Stafro's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

The Sunbeam Stafro Goes Home!

Posted on Thu, 11/12/2015 - 20:27 by Annie Magnusson

Stafro and his mother left Israel yesterday, heading home to Kurdistan. A couple of days before we had a double goodbye party celebrating the healing of both Stafro and another child, Baran, who was going home. Stafro's mother had bought us a beautiful gift - a wall-clock! The funny thing is that Baran's mother had seen the exact same need and bought us another wall-clock, in a different style. I wonder if we should take this as a hint to be more on time for lunch? ;)

I had the pleasure of taking Stafro and his mother to the Beit She’an, Israeli-Jordanian, border crossing to help them through the border procedure and say a last goodbye. I remember picking them up at the airport in Amman a month ago. Little did I know then how special they would be to me and what a beautiful role they would take in our community. Stafro's happy spirit multiplied to anyone who would spend time with him, his smile just melted our hearts. This open and welcoming spirit was also shared by his mother who trusted us from start. I spent a lot of time talking to her and practicing my arabic. Though we had some language barrier, both of us enjoyed our conversations very much. She was also a good teacher and didn't once become impatient when I messed up the words or didn't understand her. The Lord let me develop a beautiful friendship with her despite our different backgrounds. It was our hearts connecting. Truly, Stafro and his mother will be missed, but we are also happy that they are back home reunited with their family.

When Stafro arrived to Israel we expected he would go through a catheterization that would repair his heart. In fact, he was considered an urgent case. But as the doctors started the cath, they discovered that the hole in Stafro's heart was so small it would heal itself and not cause him any harm. Praise God who made a miracle and healed Stafro's heart in an unexpected way!

One morning, a couple of days before Stafro's scheduled catheterization, his mother told me that she had dreamt how she saw Mary the mother of Jesus along with a big crowd of people. Mary was holding a cross in one hand and on the other arm laid Stafro. This dream lit up the mother’s face and gave her peace and calm before the procedure. God showed his care about her in a way he knew she would really take to heart. I pray that he will keep shining his light on this family, not only blessing them generally but that the light and love of the Messiah would enlighten their hearts.

Ready to Go Home!

Posted on Mon, 11/09/2015 - 21:57 by Miriam Svensson

We took Stafro and his mother back to the hospital today, for a final echocardiogram. Sweet Stafro was happy and playful while we waited and calm during the examination. The doctor told us that it looked good, the small hole does not seem to affect the function of his heart. This meant that he could be discharged today as planned and is now ready to go back home!

We praise the Lord for His healing hand in Stafro's life! Thank you for praying with us for this precious little boy, as he and his mother soon return to their family.

Stafro Back on Prophet's Street

Posted on Thu, 11/05/2015 - 20:44 by Ruth Zellweger

Today was a successful day for our hospital team, Suhail and Rebekah. They left Shevet with an empty van, and returned in the afternoon with two children, Baran and Stafro and their mothers.

Yesterday, the cardiologists at Wolfson hospital had wanted to close a tiny hole in his heart via catheterization. However, after some investigations they found out that this was not necessary and that the hole most likely will close on it's own. So they stopped the procedure. Stafro was monitored overnight in the Secondary ICU to see if his heart was functioning correctly and today in the morning the doctors felt confident to discharge him to our home on Prophet's Street. This coming Monday he needs to be back at the hospital for his final echocardiogram.

We are thankful that God is healing Stafro's heart in His way and that no medical intervention is necessary. However, for Stafro's mother the outcome of her son's treatment in Israel is rather confusing. She does not understand why she had to travel all the way to Israel if the doctors here just decide to do nothing and let the hole close on it's own. Please pray for our community that we can be good friends and encouragers to her in the next days and that, with patience, we could answer the many questions she still has.

Stand-in Family

Posted on Wed, 11/04/2015 - 21:54 by Annie Magnusson

Today was the big day for Stafro – the day of the cateterization that we hoped would be the only procedure he would need. When we arrived at the hospital in the morning, Stafro was fasting for his procedure and was very hungry.

We were called to go with him to the cath at eleven o'clock, and by then he had already fasted nine hours. Two-and-a-half hours later, Ruth, Stafro's mother, and I went back towards the place were they performed the cath, and meeting us in the corridor were a bunch of doctors rolling a bed between them. In the bed was Stafro!

He was being brought to the secondary ICU. The doctors told us that, during the cath, they decided that the hole in his heart is so small that it will heal on its own instead of needing intervention. Stafro's heartbeat was a bit unstable during the cath, though, so that was another reason they decided it's not worth the risk of attempting a correction. Stafro will stay in the hospital tonight to receive an echo tomorrow and will most likely be discharged soon.

It was precious to me to be able to stand by Stafro's mother's side on this difficult day. Even though the procedure was "only" a cath and not an open-heart surgery, it was not any less dramatic for her. She was very nervous and at times she wasn't able to either sit down or eat. It was especially hard for her not to be allowed to feed her baby when he was so obviously hungry. The moment when we first saw Stafro after the cath was very beautiful. His mother wouldn't let him out of sight as she kissed his forehead, repeated his name, and cried.

It is amazing how, through Shevet Achim, you get to be so close to mothers and children in this dramatic situation. It's like you take the role of a stand-in family. It is a beautiful place were you get to create a strong bond with the families and a beautiful opportunity to show the love of the Messiah through our actions. 


Posted on Tue, 11/03/2015 - 20:56 by Ruth Ruhland
Today was an important day for Stafro. He went to the hospital to be admitted and will sleep his first night in the Wolfson Hospital. Tomorrow he will get a heart catheterization and, "inshallah" (God willing, in Arabic) the doctors can repair his heart defect with that.
Stafro didn’t like the drive to the hospital but he smiled during the examinations. He is with his mom in the same room as Baran, another child from Shevet. This is really good for the two mothers because they can help each other and support one another emotionally.

Mr. Popular

Posted on Wed, 10/28/2015 - 20:02 by Ruth Ruhland

Currently, Stafro is waiting for an appointment to get a catheterization. While he is waiting, he makes everybody in his environment smile.

Today we trained him to lie on his stomach. He is not used to that; therefore, it is really hard for him.

Stafro is one of the happiest children I know. He is smiling all the time. He loves the flying game (where you pick him up and pretend he is flying), and makes everybody in the vicinity smile. At the moment, we have a group of young people joining us to help at Shevet once a week. Some days ago, we went as a group to a park close to Shevet. Stafro was very popular in the group of young people and everybody wanted to make him smile!

A Beautiful Bond

Posted on Sun, 10/18/2015 - 22:35 by Annie Magnusson

Today we brought Stafro for a hospital visit to get a blood test and PPD reading done.

Stafro and his mum were happy and smiling as usual. His mother finds such joy in getting Stafro's attention and making him smile.

It is beautiful to see their strong bond. The mother and I are deepening our friendship through my limited Arabic. Many times, we find ourselves laughing about my attempts to explain things. But she is very patient with me, and we usually find a way to understand each other. It is a blessing to have them both with us at Shevet Achim.

Conquering Hearts by Storm

Posted on Mon, 10/12/2015 - 23:11 by Jasmyn Gessner

Today was Stafro's first visit to Wolfson Hospital, an eight-month-old boy originally from Iraq. Stafro’s family, who believes in the Messiah, escaped from the ISIS and lives now in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Stafro is a very sweet, fearless boy, who conquered the hearts of the medical staff by storm. He was not frightened by either the staff or by the examinations they did on him: first physical examinations, then all the measurements, and of course, taking blood.

Just for the echo he had to be put under sedation.

The mother of Stafro seemed to be very relaxed and confident all the time, but during this examination, the physician described a complicated heart defect that makes the need for a surgery very likely. The physician saw an aneurysm (caused by the weakening of an artery wall) of the ventricular septum with two problem areas. One problem is between the two ventricles; the blood flows from the left ventricle back into the right atrium. In addition to that, there is a stenosis (abnormal narrowing) of the pulmonary valve.

The mother of Stafro did not understand what the senior doctor was explaining to the junior, but picked up that there is a severe heart defect and started worrying. Before coming, it seems she was told that there is a heart defect, which needs check ups, but apparently no one had mentioned an operation to her.

We hope the mother of Stafro will accept this new situation and that her faith will even grow. 

Welcome to Jerusalem!

Posted on Wed, 10/07/2015 - 16:59 by Annie Magnusson

Stafro and his mother have now arrived to our community in Jerusalem and were welcomed yesterday by all the volunteers and staff. Next week, they will go to the hospital to have their first appointment. 

A couple of days ago, I got to pick up Stafro and his mother from the airport in Amman, along with Jonathan and Ruth. Even though Stafro's mother told us that the flight had been difficult, both of them were happy, and Stafro couldn't stop smiling.

I immediately felt that this mother and child have a very strong bond, and they are also very open an trusting towards us. 

The next night, Stafro and his mother, Doaa and her mother, and Ruth and I slept on mattresses in the same room. This was a good time of getting to know each other better, even though we didn't get much sleep since the kids kept us awake.

The day after, we all went to Jerusalem which took us about seven hours by car. Stafro was amazingly calm and happy throughout the day. When we were through the border and started driving in Israel, Stafro's mother looked at me with a big smile on her face. She took my hand and held it for a long while as we drove through the landscape of this country that is her homeland's enemy. She is so brave to make this long and probably frightening journey for the sake of her son.  

We are excited to have them with us here in Jerusalem, and to be a part of Stafro's journey through his surgery. 

To Come

Posted on Tue, 08/25/2015 - 14:28 by Sarah Powell

Stafro is a seven-month-old boy from a Christian home in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. He was born with a moderate Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) and severe Pulmonary Stenosis (PS). VSD is present when there is a hole between the chambers of the heart, allowing for the mixing of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood. PS is present when the pulmonary artery is too narrow to allow blood to flow through it effectively. We hope that Stafro and his mother will be able to join us in Jerusalem soon so that Stafro can get the help he needs.