Um Al Baneen's Heart Surgery

Um Al Baneen
from southern Iraq

Baneen's Battle Continues

Posted on Mon, 11/07/2011 - 23:03 by Kristina Kayser
Life, in all its frailty, still bears the image of the One who created it, the One who gives breath and strength, the One who has seared eternity in the hearts of men. When I consider Baneen, I see all of these things. This morning, however, her body appeared small and weak the day after surgery. Multiple medications were infusing through an IV while four chest tubes worked to drain post surgical fluids. Calm, rhythmic breaths were compliments of a ventilator delivering a steady flow of oxygen. Suddenly, her eyelids fluttered open for a moment before returning to anesthesia-induced slumber. What was once a frightening and foreign environment to Baneen's young mother has now become almost commonplace. She seems comfortable with the nurses

Baneen Undergoes a Second Operation

Posted on Sun, 11/06/2011 - 17:50 by Donna_West


I encountered some unexpected information when I got to Sheba's fourth floor today: Baneen was in surgery! As Misha and I spent time with Baneen's mother and father, they told us that Baneen went into surgery about noontime. The parents understood what the surgery was meant to correct because it had been explained to them in Arabic by the doctor. When I found a nurse who could explain the issue to me, she said, "There is the surgeon now. The surgery is over. Baneen will be back shortly." 
The original repair done on Baneen's pulmonary artery flooded her lungs with more blood than they could handle, causing her body to produce more water than it could drain off effectively. Today's surgery reduced the amount of blood flow to the lungs for a better balance. She had just returned to ICU as we left. The parents understand that this may delay their return to Iraq, but the health of their little girl is more important to them. Thank you for watching over your children, Father. We acknowledge our lives are in your hands.


Baneen's Infection and Infectious Smile

Posted on Tue, 11/01/2011 - 23:43 by Donna_West

Little Miss Baneen was alert and smiling at her father and visitors today when I saw her in the ICU at Sheba Hospital. The head nurse said they would not know until tomorrow when the results of the culture come back whether her infection is viral. The drainage tube is doing its job of draining the fluid from her lungs, but her body continues to produce more. There is an aggressive plan for medication to be added to Baneen's care tomorrow after the test results are in. The head nurse on the unit stated that Baneen's condition is serious, but that this is not the first time the staff has dealt with this type of issue; they are confident in due time she will recover. Thank you for your continued prayer support for Baneen's speedy recovery.

Dramatic Turn Takes Baneen Back to ICU

Posted on Sun, 10/30/2011 - 23:05 by Co-authored

Friday evening update, by Kristina:

How quickly things can change for small infants, particularly those with compromised health like Baneen. A dramatic turn of events took place on Friday that resulted in Baneen being readmitted to Sheba's Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Only five days had passed since Baneen's first post-op echo, when doctors had reported a smooth recovery thus far and the potential of returning home soon.

However, as Shabbat evening settled across Jerusalem, I was prompted to head directly to the hospital. Mild symptoms turned critical in the brief transfer from house to car seat as her breathing became distressed. Doctors were notified of the situation and were awaiting our arrival in the emergency room. I began praying out loud for God's mercy on Baneen as an oxygen mask was applied in the car to help provide relief. Words cannot express the faithfulness of God to hear and answer our cries! Within minutes, Baneen was calm and asleep as each kilometer brought us closer and closer to help.

Flashbacks of my initial hospital visit with Baneen and her parents began to repeat themselves upon arrival to Sheba. A brief initial exam alerted medical staff to immediately apply oxygen, start an IV, and complete X-rays and an echocardiogram. As Baneen's chest retracted forcefully, I counted over one hundred breaths per minute. This was far from her condition at home. The X-ray revealed pneumonia and the echo showed considerable pleural effusion (fluid build-up) in her left lung. The cardiologist then reported that she would be admitted to the ICU to undergo further intervention for these conditions. Her oxygen stabilized quickly with a breathing mask, a hopeful indication that she would not require intubation (ventilator assisted breathing).

While Baneen's father stood at a safe distance, watching every action keenly, her mother sat beside her, trying to remain calm and comfort her anguished daughter. Upon transfer to ICU, Baneen continued to undergo oxygen therapy as doctors prepared for the next phase of treatment. Medications for pneumonia would commence as well as a thoracentesis. This invasive procedure drains excess fluid from the lung cavity with a hollow needle. Baneen's parents calmly accepted this news, though I am sure a torrent of emotion was being carefully guarded within.

I am beyond thankful that this small baby's life was once again spared and in awe of God's inexhaustible grace. May you look to Him as your ever-present help in time of need as He is for Baneen.

Sunday update, by Stephanie:

After this weekend

Understanding What Baneen's Future Holds

Posted on Mon, 10/24/2011 - 20:18 by Donna_West

Baneen's visit to the hospital today revealed great results from the surgery performed only twelve days ago. As we sat and watched several toddlers playing together in the waiting area, Baneen's eyes were fixed on her daddy. Only when he walked out of sight to give his seat to someone else did she find another point of focus for her attention. 

Because she weighs only five kilos, Baneen almost does not have enough body mass for doctors to connect all the wires for an ECG. Nevertheless the ECG was competed without distress. Little Miss Baneen also slept through her echo, which gave the doctor a quiet room to explain to Baneen's parent's what they may expect for her future.

The news was this: No water around the heart, excellent surgical results with the Glenn Shunt, and they may return to Iraq in about ten days, after one more check up in a week. The doctor also explained to the parents that the right ventricle of Baneen's heart did not fully develop before birth and the surgeries will not change that. 

The operations (this one and another one which should be performed in two or three years) will make her heart function as efficiently as it can for being undeveloped on the right side. The parents were grateful and hope to return to Israel when it is time for the next surgery. It was obvious in the eight days they spent at Sheba Hospital that they have made many friends among the staff and current patients.

Baneen Welcomed to Jerusalem

Posted on Sat, 10/22/2011 - 23:00 by Kristina Kayser
A mere eight days after her emergency operation, Baneen and her parents said goodbye to friends at Sheba Medical Center and headed home to the Shevet community at 29 Prophets Street. Her medical release came sooner than expected, a reflection that her body is responding well to the newly formed Glenn shunt and enhanced oxygen supply. Shevet member, Suhail, was on hand at Sheba to witness Baneen's positive echo results and assist her family with translation and procedures. Doctors report that her chest cavity is free of any fluid buildup post surgery. Moreover, three medications were prescribed to help maintain good cardiac functioning. When Suhail called to tell me the good news, I could hardly believe it! "She's coming home today?!" I asked incredulously. Within an hour, Suhail and company picked me up at Wolfson Hospital where I was waiting with another child to go home. What a sweet reunion it was! Baneen's parents were so full of joy, so thankful for their daughter's progress. As we made our ascent towards Jerusalem, we all reflected back to the day we met and the events which have since transpired. God's mercy and love for Baneen could not have been more apparent. Meanwhile, the "lady of the hour" sat contentedly in her car seat. 
Thinking about Baneen's story reminds me of a question I was recently asked: "How does it (Shevet) work?" Essentially, how is it possible for Jews, Christians, and Muslims to work and live alongside each other? There is no recipe or formula for conflict resolution. Rather, Shevet Achim, at its very core, is rooted in divinely-inspired love. Has it not been written that we love because God first loved us? It is this same love that continues breaking down walls of division for Baneen and her parents, making room, instead, for the sweet fragrance of reconciliation. The next days and weeks in Jerusalem will provide a new opportunity for reconciliatory breakthroughs. Lines of prejudice will again be crossed as Baneen's family, who are Shiites Muslims, will be in close quarters with five other Kurdish Sunni families. These two parties have a long history within their own country of viewing each other as enemies. Please pray that as physical healing comes to Baneen that healing of a different sort will take place within the walls of our home. With Baneen's arrival, comes a fresh wave of hope...a hope, I believe, that will not disappoint (Romans 5:5).
On Friday afternoon, it was discovered that Baneen's chest incision had opened about a centimeter from the top. After examining her and cleaning the wound, I called Sheba to report my assessment. Baneen was doing fine otherwise with no signs of distress. However, the nurse asked that we bring her in, so that doctors could have a closer look. Baneen was all smiles during the car ride and even throughout our time in the emergency ward. I believe this helped to give her mother peace. The physician noted that a few stitches seemed to have pulled loose but that the skin underneath was healing well. Simple instructions were given to continue washing her wound daily with soap and water and to monitor for infection. Praise God for His faithfulness to Baneen! We returned home to the quiet streets of Jerusalem, thankful for an evening of Shabbat rest.     

An Astounding Contrast

Posted on Mon, 10/17/2011 - 00:20 by Kristina Kayser

The events of last Tuesday remain fresh on my mind as I write this evening. It's hard to forget the adrenaline rush of an emergency-saturated occasion that birthed the pang of near-death and the sweetness of life in one day. I am happy to report that life continues to course through Um Al Baneen's small body. 

The contrast between her present state of wellness versus her previous condition is astounding. All chest tubes and assistive devices have been removed. Her skin is flushed with a healthy pink. Her muscle tone is strong and her appetite is improving. Baneen's mother beamed proudly while showing me how much milk she drinks. As we hovered over her crib, Baneen smiled at her mother with the purest expression of love. What stories this mother will share with her daughter some day! 
Although Baneen is still in the Pediatric ICU, a doctor shared with me that she continues to make steps forward and will soon be transferred out of critical care to a step-down unit. At this time, she is receiving intermittent oxygen therapy and cardiac medications. Lord willing, she will be discharged from Sheba within the week. Both Baneen's mother and father wear an expression of peace which tells me they are resting in the knowledge of God's grace and their daughter's healing. Our community at Shevet is greatly anticipating the arrival of this dimpled beauty and her family into our home!

Smiling and Waving Two Days After Surgery

Posted on Fri, 10/14/2011 - 00:00 by Stephanie Ventura

The last visit that was spent with baby Baneen and her parents was a time of unforeseen events: a long journey to the hospital, a baby who was blue from head to toe and struggling for breath, an emergency surgery, and the news of potentially needing three surgeries in total. It was quite a dramatic day to say the least. Even so, God revealed His grace and mercies to this family and Shevet staff by making a way for Baneen and equipping Sheba Medical Center with fantastic nurses and doctors who acted fast to help save this little one on that day.

We went back today to visit the family and see how baby Baneen was recovering from her surgery. Once we were there we were greeted by these loving parents and they showed almost no sign of distress. One reason for this, aside from the all the love that they are experiencing from those around them, may be that doctors had recently informed Baneen

From Death to Life in A Day

Posted on Wed, 10/12/2011 - 00:00 by Kristina Kayser

Life: Beauty, pain, struggle, and triumph all wrapped up in a single day. How thankful I am that Jesus instructed us not to worry about tomorrow, for I am convinced our human frames are incapable of bearing more than one day at a time. For Um Al Baneen and her two young parents, this day bore enough riveting experiences to last a lifetime.

Before even meeting this family, I knew they were making a risky decision in coming to Israel from a more volatile region of Iraq. At first sight, it was clear that both mother and father were head-over-heels in love with their infant daughter. Um Al Baneen, whom they affectionately call "Baneen," is a beautiful girl with deep dimples when she smiles. Her parents mentioned that in Iraq she had always been unhappy, but for some reason she began smiling after beginning her journey towards Israel.

The severity of her condition manifested itself in her bluish, oxgen-deprived skin and physical weakness. Despite this she was calm and stable in her mother's arms. After three short months of life, Baneen's race to survive was quickly coming to an end. Doctors in Iraq felt helpless in their ability to treat her complex condition, telling her parents the only solution was to travel to the U.S. or Israel for surgery.

Making our way across the border, I watched God "part the sea" for us just as he did for the children of Israel in the wilderness. This time, it wasn't a body of water that blocked the way, but a mass of people crowding the passport office. Time was of the essence, and Baneen needed to get to Sheba Medical Center STAT! I approached an Israeli officer and explained the situation. Within seconds, we were pulled to the front of the line! Our passports were then personally taken to be stamped and another long line evaded. Truly, the Lord surrounded us with favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:12) and answered my prayers.

After clearing all obstacles, Baneen and her parents were warmly greeted outside by Suhail, fellow Shevet member, who whisked us off to Sheba. At this point, Baneen wasn't showing any signs of distress and easily fell asleep in the carseat for the duration of the drive. I kept turning around to find her breathing peacefully, her parents looking on contentedly beside her. All was well until soon after arriving to Sheba, and things took a turn for the worse. Baneen's initial assessment in the emergency ward provoked labored cries that exhausted her small body and sent her oxygen level on a downward spiral, turning her skin nearly purple. A team of staff surrounded her, applying oxygen, starting multiple IVs, and trying desperately to relieve her fight to breathe.

She was then transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and intubated. This procedure involves inserting a tube attached to a ventilation machine into her lungs. The air was tense as doctors and nurses flowed in and out of her room and machines sounded alarms.

This whole time, Baneen's mother and father had remained surprisingly calm and stoic. Through Suhail's translation to Arabic, I told her mother, "You've been so strong, but it's okay to cry." Tears rolled down her cheeks, and with them came the release of fear and anxiety. Hugging this nineteen-year-old mother reminded me that God is near to the broken hearted.

Once permission was given for us to visit Baneen in ICU, we were told that she would be having an emergency operation at 9 pm, and this would be the first of three. Baneen has four major cardiac defects: a hole in her upper chambers (ASD) as well as her lower chambers (VSD), an abnormal tricuspid valve, and pulmonary stenosis. This last malfunction is a narrowing of the artery that supplies oxgen-rich blood to the lungs and would be the focus of the first repair. Without this problem being fixed immediately, Baneen would not survive.

Baneen's parents, Suhail, and I braced ourselves for a four hour surgery, pleading for God's mercy.  Sitting with us in the waiting room was an assortment of other Arabic-speaking parents. I watched in wonder as stereotypes and long-held perceptions by Baneen's parents were shattered and a striking mosaic of family was formed. Baneen's father shared that he wants to go back to Iraq and share what he has experienced. "Israelis and Americans have stood with us more than our own people. This is not what we heard (in Iraq). This touches my heart."

As the only non-Arabic speaking person in the room, I allowed myself to simply give thanks and savor the essence of Shevet Achim happening before my eyes--God's love made tangible. Through Messiah, lines are crossed, walls torn down, and hearts are opened to truth.

After a mere two hours, a doctor passed by unexpectedly and announced that the surgery was complete! Cardiologists had successfully performed a Glenn procedure, connecting Baneen's superior vena cava to her pulmonary artery. Principally, oxygen-rich blood now flows from her head to her lungs, bypassing the heart altogether. Her body will now function on a much higher level of oxygen than before. One nurse reported that her oxgen level dropped to 20% before surgery and doctors are hoping no consequences will result from this. Now, Baneen's oxygen level is up to 90% and her body is nearly pink throughout.

Her parents rejoiced as we hugged and lifted praises to God. "I was not afraid during the surgery," her mother said, "because I saw how much support our daughter had." As the clock struck midnight, Baneen lay quietly in the same ICU as she did just hours before. This time however, a sense of hope pervaded, knowing that life was granted her this day. Would you offer thanksgiving as well for all that God has done for Baneen and her parents?

A final thought I find myself musing on is the significance of how one small life can impact so many others. Today, I witnessed what Jesus spoke of in Matthew 21:16: "Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise..."

Um Al Baneen Arriving in October

Posted on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 13:19 by jonathan

We've now made visa application for three-month-old Um Al Baneen ("mother of sons") to come to Israel in October for her urgent heart surgery. She is from a Shiite family in the south of Iraq and will be accompanied by both of her young parents. It is rare that Arabs from her community are willing to take the risk to travel to Israel. Because of the complexity of her heart condition we will be taking Um Al Baneen to the Sheba Medical Center, Israel's largest, and our sponsorship costs there will be higher than usual.