Samar's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

A Quiet Faith and Patience

Posted on Sun, 01/03/2016 - 21:26 by Agnes Bruna

Last Thursday, the last day of the year, I had the privilege of taking Samar and his grandmother to the Jordanian border at the start of their journey back home.

Samar came to Israel with his grandmother even though he is an only child, as his parents are still very young and have no experience in travelling abroad. The grandmother has a special relationship with Samar and agreed to take him for his treatment. This family is a Christian family from Qaraqosh in Iraq, who had to flee from IS to Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. All during their visit here I was impressed with the grandmother’s quiet faith and patience. As you can see from Samar’s blogs, he had quite a wait before his surgery. Once he was unexpectedly admitted for his surgery in the middle of our move to new premises, it was postponed yet again.

I had made a special connection with Samar and his grandmother after his surgery day finally came and I got to spend that day with them. I do not often get to go to the hospital because of the nature of my work, and I felt very blessed to spend this time together. Samar’s heart defect (Tetralogy of Fallot) is a complex heart defect, but a lot of the children we bring have this and the SACH team at Wolfson Hospital is very experienced in repairing this. His grandmother spent the time while Samar was in the OR reading her New Testament and praying. Even after Samar’s successful heart repair, and during the unexpected time waiting for him to recover from an unexplained fever, she often spent time with the other Iraqi and Gaza mothers and prayed much for them.

We had a lovely farewell party for him on Wednesday night, last week. These parties are such a blessing for all of us. We had time to celebrate Samar’s recovery, we got to share our lovely memories of him and his grandmother, we drank tea and ate sweet desserts and cookies, sang some of our favorite songs, and gave presents to Samar and his grandmother to remember us by. We then watched a DVD of photos made of Samar during his stay here. This DVD, a New Testament in Arabic, an MP3 player with the bible on it, and a Jesus movie will hopefully help the family to joyfully remember what God has done for Samar during his stay in Israel.

Then after praying for them on Thursday morning, we set off to the Allenby Bridge border crossing between Israel and Jordan. Whenever I take children to this crossing, I am always struck by the excited conversations we have with Palestinians about our work and specifically why the child is here and what has happened. As Samar’s grandmother is Arabic speaking, she could tell her story by herself.

We travelled to the border with a professor at the Jerusalem University who spoke English quite well, in addition to his native Arabic. After hearing our stories he was quiet for a bit, and then asked: are you Christians? When I said yes he asked, “Is she?” pointing at Samar’s grandmother. He then confirmed that he also is a Christian and had a long conversation with Samar’s grandmother about their faith. Samar’s grandmother also shared with me she talks every day with Doaa’s mother, and prays for her several times a day.

The wait at the Israeli side of the border was long, and sometimes stressful, while their papers were being checked and processed. But all during that time the professor happily translated for Samar’s grandmother when needed. Palestinian mothers gave food and sweets to Samar. Then we said goodbye while they made their way to the shuttle bus to the Jordanian side. Ryan picked them up on the Jordanian side, and that night they flew back to Erbil in Kurdistan.

All in all, it was another story of God’s provision, healing, grace, and blessing. I am so grateful to be a part of this story. Thank God with me for all He does for these special children. 

Time To Fly!

Posted on Mon, 12/28/2015 - 21:30 by Erin Brown

We took Samar and his grandmother to the hospital this morning for his final echo. We waited a short while before it was his turn for the procedure, and he was very energetic. It was wonderful to watch him move and play with such ease. It was much different compared to how he acted before surgery.  

At first he was crying as they prepared him for the echo, but after a minute or two his grandmother found a song on her phone to play for him. He became very content. 

When the echo was complete his grandmother wanted to know if the results were good, and if they could go home. The doctor's words broke through the language barrier when she said, "Bye bye! Iraq!”! Samar's grandmother was so excited! Those were the words she wanted to hear, her grandson was well and they could return to their family.

We spent a few more hours at the hospital while our volunteers visited with other patients. Samar waited patiently by exploring outside at the playground. 

Samar is happy, his grandmother is happy, and we are happy that our Father blessed Samar with healing and a healthy heart. Now we are making preparations to fly back home! Praise God!

Samar's Echo

Posted on Mon, 12/21/2015 - 21:41 by Maureen Grimshaw

Samar went for his first out patient follow-up echo today since his surgery on the 12th of December with good results.  

If the next echo, in a week’s time, shows continued improvement he will be discharged to go home. We are all very happy with this good result and are looking forward to his farewell.

Back in Jerusalem

Posted on Wed, 12/16/2015 - 21:35 by Annie Magnusson

It was a happy day for Samar today since he was allowed to come back to Jerusalem! He looks so much healthier and more awake than last time I saw him about a week ago. He was sitting on his bed greatly enjoying the cat that was standing in the open window. He even laughed out loud, which I have never heard him do before.

He got the stitches from his chest tubes removed today, which he was not as happy about, at least not during the procedure. On Monday, he will go to the hospital again for an echo. We are very pleased to have this cute boy back with us in Jerusalem. 

A Gentle Spirit

Posted on Sun, 12/13/2015 - 21:34 by Ruth Zellweger

Ten days after his open heart surgery with a full repair, our dear little Samar is still hospitalized in the children's ward due to a fever of unknown origin.

He is being treated with antibiotics, but so far, he still intermittently will have a higher temperature. His loving grandmother is constantly at his side, taking wonderful care of Samar.

It is lovely to watch how this Christian grandmother and the Muslim mothers and grandparents of the Gaza children "dwell together in unity" in the hospital. They help each other out and treat each other with respect. 

Samar is a special little boy. He is a quiet child and usually doesn't draw much attention to himself. However, his shy smile has captured my heart. Today, I had a few opportunities to capture it on photo.

Please pray with us for full recovery and for patience and endurance for Samar's grandmother.

At the Children's Ward

Posted on Sun, 12/06/2015 - 22:43 by Annie Magnusson

One of the purposes for Miriam and my hospital visit today was to visit Samar. We didn't have any information about where he would be. Considering it was only three days after his open-heart surgery I went looking for Samar at the secondary ICU. He wasn't there so I wondered if he could be in the first ICU still. This is when Karam's mother told me he is already at the children's ward, right beside Karam's bed. I was happily surprised to see him there, still sleepy from medication and with a heart monitor beside him. He was too tired to be interested in toys, but didn't seem to be in pain. 

I was told he is recovering well, as expected. His grandmother was happy to see us. She was very pleased with how quickly Samar was moved to the children's ward. The room where Samar and Karam stayed worked as a gathering place for the Arabic-speaking mothers, including the mothers from Gaza and Samar's grandmother. She was joking around, clearly appreciating the fellowship. I love how they all get so close and help each other.

Peacefully Sleeping

Posted on Thu, 12/03/2015 - 22:04 by Agnes Bruna

Today Miriam, Erin, and I drove through heavy rain to the hospital to spend the day with Samar’s grandmother while he had his long-awaited heart surgery. When we arrived, Samar was about to fall asleep, quietly trusting in the adults around him to take care of him. His grandmother was quite emotional, but seemed pleased to see us. After a while they came to take him to the Operating Room. Samar’s grandmother decided not to carry him in her arms, and Samar was not very pleased when she put him in the bed. But eventually he realized that he could see things much better while standing up, and this is how he went while we followed behind.

Miriam and the grandmother went with him to the prep room, and as long as Samar was in her arms, he was fine. But as soon as she put him down on the stretcher, he started crying and so did his grandmother. And so the long wait started.


We could not convince his grandmother to leave the waiting area, even after someone explained to her in Arabic that the surgery would last at least 4 hours. So we sat and tried out our limited Arabic. She showed me pictures of her 3 sons and 1 daughter, and I showed her pictures of my 3 sons and 1 daughter. It was lovely to see photos of Samar with his parents. He is an only child and I cannot imagine what it must be like to let your child go for open heart surgery in a foreign country without being able to come.

Samar’s grandmother spent the time praying the rosary and reading her Arabic New Testament. We prayed with Samar before he went in, and during the waiting time we prayed several times with her. She got really excited when she realized I knew she was reading the New Testament. God’s Word is a great way to connect in difficult times.

Four and a half hours later Samar was raced through to the ICU. The doctors couldn’t say much then, but said everything went well. After some waiting time a doctor came out who found another doctor who spoke Arabic, and together they explained what happened. Samar had a hole between the ventricles, which was successfully repaired. He also had trouble with the blood flow to his lungs, and that also was successfully repaired. The doctors warned he could initially have some fluid around his heart and lungs, a regular occurrence after open heart surgery. Also, maybe in 5 or 10 years it could appear one of his valves is defective, so he will need regular check-ups to make sure everything is ok.

We had a brief look at Samar sleeping peacefully in the ICU, and left his grandmother relieved and happy with Doaa’s mother, and the mothers of Khalil and Karam, happily chatting away.

All in all the surgery was a success. We praise God for this little boy’s life fully restored to him, and pray he will get to know the God who saved him in more ways than one, when he grows up.

The Theme Continues...

Posted on Tue, 12/01/2015 - 20:37 by Alexa Bigl

Annie and I arrived at Wolfson early this morning to Samar’s grandmother telling us the surgery has been canceled for today. We checked in with the nurses, and after a very busy night and morning for the hospital, all surgeries for the day were potentially going to be canceled. Samar’s grandmother was concerned once Samar woke that he would be very agitated from his fast in preparation for the surgery. We praise God for His perfect timing.

Just before Samar woke up, the surgery cancellation was confirmed. While it was disappointing for all parties to hear of the delay, we were glad Samar did not have to endure hunger and thirst for nothing. Surgery is tentatively rescheduled for later this week; either tomorrow or Thursday. If Samar is not able to have his surgery this week, he will return to Jerusalem for the weekend and be readmitted at Wolfson next week.

We had a lot of fun playing with Samar and enjoyed his smiles as he practiced walking and popped bubbles. Despite Samar’s deep attachment to his grandmother, she was able to have some time to herself during Samar’s nap while we stood by to ensure he slept quietly.

We are praying for peace for Samar and his grandmother while God’s perfect timing continues to unfold.

God's Perfect Timing

Posted on Mon, 11/30/2015 - 20:19 by

From Ruth Z.:

Samar and his grandmother have been with us these past four weeks, waiting to be scheduled for surgery. The grandmother bore the waiting time graciously, only asking from time to time when it would be and mentioning that Samar misses his mother. We hoped with her for Samar's surgery to be very soon. On the other hand, we were somehow glad that it wouldn't be this week, as we had to move out of our home and needed every person available to help. But God has His own timing that often does not seem to fit well with our ideas, but when looking back we have to admit that it is perfect. And so it was also today...

During lunchtime, while our Shevet community took a break from moving all of our belongings to new places, we received a phone call from the hospital, asking us to bring in Samar for surgery tomorrow. We quickly rearranged our schedule, gathered one last time- at least for a while- in our courtyard to pray for Samar and grandmother, sang a joyful song unto the LORD, emptied out our belongings from the only van we had available, and then Ruth took Samar and his grandmother to Wolfson hospital. Even though the circumstances were a little bit chaotic, there was a peace that covered both the boy and his grandmother.

Samar slept peacefully in his car seat and his grandmother waited patiently while our friends from the Finnish School helped us jump-start the van after the battery had suddenly died.

God is in control of all of our circumstances, and we believe that He knows what is best for us, including the perfect day for Samar's surgery. 

From Miriam:

This afternoon, I accompanied Samar and his grandmother to the children's ward for admission. Sweet Samar is a shy little boy, and the first week he had with us at Shevet, he cried very easily. You can tell he is missing his mother very much. Although he has warmed up as he has gotten to know the staff at Shevet, he prefers being as close to his grandmother as possible, 

As expected, Samar did not enjoy the assessments and blood tests.

His grandmother, though, was very calm and strong. She took him in her arms and comforted him in between the tests.

What a beautiful picture of the kind of love our Father has for us. He is always close to us and ready to take us up in His arms. We thank the Lord that He will keep His arms around Samar and his whole family, both tonight and when it is time for surgery tomorrow.

"But I trust in you, LORD; I say: You are my God. My times are in your hands."   Psalm 31:14-15a

Welcome to a New World, Dear Samar

Posted on Mon, 11/02/2015 - 21:08 by Rebekah Yang

Last night around 10 pm we welcomed Samar and his grandmother to our Shevet community in Jerusalem. This morning, we brought Samar and his grandmother to Wolfson hospital for his first assessment there. Imagine that you just traveled from very far away to come to this pretty new country and after not even 24 hours you have to trust a total stranger to take you around for different tests and examinations. I could only praise God for His sufficient grace towards us today.

Samar had a big struggle and wrestled with the Children’s ward nurses and doctor at when he started his examination. There were a lot of tears, like a river flooding down his face. His poor grandmother didn’t know how to comfort him at first; therefore, she began to cry together with him.

Later on we went for his echocardiogram in the echo room. Dr. Alona gave him some sedation liquid medicine for him to sleep. Afterwards, she could give him a proper echo while he was asleep. The result was called “Tetralogy of Fallot” and it was the same diagnosis he received in Kurdistan, Iraq. Samar also had his PPD test and chest x-ray done. In the end, after we heard his blood test result was good, we were ready to go back to our home at Shevet in Jerusalem.

Dear Samar, sorry to use such a big day to welcome you to this new part of the world. I pray to our Heavenly Father He that may give you daily peace and strength in order to change and heal your heart to be a new heart from God. AMEN!