Mustafa's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

A Geography Lesson

Posted on Wed, 11/28/2007 - 00:00 by Lee_Liang_Chian

Yesterday, when I visited the Iraqi families staying at the Save A Child's Heart house, Mustafa greeted me like a long-lost friend and was eager to show me the poster which his mother made that was pasted on the door of the room which he is sharing with Hussein and Hedi.

The mothers of Mustafa and Hussein, both of whom I'd not seen for several weeks, were surprised to see me yesterday at Save A Child's Heart because they thought I'd returned home to Singapore. I told them that indeed, I was scheduled to leave on Sunday, 25 November, but have postponed my flight home as Shevet Achim is presently short of manpower especially since more Iraqis (Delir, Dilshad, Diyar and Aras) are expected to come over to Israel tomorrow.

That was when Mustafa's mother asked, "Going to Singapore? Not China?" So I showed them on the wall map where Singapore and China are located in relation to Israel. Then Mustafa pointed out to me where Iraq is, and his mother was so proud of him and told him to show me where Georgia, USA is... "where Donna comes from."

So far, Mustafa has not been scheduled for his operation, which is expected to be a rather complex one. The Wolfson medical team wants to ensure that Mustafa receives close supervision after his operation, and since the doctors were away on a medical mission in Moldova two weeks ago, Mustafa's operation has been held back a bit. Besides, Mustafa needs to have a catheterization done in order for the doctors to work out the best operation procedures.

In the meantime, Mustafa seems none the worse for the delay. He has a hearty appetite and is adapting very well to living at the Save A Child's Heart house, where he happily plays with both the Iraqi and Ethiopian children.

Happy and Cared For

Posted on Wed, 11/07/2007 - 00:00 by George_Kammar_age_13

High-school students from the Anglican International School in Jerusalem joined Shevet Achim for a two-day community service project. Today's assignment included visiting Iraqi and Gazan patients at Wolfson Medical Center and at the Save A Child's Heart children's house; and by day's end, blogging on the children they had become acquainted with. Shevet thanks the AISJ students who freely gave of their time and energy!

I met Mustafa in the SACH home where children come to stay before and after their heart surgery. He is waiting to go into the Wolfson Hospital for his heart operation. I was able to speak to his mother in Arabic as my family lived in Lebanon as missionaries. She spoke to me about Mustafa's heart condition and said how happy she was that she could bring him here and how kind and helpful the staff were to them. After Mustafa has recovered from his surgery he will be going back to Iraq where he lives.

I felt very happy to visit this house where the children looked happy, loved and cared for. This is a good place for them to recover after the hospital surgery.

My prayer is that Mustafa and all the children in this wonderful home will be safe and well.

Riding Into Israel

Posted on Mon, 11/05/2007 - 00:00 by Lee_Liang_Chian

After waiting in Amman for almost a month since the medical screening, yesterday Mustafa finally received his visa to enter Israel. This morning around 5.00am, Donna brought Mustafa, together with Hussein, Hedi and their mothers, from Amman to the King Hussein / Bet Shean border check-point, where Jonathan and I (LC) met them. The three boys were some sort of celebrities, as a camera crew from a TV channel were also present to film them for an upcoming feature.

Mustafa and Hussein have become the best of friends during the past weeks living together in Amman. They came through the arrival gates sharing a seat atop a luggage bag.

They seemed to recognise both Jonathan and me, as they beamed us bright smiles. These boys appear so different from my first encounter with them during the one-day medical screening in Amman. Then, they were bursting out in tears each time I approached them with my camera but now, look at how Mustafa posed for me today! 

Upon arrival at Wolfson, Mustafa, Hussein and Hedi were brought into one of the rooms in the children's ward, and the lunch was immediately served. The boy was indeed hungry.

After lunch, the nurse trolleyed into the room the blood pressure equipment and the weighing machine, followed by a 'cabinet' of what Mustafa recognised as "lethal weapons" of anesthetics, needles, syringes and rubber gloves. Then fear overcame the boy and he started bawling even before the medical staff touched him! But the tears stopped the moment each phase of the checks was over, be it the measuring of his height and weight or the taking of his blood samples. He received a souvenir for his bravery -- a rubber glove blown up into a balloon!

Rayan and his mother were back at Wolfson for his echo appointment, and they dropped by to visit with Mustafa and the other two new Iraqi arrivals. Cheerful Rayan was held up as a smiling testimony of how well a boy can be after going through a life-saving operation, which took place just two weeks ago.

After lunch, Mustafa proceeded to get his x-ray and echocardiograms. Throughout all these procedures, all three boys -- Mustafa, Hussein and Hedi -- were together. Not only did the boys enjoyed each other's company, but it was also a great relief for us that Mustafa's mother knows English and was able to help translate for the other mothers what needed to be communicated.

This evening, Mustafa and Hussein were transferred to the Save A Child's Heart house where they were warmly welcomed by the Iraqis presently staying there -- the mothers of Tara, Rayan, Soz and Karwan. Karwan's mother promptly brought out some home-cooked rice, chicken and french fries for the tired group, who ate their dinner heartily and went to their room soon after for an early night.

Tomorrow, Mustafa and Hussein will return to Wolfson for more detailed medical checks.

Visas At Last

Posted on Sun, 11/04/2007 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

Finally today I got the call from the embassy all of us here have been waiting for: Mustafa's visa was ready and I could come and pick it up!! Praise God!! I called Mustafa's mother immediately to tell her the good news, and once I convinced her it was really true, we shared joyous laughter over the phone. She invited Robin and I to dinner for a celebration for Mustafa, Hedi, and Hussein before we travel tomorrow.

We arrived this evening to a happy household and presented a glowing Diyka ("mother of") Mustafa with her visa. Then we sat together and had a delicious meal of one of my favorite dishes, Tebsi with chicken, prepared for this special day. I was invited to pray before the meal, and it was precious to get to thank God for all He is doing to help these families while looking ahead to all that yet remains of His work among us. The only grey cloud around the gathering was that we all knew this meant that Hedi and his mom would say goodbye to his father in the morning. But we also know that it is only for a short time, and then they will be reunited when Hedi comes home with a new heart.

We talked together of the plans for tomorrow, and enjoyed each others' company for just a little while before saying goodnight. We will all be awake early to leave for the border at 5 AM and continue on to the hospital to have the children examined upon our arrival. Please pray for us to have favor as we travel, and at the border crossings. We are thankful that our friend Jody can drive us to the border so that Hedi's father can ride with us and say goodbye to his family there. Remember the tender hearts of these anxious mothers as they enter Israel and the medical process that awaits them as their children receive the healing needed. Lift up the children, asking for peace in their young lives as they enter a new hospital environment. And remember our partners with Save A Child's Heart who will treat the children, as well as join us in caring for the families during their stay.


Hi Sis!

Posted on Sat, 11/03/2007 - 06:49 by Donna_Petrel

Thank God, Mustafa's surgery is now fully sponsored. But we continue to wait for the release of Mustafa's visa by the Israeli embassy in Jordan.

Meanwhile, a call to his sisters back home in Iraq served to brighten Mustafa's day!

We're hoping to get his visa and travel to Israel on Sunday or Monday. Please pray for Mustafa, as his heart defect (see October 28 entry below) occasionally causes threatening symptoms.

The Long Wait for a Visa

Posted on Wed, 10/31/2007 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

After waiting all day Tuesday, the Israeli embassy told me that I'd get a call from them about Mustafa's visa on Wednesday, and not to call them until I heard something. As the hours drug by, I suspected that it would be another day of disappointing news for the families waiting here, and indeed we did not get news the visa was released. When I called to speak with Mustafa's mother, she was deflated, and asked us (me and my new friend Robin, a temporary volunteer) to come on over so we could visit and talk more. We talked together while the children entertained themselves with pages of stickers we brought for them.

Our talk was intense as she asked questions and expressed frustration at why she was the one who was not being approved since all of the families waiting here are from volatile areas of Iraq.... why would a simple woman like her have to wait when all she wanted was to get help for her son? And she unselfishly asked if the other families have to wait to go for surgery because of her lack of a visa. As we talked, I explained the realities of security checks being a formal necessity for all of our patients, and that sometimes, for reasons that were not clear to us, some of these security checks took longer than others. I assured her that she was not being singled out, and that she was not the only one who'd had to wait like this, and as I spoke, she began to weep forth the anguish that was in her heart. While it was an opportunity to offer comfort, it was also a release valve for pent-up emotions about such concerns as how much Mustafa needs the surgery, and having to answer to her husband when he calls about what is happening and when they will leave for Israel. As a mother myself, I know that what is foremost for her are the needs of her child, yet it is important to remember that we are dealing with the governments of two countries who do not have relations with each other, so I reminded her of this. As Mustafa realized that his mother was crying and came to stand close to her, we were all silently processing with our minds, but our hearts had a hard time assimilating it with the reality of an innocent child's life hanging in the balance. However I also know in my heart it is an opportunity to thank God for opening this door of help for Mustafa by these Israeli doctors, and reiterate for all of us His control of the situation.

When she was calm again, she told us she'd written a poem as she waited yesterday, and she read it to us. It was a beautiful expression of what she is experiencing during this time which she calls ''My Test''. She shares about being tested by her God right now as she reflects on having a son with a heart problem, traveling to a new place, living with strangers who also have sick children, meeting us, knowing that we love her and are praying for them all, and learning patience as we have to wait, wait, wait. It was very touching... and perhaps hearing about it gives you a picture of the preciousness of relationships which are formed as we reach out to these dear families with God's lovingkindness.

Especially at times like this, it is a joy for me to be able to tell Mustafa's mother and all the mothers that people from all over the world are praying for them as well as giving the funds which will pay for their childrens' surgeries. Please continue to surround them in prayer. Even as I write this I am waiting to hear from the embassy so I can go get their visa and begin the next phase of the journey to healing for Mustafa....

Never Too Sick to Ride

Posted on Sun, 10/28/2007 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

Mustafa and two other Iraqi boys are waiting in Amman, Jordan following the October 9 screening by Israeli doctors. This weekend we moved them from an apartment provided by an Iraqi church to an apartment we use to help host the families in transit. We hope to be able to transfer these little boys to the hospital in Israel this week, but until we can do that, they will stay in their latest 'home away from home.' While it was a little disconcerting to have to change their surroundings, especially for the adults, before long the two older children were happy on riding toys kept at the apartment. And if that was not enough to make a little boy smile, before he left us Jody from the church brought all of us ice cream.

I will share that Mustafa is having trouble breathing, continually asking his mother to ''take me outside so I can breathe.'' He is very blue. He is also very smart, and aware of what is going on. He didn't have to have the meds at the screening because knew to lie still and let the docs do the echo, having had many already in his short life. It is hard to see him weak and struggling to breathe - his condition is DTGA; it doesn't seem good to wait. His case is marked urgent intervention.

When I visited the families again today, it seemed they were feeling more at home. I shared with them pictures of the progress so far which Rayan, Tara, Karwan and Soz have made since arriving in Israel less than two weeks ago. They asked many questions and I was able to help them see on the pictures as well as explain in person some of the things they want to know about what is about to happen. Ultimately though, I cannot tell them the timing of the travel (we still need both visas and funding for their surgeries) or of the surgery and the length of their stay. Will you please keep them in prayer as they anxiously consider the days and weeks ahead? It is with a mixture of thanksgiving for the opportunity and fear of the unknown that they approach our departure to Israel in the coming days. May the peace of God gently settle over them and help them along the way as you keep them in your prayers.

You may help sponsor Mustafa's surgery in Israel by clicking here.

Brave Little Soldier

Posted on Wed, 01/31/2007 - 00:00 by Robin_Miller

Little Mustafa, who is only four years old, was such a brave little soldier as he was being prepared to have his extremely difficult and important heart surgery this morning. Mustafa's mother and I walked Mustafa all the way into the prep room before they take the children patients into the surgery room, and Mustafa was doing so well. The toys and wonderful pictures that help most of the children take their minds off of what is going on, really helped Mustafa and momma as the nurses prepped him and gave him a shot of anesthesia before taking him to the surgery room. Mustafa's mother did really well also on behalf of her little boy, and both had smiles until he was carried out by one of the friendly nurses.

It was then time for her to reflect on what was about to take place for her little boy. The need for the surgery in order for him to have a healthy life ahead gave her hope. We both prayed and cried a bit, but it encouraged her for the hours that lay ahead. Mustafa was in surgery for slightly over five hours and was taken out of surgery and into ICU at approximately 2:30pm.

Mustafa's oxygen levels were not at the ideal highest, but the doctors knew that he would not be at exactly 100% until he had his final surgery which is planned for within the next couple of weeks.

I called Mustafa's mother around 8:30pm tonight and found that he had stabilized and his oxygen levels had increased, answered prayer! Prayers are still needed for this little soldier, as he is still not out of the woods, but we know God is in charge. I hope you all take the time to think about brave Mustafa and his mother, who have traveled from such a far away place to get the best care possible. My prayers to Mustafa and his mother.