Niyaz's Heart Surgery


Precious Moments

Posted on Mon, 06/16/2014 - 19:50 by Ruth Zellweger

Even though we have known each other for less than two weeks, Niyaz´s mother and I have already shared some very precious moments together. It was an honor to be part of the Shevet team that accompanied her during the waiting time of Niyaz´s heart surgery. I was with Niyaz's mother when she said her last goodbyes before the surgery and then also when she saw her daughter the first time after her heart repair. When we left the hospital yesterday we were full of thanksgiving about what God had done in little Niyaz´s life. And today our praises continued.

Philip and I had gone early to the hospital to support the grandmother of Brievan during the waiting time of her surgery. After the surgery started, we sat outside in the little playground area and were soon joined by Niyaz´s mother, who reported that the echo performed this morning showed good results and that the doctors wanted to extubate Niyaz and have her breathe on her own. After half an hour, a nurse called Niyaz's mother in and told her to come to the ICU. She became really excited, and then nervous. She turned around and grabbed my hand, her way of asking me to come with her. And so we walked hand in hand to the ICU. Before we entered we prayed for the peace of God over little Niyaz and her mother. It was touching to see how the mother gently caressed Niyaz´s hair and face. Niyaz was awake but fussy and shortly after our entrance received some medication to sleep.

We praise God that Niyaz is recovering so beautifully and that He is giving her mother the grace and strength she needs daily. Thank you for joining with us in praise.

A Gift From the Father

Posted on Sun, 06/15/2014 - 20:36 by Kirsten Perow

The Lord likes to give good gifts to His children—He really does, and today was no exception. What a special experience it was to share in the day’s fluctuating emotions with Niyaz’s mother on the big day of her precious daughter’s surgery! The hospital was completely full, people chaotically spilling out into the halls and every which direction, but just before her surgery, sweet little Niyaz sat quietly in her bed--observing everything around her.

A couple of camera crews from different Israeli news stations chose to document Niyaz's entire surgery process due to she and her mother being from Syria. Despite 8-9 people part of the filming crew following her, interviewing her, and constantly filming she and her daughter, Niyaz’s mother handled the situation with grace. Although it was evident that she was very scared and nervous for her little girl’s health, Niyaz’s mother interacted with the camera crew with poise and dignity, while waiting for news from the operating room concerning Niyaz’s condition.

After waiting for several hours, news finally came that the surgery had been successful, that Niyaz was doing very well, and that her mother would be able to see in 45 minutes! Seeing Niyaz being transferred to the ICU was a wonderful sight, but an even more wonderful sight was the joy radiating from her mother’s face. It was as if a literal weight had been lifted from the mother’s shoulders.

After Niyaz’s mother spent some time with her daughter, she decided it would be safe to call her husband, Niyaz’s father, letting him know the good news. Niyaz’s mother informed us earlier that she had not told her husband that the surgery had been today because she wanted to spare him the worry. Afterwards, Shevet volunteers Josh, Ruth and myself sat down with Niyaz’s mother lunch and to celebrate the joyous occasion.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good and He alone does great wonders. It was an awesome blessing to witness such a beautiful gift from God.

I Will Yet Praise Him

Posted on Fri, 06/13/2014 - 17:23 by Ruth Zellweger

Sweet Niyaz is a shy little girl, and it took me a few days to win her friendship. When I come home after a long hospital day, there is nothing nicer than to receive a warm welcome from her, as well as from Dawod and Masa. All three of them like to stand on the window seat in the family's apartment and shout their welcomes down into the parking lot. And, in between shouts, their blown kisses find their way to me. How precious each of these children are.

Today was a special day for Niyaz and her mother. After a month of waiting, they left for Wolfson Hospital this afternoon. We were asked to admit her today for her heart surgery on Sunday morning because of the upcoming Shabbat. Her mother is very thankful that things are starting to get going. However, it is obvious that she is anxious and worried about the upcoming surgery and the well-being of her beloved daughter. As some volunteers and families gathered in the courtyard to pray for Niyaz and Brievan, who was also admitted today, Niyaz's mother shed some tears. Please pray with us that she would put her hope and trust in our Heavenly Father and that she may experience His peace as she and her daughter approach this big day in Niyaz's young life.

"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." Psalm 42:5

Niyaz Back at Shevet

Posted on Sun, 05/18/2014 - 22:51 by Jesse Tilman

Niyaz was ready to come home when I walked up to her and her mother in the play area at the hospital today. Her fever is gone, and she was happily playing with foam animals in the play pen. I stopped for a few minutes before leaving them to head on to the nurses' station further in the ward. There the nurses started bringing out the medicines Niyaz will need for the next few days and told me she is cleared to leave.

Niyaz is currently being treated for a nose infection with some Bactroban for the next four days. Besides this, she’s taking two other common medicines for heart conditions most of our patients take. I wrote down the dosages according to the nurse's instructions and put everything into a bag marked as bio-hazardous materials to take home.

Walking down the hall, I met Niyaz and her mother again, and we gathered their things in preparation for departure. The ride home was smooth, despite a lot of traffic. Thank God for His grace and strength today!

Niyaz Admitted For High Fever

Posted on Thu, 05/15/2014 - 22:47 by Kristina Kayser

Niyaz, who has been slowly adjusting to life at the Shevet house, needed to make an unexpected trip to Wolfson Hospital this evening. She had not been feeling well throughout the day and had spiked a fever of 38.5 degrees Celsius by 4:45 this afternoon. After reporting this temperature to the doctor, we prepared to leave directly for Tel Aviv. Our community gathered to pray for mother and daughter, who both seemed anxious and discouraged. Praise God, He heard our prayers tonight for loving and skilled care for this precious girl. 

Despite having received anti-fever medicine at home, Niyaz's fever had increased to 40 degrees Celsius by the time we reached the hospital. The nurses and doctor were quite alarmed at this high result and quickly jumped into action to give her more medicine, draw blood for lab tests, and take a chest X-ray. Poor Niyaz screamed her way through these assessments and took some time to settle down. As the medicine took effect, however, Niyaz became brighter and let her sweet curiosity for her new surroundings take over. She played happily in the water from a faucet and allowed Sophie and I to carry her around the halls. 

We left Niyaz and her mother in good spirits with Niyaz’s fever retreating. It was also good to see Niyaz's appetite returning. As you can see from this photo, she quite enjoyed a late-night snack of fresh pita.

While the doctors try to figure out the cause of and proper treatment for her fever, she and her mother will stay at Wolfson. I am thankful for the time spent with this beautiful pair and for the way our Father knows and meets our every need. Please pray for a full recovery and quick return to Jerusalem for Niyaz!

Embarking into the Unknown

Posted on Tue, 05/13/2014 - 23:30 by Rahel Eschler

After fleeing from the Syrian war, Niyaz and her small family now live in a refugee camp in Northern Iraq. Niyaz has one younger brother and will have another sibling in a few months. Their family undertook the first section of their long journey by flying into Jordan Saturday evening, where they stayed two nights with Jonathan and his wife Michelle, who was most impressed with little Niyaz:

Once her Israel visa was renewed,  Niyaz and mother finally reached Jerusalem late yesterday evening. Followed by a short night at the Shevet base, we headed out this morning to Wolfson Hospital for the challenge of her first assessments in the unknown and foreign country of Israel. Niyaz's mum still looked very tired after only a few hours of sleep in her new home. On the long, curvy road to the hospital, she was also bothered by carsickness. Niyaz enjoyed the car ride a lot more than her mother. She tolerated the car seat quite well and even took a short nap. Once at the ward, everyone asked if they were from Syria or Kurdistan. I guess their place of origin is not as clear as usual. But I was just happy they found their way through bureaucracy, political chaos, and other obstacles to seek the best possible medical help for their precious daughter.

Almost two-year-old Niyaz, looking like an elf, is a beauty. Her big, brown eyes are framed with curly blond hair, which makes everyone want to take her into their arms. Today she didn’t show a lot of her sweet personality, however, as she was scared by every simple interaction with the medical team. With lots of distractions and the caring love of her mother, though, Niyaz was able to put all the different initial assessments, including a big blood sample, behind her.

Before we moved on to the echo department, we strengthened ourselves with some cafeteria food. 

Soon after, we walked over to the waiting area where lots of other children were already waiting for their examinations by senior cardiologist Dr. Tamir. As our little princess wasn’t ready to cooperate and hold still during the ultrasound of her heart, she received a sleeping drought, which knocked her out for a few hours. Under these circumstances, the needed information about the condition and defect of her heart could be collected easily.

As usual, different doctors took a close look at the results, followed by a long discussion over the best treatment. Of course, our senior cardiologist always has the last word, and we had to wait on him quite a long time today. Dr. Tamir is always a busy man and a sought-after expert. The mother interpreted our waiting time as a severe complication. She already imagined her daughter as being inoperable. As I couldn’t communicate a whole lot with her, since she mostly speaks Arabic, it took me awhile to find out why suddenly some tears ran down her cheeks. After successfully locating an interpreter, I could finally appease her fears. This situation showed me once more how important communication is and how easiliy things can be misinterpreted.

Later as the mother calmed down, Dr. Tamir found some time to pop into our examination room. After looking through all the images, he wanted to examine Niyaz's heart with a special 3-D ultrasound head. As he examined her heart from different angles and perspectives, he was satisfied with the preparatory results for surgery. The goal is to decrease the high pressure in her pulmonary artery through some supportive heart medications. And then she can undergo surgery to close the hole (also called window) between the pulmonary artery and aorta. Dr. Tamir couldn’t answer yet the mum's most important question about the surgery date. As she is four months pregnant, she wants to see the treatment of her daughter take place as soon as possible.

After a long and exhausting day, we rolled back towards Jerusalem. While her mum fell asleep, Niyaz used the time to communicate with me in her bubbling child language and with some funny grimaces. The next few days, they will be able to take it a little bit easier and have some time to get to know us better as they  the surgery date. The little time I spent with the lovely family at the hospital today was already enough to enclose them in my heart. Pray with me for successful preparations and for their waiting time to be filled with God’s presence.

To Save a Life

Posted on Tue, 03/11/2014 - 21:04 by Kelsey Cannon

The first night I met Niyaz, I was with a small group of other Shevet volunteers blindly fumbling around the darkness outside Niyaz’s family’s apartment in northern Iraq. We couldn’t seem to find the right door leading into the building, and the recent rains had caused the undeveloped and non-landscaped earth around the apartment to cling to our shoes in large, messy clumps. By the time we finally found our way to the family, we had tracked a massive amount of dirt up the building’s stairwell, which caused quite the scene when her family members opened the door to receive us. 

After introductions were made, our group sat down to a hospitable tea display in their bare-walled living room illuminated by a lone flashlight. Even with the sparse furnishings and spotty electricity in their home, this Syrian Kurdish family is incredibly fortunate to have been able to move out of the sprawling refugee camp just a few miles away. When asked why they fled their home in native Syria, the family cited one of their main reasons was to seek medical treatment in neighboring Iraq for their sweet daughter Niyaz. 

Niyaz was born with a congenital heart defect - an aortopulmonary (AP) window. Those with an AP window have a hole connecting their aorta and pulmonary artery. This hole allows some oxygenated blood from the aorta to flow into the pulmonary artery and then on to the lungs instead of to the rest of the body as it should. The resulting increase in arterial pressure in the lungs is called pulmonary hypertension. Over time this hypertension can become irreversible and cause heart failure. 

Unfortunately for Niyaz, the hole between her pulmonary artery and aorta has already caused a significant amount of pulmonary hypertension, and she is already taking medications to offset encroaching heart failure. In addition, the severity of her heart defect is such that surgeons in Iraq could never operate on her with high confidence concerning her survival of the procedure. So her family has made the decision to travel on yet another strenuous journey to the advanced cardiac centers of Israel in an attempt to save her life. Wolfson Medical Center has accepted Niyaz for treatment, and we hope to have both her and her mother with us within the month to begin the journey of restoring Niyaz to health.