Mohammed's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Mohammed's Farewell

Posted on Sun, 10/27/2013 - 23:45 by Nick Boyum
When we met Mohammed, he was the little Iraqi boy with a complicated DORV heart defect who was clinging desperately to life; that’s not the same Mohammed who walked out of our doors. And when we met Mohammed’s mother, she was the young Iraqi mother worriedly clasping her dying only-child in her arms; that’s not the same mother who walked out of our doors.

What at face value seems like a routine story of sick boy plus hospital equals healthy boy could not be further from reality. Mohammed’s story is one of great faith, trust, and transformation. When I meditate on the seemingly short time Mohammed spent within our walls, one beautiful characteristic especially catches my attention: joy. 

It starts with a face. It always does. The first time I saw Mohammed’s was on his travel documents, and despite the notoriously unsatisfactory nature of passport photos, Mohammed’s captured his joyful gaze perfectly.

Then came the waiting, and after that even more waiting – mother and child waiting in Jordan for travel papers to migrate through the appropriate maze of government offices and acquire the necessary stamps and signatures. Finally, after an inconveniently scheduled Jewish holiday, Mohammed and his mother crossed into Israel after two anxiety-filled weeks. Mohammed had reached the threshold of his new heart, and though joy abounded, trials both past and future were not forgotten by anyone.
The next days and weeks were a blur of tests, checkups, tears, and more trials, all of which led up to the day everyone had been waiting for: surgery day. Yet, even as waves of consent forms were signed and 5% probabilities of mortality were declared, the joy in the air was unmistakable. And the only person in the world who fully understood that joy was the only one who possibly could: Mohammed’s mother. I won’t attempt to fathom the strength it took to kiss her own flesh and blood one last time and watch him disappear into the operating room, but I will marvel at the faith and trust she employed at that very moment. Even though the floodgates opened and her tears stained the shoulders of the friends around her who she’d only known mere weeks, there was a distinct amount of joy in every sob.
Determined to make up for time lost waiting, Mohammed set his aim on the record books for fastest post-open-heart-surgery recovery ever. In one swift motion, he moved from the ICU to the secondary to the ward and right through our front door on Prophet Street on sheer momentum. Nurses and volunteers alike stood in complete surprise when his return was announced in our offices, although none of our expressions rivaled those beautiful eyes God pasted right on Mohammed’s face. For all of us, the cup of joy was full to overflowing, and all marveled at the abundance of the Lord’s provision.
Although Mohammed’s journey was far from over, the finish line was in sight. Those days, the joy on his mother’s face was unmistakable. She floated around the house on a cloud of hugs, smiles, and laughter. She had the distinct privilege of having the upstairs room to herself but often accepted invitations to dine with the volunteers downstairs for dinner. We became accustomed to Mohammed’s joyful squeals of laughter and her radiant cheerfulness.
It ends with reluctant goodbyes. It always does. The cool fall Jerusalem air reminded us that time truly had passed that quickly, and Mohammed was preparing to return to northern Iraq with a new heart.
Stifling tears and feeling the weight of our own hearts, we waved off the van carrying our little miracle back to his new life. Good-bye Mohammed. May you always remember how fragile life is and remember the abounding love your Savior has for you.
“May the God of hope fill you with all the Joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

Returning Home

Posted on Wed, 10/23/2013 - 21:28 by Rinnah Henderson
Today was Mohammed's last visit at Sheba Children's Hospital after a successful echocardiogram. It was a joyful moment in all of our lives. He now can return home to northern Iraq this weekend with a healthy heart and a bright future ahead of him.
I shall never forget the smile on his mothers face as the doctor told us Mohammed's heart was functioning correctly and he was discharged. When his mother smiles, she lights up like a Jerusalem sunrise, pure and lovely. I could feel relief flood her soul as we waltzed out of the hospital doors and into the late afternoon sunshine.
I too felt relief. Even though I have merely been here a week, my heart has already become so attached to this beautiful family. I am learning that, even though we may not be able to communicate with our words, we can communicate with our hearts. Love is a universal language.

Rejoicing for Mohammed

Posted on Tue, 10/15/2013 - 20:35 by Rahel Eschler

Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say, rejoice!

Today we had a reason to do exactly this. The first thing Mohammed’s mother showed me this morning was her new clothes she got yesterday at the Arabic market. By the way, that’s not the main reason for our rejoicing. However, she was smiling over her whole face and proudly showing me her newest addition she was already wearing. You could tell that her favorite color was pink, which she confirmed with a grin. Of course she also thought kindly of Mohammed. With his jacket, he looked prepared for the winter, which hasn’t yet come here in the Holy Land.

After a smooth ride through the Israeli landscape on a sunny day, we entered the waiting area of the cardiology department at Sheba Hospital. Mohammed was so cheery and playful that he attracted all the attention from the people around him. Especially one other mum who was so touched by his nature that she gave him a chocolate treat, which he enjoyed with a big smile and a whole lot of laughter.

Then Mohammed was called in for the examinations of his heart. The waiting times in between the echocardiogram and the ultrasound were easily bridged by the lovely care of Mohammed’s mother for her son. After checking Mohammed’s heart carefully, the very friendly cardiology specialist was pleased with the improvement of Mohammed’s heart condition. He recommended us to come back for a follow up in two weeks for another echo.

We rejoiced over this good news. Although Mohammed’s mum was surprised by how long the recovery process has been, so she was slightly disappointed. Mohammed didn’t care about all that and made another friend on the fourth floor just before coming back to Jerusalem.

This very precious boy is a joyful companion for everyone that gets to know him. So we rejoice in the Lord for his grace and love for this special boy, and are happy for his future with his healed heart. Please pray with us for patience for Mohammed’s parents and that their hearts will be touched through God’s healing work in Mohammed.

Mohammed Back in Jerusalem!

Posted on Tue, 10/08/2013 - 22:48 by Nick Boyum

Our little surprised friend, Mohammed, spent his last day in Sheba hospital today, Lord willing!!

Mere days after an extremely successful open-heart surgery, Mohammed has been discharged from the children's ward, to return smiling and laughing all the way back to Prophet Street. The long wait for the discharge papers to get through afforded the Shevet volunteer team, Mohammed, and his mother ample time for a candid photo shoot or two. Their handiwork can be seen below.

As you read this, this beautiful child and his mother are relaxing and recovering here on Prophet Street. Tonight we praise God for such a successful surgery and impressively quick post op recovery rate. Let our prayer be that young Mohammed will continue to recuperate quickly and that he doesn't soon lose that irresistible face and those beautiful gazing eyeballs! 

On the Road to Recovery

Posted on Sun, 10/06/2013 - 19:15 by Jesse Tilman

Mohammed is well on his way to recovery! Just three days after surgery, he is active, smiling, and very responsive to everyone around him. Visiting him today in the ward outside ICU seemed like visiting a child who is as far away from heart-surgery as cats are from swimming. We thank God for his health and pray for his continued smooth recovery. He is scheduled for his next echocardiogram on Thursday. His mother had a few basic necessities she requested that we bring, including some black tea, cucumbers, and more sugar: staples of the Kurdish diet! With many hugs, songs, and pictures, we spent time caring for this special mother and son.

She has a few Palestinian families around her that she is acquainted with, though she doesn't speak Arabic. At one time there were four Mohammed’s in the children’s ward. The parents keep each other company through this shared ordeal, even when they don’t speak a common language. I got to translate for a while between one mother from Gaza that knew enough English to speak to me. I’d pass it on to Mohammed’s mother in Kurdish and then back the other way. May God bless these families!

Peace Abiding

Posted on Fri, 10/04/2013 - 12:06 by Kristina Kayser
From Sonia D'orso:
Yesterday, we visited Mohammed and his mother after the catheterization of Mohammed's heart. He was doing very well, was sprightly, and gave us a lot of joy. The mother was tired of being in the hospital. She can’t sleep very well. We had very good news, though, that the surgical operation would be tomorrow. The mother was so excited! 
From Kristina Kayser:
Surgery days are consequential-- laced in prayer as we dare to hope that life, in its fragile state, will be spared. Today, it was Mohammed's heart for which we prayed. This precious baby, with bright curious eyes and a smile that melts your heart, faced a challenge greater than many people experience in a lifetime. Nearly one month after leaving his home in Kurdistan, Sheba's operating theater was staged for Mohammed's cardiac repair.
Rahel and I arrived at 11am and found Mohammed and his mother waiting in their room. Both looked fatigued, having not slept well due to Mohammed's need to fast before surgery. Fasting is never easy, particularly for children who don't understand its purpose. It took every ounce of creativity to keep Mohammed distracted and amused until the OR team arrived. Just when our song repertoire was nearly exhausted, a clown arrived to pick up where we left off. Her red nose and antics further distracted our little friend from his hunger pangs.
A physician and anesthesiologist soon arrived to explain the surgical plan and secure the mother's consent. The complex operation for Mohammed's diagnosis of Double Outlet Right Ventricle and Ventricular Septal Defect carried a 5% risk of mortality; nevertheless, chief surgeon, Dr. Mishali felt confident that a full repair could be accomplished. Mohammed's mother held her son tight with tears streaming down her face. When the nurse said it was time to say goodbye, she reluctantly released her embrace. Once Mohammed disappeared from sight, his mother turned and wrapped her arms around me, sobbing. I think everyone needs to be held sometimes.
It wasn't long before her sorrow turned to peaceful relief. She recounted to Rahel and I her joy of carrying Mohammed during her pregnancy. "I never knew anything was wrong with his heart until four days after he was born...then things became really difficult," she shared. "The doctor in Kurdistan told me Mohammed would die if he didn't have surgery by the time he was nine months." She smiled and breathed a deep sigh, knowing that her son was no longer in danger. "He is my heart! I love him so much."
We spent a lovely three hours together, sharing about culture and life and enjoying some lunch together. I couldn't help but think how peaceful this waiting time was. I believe God's presence was abiding with us, bringing peace, just as we had prayed for. Exactly three hours after Mohammed had entered the OR, Dr. Mishali came out to tell us that the surgery had been a complete success! Mohammed's VSD was closed with a patch, his narrowed pulmonary artery was opened, and his circulatory system was rerouted to improve oxygenation and cardiac function. More tears were shed, but these were marked by joy.
An hour later, Rahel, Mohammed's mother, and I were permitted to enter the ICU and stand at Mohammed's side. Despite the many changes taking place inside, his body was responding well. As Mohammed continued sleeping, his mother studied him from head to toe, noting every detail. She admitted to feeling overwhelmed by all the machines and tubing. I could see her processing the reality of her son's heart surgery. However, once she thought over the information I shared about Mohammed's surroundings and condition, I could see her confidence begin to grow. We rejoiced together over God's goodness towards Mohammed, for the miracle of his life, and for the gift of a full repair of his heart.
Later this evening, I received a phone call from his mother saying that he is now off of the ventilator and resting comfortably. What a wonderful way to end this already amazing day. Please join us in praising God for His peace and faithful healing!

A Peaceful Catheterization Day

Posted on Wed, 10/02/2013 - 00:50 by Ruth Zellweger

Mohammed and his mother left their home and family in Kurdistan a month ago, and the past weeks of waiting had worn on his mother's patience. There have been times when she felt she could not stay any longer and wanted to return to Kurdistan right away. She felt lonely. As we came alongside her and supported her during this difficult time, we prayed for peace of mind and spirit, and slowly we started to see a change in her. She came to understand that it sometimes can take weeks or even months until a surgery is performed, and she became willing to wait for the right timing. The doctors at Sheba hospital had told us earlier that Mohammed's surgery would probably not be until the third week of October. Yesterday afternoon we received a phone-call from one of the cardiologists, asking us to admit little Mohammed for a catheterization scheduled for today. We had been waiting for an appointment for a CT-scan, which we were told Mohammed would need. But as we had already experienced many times before, things can change quickly, and what is asked from us is to be flexible.

Rahel and I left early this morning to be with Mohammed and his mother before he was taken to the cath lab. When we arrived at the children's ward, we found them both awake. This young mother looked really tired, and she told us that she hadn't slept much. However, at that moment the only thing that mattered to her was to entertain her beloved son. Even though Mohammed had been fasting since 10 p.m. last night, he was smiling a lot and appeared to be a happy baby. After an hour, Mohammed was taken to the cath laboratory where we waited another 20 minutes. His mother was asked to sign the form of consent, and then it was time to start. Mohammed's mother carried her son to the table where the procedure would take place.

The wonderful head nurse comforted her by putting her arm around her. It was beautiful to see the nurse care on a personal level for the children and parents she is working with. After a final kiss, Mohammed's mother had to leave, and as soon as she reached the door, she started sobbing very hard. We held each other tight until she calmed down, and then the three of us went to sit in the waiting area. We spent our time talking about our families, eating pastries, and drinking tea and coffee. A peace was present that is hard to describe.

A little over half an hour later, Mohammed was already wheeled into Intermediate ICU. The head nurse told us that everything went well and that the doctors now have all the information they need to do the surgery. Mohammed's mother was happy. Mohammed was still sleepy, and it was obvious that he was really thirsty. This was hard for his mother to watch, but we were able to convince her that it was best to wait a little longer until he was fully awake. When that moment finally came, she prepared one bottle of water and another one with milk. It was such a joy to see how satisfied Mohammed was once he could eat and drink. Soon after that, he fell asleep again. By the time we left, his mother was also going to rest. She was thankful for the smooth catheterization and now wants to know as soon as possible when the surgery day will be. We didn't find out when the surgery will be today and pray now for the right timing. Our heavenly Father knows best what is good for us, and we want to trust Him with all the details in Mohammed´s life. Thank you for joining us in interceding for this precious mother and her son.

First Assessments at Sheba

Posted on Fri, 09/20/2013 - 10:21 by Johanna Eurich

This past Tuesday was Mohammed’s first pre-operative assessment at Sheba Hospital, including an echocardiograph followed by an electrocardiograph.

Deborah, Ruth, and I set out late in the morning with a happy Mohammed and his rather anxious mother.

After waiting for about an hour and a half at Sheba, where Mohammed happily played in the children’s toys area, he underwent his assessments. The echocardiograph confirmed a serious heart defect. Despite this, Mohammed’s oxygen saturation levels were 99 -100%. The pediatric cardiologist consulted with another cardiologist and they agreed that after further consultation, Mohammed will have either a CT-scan or MRI after the holidays which finish in another week.

After the assessment, our team enjoyed a really happy time sharing lunch together with Mohammed’s mother, who bravely tried the culturally different foods offered to her. It was like a new oasis was created in the middle of a difficult day. She appeared to be grateful for the sisterly connection.

Mohammed’s mother is a quite vulnerable young woman who has found herself in a foreign country without her husband and extended family. She mostly put on a brave face but it was apparent that she was emotionally struggling.

It brings to mind the story of Ruth, the Moabite, who experienced loss and isolation in a foreign land. Through her courage, faithfulness, and love of God, she found love and peace again. Our Prayer for Mohammed’s mother is that she seek God’s face and find strength to continue on this journey with Mohammed.


Posted on Fri, 09/13/2013 - 03:00 by Jonathan Miles

Mohammed has the gift of always looking surprised--or maybe he really was surprised to get news Friday that his visa has finally been approved, after a difficult two-week wait! He'll travel to Israel after Yom Kippur, and have his first appointment with Israeli doctors on Tuesday morning.

The Power of Love

Posted on Wed, 08/28/2013 - 22:05 by Kelsey Cannon

The only child of a young Kurdish couple from northern Iraq, Mohammed is sure to be well loved. This love plainly surpasses all boundaries - even political ones. Why might one say this? Well, his parents are boldly willing to seek treatment for Mohammed’s complex congenital heart defect, Double Outlet Right Ventricle (DORV), at the advanced medical centers in Israel - no small feat as Iraq and Israel see one another as “enemy countries.”

Let us pray that this courageous love is rewarded with a healed heart and a bright future for Mohammed. We expect to have Mohammed arrive to begin his journey to health by this weekend.