Raiyan's Heart Surgery

Northern Iraq

Goodbye, Precious Raiyan!

Posted on Sun, 09/07/2014 - 23:44 by Konrad Wiedmer

Here at Shevet Achim, we have many wonderful and gorgeous children who have been created perfectly by our heavenly Father. One of those wonderful and lovely children was our 3-year-old Raiyan from northern Iraq. This little girl not only captured my heart, she also captured the hearts of everyone who was in contact with her. The reason for this was her kind character and, obviously, her sweet, high-pitched voice. Even though I didn’t understand her, I nodded every time she spoke in order to be able to enjoy more and more of her sweet voice.

Raiyan and her mother came to Prophets Street on the 20th of July, and I had the pleasure of meeting them for the first time on the 10th of August in Wolfson Hospital. What we saw first when we arrived on that day was Raiyan's bright smile that is so typical for her. On that first day and in the past few weeks, I experienced a lot of things about her, which are definitely worth sharing in this farewell blog. First, I have to say that she lost her shyness towards me very fast, which gave me the possibility to speak and interact with her very soon after I met her. Another characteristic was that she was full of curiosity! She loved to explore her environment, especially our office rooms downstairs. In the last two weeks of her stay, she was very often with us downstairs and just walked around to see everybody, enjoying sitting on different laps.

What was also very special about her was her strong will, which she has developed already by the age of three. I remember this scene when she was carrying her pink bag with her. After a while, she tried to put the bag on her back, but she couldn’t do it properly. So I bent down to help her, but no way. With a very serious face she made me understand that this was her mission and not mine.

Another important characteristic about her was her pigtails, which were always made orderly by her mother and which made her look indescribably sweet. She was also often wearing beautiful dresses, and that leads me to the next important issue about her: she loved cats. She loved them on her dresses, on her bag, and what she especially loved was to say "cat" in Kurdish to everyone.

I remember this special moment on a normal afternoon when I walked from the men’s apartment to the Shevet Achim house. Suddenly, I heard the very high and, in that moment, loud voice of our precious Raiyan shouting “peshila” (cat) at me out of the window. After I found out where this voice was coming from, I shouted back at her, and then her mother appeared at the window, confused about why her daughter was yelling to the street. As she realized what was going on, a big smile stretched across her face – probably because the mother noticed how happy her daughter was, shouting her favorite word.

After her final echo on last Tuesday, we received the great news that Raiyan was completely discharged and able to go home. In the same moment that I was rejoicing about the good news, I was also sad that this unique little girl would leave our community soon. Before they leave, we try to give the families a good farewell and special moments in the last two days. This time, Raiyan and her mother, Kristina, and I went to the Garden Tomb to enjoy this special location. When we arrived, Raiyan's mother wanted us to immediately take a picture of her and her beloved daughter in front of a tree.

She, as well as Raiyan, appreciated being in this beautiful oasis of flowers and nature. The evidence of that was given by Raiyan, who appeared suddenly with a flower in her hand.

Later, she smelled the other ones and was pointing to them saying, “Jwana, Jwana, Jwana!” (“beautiful” in Kurdish), which made us all laugh. After visiting the inside of the tomb, we decided to take a few pictures with our cute Raiyan.

I love that one picture so much where she calls me again a cat and I couldn’t do anything other than laugh, full of joy because of this wonderful girl.

During the stay at the Garden Tomb, I liked it so much to see how lovingly the mother interacts with her daughter, and at one moment, I had the impression that God created this girl particularly for this mother.

On the next day, it was the last Thursday, we celebrated Raiyan’s farewell party upstairs, and it was such a lovely evening. We were watching a DVD with pictures of Raiyan, and she and her mother got presents. Raiyan was so cheerful on this evening, especially when she saw the big bag which included the gifts for her. Very excitedly, she unpacked this bag extremely fast, which was heartwarming to see.

The last weeks that Raiyan was here at Shevet Achim, I found a new little friend, and we can be so thankful that the Lord enabled her to have a fast and good healing process. She received a completely correct-working heart and is doing so well, which made me think about a verse in the Bible where Jeremiah lifts up God’s mighty healing and power: “Heal me, oh Lord, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.”

God really healed and saved Raiyan during the last couple weeks, and we want to give Him praise for what he has done in the life of this precious girl.

I am full of gratefulness and joy because of the time we had together with Raiyan, and I just praise God that He was with her in every second. 

Raiyan's Last Echo

Posted on Tue, 09/02/2014 - 10:48 by Julia Binder

When the door of the doctor's room opened, nobody could overlook the smiling face of Raiyan’s mum: today was the final echo of Raiyan. No more medications, no more echos. We are all glad about this message, thank God for the wonderful developement of Raiyan.

Today was my first trip to the hospital and it was worth it. At the beginning, everybody was tensed up a little bit, but then Raiyan started playing in the waiting room. It is always fun to watch her playing; she loves to pretend to be a little kitty, and runs around calling everybody a “peshula!” ('cat' in Kurdish). But her favorite game is hide and seek, it is the biggest joy for her to hide and then run out of hiding screaming.

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At the beginning of the echo, Raiyan cried a little bit. It was difficult to calm her down, but thanks to doctor Alona and her assistant, who always try their best to entertain all the children to keep their little minds off the scary echo equipment. But after the great results of the echo, all the pain was gone and the joy was twice as big. Raiyan’s heart is doing well and she can go home this week, our precious and wonderful “peshula.”

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Promises to Come

Posted on Mon, 08/25/2014 - 22:24 by Kristina Kayser

Raiyan was so ready to leave for the hospital this morning that she came looking for me in the office and told me, in a very serious tone, that it was time to go. I could hardly hold my composure as this plucky three-year-old addressed me with such maturity. I finally did laugh out loud when I saw her head for the door pulling a bright pink rolling back pack behind her; she was all business! Pleasure would come later as a trip to the seaside was promised following our hospital visit. 

Upon arrival to Wolfson, Raiyan and fellow patient Dana, had to wait for some time before the doctor was ready for them.

I was so impressed by her patience and wondered how she would handle the exam itself. With much coaxing, singing, and a children's TV show playing, Raiyan cried less today then less week. Towards the end of this very thorough echo, she abandoned all pretense of aplomb and burst out crying. Most of her tears resulted from indignation instead of pain. Nevertheless, the results were mostly positive: due to higher pulmonary pressures, a new medication was prescribed. Otherwise, Raiyan's heart is doing well, and only one more echo is needed next Monday before Dr. Tamir feels comfortable sending her home to Kurdistan. 

As a reward for the long wait and unpleasant exam, our entire crew headed towards the warm Mediterranean. Raiyan was completely fearless--she ran towards the waves and promptly dunked her head beneath the lapping waves.

Her elation bubbled over into laughter and squeals of delight. Her mother, likewise, soaked up the beautiful sunlight and let the water freely splash around her ankles. I loved observing these two experience the sea for the first time!

Raiyan's unhindered bliss reminded me of the way God intends for us to experience His love. Truly, "in [His] presence is fullness of joy; at [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11). May Raiyan continue to find beauty and joy in God's handiwork as her heart heals day by day!  

Steadfast Recovery

Posted on Mon, 08/18/2014 - 23:02 by Kirsten Perow

Despite emitting a few whimpers, Raiyan completely cooperated with the echo technician today, and made it through her first post-surgery follow-up echocardiogram.

Her mother held her hand throughout the entire process, giving it kisses every few minutes to reassure Raiyan that she was not alone. Her heart is healing well and the doctors anticipate two more weeks of echoes, and then she and her mother are free to return to Kurdistan! In her unbelievably cute voice, Raiyan chatted away the rest of the day, along with tossing balloon with the other children. It was a glorious day, full of special little moments and we are thankful for God's provision over sweet Raiyan's steadfast recovery!

Good News for Raiyan

Posted on Mon, 08/11/2014 - 09:40 by Rebekah Yang

As Ruth drove us towards Wolfson Hospital early this morning, the sun gradually crept up from the east. The sky was so beautiful; I have no words to describe it. I praise God for what a wonderful day He has given us to start our new tasks in hospital. May the Holy Spirit go before us and give us all the grace and strength to serve all the families at Wolfson well.

Praise God, our precious little Raiyan looked so cheerful to see us and immediately gave us the biggest welcoming smile.

At around 8:30, I accompanied Raiyan and her mum to her cardio-echo checkup. After waiting outside of echo room for a while, Dr. Alona gave us the good news from her result: “Qwes, kolu qwes…” were the short words she spoke to Raiyan’s mum, which in Arabic translates to: “good, everything is good for Raiyan.” Dr. Alona announced Raiyan will require another echo on the 18th of August in order to follow up and make sure she is alright to go back home to Kurdistan! And what great news that Raiyan & her mum can go back with us to Prophets Street today!

I really want to thanks God for what He has answered my morning prayer. There is one praise song that continues to come to my mind.

“I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart
I will enter his courts with praise
I will say this the day that the Lord has made
I will rejoice for he has made me glad
He has made me glad
He has made me glad
I will rejoice for He has made me glad”

Psalm 100:4

Everything is from the Lord

Posted on Thu, 08/07/2014 - 21:26 by Kirsten Perow

Everything good and pleasing comes from the Lord—including the excellent condition of our precious Raiyan! I found Raiyan in the ICU, already extubated and being comforted by her loving mother.

We are praying she will be moved to the secondary ICU tomorrow and continue in her swift recovery! Raiyan has a very stoic face, but as soon as she sees something or someone she likes, the biggest smiles overtakes her entire face and immediately lights up a room. Before she saw me, I noticed that she was whimpering from pain and discomfort, but as I walked over to her, she grinned at me like I was Santa Clause bringing her a bundle of toys.

In reality, she is the one who gave me the wonderful gift of her undeniably sweet smile, even though she was in pain and had no reason to smile at me. Much like the Lord, children are never stingy with their love. The instance served as a good reminder to me that all good things come from God, who gives the best gifts possible so freely to us and unconditionally. Thank you, Lord, for being such a giving Father!

A Long-Expected Day

Posted on Thu, 08/07/2014 - 00:09 by Marisa Schindler

Our heart is a marvel, unique in its beauty. Every heartbeat makes sure that our body gains enough oxygen to retain life. Little Raiyan dreamt of a life with enough oxygen and a strong heartbeat; today her dream came true. She suffered from a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) which means, that there is a hole between the right and left ventricles of her heart. As a result, the heart becomes an ineffective pump, as oxygenated blood is sent to the lungs twice to be oxygenated. Through an operation, it is possible to repair this hole in Raiyan’s heart, transforming it into an effective pump. Today I received the opportunity to observe a great, life-changing surgery. The surgery took place at four in the afternoon. However, before the operation, we tried to entertain Raiyan by playing and distracting her from the hunger caused by her fast. Since she woke up in the morning, she had to fast until the late afternoon. Her mum played a huge role in giving her child love and joy through this time of trial. When the time of farewell came, everyone was very excited, but Raiyan’s mum was overwhelmed by tears of anxiety.

It was not easy for her to let go of her beloved child, but she also knew that this surgery will give new life and new hope to her daughter. While Kristina spent time sitting and encouraging Raiyan’s mum, I was getting ready to find the best spot in the operation room to observe the open heart surgery. Step by step the surgeons opened Raiyan’s thorax. With great care they exposed the heart. What I saw took my breath away: a little heart pumping so strongly, despite having a defect.

I praised God that Raiyan survived all the past years without getting the right amount of oxygen for her body. The critical moment of surgery followed; slowly and with great precision, the heart was intentionally slowed down by redirecting the blood into a bypass machine. The pulse dropped steadily, and the heart beat stopped. In front of me I saw a quiet heart muscle stop moving. The zero on the screen betrayed me, that Raiyan’s life was depended now on a machine.

A calm heart was necessary to fix the hole between the lower cardiac chambers and to repair her valve. To confirm that the heart can live with all these changes, the surgeons redirected the blood back into Raiyan’s heart. It was breathtaking to see the heart pumping again. The surgeons did a great job in repairing Raiyan’s heart. Right after a checkup echo, which showed a great result, they could close the thorax by sewing it all back layer by layer. Within few hours, Raiyan’s heart was experiencing a new sense of life.

Now she can face a long life with a fully-repaired heart. It was a joy to deliver such good news to Raiyan’s mum, who was waiting anxiously in front of the ICU. After a while they allowed us to go in and see her. We were relieved to see her stable and under great care. I am glad that I had such a great opportunity to see how creative our giver of life is. Every detail in our body, especially our heart, is so precious; I am thankful for every beat He gives us second by second. Raiyan’s life is in God’s hand, and I ask you to keep praying for this precious girl and her mum, that they will have strength and patience for the process of healing.

Imminent Healing

Posted on Tue, 08/05/2014 - 20:27 by Jesse Tilman

Rayan was admitted to the hospital this afternoon, and is scheduled for her awaited surgery tomorrow! The nurses got her situated in her room and quickly a few preliminary tests. Matylda and I spent a little time with Rayan coloring and playing outside in the playground and her hitherto nervous mother seemed to calm down.

She only cried a few tears as we prayed over them. They have not been to the hospital very often since coming, so it was good to help them slowly adjust to what could possibly be a lengthy stay. Rayan will have to fast for at least 6 hours before the operation. Lord willing, the surgery will be tomorrow as planned, and then they will have more time in the hospital while Rayan heals. Ruth and Kristina were able to stop by after being with Dana and his father through his son’s surgery and give some appreciated comfort as well. We hope and pray for a smooth procedure

Raiyan's First Day in Israel

Posted on Mon, 07/21/2014 - 22:42 by Ruth Zellweger

Raiyan and her mother arrived yesterday evening on Prophet's Street after two days of traveling. Our whole Shevet community, including some guests, went out to the parking lot to welcome them. I liked them at first sight. Today, Kirsten and I had the chance to get to know them better as we went with Raiyan for her initial assessments at Wolfson Hospital. Shortly after our arrival there, the sirens went off, warning of rockets that had been fired from the Gaza Strip into Tel Aviv area. Raiyan's mother got really scared and grabbed Kirsten's arm, holding her daughter closely to herself. However, she quickly regained her composure after the sirens had stopped. 

The time we spent at the hospital was fairly long. After Riyan's vital signs were taken, she was asked into the echo room. As soon as the echo technician got started, Riyan began crying and could not be calmed down. Therefore, she received some medication to put her to sleep so that a clear understanding of her heart defect could be gained.

We then went to the children's ward, where blood was drawn and followed by a chest x-ray at the radiology department. And then we had to wait for the results to come back. I admired the calm of Raiyan's mother. She and her daughter handled the situations at the hospital very well.

Of course, the most burning question she had was when Raiyan would have surgery. This question did not get answered today. In fact, before she came to Israel it was not even sure if she would be operable or not. The only information we received today was that the echo results will be discussed with senior cardiologist Dr. Tamir in the next days. Please join us in praying for this precious girl and for the healing of her heart, as well as for wisdom for the doctors and patience for Raiyan's mother during the time of waiting. 

Eventually, around 5 PM, Raiyan was officially dismissed from the hospital for today, and we made our way back to Jerusalem. We are thankful for the opportunity to share life with Raiyan and her mother in the weeks to come.