Sara's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

First Echo Shows Sara's Healing Heart

Posted on Mon, 01/28/2013 - 19:30 by Ruth Zellweger

A joyful mother and daughter duo went to Wolfson Hospital today. Sara and her mother have become an important and significant part of our Shevet Achim community. They pour out their love, hugs and good humor not only on their Kurdish friends, but also on our staff. Being with Sara and her mother has been very encouraging for me during the last week. 

Today both of them were especially excited to go to the hospital. Sara's first follow up echo was scheduled for the morning, and they also hoped to return to Jerusalem with their beloved friends Sima and her mother. 

When we reached the hospital we first had to get Sara's file at the children's ward. While I was talking with the nurses, Sara and her mother went to find Sima. It was a happy reunion. 

I joined a few minutes later. But before they got too deep into conversation, Sara's echo had to be done. At the echo department Sara cheerfully laid down on the examination table. 

The results of the echo revealed that her heart is functioning as doctors expected it would after the first of the two-part repair of her heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot. The echo also showed a slightly increased amount of pleural effusion in Sara's left lung. The doctor told us that this is nothing she is worried about, since Sara is doing fine and does not complain about any pain or discomfort with breathing. She will continue with the same medication and shall be back for the next echo the following Monday. 

Sara and her mother were relieved to hear this news, and hope that she soon will be cleared to return to Kurdistan. On our way back to Jerusalem Sara sat with Sima and her mother in the back of the van and enjoyed their company, until all three of them fell asleep. 

I am still amazed how smooth Sara

Beloved Sara Returns To Jerusalem

Posted on Mon, 01/21/2013 - 23:28 by Kristina Kayser

Sara's warm smile was one of the first things to greet Johanna and I when we arrived at Wolfson this morning. She knew this would be a special day -- a day that promised a release from the hospital. Since her surgery nine days ago, Sara has gradually been gaining strength. She is up and walking the halls without a hint of pain. When the pediatrician came to assess her, he asked permission for two medical students to be part of the examination. Without hesitation, Sara smiled again and nodded her permission. What I was most impressed with today, however, was the sacrificial love she demonstrated towards others. Knowing that if she were discharged she could go home early in the day, she chose rather to stay until both Rawand and Sima's surgeries were complete. Sara also understood this meant many hours of waiting and a late drive home. Compassion for her friends overrode convenience. 

The echo results today were as suspected, Sara's heart showing beautiful progress. A trivial amount of fluid remains about her lungs, easily treated with medication. Dr. Tamir also confirmed that he anticipates Sara being ready for a full repair one year from now. The trans-annular patch created in the preliminary surgery is doing its job of opening the pulmonary artery and creating greater blood flow between the heart and lungs. With Sara's oxygen saturation having already increased from 70% to 90%, as evidenced by pink fingers and toes, we can only expect good things to come. 

Sara and her mother were thankful to receive good news and happily settled in for the remaining hours at the hospital. They were a mainstay of strength and support for the two mothers who were waiting for their children to return from the operating room. Though only thirteen, Sara mirrors her mother in tenderness and sincerity. Sitting patiently for seven hours is no small feat, especially if you've recently had open heart surgery. Sara is no ordinary teenager, though, and she exhibited maturity beyond her years today. Just before leaving, she asked to say goodbye to some of her favorite nurses and snap a group photo. No one could deny that Sara is loved by all who know her.

We are happy to have this lovely young woman and her mum back under our roof tonight. God is faithfully (and speedily) restoring Sara's heart. In the days to come, I trust that we will see His grace towards her grow greater still.

Recovering Beautifully

Posted on Wed, 01/16/2013 - 22:04 by Ruth Zellweger

Seeing Sara today has been one of my greatest joys of the last couple of weeks. I experienced her excitement when the surgery day came closer, and yesterday waited expectantly for news on how her surgery day went. Many times we have been told, and have seen ourselves, older children struggle with longer recovery times after their heart surgery. This was exactly what I had braced myself for with Sara. But I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the ICU around 9am this morning. My eyes met with Sara, and I could tell that she recognized me at once. On her face was an oxygen mask. She had only been extubated a few minutes before. I greeted Sara and her mother with the usual kisses on the cheek, and then she requested her picture to be taken. A few minutes later her nurse told me that Sara soon would be taken to the adult ICU. I understood that it was only due to capacity issues. When I shared this news with Sara and her mother, they received it very well and did not seemed troubled in the slightest. Instead, they desired to hear how Shaida

Strengthened By Joy: Sara's Surgery Day

Posted on Tue, 01/15/2013 - 23:04 by Kristina Kayser

I set out for Wolfson Hospital early this morning via sharoot (a group taxi), hoping very much to arrive before Sara was escorted to the OR. Fortunately for me, the Israeli driver seemed bent on blitzing to Tel Aviv in record time himself. One thought that crossed my mind during the ride was the scripture from Nehemiah 8:10: "Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Having joy in the midst of life's intensities can be a difficult concept to grasp; when its source is ethereal, however, burdens are assuaged. I hoped for joy to be made real in Sara's life today. 

Arriving at the hospital, a quick phone call to her mum informed me that they were already downstairs in the operating department. Sara and her mother greeted me warmly, and we immediately began to joke about our lovely new hospital attire. Whatever anxieties Sara was carrying quickly were diffused with laughter. Nurses flowed in and out making final preparations while we blissfully passed the time with picture-taking and conversation. I shared how much God loves her and that He would be with her today and give her a new heart. She nodded her head knowingly. When the transport team arrived, Sara's face still bore a smile -- a beautiful, fearless one. One nurse gently encouraged Sara's mother to kiss her daughter goodbye. 

As soon as Sara was out of sight, her mother's eyes welled up with tears. We sat for a moment, taking in the full measure of what was about to happen. This precious young lady was minutes away from one of the most radical medical procedures in existence. A throbbing heart would be stilled, then opened and mended, then revived to life again. Over the next few hours, a highly-trained surgical team would devote their greatest skill to repairing Sara's quartet of cardiac defects. Her mother let out a deep sigh that hinted of unvoiced emotion. Making our way upstairs, she began to explain the cause of her tears. "My sadness began when I kissed Sara goodbye," she said. She repeated this comment several more times throughout the day whenever tears fell again.

Comfort came by way of good company, including Sima and her mother. I loved being part of their circle, listening to their encouragement, and chiming in myself every now and then. Their friendship was like balm to the soul. Four hours had passed when Sara's gurney rounded the corner towards ICU. One doctor  stopped to briefly report that all went well in the OR, before whisking unconscious Sara through the ICU doors. We waited for more details, meanwhile rejoicing in the successful completion of the surgery. The doctor emerged again and gave us some surprising, yet hopeful, information. Today's operation was actually the first of a two-stage repair. Due to Sara

Sara Admitted To Wolfson For Heart Surgery

Posted on Sun, 01/13/2013 - 22:31 by Kristina Kayser

Sara, who has endeared herself to our community in recent weeks with her humor and affection, received a much-anticipated invitation today. The invitation came by way of a phone call from Dr. Alona. After waiting one month in Israel and nearly thirteen years in Kurdistan, Sara is now ready for heart surgery. She was her exuberant self upon hearing the news, laughing and hugging me tightly. It was as if I told her she was going to a party, not a hospital admission. The only thing to dim her joy was missing an outing to the park this afternoon. Her face brightened once again, however, when we spoke of going to the park together after her surgery. 

Sara and her mother quickly packed their bags and enjoyed a delicious Kurdish lunch before leaving for Wolfson. Rawand was also being admitted today, and it was beautiful to see the encouragement these two families provided each other. During the car ride, Sara's mother held my hand and stared at the passing scenery. She is a strong and loving woman who cares deeply for her daughter. Sara had cried when saying goodbye to everyone at the house, but now sat contentedly in the backseat. She exchanged smiles with me every time our eyes met through the rearview mirror. 

Although Sara's surgery is not until Tuesday, doctors wanted her admitted a couple days early in order to receive supplemental IV plasma. In doing so, her system will be better equipped to tolerate the rigors of a lengthy heart operation. The time came for the dreaded needle poke to start an IV, and I wondered how Sara would react. Though I encouraged her to squeeze my hand as hard as she could to help with the pain, she barely winced! Once routine assessments were finished, Sara was already requesting pictures with the nurses she had met previously. They seemed equally excited to see her again. When it was time to say goodbye, Sara and her mother were comfortably settled in their room. These two have become precious friends to me, and I am so thankful for God's grace and faithfulness towards them. I trust that He will continue to provide all that is needed for the restoration of Sara's heart.

Sara's Surgery Cancelled For The Week

Posted on Wed, 01/09/2013 - 10:46 by Ryan Gregg

Word came from the hospital this morning that Sara

Steady Stream of Patience

Posted on Tue, 01/08/2013 - 21:29 by Kelsey Cannon

When we headed out the door for Tel Aviv this morning, the sky seemed to be shedding just as many raindrops as Sara was tears. This normally spunky, confidant, and precocious young lady seemed to be feeling the full weight of her situation. Today was the day that she would be admitted to Wolfson Hospital for surgery scheduled the following morning to correct her congenital heart defect(s): Tetrology of Fallot. 

Though silent most of the car ride to the hospital, Sara perked up later in the day. Back to her old antics, she enjoyed joking around with her mother and me while she waited her turn to have her cannula inserted. 

But before her turn came, one of the nurses came to speak with us about some rather unexpected news. It seems that because of certain component levels in Sara

Fun at the Beach

Posted on Tue, 01/01/2013 - 20:51 by Ruth Zellweger

During their stays in Israel, most of our children and their mothers experience times of waiting, anxiety, and pain. When we share these experiences with them, our relationships can develop and we grow closer. But I am glad that there are also fun times we can share together which also help to strengthen our friendships. Today, the first day of 2013, we had such an opportunity. Sara, Jwana, their moms, Gerrit, Gre, Kristina, and I went to Tel Aviv. Sara

Sara Returns to Jerusalem

Posted on Thu, 12/20/2012 - 21:57 by Ruth Zellweger

Today I had the privilege and joy to pick up Sara and her mother at Wolfson Hospital. When we arrived at the children