Marwan's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

Never Forget

Posted on Wed, 05/17/2017 - 23:25 by Debbie Sturm
Yesterday Marwan and his mother went back to Kurdistan. I still remember the day I met them for the first time. From the beginning I recognized that Marwan has a lot of energy. Every time he saw me he welcomed me with a big smile on his face. Marwan stayed 2 1/2 months with us and we have gotten to know him and his mother pretty well. Especially Eva and I, as we spent lots of time with them in family care. Nearly everyday Marwan asked us "Eva, Debbie - bo bacher?" - this is how to ask in Kurdish if you want to go the beach. The beach and the playground were his favourite places here in Jaffa. If he looked at us with his big eyes and asked often enough I just could not say no and joined him even in sliding at the playground. We spent many hours there. But after running around Marwan became tired soon and complained about his heart and that it is a big "mushkila" (problem). It was sad to see how much energy this guy has and how much he would love to do sports like other children but because of his heart defect this was not possible for him. 

It was also amazing to see how patient his mother stayed all the time. She cooked many times for us, and I felt always welcome when I saw her. We laughed many times together about the huge energy Marwan has and about him being a little charmer who knew exactly how to make compliments. During this time here Marwan helped many times to set the table and to clean the kitchen. Nearly everyday he came as soon as we started to set the table and brought chairs and plates. And he also learned a few words in English although he rejected the idea at first. He is really proud that he can now speak a few sentences in English and tried to practice it everytime we met. When Marwan finally had his cath, it was a huge joy as we heard that he will be able to play soccer now as other children do. After he came back to our house he directly started with exercising. He found some youtube videos which helped him to train himself and he told me many times he is really strong now. 

On Monday he and Aveen had their farewell party. Marwan was excited the whole day about this party and could not wait anymore. In the evening he showed up in his beautiful suit. Of course Eva and I had to sit by his side and chat with him for a while. We had really delicious food, sang some songs of praise and shared verbally with Marwan and Aveen words of encouragement and gratitude from our time together. When Marwan received his gifts he could not hide his joy and flipped out.

We all had to laugh with him and enjoyed his excitement.

Afterwards we watched his DVD with many, many pictures of his time in Israel. Marwan was still excited and commented on the pictures and told us many times how much he loves us. When it was time to say goodbye, it was really hard.

At the airport, everything went smoothly. Although I am so thankful to God that Marwan is doing well now and that he and his Mum can return to Kurdistan, I will also miss them. 

I will never forget the knocking at our door in the morning and hearing: "Debbie? Eva? Play?" or the calls from the balcony in the evening. I will keep them in my prayers and I hope they experienced God's huge love and grace for them here. May he bless them richly.



Posted on Mon, 05/15/2017 - 22:06 by Alexa Bigl

Marwan got the official word today from Dr. Sagi, he can return home to Kurdistan! The Pulmonic Melody valve looks great and Marwan's heart is doing fantastic. His overly-large right ventricle is already shrinking back down towards an appropriate size, praise the Lord. 

Marwan and his mom were expectantly waiting for the words releasing them. Once we got the "ok," mother and son still had to a wait a little while longer to know when they would fly home. After talking with the airline, we let Marwan and his mom know they would be returning home tomorrow night! 
This family has been with us a long time and we are so happy with the good news. Marwan's heart is healed and they will very soon be home with the rest of their family! Tonight we will celebrate the Lord's work in Marwan and say farewell to him and his mother. All praises to God, the Healer. 

Our Soccer Player Discharged

Posted on Thu, 05/11/2017 - 19:10 by Debbie Sturm

Marwan was discharged today. After a few days in the hospital he is now allowed to come back to our Shevet home and he is doing excellently. The doctors are really satisfied. Marwan is able to do sports again and enjoys running around. He made many friends in the hospital who played with him at the playground.

But today was a very special moment when one of the doctors decided to play soccer with Marwan:

He is really glad that finally he can do sports without getting physical problems. It is wonderful to see him joyful and in such a good condition. The doctors think that he might be discharged for Kurdistan on Monday. He came home with a big smile and greeted all our staff here. The glory is the Lord's.


Little Movie Star

Posted on Mon, 05/08/2017 - 20:55 by Eva Markewitz
It was a special day for our beloved Marwan and his mother. It started early in the morning, when we arrived with a big camera team at the hospital. The Pulmonic Melody valve which was required for Marwan's cath was sponsored by "Medtronic," a big company for specific medical devices and "Ein Herz für Kinder," a German organization. So today, they brought a big camera team to accompany Marwan and his mother through this important day to see who actually received the valve. Before they wheeled him in the cath lab, he was asked many questions about his situation and wellbeing, which our coworker Yasmine translated to Arabic and back. Many pictures were taken and our Marwan was totally in his element - smiling, waving and saying "hello" to all people surrounding him - like a little movie star. He was so easygoing and was not afraid of the procedure at all. He also got to know another boy his age who was sponsored for a cath, too.
When they finally wheeled him in the cath lab, we waved him off and went back to the ward. The mother was worried in the beginning, but after a while she calmed down, being comforted by the company of the other mothers who also were at the hospital. The procedure was finished after one and a half hours. 
It was a successful cath indeed! The doctor said that the valve made Marwan's heart healthy again so that after his recovery he can play soccer just as a normal boy. The face of the mother was so joyful and also Marwan seemed happy, even though he still was very weak and in some pain.
The camera team took a few more pictures and interviews before they left in the afternoon. With his sweet spirit, Marwan has won the hearts of many today.
Please continue praying for our little friend and his recovery. Hopefully he can go back to our house in just two days!

Cath Tomorrow

Posted on Sun, 05/07/2017 - 21:31 by Debbie Sturm
Tomorrow Marawan is scheduled to have his cath procedure. For this reason he was admitted to the hospital today. In the early morning I went over to the family apartment to pick up another child. But Marwan was sitting there, already hoping to depart soon to the hospital. But he had to wait a few more hours until it was time for him to go. When I picked him up, both he and his mother were in really good moods. Marwan was thankful that Dany and I were coming with them.

First of all they had lunch in the hospital. Afterwards we played one of Marwan's favourite games - UNO. Then he had examinations and a blood test.

Many children start to cry during this procedere but Marwan was still in a very good mood, smiling and joking. In the afternoon he was visited by a Germany film crew. They brought him a football as a gift as well. He proudly showed me his really cool ball.

After all the examinations were done for today, Marwan was able to spend some time with Dany at the playground in the hospital. When we left, Marwan didn't want to let us go. He is already looking forward to tomorrow and for the volunteers who will visit him. Please keep him and his mother in your prayers as tomorrow the the doctors will perform his catheterization.

What's Going On With Marwan?

Posted on Thu, 05/04/2017 - 02:18 by Alexa Bigl

Marwan has been having a very exciting couple of weeks here at Shevet's Jaffa base. He has become good friends with many of our volunteers and also really enjoys playing with the other children here. He loves going on outings to the beach and the park and also enjoys activities and crafts at the house, like cards and painting. Marwan is always a big help in setting up the lunch table and is the most excited person to welcome and wave-off volunteers and families as they arrive or depart.

Yesterday was Israel's 69th independence day celebration. We headed over to a local guest house/congregation to have a barbecue. Marwan excitedly watched the planes and helicopters flyover down near the beach at the beginning of our outing.
Later, he helped make sure everyone had food. He was then invited to join a craft with many other children in making miniature sculptures from soft clay. He made many animals and participated in the activity for a very long time. Throughout the day with the other groups at the barbecue, Marwan practiced his English. He is learning many words now and often communicates with us in his broken English, encouraged by his mother who also knows some English vocabulary. When it was time for us to leave, he thanked everyone like a wonderful little gentlemen. 
Marwan is very active and often tests our patience by knocking on the staff-side apartment door many, many times a day. He requires a lot of attention and often becomes frustrated when we don't have time to dedicate to him. Due to his large personality, many of us have formed a special bond with him and love him very much. We consistently pray for him, and we ask you to join us. We are also praying Marwan will still be admitted to the hospital next week for his cath and placement of his new valve; if you could also lift this up in prayer!

Waiting for Stage Two

Posted on Wed, 04/12/2017 - 21:59 by Co-authored

Today Marwan dressed up in his lovely suit to go to the hospital for an echo. The doctors were very pleased that the stent was in the correct place, and all Marwan has to do now is to wait for the second stage of his surgery at the beginning of May. If he had lived here, he would now have been able to go home and wait, but as he is from Kurdistan and not guaranteed to be able to return, Shevet Achim will continue to be his home away from home.

The end to his stay is in sight, but we hope that in the midst of just waiting, it will continue to be a rich experience for him and his mother to meet people from so many countries who are willing to give of their time and to share their gifts and the love we have experienced from God - including learning new games from a singing Englishman!

Written by Susanne Minshull and Simone Zamora


Coming Home

Posted on Fri, 04/07/2017 - 19:55 by Eva Markewitz
Marwan was discharged from the hospital today. As I came to the ward this morning, he gave me a big smile. He and his mother were very excited about coming home, and he asked me every few minutes about it.
The echo was fine and the doctors were satisfied with the result.
Arriving at our apartment, they enjoyed the lunch with the other families. At the hospital, he had barely eaten anything, because he didn't like the food. Therefore it was a joy to see him with a full plate and a happy face.

After lunch, we played some "Memory" - a game that he loves to play. I can see that he is still a little bit weak, but he is improving.

A Long Day with Smiles

Posted on Thu, 04/06/2017 - 21:39 by Susanne Minshull

Today Marwan finally had his catheterization. He was smiling when we turned up just before seven in the morning, happy to see us again and still smiling outside the entry door to the Heart Catheterization Department an hour later. His mother accompanied Marwan alone into the procedure room and stayed until he was asleep. We had some breakfast with her, spent some time together, and then gave her some time on her own while we waited the four hours the procedure took. She was getting more and more anxious as we still didn't know if Marwan's treatment would be complete with only a catheterization or if a major heart surgery would be required later. Everyone we met of the staff from nurses to doctors were very pleasant, and the doctors made sure that his mother had information in Arabic before we did, which I appreciated for her sake.

When the wait was over, we were told that a stent had been placed in the heart and that in a month's time the actual heart valve would be put in place, also via catherization. His mother was very relieved. She stayed on her own with Marwan in the recovery room while we grabbed some lunch, before it was time for Marwan to return to the ward. Marwan was the one to have the more difficult time now. He needed to lie with his legs straight for 6 hours and will have to stay still in bed until tomorrow. He was at first a bit confused from the anaesthetic and he had some pain and after a while was also in need of the toilet, which did not make it easy to lie still in bed. He had a visit from one of the volonteers from the playroom in the children's ward which brightened him up. They had become good friends the day before. He also got a phone call from one of his favourite volunteers at Shevet. A heart echo was done in the ward to confirm that the stent was in the correct place and the mother got some of her questions answered.  After the pain relieving medication started to work and Marwan had managed to fill a bottle, his wonderful smile was back and he said "No more problems" in Kurdish, and as I left, I am pretty sure he soon went to sleep. His mother and I gave each other a big hug, feeling we had done a hard day's work and were both very grateful to God.


Relax Today, Cath Tomorrow

Posted on Wed, 04/05/2017 - 17:59 by Therese Pohler

Marwan was supposed to have his heart cath today and we went to see him before his procedure started that morning. We spent a very fun time together waiting, playing and talking. He just shows so much affection to people around him and always keeps smiling.

He wasn't afraid at all for the cath, but just relaxed and enjoyed our company. However, after waiting for a long time, it turned out that he cannot have the cath today, and will be rescheduled for tomorrow. So finally he could eat something, go outside for a bit, and wait another day.