Najlaa's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Israel Welcomes Najlaa

Posted on Tue, 11/01/2011 - 23:18 by Kristina Kayser

Prior to meeting our newest young lady, I had received a report that Najlaa was critically deprived of oxygen and very weak. With a portable oxygen tank in hand, I made my way across the border into Jordan and found her to be exactly as described: her lips and fingertips were a deep shade of purple, a grievous indication of poor health. She took each step with caution and looked to her mother for extra support.

Beneath Najlaan's cyanotic skin, however, is truly a heart of gold. Every so often, a shy smile would spread across her face. In the next moment, she would quickly lower her head, then peek up at me with her big brown eyes. Praise God we made it through customs smoothly and to our awaiting vehicle bound for Wolfson Hospital.

Typically, new families are taken to the Shevet house in Jerusalem to settle in before their first hospital visit. In Najlaa's case, however, her arrival to Israel and her introduction to Wolfson were combined all in one day. The cardiologists invited us to come directly, having already been aware of her condition.

Communication with Najlaa and her mother had been challenging up to this point, mostly because they speak a different dialect of Kurdish than I know. Once we were on our way, I gave Najlaa a sticker book and I was speaking her language! She loved them so much that she clutched them in her arms for the rest of the day. I wondered how this child, as weak as she was, could handle the rigors of multiple tests and assessments.

Najlaa surprised me with her unassuming strength. She patiently lay still through a very long echo exam, where Dr. Tamir meticulously observed her heart through ultrasound. Her diagnosis currently stands as a variant of Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). This means there are other complications besides the standard four cardiac malfunctions that accompany TOF. Further exploration is needed to determine exactly what she needs to repair her heart. Vital signs, an electrocardiograph (ECG), chest X-ray, and blood work followed. The only time tears were shed was during the IV start.

Meanwhile, Jeng, a friend of Shevet's, helped with some translation into her mother tongue: Kurmanji. I learned that Najlaa's family has known of her heart malfunction since three months of age, but no help was available. She is eight years old now. She has never been to school, and just began speaking clearly this year. Moreover, monthly trips to the hospital have been a part of her routine as cyanotic spells (fainting from lack of oxygen) occur frequently.

Her mother is a gentle and quiet woman with six other children at home. She longs for Najlaa to be helped, as evidenced in her tears and hands raised to God. My mother Janice, who accompanied us today, provided a source of comfort and empathy that touched this woman deeply. Because my mother experienced open heart surgery as a little girl, there was also a beautiful connection made between her and Najlaa.

Najlaa and her mother are spending the night at Wolfson tonight, where she will be under the watchful eyes of medical staff and potentially receive a blood transfusion to improve her strength. As you read this, would you step for a moment into Najlaa's shoes and view life through her eyes? Perhaps it is too hard to fathom, but my hope is that in doing so, your heart gains insight into how to best pray for her. May she discover hope in a seemingly bleak reality. May she find God's love to be strong, and real, and tangible. May she experience His perfect healing and restoration. Thank you for standing with our new family in prayer!  

Najlaa Coming to Israel in October

Posted on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 14:48 by jonathan

Eight-year-old Najlaa's visa application went in on October 3 and we hope to have her with us in Jerusalem before the end of the month. Her heart condition, Tetralogy of Fallot, could take her life at any time, but can also be fully cured through open-heart surgery.