Maryam's Heart Surgery


Unfailing Hope

Posted on Wed, 12/16/2015 - 18:21 by Ruth Zellweger

Our precious Mimi was taken to be with our LORD this past weekend, nine months after her complicated, yet successful, heart surgery.

She and her mother had become dear and beloved members of our Shevet family during their nearly five months in Israel. Our community found out about Mimi's passing through a facebook post by Mimi's uncle, and immediately some former members of our community - who had gotten to know both mother and daughter - shared their special memories with them. 

Until this morning, we didn't really know what had happened, but Jonathan and Ben, who are currently in northern Iraq, were able to visit the family yesterday evening. Here is Jonathan's account: 

"We arrived last night and went straight to Maryam's family. On Saturday she had influenza and they took her to the heart center. The doctor said she was OK, but as they were leaving she suddenly stopped breathing. They worked on her for several hours and intubated her but without reviving her. ... She had been doing great, walking, talking, hitting her older brothers Fadi, and Yousef. ... So I told them that Mimi had the best medical care possible, both in Israel but also here on the day she died. They didn't fail her in any way, and we can only trust the Lord in what he allows into our lives. They seem to have a real hope in Jesus and the resurrection."

May Mimi's family experience God's comfort in a very special way in these coming days and weeks. We are thankful for the precious gift of having known Mimi as we share in the same hope as Mimi's family. We believe that we will see her again. God Himself “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).


Posted on Sun, 07/12/2015 - 21:39 by Judith Schmidt
Five months ago, little Maryam and her mother arrived at Shevet Achim in Jerusalem. Anxious and tired eyes were looking at us as we welcomed them in the parking lot. It was no wonder- they had a great journey and adventure behind and ahead of them, not knowing what the result would look like.
Maryam's mother is a very content person, and quieter than most. She is also very curious. She would ask questions constantly, she was not satisfied with short and easy answers but she wanted to know exactly what the doctors said. She also is a very loving  and serving spirit, not only loving her precious "Mimi," but also the other kids and mothers and Shevet volunteers as we were her family. Quickly she became a important member of our community.
Maryam on the other hand had a hard start at Shevet Achim. She was not used to all those people. She would burst into tears as soon as her mother would only step one meter away, not to mention when her mother tried to go the the bathroom or leave the room. The only thing that would be able to calm her down was her beloved mother holding her close. On the other hand, Maryam was very quiet, shy, not moving a lot, sitting or laying there observing the other kids as they were playing, and holding onto her mother. Still, she had a strong character at all times. She knew exactly what she wanted or what she didn't want. She would shake her head saying “Lah!” which means "No!" in Arabic. When she started to make her funny noises copying the adults around her, she made everyone laugh and leave the room with a smile on his or her face.
I had the privilege of accompanying these two wonderful people on their adventure in Jerusalem. (It was not only a adventure for them, but also for Shevet Achim, because Maryam was the first child to be treated in the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem). I bear the first hospital experiences with Maryam in my mind. She loved being entertained with sounds and exploring new things, satisfying her curiosity.
I had a hard time distracting her when her mother was talking to the doctors or when she was examined. I never had thought that such a little person could make so much noise, especially when a doctor was trying to examine her. She would develop the full potential of her voice, complaining and screaming until she fell asleep from exhaustion or they were finished and she could hide in her mother's arms.
After her first examinations, the doctors told us that Maryam was a more complicated case then they had first thought. But, they gave their best repairing her heart. The surgery day was very tense, her mother would walk the hospital wings up and down like a tiger in a cage, praying that God would save her little girl. And God did: the doctors were able to successfully repair her heart.
It was amazing to see, that Maryam and her mother quickly made friends in the hospital that would help them through the hard time. On the one hand there was Murad, he would look after her, translate for us and the doctors, and help us to arrange follow ups. On the other hand there were two Palestinians who spent time with them and looked after them on the surgery day and encouraged them. Also the doctors took their time and looked after Maryam and her mother wonderfully.
It took a long time for Maryam before she recovered from the surgery. You could see how much more energy she had after the surgery.
The "Farewell Party" was a happy feast and sad at the same time. We celebrated God's goodness and the fact that Maryam and her Mom finally got to go home to their loved ones. We also had to say goodbye to dear friends and family members of the Shevet Family. I will never forget how we walked the hospital wings up and down, praying that God would keep Maryam safe, never forget the times we laughed about Mimi's funny noises imitating different people, never forget that smile and laugh as soon as someone she treasured entered the room, screaming their name over and over again. I will never forget her Mother's sparkling eyes as she heard the surgery had went well and after hearing she would be able to go home soon.
As we waved to them goodbye we prayed that they will keep their radiant atmosphere, which they have shown here. They are carrying a Hope within them, that is far beyond measure. They and we know that God will provide for them and keep them safe. I am sure I will see them again, at the latest in Heaven.
Psalm 34:5: Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

Shining Eyes

Posted on Thu, 07/02/2015 - 14:15 by Julia Binder

The day was here to bring Mimi to her final echo at Hadassah.

Her mother was very nervous walking up and down the aisle while we were waiting to get Mimi checked. Judith and I tried to distract Mimi during the waiting time, so we played with some toys, which were on the walls. Mimi always would shout: "bad bad“, which means "again again“, because she was so into it.

Then in the echo room, Mimi seemed, at first, quite happy. Her mum tried to entertain her as best as possible and we sang some songs with her. But after a while she started crying and we couldn't stop her from that until the echo was over. When Doctor Julius came, to see the results and to check her again, she still was very upset. But Doctor Julius was very happy with the results and discharged her officially. What a praise report! Moreover he said that she does not need oxygen anymore back in Iraq.

Next week she will have a final appointment and when everything goes well then, she can fly back home. Mimi's mother was extremely relieved and could finally exhale from all the pressure.

And also Mimi was in a much better mood, when she saw her mum glad and joyful.

I'm very thankful to God, that this day went so smoothly and without complications. While we were in the hospital we were constantly praying for Mimi and her mum. Even Mimi's mum couldn't understand our words, I could see her eyes shining and hope rising, because she knows how powerful our God is. She was very grateful for the prayers and was at the end singing songs about Jesus to Mimi.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.  - Psalm 28:7

Flocks of Umbrellas and Handfuls of Water Balloons

Posted on Wed, 07/01/2015 - 20:01 by Jesse Tilman

Maryam "Mimi" loved the sunshine today as we went for a park outing. We brought along some water balloons for a fun time and cooled each other off with them on purpose or just as we were playing games with them.

"Mimi" enjoys the park in Jerusalem

(From Left) Matti, Mimi, and Yad at the park

Mimi, her mother, and Lindsay at the park.

On the way we came upon a ceiling of umbrellas and posed for some pictures.

Mimi got her hands on a few water balloons and experimented with their squishy qualities.

The park had many attractions for her this afternoon, including dogs, streams, picnic food, friends, and the healthy grass and light. Thank God for the joy he gives us along the path to Maryam's complete healing.

Beautiful Maryam

Maryam and "Coco" (Conrad) being goofy

Maryam shows us how she feels about football

As her case develops and we wait with her weeks in between check-ups we are so thankful for the grace God gives along the way!

Another Big Step

Posted on Mon, 06/01/2015 - 21:14 by Rebekah Yang

Judith and I were so excited to accompany Lina (Maryam’s mum) and Maryam (MiMi) for her second cardio-echo this morning at Hadassah Hospital. We left early for the bus ride before 8:30am. Right after we arrived at the bus stop, the bus towards Hadassah Hospital arrived. We praise God for such a good start to our journey to the hospital.

MiMi was in a very good mood for the one-hour bus ride to the hospital. However, when the Echo-room assistant tried to check her physical assessment, she was not happy at all. She was crying so much until Lina held her in her arms and fed her a bottle of milk.

After the Cardiologist, Dr. Julius, saw her echo result, he was indeed very glad to see MiMi has been improved quite a bit. He was especially happy to see the condition of heart and lungs this past month as we’ve been weaning her off of oxygen. However, after we finished all the physical examination we faced the most difficult part, the results from Dr. Julius. He would like to make another cardio-echo appointment in one more month. Lina’s eyes burst into tears right away as it was hard to hear the doctor’s decision. She was very emotional and tried to express that she really wanted to go home with her family back in Iraq. She even used the Arabic word to say everything “Ha-las, Ha-las…”(which means finished).

Afterward,  some explanation had to be made from an Arab father who happened to be there waiting for his son’s cardio-echo. Eventually she accepted this news and tried to think from the positive side for the sake of MiMi.

I was so grateful for Dr. Julius as well as this Arab father.  Dr. Julius was so thoughtful and loving concerning Mimi’s life. In the meantime, I thank God for sending a wonderful interpreter who did this great favor for us when we really needed it. Dr. Julius even changed the medicine to help prepare her physical body to get well soon in order to fly back Iraq in one month, Inshallah (Lord willing in Arabic).

Please do pray with us, that our Lord will continue to provide Lina strength and wisdom as she cares for MiMi at our home in Jerusalem. My prayer for Lina is found in Psalms 131:3 “O Israel, have hope in the Lord, from this time and for ever…”   

Waiting, Workouts, and Reunions

Posted on Tue, 05/12/2015 - 20:29 by Judith Schmidt

Our journey this morning started in good spirits and full of hope. We thought we would go the the Hadassah Hospital on a quick trip to check Maryam's pacemaker. I was really happy that I could go to the Hadassah Hospital again after a long time to accompany Maryam and her mother. 

Our appointment was scheduled for 11AM. We were just in time, but it took several hours before Maryam's pacemaker was checked. What were we to do with all this spare time? We found many funny ways to help the time go by fast. 

Maryam was so lively and chatty that she entertained the whole corridor with her funny noises. She explored the corridor on her own, crawling around. Later, she practiced walking with her mother and worked out her leg muscles.

She so enjoyed to be able to move on her own. As you may have recognized in the pictures, Maryam was not bound to an oxygen tank. The past days, we had started to reduce Maryam's oxygen treatment. Every now and then, we would take her off the oxygen machine and check her blood oxygen level. Her oxygen saturation was really good even without the oxygen machine. We still put her on the oxygen machine in the night, but during the day we try to have her without oxygen most of the time. What a miracle that she can be without the oxygen machine! Let's pray that God would touch her body more and more so that she can go home healed and healthy soon.

Another wonderful happening from the day was that a family that had stayed at the hospital at the same time as Maryam and her mother had an appointment today too. So they stopped by and had a little reunion with Maryam and her mom. The greeting was overwhelming. The eyes of Maryam's mom sparkled, and soon the mothers as well as the kids started to "talk." After the other family had left, Maryam's mother sat back in her waiting seat, exhaling, still with sparkling eyes. She looked at me, and the only thing that she said was "Helwa!" which translates to “Beautiful.” I realized how much the friends she made during the hard time at the hospital mean to her and how amazing it was for her to see them again. 

Finally we were able to have Maryam's pacemaker checked. After we told the doctor Maryam's story and explained her medical condition, he started with the examination. The procedure only took twenty minutes. In the beginning, Maryam was really upset, but after she realized that no one would hurt her and she had her milk in her hand, she was satisfied. 

The doctor was pleased with the condition of the pacemaker. With this good news, we are hopeful and look forward to Maryam's next echo in about two weeks.

To celebrate the news and as a little reward for our patience, we got ourselves cappuccinos and pastries and enjoyed the beautiful view into the Ein Kerem Valley. Maryam and her mother appreciated the treat for body and soul very much after a long day at the hospital. 

I am looking forward to the results of the next echo, curious about what God has hidden in his shirt sleeve to surprise us with next.

What a Wonderful Day!

Posted on Mon, 04/27/2015 - 20:36 by Rebekah Yang

Early this morning, Kristina and I had the privilege of accompanying Maryam and her mum to Hadassah hospital for her very first cardio-echo check-up since she was discharged from the hospital twelve days ago. Due to the fact that we had no vehicle, we took the public bus to reach Hadassah.

The whole journey was so peaceful and pleasant, and Mimi (Maryam) was so cooperative, sitting inside of her little stroller, just enjoying her first public bus ride in Jerusalem. Praise God for His loving protection.

While we were in the echo-room, Mimi became a bit irritated and uneasy and began crying. However, Kristina’s Arabic worship song was a very good tool to calm her down. So this song was played at least thirty times while the doctor did the echo for Mimi.

Afterwards, the cardiology doctor explained to us what he saw from this echo. The results were very good. In fact, Mimi has improved much more than was expected. The doctor believes Mimi is doing very well since she has improved so drastically in this short time. He suggested she keep the same oral medication and wait for another echo a month from now to see her further physical development. His goal is to wean Mimi’s oxygen off and then begin planning her return home to Iraq. God is indeed at work in our dear Maryam's life. Today, we have again seen miracles, hallelujah!

After Lina understood this good news, she started to inform her family back home in Iraq. On hearing this news, Mimi’s father brought Mimi’s two older brothers and went to church to offer a “thanksgiving prayer” immediately. What a beautiful testimony of this family's faith.

After the echo, we waited again for some time for the surgeon, Dr. Erez, to exam Mimi as well. He has also shared the same opinion regarding to Mimi’s current condition.

Wow! What a wonderful day we have had, observing that Mimi is receiving such great medical care and, above all, learning it’s surely true that our wonderful, mighty God is leading Mimi toward her bright future. Thank you, Lord, for your word says: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ( Isaiah 40:31)     

A Beautiful Day With Maryam

Posted on Tue, 04/21/2015 - 22:42 by Camilla Berg

This beautiful morning Kristina and I took Maryam and her mother to Hadassah. We meet with Murad, who followed us to the doctor’s office. The doctor, who is a lung specialist, was to check Maryam’s lungs and medicine. Maryam was not very pleased to be examined by the doctor. She cried a lot and was very unhappy, but in her mother’s arms she felt safe.  

The doctor said that she is improving, but her lungs are still fragile. After this, we went to meet with another doctor, who was a skin specialist. After Maryam’s surgery she had a lot of eczema around at her body. The doctor checked her and gave us a prescription for some cream to use. Hopefully it will be gone in about a week.

We waited quite some time at the doctor’s place because of some paperwork concerning the bill. Meanwhile, we talked to a very sweet doctor, who was very grateful for the work Shevet Achim is doing. She was also able to talk to Lina and explain the situation to her fully. It was good for her to hear this information, and even though it was a long time of waiting, it was lovely.

Maryam is a very determined little girl, who knows what she wants. Today her mind was set to hold her own journal, which made her very happy. She is also very clever and can easily copy what you say. I almost taught her to say, “Cami” today! We ended our day at Murad`s office, where we had a peaceful time before returning home to Shevet.

Join us in prayer for Maryam’s condition. She is improving, but it will take some time before she and her mother can return home. Next week she will have an echo, from which we will learn more about the period of time she needs to be here.  

Maryam is Home!

Posted on Wed, 04/15/2015 - 21:15 by Ruth Zellweger

Kristina and I had the privilege today of picking up Maryam and her mother from Hadassah Hospital. When we arrived, we first had to search for mother and daughter together with Murad, the medical translator, who has been a big help during the course of the past weeks. Eventually, we found Maryam in the waiting area of the dermatology department, where doctors wanted to check a rash on her neck. We spent several hours together at the hospital until we finally had all the necessary medications and papers needed for the discharge. Murad and Maram, a very kind social worker, accompanied us to the entrance of the hospital, where we bid goodbye.

As soon as Maryam was in the car, she fell asleep. 

Maryam will need to return to Hadassah next week for a follow up in the pulmonology and dermatology. At the moment she and her mother are readjusting in our home. We are thankful that they can be back with us. However, Maryam's recovery is slow and not without obstacles. We pray for God's healing touch on her little body, especially on her lungs, which are very fragile and damaged because of pulmonary hypertension. We also pray for peace, grace, and patience for her mother. The doctors would like to perform another catheterization in about six months time, and very likely, Maryam will need to stay until then in Israel, where she is close to medical help. She is on several strong and very expensive medications, and requires continuous oxygen supplement. Also, we need God's wisdom for the negotiation with the financial department of Hadassah about the cost of Maryam's treatment and hospitalization there. The challenges we are facing are huge, but the God we serve is bigger! 

Joyful Anticipation

Posted on Mon, 04/13/2015 - 21:34 by Judith Schmidt

When Kristina and I arrived at the hospital today, we found Maryam and her mother at the end of a physiotherapy session. For Maryam to continually improve her medical status, she and her mother need to strictly conduct the physiotherapy. Maryam seemed to be getting used to the therapy and even starting to enjoy it. She was laying flat on her belly, smiling at us, waiting patiently until everything was done. It is a pleasure to see her being more active than she has ever been. She loves to make funny noises and faces. In the end she kept us entertained and not the other way around.

We are still in the process of preparing the Shevet house in Jerusalem for Maryam's arrival later this week, hopefully. To make sure everything is prepared properly, we had a long talk with one cardiologist. He told us again that Maryam's heart defect is a very difficult case. Therefore, he suggested a long-term medical treatment and regular follow-ups on a long-term basis. One part of that is that they want Maryam to receive oxygen at the Shevet house because of her pulmonary hypertension. That said, as soon as everything is prepared at the Shevet house, he saw no hindrance to Maryam coming back to the house.

These words were music to our ears as well as Maryam's mother's. Having our precious Maryam and her mother back at the house after such a long time will be wonderful. We are in joyful anticipation, waiting for this day to arrive.