signs and electrocardiogram. Of course, she winced when the blood test finally came, but not a tear was shed. She simply squeezed my hand tight as it took several attempts for the nurse to find an adequate vein. Within minutes, she was her cheerful self once again. In between exams, we passed the time by drawing pictures and coloring. Afterwards, we posed for a picture with a cartoon rendition of Lizan.

When Dr. Alona called us in for her echo, she was the perfect patient and lay perfectly still. Dr. Alona confirmed that the pulmonary valve was the main issue and that further evaluations were needed. An MRI will soon be scheduled to help the cardiology team decide if surgery is needed, or if a valve replacement can be done via a catheterization in the future. Lizan and her mother are back home with us in Jerusalem tonight and waiting for an MRI appointment. I hope we will continue to get to know this pair each day--I have no doubt their presence will bring warmth and cheer to our entire community.

Lizan Arrived!

Posted on Sun, 08/31/2014 - 21:52 by Jonathan Miles
Lizan was quiet but had a quick smile throughout the six-hour trip across the border today.
Tonight she is with us at Prophets Street.
Tomorrow her first trip to the hospital in Israel.

Lizan on Her Way

Posted on Tue, 08/19/2014 - 14:14 by Sarah Powell

Lizan had her first surgery in Israel in 2007, now seven years ago. She was born with a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, or TOF, which means that her heart actually had four separate heart defects that all ended up working together to allow her to live in her early years. However, her heart would not be able to work for long in that condition; thus, she came to Israel in 2007 for her first heart surgery. Now, it is time for her to come back to complete the repairs. We hope to have her with us in the next couple of weeks.