Sara's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

A Full Repair and a Grateful Father

Posted on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

Despite our best efforts to be to the hospital this morning before Sara and her dad left for the operating room, I didn't think Nancy and I would make it in time. While we were sitting in traffic outside Tel Aviv, I called to see when Sara was expected to leave her room, and was told she had ''just been turned over to the nurses to go downstairs." I was so disappointed, and told Nancy when we got there I'd go straight down to the OR area and see if I could be admitted to spend the last few minutes with them. I had promised Sara I'd see her this morning before she went for surgery, and didn't want to break that promise, as we've had a special friendship while she has been at the house.

I made my way down to the door beyond which there is no admittance without permission, and waited for someone to enter or exit so I could go in and get permission. Oddly, no one was around this morning using that door! There were a couple of hospital employees exiting the elevators behind me, and I was hoping one would be a doctor to let me in, but they worked in other areas, and went the opposite direction. As I was asking God for help, the elevator opened again, and when I looked, it was Abu Sara helping wheel Sara out! They had not left the room as early as I'd been told, and so I was able to enter the pre-op area with them, after receiving special permission from staff there. All of us were very happy about that!

I had taken a gift to Sara so she'd know it would be waiting when she woke up from her surgery, a red stuffed toy bear (pictured above). She liked it, and we spent part of the time we waited in pre-op doing silly antics with the bear to help shift her mind from the fear which showed on her face. Her dear father was nervous but soothing to Sara during our short wait, carefully staying beside her until she was taken into the operating room. When Sara left, at this emotional peak, we walked quietly to the elevator and to the 'fish room' (waiting room with aquarium) upstairs for the long wait. Ali's father joined us after about an hour, and we all sat quietly for a time. Soon these dads began talking to one another, and this helped to pass the time. I noticed it seemd to be therapeutic (and at times humorous) for both of them as Abu Ali decided to pass along some of his acquired Hebrew vocabulary to Abu Sara to help him function better in the hospital. After sharing some lunch, and just after he had asked me why Sara had not come up from the operating room, we saw her being wheeled down the hallway to the ICU. The monitor on her bed read 100% oxygen saturation, and the attendants said her surgery went well.

During the wait while she was properly settled in the ICU, both Dr. Houri and Dr. Alona passed by us and assured us the surgery went very well. When we were inside visiting Sara, Dr. Sasson, the surgeon from an Iraqi Jewish background, came in and explained to Abu Sara in Arabic that they were able to close the hole in her heart and complete the procedures necessary for full repair. A precious moment which I didn't capture on film but would like to tell you about is the one in which this grateful father reached across his daughter's bed and shook hands with and graciously thanked the doctor who'd just saved his daughter's life. As we stood by Sara's bed, we all noticed that she was beginning to come out from under the general anesthesia, opening her eyes and responding to voices nearby by turning her head. I'm sure she was sedated again right away, but we left for Jerusalem after Dr. Sasson had spoken to Abu Sara with his good report. 

Thank you for praying for Sara's surgery today. Pray for her recuperation to be remarkable in such a way that everyone knows our prayers are being answered by our living, loving God.

Sara Calm and Quiet Before Surgery

Posted on Tue, 10/14/2008 - 00:00 by Mary_Dailey

We took Sara back to Wolfson Medical Center this evening. Everyone was present to pray for her before we left, and there was such a peaceful presence surrounding us. Everything went well. I believe that when you honor God by calling on Him in prayer, He will prepare the way for you.

We arrived at the hospital around 6:30 or 6:45 P.M. We went with Sara and her father to the nurses' station, and Hank went to get the stickers while I stayed with Sara and her dad. They use these stickers for all the procedures they do while they're in the hospital. They did not take her blood again or any of the other tests, because they had already taken them before. The nurse was very sweet to Sara and told her to smile. They just put some cream and a couple of bandages on her wrist. Sara has the same bed that Shanaw had before she left. A young girl who was in her room brought her a candle and I took their picture. Ali's father came in to visit with us, and he stayed when we had to leave.

Sara was quiet, and very calm as she considered tomorrow's surgery.

Please remember to pray for Sara and her father. Pray that she'll have a successful surgery and that God will direct the doctors' hands and give them wisdom. The Bible says that when you help one of His little ones, it's the same as doing it unto Him. We want to thank you for all your prayers and for your support. May God bless you and meet your every need.

Surgery Rescheduled for Wednesday

Posted on Sat, 10/11/2008 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

We had disappointing news from the hospital that Sara's surgery was delayed again. Currently she is scheduled for admission Tuesday evening for surgery on Wednesday morning. Sara was a little down over it, but her father seemed pretty discouraged, and in fact the mood at the house became somber with frustration for a while. Thankfully Sara bounced back quickly to her happy self and enjoyed some time with Hevi and me on the hammock swing in the garden. Click here to play a video clip.

Please keep her and her father in your prayers as Tuesday approaches. When Sara's father asked me if I knew why the surgery was changed, which we do not know in this case, I could only tell him what I believe to be the case: God has the perfect time for Sara's surgery.

Surgery Postponed

Posted on Tue, 10/07/2008 - 00:00 by Jonathan Miles
At the last minute this morning, Sara's surgery was postponed, apparently due to the more critical need of a child from Nablus. Thank you for praying for Sara, and we'll let you know when her surgery is rescheduled.

Father's Comfort on Surgery's Eve

Posted on Mon, 10/06/2008 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

Sara and her dad arrived at the hospital near Tel Avivlate morning today for her admission for tomorrow's surgery. She was rather subdued and shy at first, undoubtedly nervous about what would be happening today. Not to worry - she sailed through the pre-surgery tests with hardly a grimace! Her dad and I directed her attention away from the needles during the dreaded blood test, and she was very very brave! She was proud of herself for being strong during that procedure, and seemed to relax after it was over. She spent the rest of the afternoon visiting with Shanaw, enjoying very much playing games with her. And when she was not with Shanaw, she was with her father and the rest of us awaiting Kale's return from surgery.

Her father's comforting presence and gentle way with his daughter was sweet to watch through the afternoon. His good care has given his daughter a beautiful sense of security as her surgery approaches.... just as our heavenly Father's care gives us security in His love, in every circumstance.

Please pray with us tomorrow for Sara and her father. Even though he is strong with his daughter, I can see the concern in Abu Sara's eyes that I see in every parent's face when their child goes for their surgery. We look forward to sharing the good report tomorrow when her operation is over.

Introducing "The Shevet Collection"

Posted on Thu, 09/18/2008 - 01:00 by Donna_Petrel
On Monday evening we had a "birthday party" for the fun of it, for all the girls here at the house. A special friend made a cake for them, and they were very excited and looking forward to sharing it with everyone who could gather to enjoy it. After the evening iftar meal to break the Ramadan fast, the celebration began. It was a lot of fun for four little girls waiting to have their turn for heart surgeries, and all of us who were celebrating with them. 
Some visitors from the US who came on Tuesday to learn more about Shevet Achim also brought several suitcases filled with supplies for the families. Among them were personal items for everyone, and toys, games and crafts for the children. This afternoon I looked through the collection and found what seemed the perfect way for getting the creative juices of these little ladies flowing.
What I didn't expect was the enthusiasm of the parents to get in on the opportunity by helping with the project.
There were many lovely pieces of jewelry created today here in the Shevet courtyard. Everyone loved this craft activity, and says "THANK YOU!"
We thank God for the generosity of friends who've shared gifts like these with us from time to time, and the joy these gifts bring to our guests while they're here with us. Enjoy the "Shevet collection"! :-)

Sara Patiently Continues to Wait for Her Heart Surgery

Posted on Wed, 09/10/2008 - 07:51 by Keleigh_Glisson

A month ago we were informed that the surgeon was going on a two week vacation causing all surgeries to be postponed. We were told that all of the children staying at the Shevet house would be on the surgery schedule for the first two weeks of September. The first week of September has come and gone without any surgeries taking place. It was especially difficult for these families to see Shana and Mawa come to Israel a few weeks after them and then leave yesterday healthy. It has been nearly two months since the children made their journey to Israel. The hospital has completed all the necessary tests that are required before surgery. Now they must wait.

In the meantime the children have found many activities to pass the time. The Shevet office is decorated with their artwork, they had a water fight on the roof, and most recently we took a trip to the zoo.

I think this group of kids enjoyed the zoo more than any other group. For most of them it was their first time seeing anything like this. As soon as we saw the first exhibit, the penguins, a few of the parents were on their phones calling their family in Iraq telling them where they were at and then passing the phone on to the children so that they could relay their excitement. We had a great time.

Most of the children dread the actual operation, but they have waited so long that even they are getting restless. They miss their families back home so much that they want to get it over with. Please pray that the doctors will be able to fit them into their schedule and pray for patience as they continue to wait.

Sara Admitted for Catheterization

Posted on Tue, 08/12/2008 - 07:51 by Keleigh_Glisson

Sara was invited to come to the hospital on Tuesday to be admitted for a catheterization that would take place on Wednesday. Sara needs the catheterization in order for the doctors to have a clearer picture of her problem.

After arriving to the hospital today Sara and her father had to wait over an hour to be admitted. Additional blood work was needed and amazingly Sara withstood all the tests without shedding a tear. She is a strong girl, but she is afraid of what lies ahead.

Sara Spent the Day Playing at the Hospital

Posted on Sun, 07/27/2008 - 07:51 by Anja_Kell
Sara went to the hospital today in order for the nurses to determine the result of her PPD test. It turned out to be negative. She and Shkar waited for Hevi and Shanaw to complete their first echocardiograms. The two of them had plenty of time to play with the toys that were in the hospital waiting room. It was cute seeing them play together. Sara seemed a lot more outgoing today. Shkar, Shanaw and Sara had so much fun together; many times they all started laughing and giggling while playing with the toys. This really made their parents happy too as was evident by their faces lighting up as they watched their kids play and laugh.

Sara's First Day at the Hospital

Posted on Thu, 07/24/2008 - 01:00 by Anja_Kell

Last night eight-year-old Sara from Iraq and her father finally reached our center in Jerusalem, after waiting about ten days in Jordan for her visa to enter Israel, and this morning they set off with us to the hospital for Sara's first encounter with the Israeli medical staff.

Sara and three other newly-arrived Iraqi children all went with their mothers/father to the Wolfson Medical Center to get their blood work, TB tests and echos done. Sara's echo was lengthy and complicated, and she'll need to go back to the hospital this coming Sunday for more echos, testings and to check their TB shots. 

It was great to see that they all were doing really well throughout the entire time. Even though Sara only arrived here yesterday after a long day of traveling. I haven't seen here or any of the children complaining; only their faces show sometimes how tired they are.

During the times of waiting it was fun to interact with the kids. It would be wonderful to be able to speak their language, but it is also great to find other ways of communicating (to play the starring game or with our hands, to snuggle...)

It is the same with the mothers, all I can do is to smile at them and to give them a hug...just to show that I want to be there for them. I know that God has many ways to shine through us and it is my prayer that they will truly experience all of God's love and grace while they are here.

Sara is always really shy, sweet and quiet but she doesn't seem that she gets all nervous and anxious. Her fear doesn't come out. I admire her for that, because it is difficult to be here in such a different and unknown environment. 

Goran, the coordinator of our work inside Iraq, is visiting Israel this week for the first time, and his wife Rebecca adds this report: 

Today we went to Wolfson Medical Center as Shkar, Hevi, Shanaw, and Sara begin the process for a changed life. When Goran and I arrived Sara and Shkar were in receiving echos. 

I had a chance to briefly chat in Kurdish with two of the mothers as they were waiting patiently for their daughters to have a turn. Sara finished her echo and the doctor said her case is common and complex, but she will be fine. Shkar and Saras echos took a bit of time so unfortunately Hevi and Shanaw did not have time for their echo, but they will go on Sunday. 

Personally, I appreciated seeing the tender loving care the doctors had for each child. Also, their sense of humor to entertain the child to help the child warm up and not be afraid of the doctors. I know in Iraq the doctors would never take the time to comfort the child and be kind. Instead even with a common spoken language (Kurdish) they may yell at the child or slap the child to have the child respond. What we saw today is a type of love and kindness that has never been exemplified to these children from doctors before.