Najlaa's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

A Fresh Look of Life

Posted on Mon, 12/26/2011 - 20:51 by Liliya Semenyuk

Najlaa has a fresh look of life in her face, sitting right next to a window in the intermediate ICU. When the nurse finished changing her tubes, she stepped aside and asked me to put some yellow clips in the little girl's hair. Najlaa will stay in the intermediate ICU until she can get off all of the medicine administered through the tubes attached to her hand. I was excited to spend more time with her today, stroking her hand and singing some songs!

Just before I left, I gave Najlaa a tight squeeze that temporarily brought down her oxygen levels slightly, but I know that she is itching for more physical touch. I can only imagine her dreams of going outside and taking a fresh breath of air on her own and enjoying God's creation. Please keep this darling in your prayers so that she can be released sooner than later!

Surprised By Joy

Posted on Tue, 12/20/2011 - 23:02 by Kristina Kayser

There is an expression I love to use, borrowed from a work of C.S. Lewis: "Surprised By Joy." To me, this implies the very nature of God. He loves to give good gifts, including moments of unexpected joy. I received one such surprise this morning when I arrived at Wolfson.

Doctors had been planning a catheterization for Najlaa today, with the prospect of finding a solution to her poor respiratory status. Although Najlaa had upgraded from an endotracheal tube to a face mask, the ventilator was still doing most of the breathing work for her as of Monday afternoon. However, the tables turned dramatically for the better yesterday evening. Without explanation, Najlaa's lungs began functioning at a higher capacity. The ventilator was turned off, and she was breathing on her own for the first time in over three weeks! All she needs is a minimal amount of supplemental oxygen via nasal tubing.

A doctor in ICU elaborated by saying that Najlaa is doing much better and for the moment does not require a catheterization. Najlaa was also allowed to begin eating solid food again this morning. It must be introduced slowly and gradually, so as not to upset her stomach. It may take some time for her body to readjust, as it has become accustomed to IV liquid nutrition. Her mother is as pleased as can be with this progress, giving me updates throughout the day on Najlaa's growing appetite.

I observed increased interaction between mother and daughter today as well as with Lily, fellow Shevet volunteer, and myself. Najlaa is now making eye contact and allowing her personality to open up again. While she is typically shy and quiet, she can also be quite feisty. Her mother conveyed more than once her daughter's frustration in being stuck in the hospital for so long. It is my prayer that Najlaa will soon be surprised with the joy of coming home!


Donna Jo updates onThursday, two days later:

Today I found Najlaa in the secondary ICU. which is a "step down" unit. It is for children who are almost ready to go to the regular pediatric ward but still need a closer watch for a little while longer. This is where I found Najlaa eating a tangerine, smiling and blowing kisses as I arrived. 

Children can be in the secondary ICU for a short time or a long time, depending on their needs. Najlaa seems to be recovering at an accelerated rate right now, and the only explanation for this sudden turnaround is God

Najlaa's Smile Returns

Posted on Mon, 12/19/2011 - 22:08 by Kristina Kayser

It was a beautiful sight to see today: There sat Najlaa in ICU, in the same bed, in the same hospital pajamas, with the same IVs and machines surrounding her, but there was something wonderfully different. A smile. Najlaa's countenance has long been clouded during her hospitalization, making her demure smile even lovelier than before. It warmed her face like sunlight. I believe this simple expression of joy is a reflection of a deeper healing within. Thank you for continuing to intercede on behalf of this precious girl. God's mercies toward Najlaa are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!

Najlaa Responding to Loving Care

Posted on Mon, 12/19/2011 - 00:42 by Co-authored

Mary: When Ingrid and I walked into the ICU, Najlaa was sitting in a chair breathing on her own, but we could tell she was getting tired. The nurse said that she had been breathing on her own for five hours and they were going to move her to her bed to connect her to the breathing machine (non-invasive ventilation) and keep alternating back and forth every five hours. She still needs prayer that the Lord will strengthen her lungs and her body so that she will be able to breath on her own.

Najlaa was looking so much better and seemed pleased when Ingrid gave her a watch. Her mother wanted pictures taken (which we had intended to do anyway) and she still looked a little stressed but not as much as she had the last time I was there. So continue praying for her also. We even got a little smile and a wave from Najlaa when we were leaving. As I'm praying I keep thinking about what Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."
Lily: There are limitations as to how many people can be in the ICU at one time, so I semi-patiently waited for Mary and Ingrid to come out. In the meantime, I was observing a group of men parading through the hospital with instruments, singing and spreading the cheer of Hannukah and Hannukah doughnuts throughout the hospital.
Finally, I walked through the doors of the ICU, carefully washed my hands, and headed towards Najlaa's bed. She was sitting in a chair next to her bed. I began to sing a Hindi song to her, knowing that she wouldn't understand, but I felt the melody sounded a bit native to her. At this point, she had been in the chair for nearly five hours, and began to sign that she was ready to be put back on her bed. I alerted the nurse, who came and transferred her from the chair to the bed, carefully navigating amidst the various wires and drainage tubes, and attached the respirator. As much as she shook her head and protested, she needed to get the mask on. Her mother gave her something to drink through a straw, and then I attempted to talk to the darling girl.
And she responded to me! I was thrilled, considering the fact that Najlaa had ignored me and wouldn't look at me when I first saw her, intubated. After taking a picture with Najlaa's mother per her request, I asked Najlaa if she wanted one, too. She nodded her head in agreement, so Mary took our picture.
When I showed her the photo and told her "Juanna!" (beautiful) she silently looked at herself for a long time. I kissed her forehead and said a few more reassuring words. A few more moments, and she turned away, indicating that she was done socializing.
Najlaa is still in need of our prayers. I cannot imagine what it would be like, for a little girl as young as she is, to be restricted to a bed and a mask, undergoing pain that I have no idea about. Her mother frequently talks to her, encouraging and reassuring her...and this is a mother who needs encouragement herself. She appears exhausted, but appreciative of our support.
Jonathan: Doctors are planning a catheterization for Najlaa on Tuesday to search for corollary blood vessels which may have developed between her heart and her lungs due to her heart defect. If these vessels can be blocked with a coil it may help to reduce the pressure on Najlaa's lungs.

Najlaa Sitting Up and Improving

Posted on Wed, 12/14/2011 - 16:07 by Donna_West

What a delight to see Najlaa up and sitting in a chair when I walked into ICU this morning. She is far from joyful just yet, but this is a big improvemen?t for her. Her mother appeared to be happy and able to resume normal daily hygene habits - a good indicator we are no longer hanging on a thread between life and death. Thank you for your prayer support.

Najlaa Fighting to Go Home

Posted on Sun, 12/11/2011 - 18:37 by Co-authored

Kristina writes on Friday:

An unexpected visit to Wolfson late Friday evening provided a beautiful, yet challenging time with Najlaa and her mother. A Shevet team had visited in the afternoon, and now Stephanie and myself at day's end. Perhaps, for some, this might have been overwhelming, but not for them. Najlaa and her mother seem to soak up encouragement like rain on thirsty ground.

Upon entering ICU, her mother beckoned me to come quickly, gesturing that Najlaa

Praying for Najlaa

Posted on Fri, 12/09/2011 - 23:49 by Jonathan Miles

I was able to stop by the ICU to see Najlaa before leaving this weekend for a screening of new children in Kurdistan. I found her conscious and aware, though still on mechanical ventilation, and when I first asked "How are you, good?" it was encouraging to see her nod her head. Najlaa has a fighting spirit even though she is in obvious discomfort, and her mother is right by her side fighting along with her.

The Israeli medical staff are also watching over Najlaa day and night with the same dedication and compassion we have witnessed for years.

Najlaa's chief cardiologist, Dr. Akiva Tamir, spoke with me by her bedside, stroking her arm as he explained that after years of medical neglect Najlaa's left ventricle was having trouble recovering from the surgery.

"She needs our prayers," he concluded. The subject of prayer then prompted some further thoughts from Dr. Tamir, as he described the impulse he feels to pray in the synagogue for individual non-Jewish children he treats:

Let's join together in that impulse to pray for Najlaa. You can click the comment link below to share your prayer with others.

Najlaa Still Intubated 9 Days After Surgery

Posted on Fri, 12/09/2011 - 17:55 by Mary_Dailey

We went to Wolfson to visit our children today and as soon as we arrived I went right into the ICU to see Najlaa. It was the first time I

Najlaa Opens Her Eyes

Posted on Mon, 12/05/2011 - 22:32 by Janice Kayser

My daughter Kristina and I arrived early this morning at Wolfson Hospital for a surgery for one of the children at Shevet Achim. While we were waiting I was able to spend time with Najlaa

Najlaa's Chest Is Finally Closed

Posted on Sun, 12/04/2011 - 22:41 by Donna_West

Najlaa remains intubated today in the ICU at Wolfson Hospital. And her mother remains anxious to be at her bedside. Doctors finally finished closing Najlaa's chest this afternoon. The doctor smiled as he told the Shevet nurse, Kristina: "This is an improvement."  An improvement that Najlaa's mother is very thankful for.