Shana's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

A Very Special Day

Posted on Mon, 06/22/2015 - 07:19 by Sophie

Today is “interview day!” Jerusalem Post called a few days ago, so we made appointment with them and met in Shana's home. When the time came, they asked us some questions about Shevet Achim, and then focused on Shana's and Rayan's parents.

Questions like “How was your time in Israel?” “What were the other children's situations?” “How is the situation in Kurdistan?” were asked. After a lot questions and answers, you could see they really appreciated and honored each other.

During myvisit, I have certainly been able to see God working in the nations of Israel and Kurdistan; He draws them closer! Give all the glory to our Heavenly Father and our savior Christ Jesus! It seems some connections were built up between Israel and Kurdistan through this family. I still remember clearly some of the things they shared. “Israel is our real friend,” they said, “but we cannot speak in public[about our stay].”

When the interview was done, we hung out with Shana's parents, Shana herself, and her brother. Now that’s what I call a relaxing day. They brought us to the zoo for awhile, then went to Dream City (a fairground). You can see how happy Shana is!

Shana's mother left the youngest brother (one and half years old)

at home with Shana’s sister. After a few hours later he started crying for his mother, but even then the mother still wanted to bless us. They took us to the best pizza place to eat. I felt so blessed by their hospitality. Shana's parents passed their hospitality on to their children as well. Thanks to God for the opportunity; I have learned so much from them!

All Shana's siblings share a room and live together;, they help and love each other. As our community at Shevet Achim maintains: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”

Shana Returns Home

Posted on Sun, 07/21/2013 - 22:33 by Kaytlin Butler

I met Shana and her mother on my first day at Shevet in early June. Going to the hospital for the first time, I felt like the words “New Girl” were tattooed on my forehead in big, block letters for the world to see. With my rudimentary language abilities in classical Arabic, I was unsure as to how much comfort I could provide for a very sick little girl and her anxious mother. All of my anxiety faded as we entered the room where we were all greeted with big hugs from Shana’s mother. I have said it before, but I can not emphasize enough my amazement at this woman’s capacity to love. I saw Shana for the first time just over her mother’s shoulder and was graced with a shy, little smile. Even while hooked up to so many machines in her ICU room, it was obvious that she was an exceptionally lovely little girl with a strong will and keen mind. Now almost two months later, she returns to Iraq as a healthy child with more strength and determination than many twice her age.

When Shana and her mother finally returned to Jerusalem, we all assembled in the courtyard to excitedly welcome them home. Having undergone major heart surgery and subsequent organ failure, Shana’s recovery to this point had been no easy feat. Yet it quickly became apparent that there were still a few milestones left for her to overcome as we observed her struggle to climb the staircase to the families’ quarters and solemn face. Volunteers who had known Shana when she first arrived noticed that she seemed to have been changed somewhat since her time in the hospital as undergoing such a complex heart surgery can be an extremely traumatic experience. Shana has such a lovely smile that its absence is easily noticed.

Over the past weeks, Shana seems to have transformed again into the beautiful, mischievous eight-year-old that we have all grown to love so dearly. Listening to her excited whispers and peels of laughter after witnessing everything she has been through here was heartwarming in a way that words can not quite contain. I thought back to the child I met on my first day in Israel as we painted her toes and watched her dress up like a princess just  few a short days ago. Her beauty, however, is something that transcends fancy dresses and makeup. It has a depth to it that comes with strength of heart and spirit that I am confident is going to yield a very special young woman.

We gathered upstairs in our building in Jerusalem on Thursday to celebrate the incredible healing done in Shana’s life. Pictures above are a few snapshots of her farewell party.

We gathered to bid farewell to Shana and her mother Friday with much joy and a few tears. They made it safely into Jordan and on their homeward bound flight.

Though they will be sorely missed among our community, I can not help but remember the homecoming that they must be experiencing right now with their family in Iraq. I am so thankful to God for Shana’s life and the healing of body and spirit that has been done within her.

Goodbye, sweet girl! We miss you already!

Salon Shevet Achim

Posted on Wed, 07/17/2013 - 13:42 by MadelynMiles

"Welcome to Salon Shevet Achim."

I made this announcement after our crew of female volunteers had gathered upstairs. Shana and her mother had known a surprise was in store, but upon hearing they were both in for salon treatments, they both smiled and laughed. I cannot think of two people who could have enjoyed, appreciated, and needed this attention more. Shana's extended stay in the hospital noticeably took away her previous joy, and I believe was slightly traumatizing for her - understandably so. We all longed to see her beautiful face light up with joy again, and have been incredibly thankful to God for slow re-appearances of this in the last couple weeks. But yesterday, her joy was in full swing as she accepted our salon treatments.

Shana's mother received a massage while Shana got her hair washed. Both of them requested hair cuts, and got their hair styled, too. Shana's mother preferred most of the attention being on her daughter, and after the hair was complete, only accepted a foot wash and massage. But Shana got the full treatment. Foot wash and massage, fingers and toes painted (in her sophisticated color choice of red) hair styled and clipped, and make-up on her face.

To our delight, the beautification for Shana didn't stop there. Her mother instructed her to put on her "white dress," which we didn't think too much of until Shana emerged wearing it. It was a poofy white dress with flower embroidery and a matching veil. None of us had seen this dress and I asked her mother if she had brought it from Kurdistan. She replied no, that she had, in fact, purchased the outfit while Shana was in the ICU and was "zor nahxoosha" (very sick). This sentiment touched my heart, and it wasn't until later that I wondered if the purchase was meant to delight her daughter, or comfort herself - holding onto hope that someday Shana would come out of the hospital and get to wear it.

I recently learned a new Kurdish word - freeshta - which means angel. I couldn't stop telling Shana and her mother that I thought Shana was a freeshta today while she was wearing her dress. And I couldn't help but adore the smile on her mother's face, who I can only imagine relished in her hope of her daughter one day wearing this dress come true. Her little freeshta has come a long way, and we are so thankful for how God has carried her through it.

Hitting the Home Stretch

Posted on Sun, 07/14/2013 - 21:59 by Susan Kent

Today was a day of celebration as Shana completed her final echocardiogram at Sheba hospital and the doctors agreed she can safely return to Kurdistan! Shana is making a steady recovery including an increase in her appetite. Although her mother is fasting for Ramadan, Shana enjoyed a small meal every hour or so to the delight of her doting mother. 

Shana was thrilled that Muna joined us today. It's so sweet how she follows Muna around, holding her hand and laughing at all the funny faces she makes. 

All of Ruth's nursing skills were much appreciated at the hospital today as she updated the doctor on Shana's medications, diet and general condition, and relayed questions from Shana's mother regarding continued care and doctor's appointments to be made when they return to Kurdistan.  Shana's biggest question was: could she eat a piece of cake at the welcome home party her dad was planning for her? "Yes, and a big cola too - but just once!" the doctor replied. Shana could hardly contain her joy at this answer and immediately called her dad to give him the good news.

Shana and her mother will fly home this upcoming Saturday after being in here in Israel for over two months. It will be hard to say goodbye to this sweet little girl and her kind and gentle mother. They have become a wonderful part of our Shevet family. However, they are leaving under the very best circumstances and we are excited for the amazing reunion they will have with family and friends at home.

Bliss at the Beach

Posted on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 01:27 by Awapuhi Dancil

The ocean has a wonderful way of turning everyone into a child. Troubles, concerns, stress – all seem miles away when your toes are digging into golden sand and bubbling water whirls around your ankles. Though Shana is only eight years old, her recent stint in Sheba had exhausted much of her vitality and youth. But at the beach today she seemed a young, carefree girl once again.

It was her first time seeing the ocean, so she was somewhat timid at the start. Muna held her tight as they both waded knee-high into the crashing surf, laughing hysterically each time a wave struck. I cannot express how refreshing it was to hear Shana laugh like that. Soon she cast aside her inhibitions, plopped right down in the sand, and opened her arms to embrace the warm Mediterranean.

I looked around and watched others play in the surf. There was one father, in slacks and a collared shirt, drenched to the bone, chasing his sons up the beach. Another Muslim woman in full dress was trying to outrun a wave, giggling as she fought the dragging current. As I said, the ocean brings out the child in all of us. It seemed as if bliss graced that entire beach, and I thank God that Shana was able to partake in it.

Truly, a romp in the ocean was a perfect end to the encouraging day we had at Sheba. Shana’s echo results were stellar. The doctor could not express his pleasure enough; there is no extraneous fluid around her heart, and everything appears to be working perfectly. While at Sheba, Shana and her mother were even able to share a brief (and rare) moment with Dr. Mishali, the surgeon responsible for Shana’s operation.

It seems, Lord willing, that Shana’s final echo could be as soon as next Sunday. Her mother could not be happier with this news. She has borne the burden of separation well, but is eager to reunite with her family in Kurdistan. Shana and her mother have endured much, and I thank God for the strength and grace He has placed in them. I am honored to witness the miracle of Shana’s healing. She still has a way to go before she is fully recovered, but God has proven His faithfulness thus far, and He is not a God who would abandon or forsake us.

Enduring Strength

Posted on Mon, 07/01/2013 - 22:43 by Awapuhi Dancil

Today I was struck by the hard reality of the pain these children endure. This reality was brought into sharp relief for me as I watched Shana struggle to climb the stairs here at the Shevet base. This young girl of eight could manage three stairs before she had to stop and catch her breath. Her mother tried to lift her up, but she only cried out in more pain – her chest tube had been taken out just last night. This thin, frail Shana hardly resembled the wonderfully mischievous girl I had played with a month ago. Her recovery process has been long and arduous, and it is not over.

But Shana is alive. Moreover, her health is progressing and she is now with us in Jerusalem. For these things I give glory and thanks to God, and pray He will continue to manifest his goodness through Shana’s healing.

When they arrived early this evening, Shana and her mother were greeted with hugs and kisses all around. I could see the joy and relief on the face of Shana’s mother – living in the hospital was a daily challenge for her. Yet once again I am humbled by her strength; Philip told me that, though Shana was released, her mother wanted to remain at the hospital to comfort Yara’s parents, as Yara had suddenly been taken into surgery. Where this woman finds her enduring strength is beyond me.

Step by Step

Posted on Sun, 06/30/2013 - 18:10 by Ruth Zellweger

Shana has been hospitalized for over a month now. In fact, whenever I talk with her mother about this, she will tell me the exact number of days. It it obvious that both she and Shana are eager to return to Jerusalem. But every time I visit them at the hospital, it seems that their homecoming is delayed day after day.

Friday afternoon, three of us went to visit our Kurdish friends at Sheba hospital. As soon as I entered Shana’s room, I could tell that she wasn’t in the best mood. She seemed frustrated. A little later I found out why. Shana has developed chylothorax, a type of pleural effusion (fluid in the space around her lungs). It results from lymphatic fluid (chyle) accumulating in the pleural cavity. In addition to her newly inserted chest tube, Shana now has to adhere to a special diet and is restricted to only 750 mL of fluids per day. She has also developed a fever, and the doctors are currently looking for the cause.  All of this is not easy to understand for an eight year old. Shana has overcome many obstacles so far and it would be wonderful if this was the last one on her road to recovery. We miss the presence of Shana and her mother at our house. Please pray with us for patience and endurance for both of them, and for a complete healing of Shana.

A Kiss, A Tube, And Many Miracles

Posted on Tue, 06/25/2013 - 22:57 by Ruth Zellweger

Our day at Sheba Hospital was intense, but good. Arena had open heart surgery, Yara underwent a MRI for further investigation, and our dear friend Shana had a chest tube inserted.

It took me a few hours before I was able to see Shana and her mother, and I am so thankful for these precious moments. By the time I entered the Intermediate ICU (where Shana had been moved to) the chest tube had already been inserted. The fluid in her right lung had been building over the last few days; therefore a chest tube was necessary in order to drain the fluid. Shana had been fasting all morning and afternoon for the procedure. Later I found out that her loving mother had shared Shana´s lot, and also abstained from food and water. I would not advise her to do so, but I know that she does it because she loves her daughter so much.  She is a wonderful example of sacrificial love to me.

Although she was tired, Shana responded to my greeting. After I kissed her forehead, she suddenly pulled my face down and placed a big kiss right on my cheek. This truly made my day! I had not expected this kind of affection, especially not on a day when Shana’s hope of a rapid return to Jerusalem had been disappointed once again.

I held Shana´s left hand and suddenly she started to squeeze it more and more. I looked into her beautiful brown eyes and saw a smile lighting up. Then she raised her arm and started waiving her hand. In my heart I felt peace and joy. In His very own time God is healing and restoring our dear Shana. Throughout these past four weeks He has held His loving hands over her. He has given courage and strength to her mother. He has not forsaken them. It has been a long journey – they both have come so far – and when I stood beside Shana´s bed today I realized that we were witnessing a miracle. If anyone were to ask me if I believed that miracles still happen today, then my answer would be a definite YES. And the wonderful truth is that in my year with Shevet there have many more!

“Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.”  Psalm 103: 1-4

Holding onto Hope

Posted on Sun, 06/23/2013 - 22:38 by Ruth Zellweger

It has been over a week now that we have expected Shana’s return from the hospital. Despite our hope, there has always been a daily complication that hindered her release. Last Thursday the doctors had already started to prepare the papers for Shana’s release to Jerusalem when she suddenly came down with chills and a fever accompanied by pain around her i.v. line. An inflammation was diagnosed and treatment with antibiotics was started right away. Muna, who called Shana a little bit later, comforted an upset and crying girl on the other end of the phone. The doctors consensus was clear: Shana would have to stay longer in the hospital. It is not easy for an eight-year-old to understand why her discharge is postponed day after day. Thankfully, Shana has a wondeful, loving, and encouraging mother who will do anything for her beloved daughter.

Today Philip and I went with Darbaz, Rayan, and their mothers for their initial assessments at Sheba Hospital. At the end of the day we hoped to return to Jerusalem with a third party: Shana. But yet again, Shana’s homecoming was delayed. The doctors had discovered fluid in her abdomen. This made it necessary to put Shana on a diuretic (a medication that increases the excretion of water). We met the sweet mother-daughter duo at the echo department. Her mother had bought Shana an ice cream sandwich which she consumed with great pleasure. This little girl knows what is good!

The echo showed that her heart is healing well after the surgery. Her oxygen level is still not where the doctors want it to be, but they are not worried about this at the moment. They know that a body needs time to adjust to all the changes after an invasive procedure like the one Shana has had. During the echo the cardiologist discovered a mild pleural effusion on the right side, but said that it is minimal nothing Shana’s mother need worry about. We walked them back to their room and spent a few minutes with them. But still, Shana’s mother had many questions and once they were answered, she thanked us and hugged me tightly. I admire her for her strength and positive attitude. These last weeks have worn on her. But she is not  bitter or disheartened. She rejoices over each improvement and accepts the discharge delays with composure. To me, she truly is a great example of unconditional love. And I pray that both she and Shana will soon be rewarded for their patience and endurance. It will be a joyful and triumphant moment when they return to Jerusalem, and I am looking forward to welcoming them.

Leaps and Bounds

Posted on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 00:29 by Kaytlin Butler

When we arrived at Sheba yesterday morning, we found Shana’s mother in low spirits. The language barrier between herself and the hospital staff has made effective communication regarding Shana’s changing condition difficult. These communication issues having been the source of some undo discomfort for Shana and unnecessary worry for her mother. Please join with us in praying for the patience both of the hospital staff, Shana, and her mother as they continue to navigate this process over the next few days.

Though Shana’s kidney function is continuing to improve, the doctors are currently keeping an eye on some fluid that has built up around her lungs - a natural response after any invasive surgery. The doctors gave her an ultrasound this afternoon to discern the severity of the fluid build up in hopes that it will flush out naturally. If not, a chest tube will be inserted to drain the fluid.

Shana is now up, walking around, and spontaneously playful. She has been very strong over the past few days and continues to make leaps and bounds in her recovery. Please continue to pray for healing. We are all hoping to have her home with us very soon!