Rozhgar's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

God's Love Casts Out Fear

Posted on Tue, 06/02/2015 - 11:53 by Sophie H.

The first time Rozhgar came to Israel, she was twelve years old with the combination of heart defects called Tetralogy of Fallot.

Without surgery, she was not expected to survive childhood. As Kristina said before:  “I believe that God has sustained Rozhgar all these years, granting strength and life to her fragile heart.  By God's grace, Rozhgar underwent two surgeries in three years. I believe His grace will continue to be sufficient in the days ahead for this precious girl.”  

When we saw her, I was so surprised. She is growing up so fast. It has only been one year since we saw her last, but she is already becoming a beautiful young lady.

We were so blessed by the time with her family. Their hospitality was wonderful, as is usual for their culture, and they prepared a delicious meal for us! 

We were disappointed to hear that since her last time with us in Israel till now – one year – she has not seen a doctor because of the fear inside her heart. She is so afraid of hearing any bad news from the doctor that she refuses to do any follow-up echos . We tried to help her understand that the follow-up echos are very important for her. Please pray for this fearful young lady. May God's peace dwell in her heart, and may God's love cast out all fear from her!  

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love cast out fear: because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:18

A Good Work Brought to Completion

Posted on Sun, 05/04/2014 - 22:53 by Shannon Kelley

Paul begins his epistle to the Philippian Church with thanksgiving for the Lord's work in their lives and then prayer for love, knowledge, and righteousness to abound within them through Christ. In the same way, we reflect on Rozhgar's time in Israel as she underwent catheterizations, surgery, and post-op exams.

Just over a year after a sweet homecoming to Kurdistan following her first heart surgery, Rozhgar and her mother returned to the Shevet community in early March. This was a big step for Rozhgar and her mother, since her first surgery involved a lengthy healing time. It took a lot of encouragement and prayer for them to come back to Israel for a second operation. We're reminded by Paul, however, that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.”

And the Lord's timing is certainly perfect. Sara, who had also returned to Israel for her second heart surgery, was long awaiting Rozghar's arrival, as they had gotten to know one another briefly last year. Soon the house would be filled with the fast-talking and laughter often accompanying teenage girls. Many afternoons were filled with park outings, ice cream eating, and soccer playing. This sweet friendship would only grow during the remainder of the girls' time in Israel, and it's one I'm confident will continue in Kurdistan.

After a rescheduled catheterization and a few weeks of waiting, Rozghar's surgery date was set, and I had the tremendous privilege of observing her surgery. With a brave face, she was wheeled into the operating room, her mother stifling tears. The entire surgery and recovery process, a process they know almost too well, was about to begin again.

Bringing this good work to completion, the Lord's faithfulness and grace was tangibly illustrated in Rozhgar's smooth recovery post-surgery.

Positive echo results and quick healing paved the way for a speedy hospital discharge and soon thereafter a ticket back to Kurdistan!

It would be a double farewell “hafla” (“party” in Kurdish) in the Shevet house: one for Rozhgar and one for Sara, who also had her surgery around the same time and was also discharged! With much singing, shouting, and laughing, we celebrated the Lord's work in both of these precious girls' lives. They reminisced about playing soccer and splashing everyone with water at the Tel Aviv beach. Sincerely, they thanked everyone for their love and spoke about how everyone would be dearly missed.

The following morning, we prayed over, hugged, and waved goodbye to Rozhgar, Sara, and their mothers. As our white van disappeared down the hill of Prophet's Street, we all knew it carried precious cargo, containing a great work of the Lord brought to completion in two dear Kurdish girls' hearts.

We thank God for the tremendous work He has done in healing Rozhgar's heart and that the paths were made straight for her to return to Israel for this second and final surgery. We pray for Rozhgar to abound in the Lord's love and know the God to whom we owe life itself and that she would be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes only through Jesus.

Headed Home

Posted on Mon, 04/28/2014 - 22:58 by Rahel Eschler

Rozghar has been longing for this important day for a while. This morning she prepared herself for her final echo at Wolfson Hospital. I could tell she was excited and full of emotions. She and her best friend and companion Sara dressed up for this special occasion.

They both hoped to receive permission from the treating cardiologist Dr. Alona to head back home to Kurdistan at the end of this week. In our white van, the two girls rocked to Kurdish music from their phones during the trip to Jerusalem. Their mothers were a little bit intimidated by their youthful enthusiasm but let them have their fun. At the echo department in the well-known waiting area, they encountered old friends which they had made along the way during their hospital stays.

As we seated ourselves, Dr. Alona showed up in one of the doors of the echo rooms. The two girls, full of excitement about their hopefully last hospital visit, ran up to give her a hug.

How joyful to witness. Later while waiting for her turn, however, Rozghar turned quite silent and then shared her fears that the echo wouldn’t turn out good. I held her hand and tried to encourage her with my few Kurdish words. Finally it was time for her to lie down on the examination table. With much anxiety, she grabbed my hand and patiently waited till the doctor had examined her heart thoroughly and taken all the shots she needed. But then came the hardest part for Rozhgar. Although I assured her the echo was fine, she was very concerned while waiting for Dr. Alona’s final ok. The moment was so intense she couldn’t hold back her tears. But Dr. Alona soon relieved her with the awesome news that her heart is fully repaired and working nicely as it should. She still needs to continue with two medications, one to strengthen her heart and the other one to keep her heart in the right rhythm, but after a few months she could possibly stop taking them all. It took Rozhgar a few minutes to fully understand the meaning of Dr. Alona’s words. First a smile appeared on her face. Then came overflowing joy later on in the hospital hallways.

To celebrate this amazing news, we went to the beach to meet up with the other families and share a delicious Kurdish meal with everyone.

Rozghar had a blast playing around in the salty water and chasing after other volunteers to splash them. She didn’t feel completely comfortable around the wavy water, however, so she would take my hand to venture forward step by step further into the sea, becoming a little braver with every step.

What a joyful day we were able to share together. It was an honor to accompany Rozhgar along her way to a new heart and share her highs and lows together. She has a wonderful, lively, and creative character, and I’m convinced she’s going to be a blessing to all the people she will meet in the future. Shevet will be a little bit calmer and more quiet without this precious girl. Praise the Lord for His healing work in Rozhgar’s life.

Almost Finished

Posted on Tue, 04/22/2014 - 21:19 by Sophie

Rozhgar traveled to the hospital today for another post-surgery echo. After a long time of waiting following our arrival, the doctors came to examine her. Rozhgar was called inside for her echo, and her mother began an anxious vigil. Both Ruth and l tried to tell her it would be ok and not to be afraid, but she refused to be comforted until she heard the echo results from the doctor.

The test results were good: only a little fluid is remaining around Rozhgar’s heart. Next Monday will probably hold her last echo, and Rozhgar will likely be able to go home the same time as her dear friend Sara.

After the echo, we went and had lunch together. All of us had empty bellies, but we were soon filled with many kinds of food: chicken, fish, beef, fruits, salad, and soup. Everyone was happy after lunch, and on the way home, both Rozhgar and Sara quickly fell asleep after their long day. You can see how peaceful they are!

A Much-Anticipated Homecoming

Posted on Sun, 04/13/2014 - 19:47 by Kristina Kayser

Two weeks have passed since Rozhgar left our home for her second surgery in Tel Aviv. Everyone has been eagerly awaiting the day she would return, and to our delight her homecoming arrived today.

Rozhgar was in the middle of a lengthy echo exam when I entered the room this morning. She tolerated the process with great patience, wincing only once or twice from discomfort. The doctor completed his assessment with glad tidings: Rozhgar could leave the hospital! Her irregular and sometimes slower-than-normal heart rate has stabilized, and just a trivial amount of pericardial effusion (fluid around the heart) remains.

Joy abounded as we prepared to leave the hospital several hours later. Rozhgar posed with four of the nurses who have lovingly cared for her over the last few weeks.

You could tell Rozhgar was more than a patient to them—her sweet, affectionate spirit made her a friend to all. 

The journey home was a peaceful one, and Rozhgar's mum breathed a sigh of relief more than once along the way. Her spirit has been longing for quiet and comfort beyond the hospital walls. Our community knows well the burdens borne while away from home, which is why we can fully enter the celebration when one of our children returns to us. Almost every Shevet volunteer was in the parking lot cheering as we rolled in. And no one was happier to welcome Rozhgar with a sweet embrace and smiles than her dear friend Sara.

Thank you Heavenly Father for the beautiful gift of a heart restored and full of joy! 

Waiting Patiently

Posted on Wed, 04/09/2014 - 00:28 by Rahel Eschler

I was very excited to see Rozhgar at the hospital today, as she was hoping to be discharged this afternoon. It was still early morning when we walked into the children’s ward, and I ran right into Rozhgar hovering in the hallway in her hospital clothes. She quickly rubbed the sleep from her eyes and welcomed me warmly with a big hug and lots of kisses.

Soon after we arrived, a whole crowd of doctors started making their way through the rooms to visit every single child. Rozhgar was taken by them to the nurse’s station to have an EKG performed. The senior doctor (Dr. Tamir) took a very close look at the results, making Rozhgar and her mum nervous. And their nervousness was, unfortunately, not unfounded. The nurse explained to us Rozhgar’s heart has an irregular rhythm, and she needs to be monitored for the next few hours.

Suddenly all of Rozhgar’s hopes to be back at the Shevet base tonight, reunited with her best friend Sara, disappeared into thin air. She couldn’t hold her tears back. It took her a while to calm down and embrace the fact she needs to stay at least one more night at the hospital in Tel Aviv. Tomorrow her heart rhythm will continue to be monitored until the medical staff deem it safe to release her. 

Despite this discouraging news, the clouds on Rozhgar’s face were brightening up by the afternoon, and we all gathered together on the playground area to share some sodas and exchange laughter.

May Rozhgar’s laughter cheer us up soon at our Shevet base in Jerusalem.   

Rozhgar Coming Home Soon

Posted on Mon, 04/07/2014 - 22:08 by Miriam Svensson

I visited Rozhgar again today. She has been moved from secondary ICU to the children's ward, and her temporary pacemaker has been removed.

Yesterday she still looked a bit tired, but today she was alert and lively. She was also happy to see and spend some time with her friend Sara. Hopefully, she will be discharged from the hospital tomorrow. Thank God for His goodness and abundant blessings!

Quickly Healing

Posted on Sun, 04/06/2014 - 20:58 by Miriam Svensson

Today Rozhgar was up, walking, and looking well.

There is no fluid left around her heart and lungs, and her chest tubes have all been removed. She still has a temporary pacemaker to support her heart rhythm, but it will probably be removed soon. Rozhgar is currently in the secondary ICU, but as soon as there is room for her, she will be moved into the children’s ward.

In the afternoon, Rozhgar came out to the playground for a while to enjoy the sunshine and spend some time with Sara and the moms.

We praise God for her recovery going so well and pray she will soon be able to join us in Jerusalem. 

Rozhgar is Awake!

Posted on Thu, 04/03/2014 - 20:57 by Kristina Kayser

I entered Wolfson's ICU this morning around 8:30 AM. Doctors quietly shuffled from one patient's bed to another, discussing their current conditions. Elsie and I stood at a distance and watched as Rozhgar slept peacefully on. She was still on the ventilator at this point, but all of her vital signs looked excellent.

After the doctors finished their rounds, I approached one to ask for an update on Rozhgar. She told me everything was looking fine and plans were in motion to extubate her shortly, only one day after her surgery. What wonderful news! This was a completely different scenario than what Rozhgar had experienced in 2012. At that time, she wasn't taken off of the ventilator until one week post-surgery. Praise God for this accelerated recovery!

When I revisited Rozhgar later this afternoon, she was awake and sitting upright in bed.

I loved seeing her beautiful eyes again and the lovely, pink color of her lips and fingertips. Supplemental oxygen was being given through a mask, and she seemed a bit weary. Nevertheless, a couple shy smiles appeared when I began talking about everyone in our Shevet home who misses her. Her body appears to be handling the intensive repairs made yesterday, and ever so slowly she is finding strength again with sips of cool water. It has taken fourteen years for Rozhgar's heart to be fully mended, yet God has truly made everything beautiful in His time.

Into Marvelous Light

Posted on Wed, 04/02/2014 - 23:39 by Co-authored

Shannon writes about her experience during Rozhgar's surgery below:

The sun had yet to rise as Ruth, Miriam, and I left the Shevet base in Jerusalem to make our way to Tel Aviv. 

Regarding mornings, Dietrich Bonhoeffer remarked, "At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light of Jesus and His wakening Word... 'Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light' (Eph. 5:14)." These words were in my thoughts and prayers this morning as we traversed a hilly Israeli highway en route to Wolfson Hospital. We did not know if Rozhgar's surgery would take place this morning or not. This uncertainty encouraged us to entrust this day unto the Lord because His timing is perfect and His works are good. This new day, shining before us in clear light, was made by the Lord. 

When we arrived at Wolfson, we quickly found Rozhgar fast asleep on a bed and her mother anxiously awaiting news from the hospital staff. The room was lit only by some fluorescent light overflowing from the hallway. All of the sudden, a nurse walked in and told Rozhgar's mother to get her daughter ready. We knew immediately today was the big day! 

With a few tears, we wheeled Rozhgar into her pre-op room. Once we were there, however, Rozhgar was smiling bravely and even making calm remarks concerning the Disney-themed paintings on the walls. I had the tremendous opportunity to observe Rozhgar's surgery today, so I left to change into scrubs as she was wheeled into the operating room (OR).

Arriving in the OR shortly before she went under anesthesia, I was able to hold her hand and offer her one last encouraging smile before the anesthesiologist instructed her to breathe deeply. 

The operating room was meticulously arranged down to every detail, with surgical equipment organized by type and size and gauze cloth counted and recounted. Today, two holes in Rozhgar's heart would be patched up. Her first surgery was all in preparation for this moment. 

After opening up her chest, the surgeons rerouted her blood to a bypass machine acting as her method of blood circulation while they operated. The bypass machine is a towering apparatus with tubes and canisters aplenty, all of it required to accomplish what our fist-sized hearts do without our conscious acknowledgment. The surgeons then delicately placed white patches over the holes of Rozhgar's heart.

In my limited experience in ORs, I am always taken aback by the light. Over the operating table hung several mobile, large circular lamps, not to mention harsh, fluorescent ceiling bulbs. This light chased away the darkness as every inch of Rozhgar's heart was brightly illuminated. 

From preparation to the final stitch, the surgery lasted almost five and a half hours. It is with much rejoicing we can say a complete repair was done of Rozhgar's heart, and she is now recovering in the ICU.

Even if Rozhgar's surgery hadn't been today, we would praise the Lord and wait upon His perfect timing and plan. As Bonhoeffer quoted, however, Christ indeed gave us His light this morning. Today we are blessed to rejoice in a heart undergoing intense healing. 

As Moses was instructed to speak to Aaron and the people of Israel, we pray for Rozhgar, her mother, and a blessed recovery:

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace" (Numbers 6:24-26).

Miriam shares about Rozhgar's surgery below:

While Rozhgar was in her operation, I spent time waiting with her mother. 

Since we don't have a common language, we mostly sat silently together. I hoped she could feel my support without words and prayed within for both her and Rozhgar. I saw some birds in the playground where we sat for a while and was reminded how the Lord cares for every sparrow and every human.

Later we were accompanied by Sara's mother and Ruth to the cafeteria for lunch, after which we continued to wait. Finally, nearly seven hours after her surgery’s start, Rozhgar came down the hallway to the ICU.

We were happy to see her and to hear everything had gone well.