Rozhgar's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Brighter Days for Rozhgar

Posted on Tue, 11/13/2012 - 23:21 by Kristina Kayser

Storm clouds broke across Israel's dark skies yesterday, washing the land with steady rainfall. Towards day's end, the sun reappeared, creating a dramatic contrast between light and shadow. Similarly, Rozhgar's dismal outlook of late is giving way to joy. I saw a change of perspective in her today, as evidenced by her bright eyes and smile. She was also very talkative today, excited to tell me the latest news about family in Kurdistan and how she can't wait to return to Jerusalem and go to the beach. Her mother was clearly pleased that Rozhgar's appetite is returning, as she fed her daughter one spoonful after another. Throughout our time together, various relatives called for updates. Their greetings and well wishes were like booster shots of strength and love. 

Medically speaking, Rozhgar continues to improve slowly but surely. Fluid around her heart and lungs is being treated with a chest tube and steroid medication. These methods of intervention are effective, but they take time. In order to further expedite the process of elimination, Rozhgar also needs to practice deep breathing and coughing exercises every hour. When I reviewed the nurse's instructions with her, nothing could hide the disdain on her face. "I don't want to! It hurts," she said unapologetically. Her mother chimed in with analogous objections. This was an instance when love needed to be tough. While empathizing with her discomfort, I went on to share the reality of things being painful before they get better. And though she didn't want to do these exercises, she needed to do them. I could tell Rozhgar understood this truth but was hesitant to accept it. I ended by saying that the sooner she cooperated and got better, the sooner we could go the beach. Her smile returned. 

By the end of the afternoon, Rozhgar was out of bed and on her first outing in a wheelchair. It was lovely to see how much she and her mother enjoyed the fresh air and change of scenery. The doctor could not have written a better prescription! Thank you so much for your faithful prayers for Rozhgar. I believe God is answering them in ways both visible and invisible.

Difficult News, Then Great News

Posted on Wed, 11/07/2012 - 23:50 by Kristina Kayser

This morning, our community contemplated the abundant grace of God

Clinging To Hope

Posted on Tue, 11/06/2012 - 01:03 by Kristina Kayser

The first thought on my mind when I woke up this morning was "I must call to see how Rozhgar is doing." How I hoped for good news! So much is at stake in the first seventy-two hours following open heart surgery. For Rozhgar, particularly, I felt that a battle had continued throughout the night to keep her stable. To my delight, the ICU nurse told me this morning over the phone that the internal bleeding had finally been stopped in the night and that Rozhgar was doing much better. I praised God and quickly called Rozhgar

A Complex, Delicate Heart Surgery

Posted on Mon, 11/05/2012 - 01:44 by Kristina Kayser

I left Jerusalem with the first light of dawn and am returning now long after nightfall. Much has happened. Today, beautiful Rozhgar had open heart surgery. After twelve years of living in fear that help would never come, today it came. Fear, nevertheless, still lingered side by side with hope. I saw it on the faces of Rozhgar and her mother when I met them early at Wolfson. Smiles could not mask the tears in their eyes or the tension-filled silences. Nurses busied themselves around our brave girl's bedside, completing final preparations. Several were very kind and stopped to give encouraging remarks. One nurse in particular told Rozhgar how beautiful she is, much to her mother's delight. It was equally beautiful to watch Rozhgar's mother lighten her daughter's spirits with love and humor. This reminded me of something she told me recently regarding her seven daughters in Kurdistan: "They're not just my children. They're my friends." 

Suddenly, all was ready, and it was time to say goodbye. Rozhgar's mother bent to kiss her daughter's head. Tears welled up again in Rozhgar's eyes when I prayed for God to give peace and strength to her heart. The gurney carried her towards the operating theater, while her mother stood weeping. It is always riveting to witness a mother's pain for her child. I believe she would have given anything to take Rozhgar's place at that moment. Instead, we quietly made our way upstairs to wait. The best thing we could do was trust that God was presiding over this precious girl's life. Time passed slowly but pleasantly at the beginning. The hospital's adjacent courtyard was a welcome relief to the indoor clamor. I listened to this endearing matron as she proudly explained the meaning behind each of her daughters' names. Sunlight and the chirping of birds served as remedies for worry.

Several hours later found us posted just outside of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where Rozghar would be transported following surgery. I could tell patience was beginning to wear thin for her mother. It was now almost 1 p.m. and still no word from the O.R. Previously, I had explained to Rozhgar's mother that her daughter had a very complex heart that was too fragile to correct with one major surgery. The plan for today's operation was to resolve a single issue: a severely narrowed pulmonary artery. By opening this artery and redirecting blood flow through a shunt, Rozhgar's stunted left ventricle would grow in size and strength over time. After one year of receiving increased circulation to this chamber, Rozhgar's heart should have a greater chance of success for a full repair. Even careful plans like this one, however, can sometimes go awry. At 2:30, Dr. Alona explained that the right artery had become obstructed and the newly formed shunt had blown because it was too small. The surgeon then needed to come up with a different route for blood flow. The new plan worked, Rozhgar was finally stabilized, and she was heading our way soon! 

Tears were not lacking as we rejoiced to see Rozhgar wheeled into ICU half an hour later. Her mother answered one phone call after another from concerned family members. One Kurdish household after another joined in the celebration as news spread.

When the opportunity finally came for Rozhgar's mother to see her daughter, we quietly entered ICU. The reception was one of the most gracious I have experienced. One doctor stopped to explain the situation, but not before giving Rozhgar's mum a long hug. Rozhgar was stable with some internal bleeding that was "under control." All vital signs were great, including an oxygen saturation in the nineties

Pt. One of Two Stage Repair Scheduled for Tomorrow

Posted on Sat, 11/03/2012 - 22:51 by Ruth Zellweger

Tonight I drove Rozhgar and her mother to Wolfson hospital in Tel Aviv. She is admitted for surgery tomorrow morning. As Kristina found out yesterday when talking to one of the cardiologists, the doctors won

CT-Angiogram for a Clearer Picture of the Heart

Posted on Sun, 10/28/2012 - 16:28 by Kristina Kayser

The world was just waking up on this side of the globe as a sleepy Rozhgar and her mother headed to Wolfson with me this morning. It was a quiet ride, each of us lost in our own thoughts. Rozhgar finally closed her eyes and rested well until our arrival.

The purpose of today's early hospital visit was to complete her next pre-surgery procedure: a CT angiogram. Because of the complex anatomy of Rozhgar's heart, doctors needed to confirm the size and position of certain cardiac blood vessels. The test itself took minutes to complete. Rozhgar lay calmly on an exam table encompassed by a large donut-shaped device, following the instruction to stay perfectly still.

Contrast dye was injected through an IV line, which then highlighted her major blood vessels, providing direct visualization for the technicians. Finally, a series of X-ray images processed via computers confirmed what the cardiology team needed to know. Rozhgar's left pulmonary artery is severely stenotic (narrowed), requiring extreme caution during surgical repair. If not handled properly, correcting the stenosis could create an excess rush of fluid to her lungs. An additional discovery from the CT scan was that Rozhgar has polysplenia (i.e. more than one spleen). While this does not directly affect her heart surgery, she may need future treatment to boost her immune system.

Rozhgar seemed un-phased by the large machine and stark white room that looked like something out of a science fiction movie. When everything was finished, we walked back to the pediatric unit to have her IV removed, and to wait for the aforementioned results. 

The next two hours provided a special time for friendship building with this precocious pre-teen. Whether it was practicing our English and Kurdish, taking pictures of each other, or playing with a giant bouquet of balloons (see first picture), joy was mutually felt. 

And just before leaving, Rozhgar was entranced with the comical antics of one of Wolfson's resident clowns. The clown bequeathed her with a sparkly crown, followed by a dramatic demonstration of homage to "her majesty." (See photo below.) 

Rozhgar and her mother were both smiling as we left the hospital, obviously amused by the clown's performance. A steady stream of phone calls from Kurdistan came in as we drove back home. Each family member was acutely interested in their sister's, or daughter's, or niece's well being. There is no doubt that Rozhgar comes from a loving and close-knit family. May this strong foundation of love, along with our countless prayers, sustain mother and daughter as we wait news of a surgery date. 

Back to Jerusalem

Posted on Thu, 10/25/2012 - 22:18 by Anna Kohler

Rozhgar and her mother were happy to come back to Jerusalem today after her catheterization. Unfortunately, her catheterization did not reveal enough information about her heart for a confident surgical plan to be formed. Because of this, she will need to undergo a CT angiogram on Sunday morning, which is a special x-ray that will produce images of her heart vessels for closer inspection. As Rozhgar waits for this next step, she continues to show great courage and a cheerful smile. There is one thing however that sometimes clouds her disposition: It

One Step Closer

Posted on Wed, 10/24/2012 - 21:36 by Ruth Zellweger

Early in this morning, Kelsey and I headed towards Tel Aviv to come alongside Rozhgar and her mom for her catheterization. When we arrived, we found both of them waiting in front of the catheterization (cath) laboratory. Mother and daughter welcomed us warmly, showing their affection through hugs and kisses. Rozhgar even gave us her beautiful smile when we talked about her favorite soccer player. Her mother seemed strong and settled, but I could also sense her tension about the test lying ahead of Rozhgar. A few minutes later a staff member came to prepare Rozhgar for the procedure and asked her mother to bid her goodbye. I could tell that it was really hard for her mother to let her go and to entrust her into the hands of people she did not know. I was asked to accompany Rozhgar to the cath-labratory for further translation. Rozhgar remained calm during the following minutes I spent with her. The only way that I could tell that she might be a little bit afraid was how much she squeezed my hand during the ongoing preparations. I told her that we would wait for her outside and that many people were praying for her and the doctors right now. Soon she fell asleep from the anesthesia and I left that brave girl to join her mother and Kelsey in the waiting area. 

There I found her mother with teary eyes, comforted by Kelsey. We sat quietly for some time and then started to look at a picture dictionary in Kurdish and English. Kelsey and I practiced the pronunciation of basic Kurdish words, while Rozhgar

Rozhgar Admitted for Catheterization

Posted on Tue, 10/23/2012 - 21:50 by Kristina Kayser

"A merry heart does good like medicine," King Solomon once wrote, and Rozhgar bears just such a heart. She arrived at Wolfson Hospital this morning, greeting me enthusiastically. Here she was getting ready to be admitted for a catheterization, yet so full of joy. I believe this brought comfort to her mother, who is noticeably anxious for her daughter's well-being. She's relayed to me the many occasions Rozhgar has become unresponsive, turning a frighteningly deep shade of blue. For twelve years this woman has watched her daughter teeter on the brink of life and death. Doctors in Iraq had no solution and finances did not exist to accept an opportunity for surgery in Europe. It was a helpless and hopeless situation. Then her family learned about Shevet Achim, and the tables began to turn. I see God's relentless love for Rozhgar even more now that I know her story. He has not forgotten her! 

During tomorrow's catheterization, Wolfson's cardiologist will attempt to further unlock the door to hope for Rozhgar. A small catheter threaded into her heart will, by providing 3-D imagery, serve to map out the inner complexities of her cardiac muscle. Everything is now in order for this to take place. Rozhgar bravely endured an IV start and is settled into her room for the night. She and her mother, while greatly missing family back home, are showing great courage. Just before leaving, I kissed Rozhgar on the head and told her I loved her. She responded with her beautiful smile, "I love you too my sister." This time, her heart was medicine to my own.