Sara's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Of Surgery and Somersaults

Posted on Sun, 03/30/2014 - 22:46 by Kristina Kayser

One of the most anticipated days of Sara's young life has finally arrived. She stands on the eve of her second major operation—a surgery holding the high expectation of a fully repaired heart. Since we received the hospital invitation a week ago, Sara's mind has been spinning with questions and sometimes fears. She fully remembers the pain and difficult recovery from her first experience and seems to be gearing up to face similar challenges again. In between sets of tears, she has looked to several women in our community for lots of love and encouragement. Sara is one of the bravest girls I have ever met, and I love her dearly. 

Just before setting out for Tel Aviv this afternoon, Sara and her friend and fellow patient Rozhgar had a special request: to run! Since both of them will be in the operating room this week, they understand it may be a while before they can fully exert themselves again. What a delight it was to watch them laugh and play at the park. Much like butterflies, they flitted from one spot to the next to pose for pictures.

Sara not only ran as fast as she could across the grass but also finished with a few cartwheels and somersaults. Her joy was contagious, and I couldn't help but join in the fun. This reminded me of the way Jesus invites all who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him and how He is able to give us a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light (Matthew 11:28-29). We left the park free of worry and full of rest!  

The surgery admission was flawless, with Sara sailing through her blood test and IV start. She even smiled throughout the procedure.

Having her mother and friends around her gave her even more confidence.

And what better way to celebrate this special day than by eating strawberry ice-cream cake?

Sara generously shared her joy and her cake with everyone present. May God give her peace and rest tonight and the knowledge of His deep love for her.  

Patient Endurance

Posted on Sun, 03/16/2014 - 11:00 by Kristina Kayser

One month of waiting has passed for our dear Sara and her mother. And while moments of sadness come and go, related mostly to missing their family, joy prevails. Sara delights me with her enthusiasm for life. She never misses an opportunity for fun, and her smile lights up a room. Her favorite new game is to pick me up and spin me around as fast as she can. For a girl who is preparing to have her second heart surgery, Sara's strength is quite impressive! What I love most about this girl, however, is her amazing capacity to love. It flows from her heart so naturally to everyone around her. Every day without fail, she gives me at least two kisses on my cheek almost every time I leave a room she’s in. She cares deeply for the needs of others, most recently demonstrated in the way she spent two long days in the hospital with her friend Rozhgar, just to be a support to her. Truly God has given her a beautiful gift. 

As Sara approaches a tentative date for her surgery next week, it is of utmost importance she stays healthy, so as not to create any reason for delay. You can understand why, then, we called the hospital today to report a four day history of a sore throat and swollen glands. Our nursing staff concluded in this case it was better to be safe than sorry, so we set off for Wolfson Hospital to have Sara examined.

The drive was a bit longer today than usual, since we also drove to the Erez border crossing to pick up a young boy and his mother. Nevertheless, the beautiful spring weather and landscape made every kilometer worthwhile. Sara's loving spirit was apparent once again in the way she warmly welcomed Fauzi, the boy from Gaza, and treated other children she met in the hospital with kindness and affection.  

Upon arrival to the children's ward, Dr. Iyal took time to thoroughly check for any indication of infection.

In the end, the outcome of her symptoms was nothing more than a typical sore throat requiring no special treatment. This was good news to us all. Our happiness was further encouraged by the festivities going on around us in celebration of Purim. Before leaving the hospital, Sara received several gifts, face painting, and costume props which made for some entertaining pictures.

Praise God for this precious girl and the love she brings to our home. May He continue to give her and her mother joy that endures day by day. 

Moving Towards Surgery

Posted on Sun, 03/02/2014 - 22:09 by Ruth Zellweger

Sara has spent the past two weeks waiting for her heart surgery, but it has not been wasted time. She has a loving and joyful spirit and has been a good sister and friend to Dalya and to Rozhgar (who she knows from her past stay and, since they also live in the same city in Kurdistan, has seen frequently over the past year).

We are thankful to have Sara back with us, but are hoping her surgery will arrive soon. Today, one big step towards that surgery day was taken: an early morning CT-Angiogram for Sara.

Because of the complex anatomy of Sara’s heart, doctors needed to confirm the size and position of certain cardiac blood vessels. The test itself only took minutes to complete. Sara lay calmly on an exam table encompassed by a large donut-shaped device and followed instructions to stay perfectly still.

Contrast dye was injected through an IV line, which then highlighted her major blood vessels and provided direct visualization for the technicians. Finally a series of X-ray images processed via computers confirmed what the cardiology team needed to know. The results will be evaluated by the cardiologist during the next few days.

After the CT scan, Sara had her breakfast, and then we headed back to Jerusalem. We arrived before noon and were able to have lunch together with everyone else at the Shevet base, including a group of five college students from the United States. Sara and Rozhgar quickly made friends with the girls of the group and played a ball game with them in the courtyard.

Now all we can do is wait to hear from the doctors concerning Sara’s surgery date. Please continue to lift Sara up in prayer as she spreads love and joy around while waiting for her big day to come. 

Fun at the Beach

Posted on Thu, 02/20/2014 - 22:32 by Ruth Zellweger

Sara’s return to Israel for the final repair of her heart had been highly anticipated by our community, and with great joy we welcomed her and her mother back into our midst last Sunday. Within a few days, Sara and Dalya became good friends. It is beautiful to watch their friendship grow.

Dalya had a follow-up echo today at Wolfson Hospital, and we invited Sara to join our group, as we had planned a special trip to the beach after the echo was finished. Sara graciously accepted the invitation.

Early in the morning we headed towards Tel Aviv. After the hospital appointment, we went straight to the beach nearby and enjoyed two wonderful hours of fun in the sun. The following pictures give a glimpse of the joy we experienced today. May Sara’s time in Israel continue to be joyful and an encouragement for the people around her. 

A Picture of Grace

Posted on Mon, 02/17/2014 - 21:58 by Jesse Tilman

Today Rahel, Kirstina, and I had the honor of accompanying Sara to the hospital for her preliminary screening. Back for her second heart surgery, Sara had quite a welcome last night. She has a hand-drawn picture of herself up on the wall in the Kurdish living room, courtesy of a South-American artist, and in just the day and a half she’s been here, she and Dalya, our other teenage heart patient currently in-house, have become fast friends.

They talked and laughed their way down to Tel Aviv as we drove along this morning.

At Wolfson Hospital, we began the process of connecting with the staff and getting their plans for the day. Sara had to wait a while before we could start her checkups, so we sat in a play-room and entertained ourselves with some toys Rahel brought along. Pomadora the clown even came by for some fun, along with some other waiting Gaza families.

When her turn came, we gave Sara lots of encouragement and headed in to the mix of height and weight measurements, electrocardiographs, blood tests, x-rays, and echocardiograms.

With Sara coming for a second visit, the doctors needed an extended echo to better understand the current state of her heart. She was a picture of grace throughout all the work and found strength in the hugs and words from her mother and us.

Sara's first surgery in Israel one year ago created a palliative repair to help provide increased oxygen and strengthen her heart for a full repair. Dr. Alona was quite pleased with her echo assessment today and commented on how well Sara looked inside and out. Sara's oxygen saturation is 100%, and her heart is now ready for stage two of cardiac surgery. The only extra step needed before surgery is a CT scan, which will hopefully happen this week. 

We spent some time after the work was done with Kyle, an American volunteer who has come to do some film projects with Shevet. Kristina joyfully led Dalya and Sara through a few Kodak moments and had a run-and-slide down the hall while holding their hands.

It’s so good to see Sara again, and the way her eyes light up at reuniting with old friends is a joy to behold. She’s a little taller, a little healthier, and much more at home with us this time around.

Sara Lights Up Israel

Posted on Sun, 02/16/2014 - 22:58 by Jonathan Miles

The golden rays of the setting sun bathed Sara's face as the border guard checked her papers this evening on the bank of the Jordan River. She's been cheerful about returning for her second surgery, and I was glad she was along to keep little Shadyar smiling in the van while their moms were taken away for questioning.

Tonight Sara and mother are resting at Prophets Street. Tomorrow starts their adventure in earnest, as they leave for Sara’s first hospital examinations in the morning.

Looking Forward to Sara's Return

Posted on Sun, 12/29/2013 - 16:40 by Kelsey Cannon

Sara arrived in Jerusalem last winter for part one of a planned two stage repair of her heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot. It is with great excitement that our community now awaits her return to Israel for her second and, hopefully, final surgery. We’re expecting to have this spirited and much beloved girl with us sometime this upcoming January. In the meantime, please pray with us for the stability and continuation of Sara’s health.

So Much Love

Posted on Sun, 02/17/2013 - 14:28 by MadelynMiles

The hour came to begin the double farewell party for Rawand and Sara, and when I went into their living quarters, I found a bejeweled princess dressed for her party. Not only bejeweled with great, white stones around her neck and ears, but also with an excited smile and affectionate mood. Sara is no ordinary 13-year-old. 

I remember when her mother had shied away from telling Sara about needing a second surgery next year. Fully understanding the impact and gravity of this information, Sara cried upon finally receiving the news. But after she had finished letting out her emotion, she stopped crying, dried her face, and said everything would be okay. Sara has a kind of courage that I know nothing about: facing your own, very real, mortality, seeing the visible and tangible effects in your body and abilities, and yet continuing on in faith and hope. Unlike Rawand, who is mostly unaware of what he's been through, Sara knows exactly. And she knows she has to do it again. Despite all this, her beautiful smile and giant, cheek-planting kisses are never scarce. 

During the party, of all us affirmed to Sara and her mother how much it meant to us to live with them, and walk through this part of their journey together. Many of us agreed aloud that we saw incredible strength and intelligence from this young lady. And many of us also agreed that her mother was a mother to everyone. Especially for us female volunteers, it was not uncommon to sit next to Sara's mother while she strokes your hand or plays with your hair. She has been such an affectionate and loving woman, while also being a source of strength for many. And it's clear she passed these traits onto her daughter. 

The party was joyful, and I never saw Sara's smile leave her face. But on Friday morning, while packed bags were being carried out the door, instead of a smile I saw red eyes and wet cheeks.

I held her close to me, and told her that today was a happy day--the day she gets to go back home. I also told her that I would miss her and continue to pray for her. We let go, and she made her hugging and kissing rounds. Then she came back for another long embrace and kisses. Then she made her rounds again. And even as she climbed in the van and put her seat belt on, she reached out to those nearby, pulled them in, and kissed them a third time. The day she had waited for came, but saying good-bye seemed to be harder than she anticipated. 

God is the source of all love. And there was so much love between Sara, her mother, and the Shevet Achim volunteers. Perhaps this also means there was much God between us. We know that this love is evident to others of our faith: "all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). This is my prayer, that Sara carried home a piece of God with her, in the form of the love that she experienced in Israel.

Ready to Return Home to Kurdistan

Posted on Mon, 02/11/2013 - 20:46 by Linn Magnusson

Our dear Sara had her last echo today at the hospital. The doctors told us that her heart looked very good, and confirmed that she is ready to go back to Kurdistan in some days! The medications will also be reduced for her. After the echo, Sara received the news from her mother that she will need to come back to Israel for one more surgery in a year. I can understand that it is a disappointment for her that her heart is still not fully restored, but right now she seems just happy to be able to go home again.

Even if her heart is not fully restored yet, she is indeed so much stronger already. The last days I have really enjoyed watching Sara while she happily has used her new strength. We were out for a walk to one of the parks this Friday, two volunteers and the two older girls, Sara and Jwana. When Jwana needed to sit down for some minutes of rest, because of the fact that she hasn

Sara: Full Speed Ahead

Posted on Mon, 02/04/2013 - 21:32 by Johanna Magnusson

Today, four of the children had follow-up echocardiograms at Wolfson Hospital. One of the children was the slim, sweet and smiling Sara. During the past few days Sara has seemed to be tired and one might even go so far as to say bored. But today I was happy to see her active, with eyes that sparkled of mischief when she smiled. She was glad, chatty and enjoyed the company of the other mums. I think she likes to go to the hospital, instead of being in the house all day. It is obvious that she makes friends wherever she goes and everybody likes her. At the hospital, many people greeted her kindly and it seemed to me that the staff and patients in the children