Shadyar's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Visiting Shadyar in Kurdistan

Posted on Mon, 06/22/2015 - 00:32 by Ruth Zellweger

Sophie and I had the opportunity recently to visit Shadyar and his family in their home in Kurdistan. We were picked up by Shadyar’s parents and his younger brother, who looks so much like him.



Shadyar had not been feeling well that day and stayed home. It was a joyful time of greeting, especially with Shadyar’s mother, whom I hadn’t seen for over a year. She is expecting a baby in the coming month, but still was willing to come on the long car ride to bring us to their beautiful home in a smaller town outside the big city.


We arrived at their house and were greeted by Shadyar and his three older sisters. They welcomed us with a glass of cold water and beautiful fruit. Kurdish hospitality is amazing and this home was no exception.


Shadyar is still the shy young boy that I remembered from last year. He does not talk much, but sits quietly on the couch playing games on his tablet.

Shadyar’s mother was so happy to have us in her home and told us about the meal plans for the coming days. She expected us to stay with them for at least three days and she was very serious. It was not easy to get her to understand that our time in the country is limited and that had to return to our house that same evening. In the end, she accepted it hesitantly.

Shadyar has had a very complex and complicated surgery this past year in Israel and he had left for Kurdistan with the possibility of another catheterization or surgery in the future, if his oxygen saturation does not improve or if it drops. When I inquired how he was doing health wise, his mother told me with a concerned expression on her face that his oxygen saturation is quite low and that his local cardiologist is considering a diagnostic catheterization. I assured her that we would follow up on that and that we will be in contact with the local cardiologist as well as with the ones abroad to determine what is best for Shadyar at this point.

Sophie quickly became friends with the children, which happens in every family we have visit. She pulled out her mobile phone and and with the help of an animated video told Shadyar and his siblings the story of Daniel in the Lion’s den. One of Shadyar’s sister spoke some English and was able to translate into Kurdish. It was a joy watching how they listened attentively.


In the meantime, I spent some time with Shadyar’s mother. She is a seamstress of Kurdish dresses and has such a good reputation that she always has work. Sometimes women order two to three dresses at the same time. While we were talking, a customer came in to order a new dress. Because she had so many dresses to work on, I encouraged her to take some time to sew. I was sitting on the floor beside her and we talked.


Later we had dinner with the family, and watched some TV before it was time for us to leave.
Shadyar and all of his siblings came out to the front door to bid us farewell and waved us off as the Taxi slowly started moving.

I am thankful to know that God is watching over Shadyar and his family. Yes, it is true, Shadyar
might need another surgery in the future, but God is with him. Please pray with us for wisdom and
opportunities to advise and assist the family in the best way possible.

The Kurdish Spiderman

Posted on Sun, 03/30/2014 - 23:49 by Becky Lantz

We said goodbye to two dear friends this past weekend. Shadyar and his mother headed to Jordan on Friday morning after we celebrated his healthy recovery Thursday night. This was a special time for me as it was my last farewell party before I head home.

I remember when Shadyar and his mom first came to Shevet. They both seemed nervous and uncertain about their arrival. The transition to any new culture is difficult, and their reactions towards being in Israel reminded me of my transition when I first arrived at Shevet. I thought Shadyar was quite the cutie but incredibly shy because he mostly stuck with his mom. It wasn’t until after his surgery he began to break out of his shell. Leading up to his operation I would try to talk with him, but every time I attempted a word, he’d shoot me this big grin and walk on by. He’s definitely not a social butterfly, but once he opens up it’s such a joy to get to know him.

I had the chance to visit Shadyar and his mom only once after he was recovering from his surgery. He didn’t look too happy about still being stuck in the hospital, but he was incredibly brave before and after his operation. There were some tears shed while he received shots and had his blood taken countless times, but he was brave for his mom, and sometimes that’s the necessary thing.

It’s clear to anyone who watches Shadyar and his mom that they have a special bond. Even though Shadyar is coming to an age where showing affection is not necessarily the “cool” thing to do, Shadyar’s mom shows great love for her son. It was always clear they came to Jerusalem for Shadyar and whatever it took for him to heal.

They had quite a lengthy stay in the hospital after Shadyar’s operation, and while it was difficult, it was clear Shadyar’s needs came first. A mother’s love for her child is always an amazing thing to see, and I saw it clearly with Shadyar and his mom.

After Shadyar came home from his operation, we began to develop a friendship based purely off of Marvel superheroes. One day I bequeathed him the title of Spiderman, and naturally I was bequeathed the title of Superman. After that, our friendship seemed to blossom overnight through flying toy helicopters together to making up daily handshakes. It was clear from the beginning Shadyar loves to giggle, which also happens to be a common trait I share. Everyday I went upstairs to visit the kids and the moms, and he would run up to me, give me a good poke on the shoulder, and then run away. He brought such joy to my daily life here at Shevet.

It is my prayer and hope as Shadyar looks back on this time in his life that he sees the goodness and love our Lord has for him. It is truly miraculous whenever a child comes through the doors at Shevet Achim in need of healing and leaves with a healthy heart. I never want to forget every successful surgery is due to the Lord’s hand in each child’s life, not just mere chance.

Lamentations 3: 22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Headed Home

Posted on Mon, 03/24/2014 - 22:14 by Elsie Fei

Our troop of five (Ruth, Aad, Shadyar and his mum, and me) left Shevet at about 8:30 am for Sheba hospital for Shadyar's post-surgery echo. This was an important appointment for Shadyar, as it would reveal whether or not he could be discharged and go home to Kurdistan. The appointment was at 10 am, and we settled down in the children's waiting room when we arrived. As I looked around the waiting area, I felt there were no Jews, Arabs, or Kurds; there were only concerned parents with their young ones. 

To pass the time, Shadyar's mum chatted with a family Ruth thought might be from the West Bank. When she wanted to show the other mum Shadyar’s scars, Shadyar good-naturedly lifted his shirt. Then he took out his Samsung tablet and tilted the screen toward me as I leaned over to look. Though he may not express himself much, he is sensitive and considerate. His Samsung tablet soon drew some children nearer, and he willingly shared it with them. 

Soon we were called to the room for Shadyar’s EKG. This involved him taking off his shirt and being taped with wires. Shadyar cooperated the whole time. It was heart-wrenching to see his thin, tiny body with a long scar running down the middle of his torso.

Then we went to another room, this time for an echo. The medical attendant applied gel on a reader, scanned Shadyar's body around his heart area, and looked at images on a monitor. Shadyar's mum stood by the bed, wearing a worried frown. This procedure took a long time, and as I looked at Shadyar's mum, I tried to put myself in her shoes. What if I were standing there beside my child? What would be going through my mind as I watched the monitor trying to make sense out of the images? Would I feel responsible for my child's plight? Would I wish I was the one lying on the table instead?

With the two procedures done, we waited for the doctor's verdict. As soon as he came, he went through the images. Ruth mentioned Shadyar's INR reading was 10.5 yesterday. This alarmed the doctor, who told us such a high reading could indicate internal bleeding requiring immediate hospitalization. A decision was quickly made to take the INR reading again. This involved pricking Shadyar's thumb with a needle and collecting a little blood. When Shadyar saw the needle and realized his thumb was to be pricked, he cried and put up such a struggle that the nurse could not proceed. She told us to calm him down first. When his tears were dried, Ruth assured him the needle prick would not hurt. The nurse came back a second time, and he did not flinch at all and allowed the prick and blood to be drawn. The result was out immediately: his INR was 3.1. There was immense relief for everyone present.

Back in the room with the doctor, Ruth asked about the echo reading results. The doctor said they were fine. Shadyar’s oxygen saturation, however, is still reading at 70%, which is a concern. We were told to wait again.

Finally we were called to the room. The doctor informed us he was confident enough to discharge Shadyar and ask the follow-up clinic in Kurdistan to monitor Shadyar's oxygen saturation, which should improve over time as his heart continues to heal. If it does not improve, Shadyar will need to return for a catheterization.

We came out of the room, and Ruth told Shadyar’s mum what transpired. I saw the mother laugh and raise her two arms in joy at the news of the discharge. As Ruth spoke more, however, the mother’s worried frown returned. I saw her agitation. As any mother, she wants a clean bill of health, not to be told of the possibility of more hospitalizations, especially when that means leaving her home and other children to travel to Israel again. It has been a long journey for her in more ways than one. Please keep her and Shadyar in your prayers.

Shadyar Advancing One Day at a Time

Posted on Wed, 03/12/2014 - 22:16 by Kristina Kayser

Since Shadyar returned to Jerusalem from the hospital five days ago, he has been growing a little bit stronger every day. My favorite feature of this boy is his sweet, shy smile. Thankfully, I have seen it more frequently during his recovery. And despite some traumatizing past experiences with needle pokes at the hospital, Shadyar showed no signs of fear as we headed back to Sheba this morning. 

The purpose of our visit was to assess the current post-surgery status of Shadyar's heart through an echo examination. Before the doctor called us in, our little friend demonstrated his improved health by climbing on the playground.

What an encouraging sight to see! He also passed the time by posing for pictures and being a photographer himself. 

When Dr. Elimelech ushered us in, the exam itself was quick and painless.

Shadyar and his mother were quiet and tense, eagerly waiting to hear the outcome. His heart appears to be responding well to the repair with increased function. Oxygen results are still a bit lower than normal due to an intentional fenestration (hole) in his heart. The fenestration is meant to prevent problems with pressure changes and may be closed in the future if deemed unnecessary. 

After a couple doctors discussed the echo results, it was decided Shadyar should come back in two weeks’ time. If his heart continues to look fine, he may be ready to return to Iraqi Kurdistan shortly thereafter.

Just before leaving the hospital, we celebrated the good results by playing in the activities room downstairs. Shadyar's sweet smile appeared again while posing as a musician.

Praise God for Shadyar's increasing strength and joy!

Finally Back!

Posted on Sat, 03/08/2014 - 22:28 by Theresa Vollath

Last Friday, Jesse and I went to Sheba Medical Center hoping to pick up Shadyar and his mother. We arrived to the happy news that Shadyar had been off his oxygen during the day and was ready for discharge! He had to be brave a little while longer, however, while his stitches were removed, but he handled it without a single tear.

While waiting for the discharge papers and the medication for his homecare, we passed the time folding paper airplanes and testing their ability to fly through the whole room, which was quite fun for both him and us!

Shadyar is not eating a lot at the moment, but while we were waiting a group of kids came to distribute Shabbat treats to the sick in the hospital. With a big smile, Shadyar helped himself to the treats and asked his mother for his favorite meal back at home.

When we got back to Jerusalem, Shadyar hopped out of the car and hurried to the base entrance, where Rozhgar and Sara cheerfully welcomed him back. There was also a warm welcome from the Shevet staff.

We pray for Shadyar to gain strength quickly and recover well!

A Trying Day

Posted on Thu, 03/06/2014 - 21:39 by Ruth Zellweger

Over the last several days, we heard encouraging news from the hospital concerning Shadyar’s progress. Last evening he was moved from the cardiac ward to a normal children’s ward, and we were informed he could potentially come home today or tomorrow. 

With this in mind, Aad and I travelled with great anticipation to Tel Aviv today to visit Shadyar and his mother and bring them back to Jerusalem with us. We entered the children’s ward and asked for Shadyar’s room. Instead of showing us the room, however, the nurse pointed to the examination room.

We found Shadyar sitting on an examination bed, an oxygen mask on his face. The pediatrician explained to us Shadyar’s oxygen saturation had dropped after a blood test. Because of this, he was not discharged today. Also, we were told the blood-thinning medicine Shadyar is on needs to be adjusted.

During our visit, Shadyar didn’t talk much, choosing to sleep most of the time. His oxygen mask was removed eventually, but Shadyar’s mother seemed distressed during our time with her. His recovery process appears too slow for her. She needs a lot of patience and encouragement. Please pray with us for Shadyar’s heart to continue to heal well and for his mother to have the necessary strength and courage during this trying time. 

Shadyar Making Strides

Posted on Tue, 03/04/2014 - 20:20 by Kristina Kayser

It was a beautiful spring day in Tel Aviv when Teresa, Philip, and I arrived at Sheba Medical Center. It seemed as though Earth had shed winter's coat. The air was balmy, and bright flowers boldly reached for sunlight. On our way inside, I picked a fresh blossom from an orange tree to bring Shadyar, whom we were about to visit. Shadyar has not been outside the hospital since his surgery last Sunday, and I thought a little piece of nature might brighten his spirits. 

When we entered secondary ICU (Shadyar's address as of yesterday), he was nowhere to be found. A kind nurse instructed us to look for him in room 5 of the children's ward. What a wonderful surprise! Our little friend was sitting in bed without any need for extra oxygen.

He and his mother greeted us with smiles and warm welcomes. Apparently, they had just moved locations this morning, and Shadyar was making excellent progress. His nurse went on to tell me he should be able to return to Jerusalem by the end of this week. When I presented the orange blossom to Shadyar, he drank in the fragrance with a deep breath and smiled the sweetest smile.   

Shadyar's mother was curious to know how everyone at the house was doing, asking after the other children's wellbeing. In the same breath, she praised God for how thankful she was for her son's completed surgery and day-by-day recovery. It was encouraging to see her gratitude and joy after several trying days in the hospital. The five of us then tried our hand at a game of "memory."

Being in bed for some time can be quite boring, so both mother and son enjoyed this diversion and appeared happy for company. 

Just before leaving, Shadyar demonstrated his increasing physical strength by practically hopping out of bed and walking down the hall, slowly but with ease.

A nagging cough and some mild discomfort are his only obstacles at the moment. His mother, who now understands the importance of mobility after surgery, has become a good coach. Our goodbyes were filled with hope for Shadyar's continued healing and anticipation for their return to Jerusalem in the near future. Praise God for His goodness and love towards Shadyar and the new work He is doing in this boy's heart and life! 

Steadily Climbing

Posted on Mon, 03/03/2014 - 21:13 by Jesse Tilman

Shadyar is slowly recovering, with only one intravenous medicine being currently administered. When Art (Aad), Agnes, and I arrived, we found him breathing on oxygen and coughing slightly. He perked up quickly as we brought out various toys and food items. Agnes involved him in a game with bubbles, while I tried to distract him by tickling his feet.

He’s gradually finding new strength. Today he sat up for us, and I tried some fun club handshakes with him. Later on he stood up for us on the bed and smiled for a picture.

During the visit, I went with his mother over to a nearby store to buy a few wanted items. She especially wanted strawberries (Shadyar’s request) and after picking through a bunch, we finally found a package of them in a condition worth purchasing. Orange juice and cookies were also high on her list, and after a little cost-assessing, we checked-out and headed back to Shadyar’s room with the goodies in hand.

Shadyar is at mid-eighties in his oxygen saturation, with jumps either way in the range of ten points or so depending on his activity level. When he is more active, his oxygen dips. When he pauses a bit and breathes deeper, his oxygen levels rise. We impressed on mother and son again that further exercise and movement are important for Shadyar’s healing process.

Shadyar’s mother has been concerned about the small cough Shadyar developed yesterday and has been having him breathe on oxygen more often as a result.

We reassured them healing after surgery takes time. Hopefully it will be just a few more days till they return to Jerusalem.

Recovering Champion

Posted on Sun, 03/02/2014 - 22:40 by Becky Lantz

This past Friday, Ruth and I had the opportunity to visit our friend Shadyar at Sheba Hospital. He recently had heart surgery and is currently recovering in secondary ICU. When we arrived, we found him still breathing with an oxygen mask but able to give us a sweet, welcoming smile.

He’s a quiet boy and one of the bravest children I have met at Shevet. He rarely ever cries and always seems to handle pain like a champ.

He had all of his chest tubes taken out a few days after surgery, although one was put back in due to excess fluid in his lungs. While this may seem like a step back in Shadyar’s recovery, this is a common response the body can have after surgery. Please keep Shadyar in your prayers, specifically for his body to heal quickly and completely. His mother is also staying with him at Sheba, and at times this can be trying. Please pray for her to receive peace about Shadyar’s current state and to continue to be an encouragement for him. 

Great Progress!

Posted on Wed, 02/26/2014 - 21:32 by Agnes Bruna

Nick and I visited Shadyar and his mother today to see how he is doing, bring them some food and other supplies, and generally keep them company. We found Shadyar in a poor mood when we arrived. He was fasting in preparation for having his tubes removed, and I think he felt a bit down about it all. He needed to get his arms and legs moving as well in order to get out of bed once the tubes were removed, and he didn’t feel like moving. We tried to cheer him up by singing one of our Kurdish songs with lots of actions. Nick showed him how to move his arms and legs (which at least got the nurses and his mother laughing) and made a surgical glove balloon with my glasses on it to look like me, but nothing could raise a smile.

Once it was explained to his mother his refusal to move might delay their return to Jerusalem and ultimately to Kurdistan, she made him sit up and move a bit. He did quite well, though he was unhappy during the whole process.

After this exercise, they gave him an anesthetic and removed all his tubes, leaving just one cannula in for blood tests. His mother found it quite traumatic, so we moved temporarily to a waiting room out of sight and hearing of Shadyar’s room. Once it was done, one of the nurses explained to me they were planning to get him out of bed and sitting in a chair by late afternoon, which is great progress for Shadyar.

My Kurdish word of the day is “natwanim,” which means “I don’t want to!” Today's interactions with Shadyar were a reminder that sometimes God asks us to do things we don’t feel necessarily feel like doing but that end up being for our own good. 

We left Shadyar still drowsy from the anesthetic but reasonably peaceful and asking for milk! Nick also managed to get the internet working on Shadyar’s mother’s tablet, and she was busy Skyping her family when we said goodbye.