Mustafa's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

First T.L.C., Then Catheterization

Posted on Tue, 02/05/2008 - 00:00 by Hank_Dannecker

Today Mustafa will undergo another procedure: a heart catheterization. He's already had open-heart surgery, and very possibly will have another operation after the catheterization. Mustafa did not receive the news well. He was not a happy camper. Can you blame him? He told his father on the phone that he just wants to come home!

Mustafa's mother asked if I could spend some time with them, given Mustafa's mental fatigue and emotional sadness. I spent several hours with them and what a joy it was. Mom speaks fluent English and had a lot to say! She told me that she had studied the English language and would like to go back to college, that she has two other daughters back in Iraq, and she gave me blow by blow interpretation of Mustafa's unhappiness. So, before we went to have some lunch in the hospital cafeteria, we stopped by the small mall attached to the hospital. Mustafa had a change of heart when he spotted a specific toy on one of the vendors' tables. Mustafa's mother, being a good mother, seized the opportunity to turn around a struggling child. She pulled out 25 shekels and bought the toy along with his favorite cookies. WOW, what a change $9 can make in the world of a child.

Not only that, but while I watched over Mustafa so his mother and Shinyar's mom could take a little walk after Shinyar's operation, some clown came along and put the icing on the cake. Clowning around Israeli style is what this volunteer does best. The three of us could not communicate verbally, but God's love was being translated in a tangible way. Now Mustafa added a blue dog to his collection of cheer-me-ups.

Mom returned and took Mustafa to his room to settle in. What a difference a little T.L.C. can make in a child's life. Know for sure that your prayers and financial support are having a profound impact in many people's lives, as we partner together in advancing the kingdom of God!

Playing "Doctor"

Posted on Sun, 01/13/2008 - 00:00 by Elly_Miles

When we first walked into the room today to visit with Mustafa and his mother, we were sad to find him crying and very unhappy. As she massaged his arms and legs to help him feel better, she explained some of what the trouble was. Firstly, he made friends with Baveel, who would come into his room once in awhile and talk with him. Baveel was very encouraging and would tell Mustafa not to be afraid. But inevitably, Baveel would have to leave to go back to his room. This upset Mustafa; his mother said that he could sense that something was wrong. He was restrained to his bed and tubes, while others came and went freely.

As the day went on, Mustafa's moods did improve! He enjoyed playing with his toys, especially when he had someone else to play with him. The rest of the toys he had paled in comparison, though, when he was handed a giant syringe. Not only was it cool looking, but he also discovered that he could squirt water out of it at bystanders! And finally, last but not least, Mustafa enjoyed playing 'doctor' with the giant syringe, gloves, and a stethoscope. I was his primary patient.

Mustafa's mom continued to treat all of her visitors with a lot of grace, but it was obvious that she was exhausted. She did get to take a break for about an hour at one point; I stayed and hung out with Mustafa. We were both tired so we took a nap.

Please be keeping Mustafa's mother in your prayers; she will really need the Lord's strength, physically and emotionally, during the next few weeks as she deals with her son's second surgery and recovery.

Short-term volunteer Jane adds:

Last week, Mustafa's swelling had reduced and his face was looking really good. He
has had a few breathing problems, but is able to eat small amounts. Mustafa's mother was delighted that he could eat three very small pieces of chicken, but his system rejected the small pieces of apple.

I had a very wonderful conversation with Mustafa's mother about how God uses times of suffering and pain to make us into better people, and how ultimately we have greater compassion and love for others when we have endured pain ourselves. I tried to encourage her that as her boy grows up, this difficult time he has endured will be a jewel in his life. She agreed, and said that she trusts her God that has done many miracles already for Mustafa.

Mustafa's mother has a great servant heart and is a huge encouragement to the other mothers, even though she is exhausted watching over her son in the ICU. She is very pale and hasn't been eating or sleeping well. Please pray for all the mothers that they can get quality rest; most snatch just an hour here and there.

It was such a joy to see Mustafa today in the intermediate ICU. He was sitting up in bed surrounded by toys and trying to eat. For a boy who hasn't really eaten anything in the last 14 days, this was quite a triumph. Mustafa's mother remains positive and thanking God, even though she is exhausted and isn't eating much herself. He was very excited to receive a "Get Well" card from a child in the Israeli town of Arad. He covered it in stickers and played with it for quite some time.

Looking Good, Sitting Up In Bed

Posted on Thu, 01/10/2008 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

I was both thankful and delighted to see Mustafa in the intermediate ICU today when I arrived in the children's ward. He was sitting up in bed, and his mother was sitting with him. Mustafa is still not feeling well though, so he was not in a talkative or playful mood. He looks very good as medication is alleviating the fluid build-up he'd been having. There is still a chest tube in, which is draining his lungs, so he will remain in the ICU at least until this can be removed.

Mustafa's mother is very tired; please pray for her to remain courageous and hopeful. Because Mustafa is prone to whine when not feeling well, she is hearing a lot of whining, besides the realities of how challenging it is to nurse a child after such a major procedure. I think this tends to keep her from fully seeing how far he has come since the surgery 11 days ago. Let us pray that soon Mustafa will be able to leave the ICU and the hospital itself, and return to the Save A Child's Heart house to rest before his next surgery. May the Lord give them peace and patience in the interim.

Breathing On His Own, Swelling Down

Posted on Sun, 01/06/2008 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

On the way to the hospital today I had a call with the news that Mustafa was going to have to get the fluid around his lungs drained. But along with that news I was told he would then be extubated (weaned from mechanical breathing assistance)! This was great to hear, and I was looking forward to seeing him. Last night I could see that the swelling in his face was going down. I was hopeful that today this would be even more noticeable.

When I went into the ICU I could see that he was only on an oxygen mask, and his blood-oxygen level was up to 79%, thank God. The swelling in his facial features went down throughout the day. He was beginning to wake up as well, which was both good to see, but hard to see, for as he woke up, he realized he was in pain. This caused him to cry, which affected his mother deeply. When he saw her, along with our friend Robin who was visiting, and me, he began to try to move around, which made him hurt again. We chose to back up and not talk so he would settle back down again. Soon he was resting more comfortably, but still opening his eyes from time to time, and crying a little.

Diyka Mustafa ("mother of Mustafa") has been told the doctors hope to let Mustafa finish waking up tomorrow. If he does well, he could even move to the intermediate ICU, which will be great news! She was also told that because Mustafa's body will need to heal for several more weeks, his second surgery is not planned until next month. This news was a little unexpected since at first they thought he might be scheduled this week. It was also unsettling because both Robin, who has been a close special friend to Mustafa and his mother, and I will be going to the US in the coming weeks. We all wanted to be together to encourage her through Mustafa's second, more difficult surgery. I am hopeful that God will bring another compassionate heart to sit with her after we leave. I will return after some time with a new grandchild, and although I do not want Mustafa here any longer than needed, I am hopeful they will still be here when I return so I can complete the journey with them when it is time to return to their home in a few months.

Please pray for Mustafa to understand that he must be still as he begins to recover, so he can heal quickly - he does not like to be still. Pray for his special mother as she continues to comfort her son, as well as does translation for the other mothers and medical staff. She is always ready to help, but I have encouraged her to feel the freedom to tell us if she cannot come because Mustafa needs her more at any time. Our prayers will be needed to support them both as they await the next surgery.

Continue to Pray

Posted on Wed, 01/02/2008 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

It was a heart-wrenching meeting in the hallway this morning when I saw Mustafa's mother on my way to take the charts for our new patients to the echo clinic. When I asked how Mustafa was doing, all of her fears came pouring out along with her sobs. She said she feels she is losing something because he is still asleep three days after surgery, and she knows this cannot be good. I reminded her that the medication is the reason he has not awakened, and it is because his body needs to rest. She is concerned there is or will be neurological damage because of this. I asked her to walk with me towards the clinic so we could sit outside for a few minutes together. And this is just what we did.... we sat a while so she could just share, and I could pray for her. Afterwards I asked if she wanted to walk a little further since I had to get back with the records, and she said she would like to come and visit with the other mothers at the clinic. She not only visited, but was a wonderful help to all of us because of her ability to translate between Kurdish, Arabic and English.

It was not until Dr. Tamir had finished the echoes on Baveel, Hardi and Arya that I was able to slip away to the ICU to see Mustafa. He is puffy right now, so doesn't look quite like himself. As I stood over him I prayed that he would have LIFE by the power of God's touch. I do feel there is an urgency to pray for him and ask you to remain faithful and diligent in your intercession on his behalf. The doctors are thinking right now that Mustafa may have his second, more difficult surgery next week, but I do not know which day. Thank you for continuing to pray, and even increasing your prayer, on behalf of Mustafa, remembering also his mother, and his family back in Iraq.

Your Fervent Prayers Are Needed

Posted on Tue, 01/01/2008 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

It was good to be able to see Mustafa and his mother today while at the hospital with the new families. He is still stable, but even on oxygen his blood oxygenation reading is only around 65%. He is still sedated, and the nurse said today he may remain that way until next week when his second surgery is expected to be performed. He looked the same today, except for the swelling which usually accompanies this condition after surgery. His sweet mother is doing well even as she deals with fleeting thoughts and fears of possible problems. She told me as we walked from the ICU today that she only knows she has to give her son into God's hands for Him to take care of. She was more rested today, and seemed to enjoy meeting the new mothers and children who have arrived to begin the process she now knows quite well.

I feel it is very important to ask for your fervent prayers for Mustafa to receive God's healing touch. Thank you for keeping him lifted in prayer. His mother also needs extra prayer right now. It is a critical time for her son, and her heart is hopeful, even though his condition is so difficult. She is giving herself as a volunteer translator between the Arabic, Kurdish and English speakers in all areas of the children's care at the hospital and the Save A Child's Heart house.

Thank you for your prayers.

Admitted for Long-Awaited Surgery

Posted on Sun, 12/30/2007 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

This morning I got a tearful call from Mustafa's mother. Her youngest daughter was very sick back in their home in Iraq, and was crying and crying for her mother. Not knowing what else to do, the family at home called so the sound of her mother's voice could provide the comfort needed at such a difficult time. After such a heart-wrenching call, Mustafa's mother called me for some needed comfort. She had spoken to her husband who could not understand why their child was not having his turn for surgery. She felt rather overwhelmed and needed a friend to talk to, and I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be her friend and hear her needs. We talked and I prayed for her, asking for God's help since I know He is in control of all things, including the timing of Mustafa's surgery.

Later I called the hospital to check on Dilshad's surgery, and asked about Mustafa's surgery, since we'd heard it would probably be this week. I was told that he would come to the hospital on Monday for the surgery on Tuesday. This was great news, but based on previous experience, I didn't want to call his mother back until we knew for sure there were no emergencies which might bump him from this slot. It was a big surprise this evening while I was at the hospital waiting with Dilshad's mother to get the call saying the Mustafa was on his way to the hospital for surgery tomorrow! I was glad I could be there to greet them as they settled in for the night.

Mustafa was about to go for the first pre-surgery tests when I found them in the ward. His mother was very thankful, even if still somewhat hesitant to believe the surgery would really happen in the morning. Mustafa himself was being brave for the most part, and said to just call him "Rambo" because he was going to be brave like him. I was proud of his behavior this evening as he went through the tests, shedding tears only when the necessary blood test had to be done. He was convinced by Dilshad's mother to eat some dinner, and he enjoyed visiting with little Ahmad in the neighboring bed.

When it was time for me to leave, he even worked up the courage to meet the new "Ronald McDonald" statue which is now located in the "fish room".

Mustafa's surgery is expected to be difficult; his heart will undergo correction of transposition of the great arteries. Pray for this very bright little boy in the morning as he is separated from his mother for the surgery. Please pray for his mother during the long wait while the doctors undertake this operation. Because we have three new patients arriving into Israel tomorrow, I will not be able to be at the hospital tomorrow. Mustafa's mother was very disappointed when I told her this, but I assured her I would pray from wherever I was, and would check on her and Mustafa by phone through the day. Our very dear friend Robin will be able to be there with them in my stead, and I'm thanking God for sending such a friend at this time. Please join us in prayer.

A Dinosaur in the House

Posted on Thu, 12/27/2007 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel
I was happy to see Mustafa and his mother waiting at the gate of the Save A Child's Heart house on Monday when I arrived. I had called to tell them I would be coming, because I wanted to be with them to help ease the disappointment of the day since they thought Mustafa's surgery would be that day. But because of a pre-planned power outage to do work at the hospital, Mustafa's surgery had to be postponed. It will be a complicated and lengthy surgery, so there is no way the doctors would take a chance he might still be in the operating room when the power outage occurred.

We had a good visit during lunch and afterwards. Mustafa had been perfecting his mean dinosaur look and movements, and showed them to me several times. He looks pretty friendly in the video you'll see, but he really does know how to make a pretty mean 'tyranosaurus rex' face!

We are hoping along with Mustafa's mother, as well as his father and siblings back home, that Mustafa's surgery will be this coming week. He has had a very long wait, and is getting pretty restless in the waiting period. Both Hedi and Hussein have had their surgeries, and the three of them traveled over to Israel together from Jordan. It is hard for the family to understand why Mustafa's surgery has been delayed so much. "We can trust in God's perfect timing," I tell her, and she acknowledges that this is what she believes. Pray for continued perseverance for this special mother as well as for Mustafa himself. He is a bright little boy, and is ready to get on with life after this surgery gives him a new heart. I pray that everything God had in mind for his life when He created him will come to pass.

Cough and Fever

Posted on Fri, 12/07/2007 - 00:00 by Lee_Liang_Chian

I was surprised to see Mustafa back at the hospital yesterday because he did not have any immediate appointment with the doctors after his CT scan on Wednesday. His mother told me neither she nor Mustafa had slept well the night before as he had been coughing badly.

It was confirmed that Mustafa also had a slight fever. After his prescription medicine was ready, he returned to the Save A Child's Heart house together with Rayan who was at Wolfson in the morning for his speech and physiotherapy sessions.

In the evening, when we visited the families at the Save A Child's Heart house in Azur, Mustafa's fever had subsided and he was excited to receive visitors, running down the stairs and jumping into our open arms!

I had not met with Dr Eyal in the ward since my last conversation with him about Mustafa's strange snack of tissue paper and napkins, so I do not have an update on the possible treatment as yet.

Meanwhile Mustafa's mother has been most helpful in interpreting for me when I needed to explain to Rayan's mother some of the detailed instructions given by Rayan's physiotherapist for her follow-up action. It is such a blessing whenever we have at least one of the Iraqi mothers who can understand English and who is able to relay our messages to the other mothers in Kurdish.

It is indeed a wonderfully divine arrangement how certain Iraqi families end up being paired or grouped with other Iraqi families through no intentional 'arrangement' on our part, as the invitations for the families to come over to Israel depended mostly on the doctor's assessment of each case, the urgency of the child's condition to come over, the official approval of their visas as well as the families' financial ability to fly from Iraq to Amman for the cross-over into Israel.

CT Scan All Clear

Posted on Wed, 12/05/2007 - 06:49 by Lee_Liang_Chian

Because Mustafa has been having frequent bouts of headaches, the doctors did a CT scan on him today. When I arrived at the ward after accompanying Rayan for his speech therapy session, I noticed that Mustafa was fussing quite a bit and his mother was rather worried over the results of the CT scan.

But by mid-afternoon, Dr Eyal gave us the good news that the neuro-specialist has confirmed there is nothing unusual in Mustafa's CT scan. So Mustafa had all the little contraptions on his body removed, and he was released to the Save A Child's Heart house till his next medical appointment.

After lunch, the mothers and I took Mustafa and Rayan for a short walk in the garden to take in some Vitamin D, a.k.a. sunshine. Mustafa had collected three apples from the cafeteria during lunch, but his mother told me he often takes just one bite and that is all he would eat. To make eating the apple fun for Mustafa, I asked him to tell me what he was eating, in English and in Kurdish. He greatly enjoyed the "language lesson" and of course, his "seeow" (apple).

It may seem like a small thing that Mustafa enjoys eating his apple, but not when we hear that his favourite food is actually tissue paper and paper napkins! His mother even found him biting plaster off the wall at home in Iraq! This sounds worrisome indeed! I recall watching a documentary-drama on Korea's first female physician and how she uncovered the cause of some sick villagers' strange urge to eat soil and sand. She deduced that they could be having worms in their stomachs or intestines, and when she treated them with a de-worming concoction, all their weird eating habits subsided. 

I mentioned Mustafa's craving to Dr Eyal and he said there could be two problems. One problem is lead poisoning from the consumption of paint and plaster. The other problem could be the presence of parasites in Mustafa's body. Then I shared with him about what I learnt from the Korean docu-drama and he agreed it is possible, and that he will get Mustafa examined further regarding this matter.