Sozdar's Heart Surgery

Northern Iraq

Healing in Progress

Posted on Sun, 11/02/2014 - 22:15 by Ruth Zellweger

A few weeks ago, Jonathan, Sophie, Kristina and I had the opportunity to travel to Kurdistan to visit with families we knew from their time with us in Israel. One visit that we all had on our heart was the family of Sozdar, who had passed away a week after her open-heart surgery. It was important for us to share with her family what this beautiful girl had meant to us. We also agreed that we had to talk openly with the family about the events of the day when Sozdar's heart failed.

When we arrived at their house, we sat down with Sozdar's parents and three of her brothers. As we talked with them, our condolence and openess with them was received with so much grace and understanding that we would have never expected.


They even invited us to spend the night with them, which we accepted. With time more and more of their extended family appeared, who all lived in the same street. In the course of the evening we learned that in fact all houses in their street are owned by members of their extended family. 

When we first arrived, the atmosphere in the house had been somber, but when the hours passed, the atmosphere changed. We started to talk with the women and young girls, and many of them told us how much they had loved Sozdar. Most of them had downloaded all the pictures from her blog entries onto their mobile phones. It was obvious that they missed this quiet yet strong young woman very much. On the other hand, they supported each other in their grief. It was beautiful to observe the strong bonds these women have with each other. They share together in their joys and their sorrows. As the evening went on, Kristina, Sophie and I were invited to the house of Sozdar's aunt. We only wanted to say hello, but it ended with a garden party, as more and more children joined us.

We started singing some Kurdish songs with them, and they joined in enthusiastically. Kristina then shared with them a story from the bible. The singing and laugther continued until almost midnight, it was such a beautiful evening. God had taken us totally by surprise and blessed us with an open house, open hearts and the opportunity to share about his goodness. Of course, the family is still grieving. Sozdar cannot be replaced, but God is slowly healing their broken hearts. He has blessed this extraordinary family with many children. It was a great joy for us to see Sozdar's mother smiling happily, while holding her youngest grandson, who was then only 11 days old.

When looking back at this visit, we praise God for his great love and mercy He has shown us and Sozdar's family. 

Our hope and prayer is that each hurting family member will experience God's healing and comfort. "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."  Psalm 147:3

In Loving Memory of Sozdar

Posted on Sun, 08/31/2014 - 17:10 by Kristina Kayser

How precious life is! I am learning more and more that every breath and heartbeat is a beautiful gift from the hands of God. At times, it is easy to walk in confidence and give no thought to our mortality. But something happens in the very core of our being when a life on this earth is ended; suddenly, our hearts are struck with the searing pain of loss as we grapple with reality. It is in these moments that our hearts can either harden in despair or cling to a hope that stretches beyond this realm into the very heights of eternity. Last week, our Shevet community said goodbye to our beautiful friend Sozdar. Though we only knew her for four weeks, her life is one that has impacted and transformed us and one we shall not soon forget. 

Just two days after her arrival, we gathered to celebrate Sozdar's eighteenth birthday on August 3rd. She was quiet and shy that evening. Despite our best efforts to make her feel special, I believe she sorely missed being with her beloved family for this momentous occasion. Tears rolled down her cheeks in silence as we offered words of love and encouragement. The fact that she came to Israel after living with a heart defect for so many years demonstrated amazing courage! Outwardly, she appeared to be a fragile young woman, but uncommon strength could be found in her eyes.

With each passing day, different women in our community looked for ways to extend friendship to Sozdar. Little by little, she opened up to us. Whether it was in piecing a puzzle together with Sophie, going for hospital appointments with Rebekah and Ruth, or going on a walk with Dawod and I, we all began to notice what a lovely young woman was in our presence.

On an outing to a corner cafe, I learned that Sozdar was the youngest of six children and that she loved spending time with her older sister. The two of them would walk to the bazaar or spend time at home together. She also said that she went to school for ten years and only stopped short because of her heart condition. Even though she came from a smaller town and her mother dressed more traditional, Sozdar had a classic sense of style. She also shared that she was the only one in her family to inherit her grandfather's striking blue eyes – eyes that seemed to see deeper than what was on the surface.

Besides her beautiful eyes, it is Sozdar's smile that stands out the most in my memory. It was not given carelessly or politely, but only in moments when she truly seemed happy. Our home was blessed in sharing life with this gentle, intelligent, and perceptive woman with a heart full of hope.

In speaking of Sozdar's life, it cannot be neglected to speak of her mother as well. This woman also had great courage in accompanying her daughter to a distant land after years of waiting, and praying, and hoping. You could see the love for her daughter in her eyes and hear it in her voice. Her constant care and affection gave constant proof to this love as well. Ruth described pure joy on this mother's face the day of Sozdar's surgery. And each day following, she stayed faithfully by her daughter's side, ready to help at any moment. Few things can compare to the love a mother has for her child. 

On the night Sozdar's heart stopped en route to the hospital, the air was immediately filled with her mother's haunting song of lament. Her voice rose and fell with hands outspread in a posture of surrender. Even when her daughter was resuscitated soon after, she did not believe or accept our words for some time. From that night on, her grief was mostly borne in silence, aside from certain moments when tears and lamenting would come over her. She shared the news of Sozdar's death only with her husband, one son, and another relative, with the desire of telling the rest of her family upon returning home. It was heartbreaking to watch her maintain such calm strength as phone call after phone called poured in from Kurdistan. When our community gathered on Wednesday evening to sit with this mother, she received every gesture of love and comfort with grace. Jonathan shared the story of Jesus raising Jairus' daughter from death and the hope we have of the life extended to us through the power of His resurrection. I will never know the depths of this woman's sorrows, but I believe she listened with an open heart that night and trust that God's word will not return void in her life.

It is now the fourth day since Sozdar passed from this earth. Her life and her death remain very tangible and present in my thoughts and memories. And many times, we have sought the Lord's presence and healing in our grieving. Truly, it is only by faith that I can know the power of Jesus' resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. By faith, we cried out for Sozdar to be healed, by faith we prayed that Messiah would reveal Himself to this precious girl, by faith we choose to praise God in our pain, and by faith we look to the Day when death will be swallowed up in victory and every tear shall be wiped away. For Jesus is risen and there is hope beyond the grave! Blessed be the name of the Lord! 

"And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces..." Isaiah 25:7-8

Trusting At All Times

Posted on Wed, 08/27/2014 - 19:08 by Kristina Kayser

Dear friends, it is with a sorrowful but trusting heart that I share with you the news of our dear Sozdar passing away this morning. We went to sleep last night knowing that she was in the Lord's hands and that the best of care would be given to her at Hadassah Hospital. Then at four o'clock am, the ICU doctor contacted us and requested that we come directly, as Sozdar's condition was deteriorating further. Her mother began weeping almost the moment I woke her and gave her the news. Dawod's mother, as well as Jonathan, Ruth, Sophie, Rebekah, and I, accompanied her to the hospital through the quiet streets of Jerusalem.

We were permitted to enter Sozdar's room shortly after our arrival and met by a very weary but dedicated nurse. He told us, "It has been a difficult night for both of us." Just hours before, Sozdar's vital signs declined rapidly, requiring increased supportive medication. According to the doctor, this was the only reason she was still alive, and it was only a matter of time before her body would give up. It was decided that until then, the medical team would do everything possible to fight for her life.

For the next four hours, we stayed close at hand, sometimes all praying together and laying hands on our precious sister. Prayers for her healing and life to be restored were offered in faith. We spoke to her, held her hands, caressed her head and face, and sang songs of praise over her. Meanwhile, her mother experienced waves of calm and grief that swept over her as time passed. We held her close as well, and sought to be a source of comfort and strength.

While waiting outside the ICU at one point, the first morning's light burst through the hospital windows. I remembered a verse the Lord had given me earlier: "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you." (Isaiah 60:1). I felt the Lord's presence and peace strongly in our midst. He was with us, faithfully upholding us in His love.

As Sozdar grew weaker in her final minutes, the atmosphere in the room grew thick with sorrow. As I prayed, I felt that Sozdar was right on the threshold between life and death, and that the Lord was saying, "Do not fear!" I then began to ask that Jesus would draw her to Himself and receive her into His kingdom. Ruth and I sang the hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness," over her. The line which resonated the most with me was: "pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow..."

When Sozdar's heart took its final beat, we were all gathered around her. It was both beautiful and heartbreaking. How precious life is--how fragile! These were sacred moments with mother and daughter. Words are not enough in these moments; we love, and comfort, and weep with those who weep. We do not know the mind of God nor understand His ways, but this I know- He is the Good Shepherd and worthy of all our praise! He is the one who walks with us through the 'valley of the shadow of death.' So even when we pray for healing and restoration and do not see our prayers answered in the physical realm, we can trust with all our hearts that the Lord is sovereign still, working in ways for His glory far beyond what our eyes can see.

As you pray for Sozdar's family and our community to be comforted, would you join us in praising God for His faithfulness and thanking Him for Sozdar's beautiful life! May we all look to Him in our times of greatest need and find in Him our greatest refuge. "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13

...But Our Eyes Are Upon You

Posted on Tue, 08/26/2014 - 21:33 by Sarah Powell

In the early hours of the morning, Kristiana wrote an urgent update to all of our prayer partners:

I am writing you with a heavy heart but one that is still clinging to the hope we have in Messiah. Late Monday evening, Sozdar began showing signs of distress just one day after being discharged from the hospital. After notifying the hospital of her decline in health, Ruth and I headed to Sheba with Sozdar and her mother. About twenty minutes into the drive, Sozdar went into cardiac arrest and became unconscious. We immediately pulled to the side of the road and began performing CPR for about fifteen minutes until the paramedics arrived. After another fifteen minutes of CPR on the side of the highway, Sozdar had a pulse once again. She was then rushed to Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital in Jerusalem via ambulance. 

 Several hours were spent outside the pediatric Intensive Care Unit with Sozdar's mother as we waited for news from the doctor. After multiple tests and medications were administered, the doctor emerged to inform us about the situation. Sozdar is currently in a coma but is hemodynamically stable, meaning that she currently has a normal heartbeat and blood pressure. The cause of the cardiac arrest is not quite certain, although it was perhaps caused by a severely irregular heartbeat. Everything regarding her surgery last week still looks good. Her neurological status, however, is the greatest concern. Due to deficient oxygen for close to half an hour, the doctor's prognosis is grim. 

 I ask you to please pray against brain injury and damage. Please pray for Sozdar to be fully restored and experience miraculous healing from the hands of Messiah. We believe that nothing is too difficult for the Lord of life. Also, I ask that you intercede for Sozdar's mother, who is completely broken and in great distress. May the Lord show us how to be a comfort to her. We don't know what the coming hours and days hold, but we want to see God glorified in Sozdar. Thank you for praying with us and for believing that we serve a God who only does wondrous things.

Since then, Sozdar's condition has not really changed. However, many of you have rallied with us in prayer and come alongside us with encouragement. Thank you so much. Please continue praying. 

In our morning meeting today, we ended up coming across the 2 Chronicles 20 account of God's miraculous rescue of Jehosaphat and the people of Israel after they admitted their utter helplessness and chose to leave themselves in God's hands as a massive army surrounded them. Part of Jehosaphat's prayer was:

12For we have no power...; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”

In an effort to have the same heart as Jehosaphat as we all recognized our utter helplessness in Sozdar's situation, our whole community decided to fast from dinner this evening and spend time seeking the Lord on behalf of Sozdar. As we sought the Lord together, several passages of Scripure came to our minds and brought encouragment. Psalms 27 and 28 speak of a God of steadfast love, faithfulness, and strength. In Luke 8, Jesus raises to life the daughter of a synagogue ruler:

54But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl,arise.” 55Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. 

In John 10, we are given the very reason that Messiah came to the earth:

10The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
After we had prayed for Sozdar as a community, a large group of us drove together to the hospital to pray over her before the hospital's visiting hours ended at 8pm. Two by two, we entered her small room in the Intensive Care Unit and pleaded for her life before the Father.
Once the vising hours were over, we stood together in the hallway outside the ICU for a few minutes and sang some songs of praise, recognizing that surely God has heard our cries, and surely he loves Sozdar even more than we know. He is the One fighting for her life. He is the One who has conquered death. Surely Messiah gave His own life that Sozdar might live. Surely He is able to give her life now -- abundant life.
Please continue to pray with us for Sozdar's life and for encouragement and hope through Messiah for Sozdar's mother. Our God is a God of miracles, and we are trusting Him for all that He is. 

Sozdar Back on Prophets Street

Posted on Sun, 08/24/2014 - 23:18 by Ruth Zellweger

Sozdar has been recovering beautifully from her open-heart operation less than a week ago. So much so that she was discharged from Sheba Hospital today! When Brian and I arrived at the ward, she and her mother were already packed and prepared to leave the hospital. Although they had been surrounded by nice medical staff and other fellow patients for the past days, they seemed relieved to see someone who spoke their language. What a joy it was for them not only to return to Jerusalem today, but also in the company of Dawod and his mother, who were also discharged today! It was a joyful reunion for these two families.

Sozdar was requested back at the hospital for a follow-up echo in the coming week. We are thankful for her smooth recovery, and hope that she soon will be able to return to her family in Kurdistan.

Quick Feet

Posted on Thu, 08/21/2014 - 22:24 by Matylda Temkin

Sozdar is doing pretty well, and she looks pretty, as well. And she looks healthy, with her fingers and toes pink at last. She is weak and sleepy, but thank the Lord, she is free from tubes. There is not a single one in her body, though it is only the third day after the surgery. And according to what Kristina told me, it normally takes seven days or more!

Kristina and I went today to see Sozdar in Sheba. She was falling asleep, but when we came, she opened her eyes and weakly smiled. Her mum, on the other hand, was as radiant, happy, and sweet as I've ever seen her before. She kissed us and hugged us, glad to see us there.

Sozdar didn't speak. She tried to fall asleep, but it seemed to be difficult for her because of the pain in her chest. When a nurse came in and told us we need to make Sozdar walk and the girl moved from her laying position, the pain was especially visible.

We took Sozdar for her first 5-minute 'hike,' ending at the scale.

She conquered it with a good result: she weighs 38.5 kg, which is 1.5 kg more than she did on her arrival day. What made us glad was seeing her walking so fast. Her head was low, but her feet quite quick. She was told to walk 5 minutes every two hours. Another presciption is that she should sit straight so that water in her lungs and other liquids building up in her body can flow down and be excreted.

She's been recovering so well that she will be moved to the ward soon. Next week, she probably will come back to Shevet and, in two weeks time, head home, as there is no apparent need for a further treatment in Israel! Praise God there was help found for this beautiful young lady and that we can see His goodness in her life. 

Mama Sozdar

Posted on Tue, 08/19/2014 - 20:32 by Rebekah Yang

When Nick and I arrived at Sheba Hospital we entered the children’s ward looking for Sozdar. It took us a moment to find her, however we eventually discovered that after Sozdar had had her operation, she was transferred to the ICU for close observation. We found her in ICU bed No.1, with her mother standing close watch over here.

She immediately greeted us at the door with hugs and kisses, and invited us into the room. Sozdar was hardly able to speak, but still gave me smile and managed a weak wave in my direction. Although she has a lack of strengthen I can see she is recovering pretty well in terms of her physical condition. I assured her we wil pray for her and she nodded her head in thanks. I than began to pray for her in Mandarin Chinese; only a few words, but somehow tears began dropping from my face. I continued praying and praying for Sozdar and her mum, as well as her whole family in Iraq. When I opened my eyes, I found Sozdar’s mum also stifling tears. At that moment I realized how sweet Sozdar’s mum really is; she understood not even one word of my prayer, but just simply trusted me and the doctors to care for her daughter.

I think she has a beautiful spirit from which we could all learn alot. After a little while, Sozdar began to feel sleepy, so Nick and I said good-bye to both of them. Before we left Sheba, I double-checked with the ICU nurse to make sure everything was alright with Sozdar. She confirmed with me that Sozdar is progressing well, and may have some of her tubes removed soon. Praise God for continuing to bless Sozdar!

”O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee." Psalms 84:12


Posted on Mon, 08/18/2014 - 19:52 by

Today we arrived at Sheba Hospital in the early morning for Sozdar's surgery. At the age of 18 years old, this was Sozdar's first heart operation. Sozdar has the bravery of a veteran, and her positive attitude in this process was inspiring. Upon arrival Sozdar's mom was spending close time with her daughter, brushing her hair and sitting on her bed. All the meanwhile waiting patiently as the doctors checked in multiple times.

The medical staff gathered more information and then the consent forms were signed. We walked to the pre-operating room with Sozdar, and shortly after she was wheeled off for surgery. Mom needed a lot of comfort in this time, as a process like this is never easy for a mother.

We then moved over to the waiting room, where the mother waited very patiently, gaining strength through prayer following an emotional morning. During her waiting, the mother was in and out of phone calls with different family members from Kurdistan, updating them on Sozdar’s condition. The mother said that everybody in Kurdistan loves Sozdar so much! Her family ties, as well as the Shevet community, have kept her feeling supported. After about four hours, Sozdar was wheeled out of surgery; her mother was beaming with joy!

Her surgery went so well, and there were not any complications. When Sozdar woke up, she was feeling great except for severe thirst. She was then to be extabated shortly after doctors reevaluated her X-Ray. We thank our God above for being our strength in our weakness, and our perfect love that casts out all fear.

On Thee Do I Wait All the Day

Posted on Sun, 08/17/2014 - 22:04 by Rebekah Yang

This morning, our whole Shevet community joined hands in prayer over Sozdar. Ruth, Konrad, and I accompanied her and her mother to Sheba Medical Center for her admission for her heart operation tomorrow. As we sat in the van together, I found out she seemed a bit more relaxed than her first time going to Sheba with me. I am so glad that somehow we have developed some unique language between us. 

When we arrived, the ward was not ready for her yet, so we began to wait outside in the waiting area for a while. Then, one nurse asked us to go with her to the ward. 

We began taking photos with Sozdar for the sake of helping her and her mum endure the long wait. Eventually, another nurse on duty asked us to bring her down to take a chest x-ray and to prepare for her early morning operation tomorrow.

After everything was done for her pre-operation preparations, Ruth went to talk with the nurse to make sure we had done everything for Sozdar. Just before we left, I saw Sozdar’s face; it was quite peaceful this time. I believe she knew we are praying for her, as well as her whole family. Dear Sozdar, this is my prayer for you today: “Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me: for Thou art the God of my salvation; on Thee do I wait all the day. ~Psalms 25:5


Strength and Bravery

Posted on Thu, 08/07/2014 - 20:04 by

We are thanking God today at Sheba Medical Center for a catheterization completed. The doctors were able to receive all information they needed after this procedure in order to move forward with Sozdar's surgery. Kristina and I arrived at Sheba early Thursday morning to assist with the pre-catheterization process. The staff at Sheba was so compassionate to Sozdar, and the endearment given was well received.

Sozdar was so brave and strong as we debriefed the process to her this morning that by the time she was ready to walk away with the nurses she hopped right out of bed, no problem. Mom on the other hand took the departure a little bit harder. While Kristina walked away with Sozdar and Sheba staff, I stayed behind to comfort a mother who needed a shoulder to lean on. Within minutes the mother was feeling rejuvenated and strengthened, trusting in the Lord above, or in her words "Inshallah". Although the process got off to a late start, we were pleased to see the medical staff wheel Sozdar back into the secondary ICU early; the catheterization took a little less time then we had expected. A happy, yet concerned mother, comforted her child, like any sweet mother would: caressing her head and kissing her face.

Sozdar took a little over an hour to wake up from the anesthesia, and when she did there was a little bit of discomfort and pain. She declined any medication, and after the grogginess wore off she was feeling much better. The day ended on a happy note, with hugs to Sozdar and lots of love and thankfulness from mom. Let us pray continually with this lovely family as they seek out all they can for strength and healing. We praise our God above for all the miracles He is bringing, and for His mighty hand amidst us.