Vareen's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Going to See Her Father

Posted on Sat, 06/27/2009 - 01:00 by Donna_Petrel
After an emotional departure yesterday from Jerusalem, this morning in Jordan, Vareen's mother seemed in a better frame of mind than I expected--and we all had a good breakfast together. Vareen serenaded us with songs on the way to the airport, keeping rhythm on her water bottle, and her mother said with a smile she was singing songs about seeing her father in Iraq.

We arrived at the airport just in time for boarding the plane, so we had only a short goodbye, which was much better for everyone's emotions.

We waited until we knew they'd cleared customs inside without any problems, and bid our final farewells with waves and blown kisses through the airport windows.

Varen is the first child I've been involved with who came expecting a successful surgery which was not able to go forward. The Save A Child's Heart doctors are carefully honest with every family about the treatment, and unusual cases like this one are hard on everyone who has come together to help save these children's lives. Even though we didn't see the hoped for outcome, we'll never give up on what God can do whether we see the miracles we pray for or not. With this in mind, we sent Vareen and her mother on their way home knowing they are loved, and that we'll all be praying for them as we trust God with Vareen's life.

Sorrow Shared Lightens the Load

Posted on Thu, 06/25/2009 - 01:00 by Donna_Petrel

It was our hope and prayer that when we arrived at the hospital to pick up Vareen (above rear) and Deya this afternoon, we'd find that Um (mother of) Vareen would be more settled than when we left yesterday after she'd just received the news of Vareen's inoperability. She did seem to be ok; she was able to keep her emotions in check as we returned to Jerusalem. After allowing time for the mothers and daughters to settle themselves in their room again, I went to sit with the families. One of the first conversations was begun by Um Akram asking me if Vareen really could not have heart surgery. Um Vareen herself stood nearby looking intently as if waiting for a different answer than the one I gave - the one the doctors reported yesterday. She began to cry again as it registered again in her heart. The other mothers, all sitting with their children in their laps, reflected somberly for a moment, but then with compassion in their hearts tried to speak words of comfort to her. She needed to express some of the grief in her heart, but all of us were concerned over so many tears shed in front of Vareen herself, who stood nearby patting her mother to comfort her. Akram, like a dear big brother, wisely and compassionately took Vareen by the hand and walked her out to the courtyard for diversion. The rest of us sat together for a little while with occasional words of encouragement spoken by one or another to Um Vareen. It was a difficult afternoon, but surely sorrow shared lightens the load. Please continue in prayer for God's precious comfort and His grace to abound in this situation and reach into the hearts of Vareen and her mother in a sustaining way. We expect to return to Jordan in the next several days so Vareen and her sweet mother can get back to their family in Iraq.

An Unexpected Result for Vareen

Posted on Wed, 06/24/2009 - 07:53 by Hannah_Walsh

This morning Vareen underwent the catheterization process to determine whether or not surgery for her heart would be possible. When I arrived early this morning, she was full of her usual energy and didnt stop singing to herself while waiting to undergo the procedure. This brought a smile to her mothers face who was clearly very worried.

Vareen has a good relationship with the Israeli doctors, and when the time came for her catheterization she walked hand in hand with one into the lab.

The procedure turned out to be a long process and revealed many complications. During her recovery, Vareen enjoyed blowing bubbles in her hospital bed although she was obviously very tired and not feeling quite like her normal self. Her mother was under a lot of strain as she waited for the translator to arrive in order to communicate the results to her.

Vareen has a large Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) which means that the connection between the main blood vessels of her heart failed to close after birth, which caused an abnormal circulation of blood within her heart and lungs. The pulmonary resistance caused by this abnormality is so great that the doctors concluded that she was inoperable. This may have been preventable if caught early but due to Vareens age, the complication is too extensive to correct.

Vareen will return to Jerusalem tomorrow and stay at the Shevet Achim house for a while in order to give her mother time to react to the news of Vareen being medically inoperable and ask any questions she may have. We value the opportunity to have this time to be with this special girl and enjoy her many talents. She is still so friendly and full of so much character! Please continue to pray for Vareen and her mother that they may be drawn to the One who is the source of all hope during this difficult time.

Donna adds:
The news about Vareen was a shock to all of us, and Dr. Tamir was expressing his sorrow and emotion as he spoke with me about it by phone. We called Mazal, our faithful Kurdish friend who translates from Hebrew to Kurdish when we have situations needing specific medical detail like this one. As Dr. Tamir explained to Mazal and she explained to Vareen's mother, we could see that she didn't fully grasp what she was being told. I sat with her for a few minutes after the explanation, and left the room to visit Deya. I saw Vareen's mother go out of the room with Mazal again, into the nurse's station where Dr. Tamir was preparing to leave for the day. This time she asked questions about what she'd already heard, and it began to sink in with clear understanding that her daughter's life could not be saved by surgery. As she turned back to the room her eyes were flooded with tears, and she approached Deya's mother, who was in the room next door, and shook her head "no." She briefly explained that surgery was not possible for Vareen, and turned to go to her daughter. She sat beside Vareen and wept, and I sat beside her and held her and prayed. When I knew it was enough time, I felt it best to let her have her own space and time to grieve over the situation as Vareen slept. We left her with kisses and prayers. Please join us in asking for God's grace to reach deeply into this difficult situation for this family.


Vareen Excited as Admitted to Hospital

Posted on Tue, 06/23/2009 - 01:00 by Annessa_Mosier

Today was the start of Vareen's catheterization process, an examination which will reveal the anatomy of her heart in preparation for surgery. Vareen endured the catheterization prep work at Wolfson Hospital. She was a perfect soldier, braving her way through a blood pressure reading and a few painful pricks.

Although scared at first, it only took a few moments for Vareen to regain her cheerful demeanor. Her smile only widened when she was led to her clean room and handed a hospital gown that matched the hospital sheets! In her excitement, she did not waste a single moment, but quickly crawled into her new wear.

Things are looking well and both Vareen and her mother were comfortably settling in as we left them at the hospital today. Please remember to keep her in your prayers as she makes her way through the catheterization tomorrow.


Vareen's First Day In Israeli Hospital

Posted on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 01:00 by Hannah_Walsh

Vareen is a lively and friendly little girl from Iraq. She is full of character! After a long journey from Jordan, Vareen and her mother arrived in Jerusalem on Monday night. The crossing was straightforward. Vareen made many friends with the Israeli border patrol who spent time blowing up balloons to entertain her. She was very tired upon arriving in Israel but both she and her mom were relieved to be reunited with the other families.

Today was spent at Wolfson Medical Center going through the numerous tests required upon arrival: blood work, EKG, echocardiograms and X-ray. Vareen was cheerful entering the hospital and enjoyed the many toys in the playroom. We had fun drawing, playing the piano, and painting.

Once the tests were underway, Vareen grew more apprehensive and tearful as many of the procedures were new to her. The blood work in particular was very upsetting. But she soon returned to her playful self afterwards, finding a plastic glove to blo
w into, creating her own balloon. Then while waiting to get her echocardiogram done, Vareen made use of the time by playing in the little house and serving us "food" from the window.

The echocardiogram was a long procedure for such a lively girl to remain still through, but she entertained herself and made the doctors smile by repeating their Hebrew back to them as they spoke.

By the time everything was done, Vareen was worn out from her long day, but she had managed to bring joy to many people with her silly antics, despite her tiredness! Vareens mother was also obviously very tired from the past few days but her support and love for her daughter stood out today. After getting a good nights rest tonight, Vareen and her mother will go back to the hospital tomorrow for Vareen to get have a PPD test for tuberculosis.

Vareen Invited To Israel For Surgery

Posted on Mon, 06/08/2009 - 01:00 by Martha_Berg

Vareen is a sweet five-year-old girl from Iraq. Her heart condition was first diagnosed when she was six months old. At our cardiac screening last week in Jordan, Dr. Tamir's examination showed that "the clock is ticking" for Vareen.

She has a large PDA (patent ductus arteriosus). This means that there is an abnormal circulation of blood between two of the major arteries near the heart. Before birth, the two major arteriesthe aorta and the pulmonary arteryare normally connected by a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus, which is an essential part of the fetal circulation. After birth, the vessel is supposed to close within a few days as part of the normal changes occurring in the baby's circulation. In some babies like Vareen, however, the ductus arteriosus remains open (patent). This opening allows blood to flow directly from the aorta into the pulmonary artery, putting a strain on Vareen's heart and increasing the blood pressure in the lung arteries (pulmonary hypertension). Varen also has an enlarged left ventricle.

The good news is that Vareen is operable, and she has been invited to come to Israel for heart catheterization and surgery. Because she is considered an urgent case, Dr. Tamir didn't want to risk sending her home to Iraq and having her return later. So Vareen is now waiting with her mother at Dirk and Manuela's home in Jordan, along with four other children and their escorts.

Dirk writes:

Today is the third day back home after the screening, which we remember as a joyful and at the same time exhausting experience. Five Iraqi families came to our home in Jordan with us to await their visas to Israel, and like the rest of us passed almost the entire first day at the guest flat sleeping. Of course everything is so new to them, and they were very quiet and did not want to disturb us or use our kitchen although we offered it to them many times. They prepared their own food downstairs, and only when they ran out of water or other necessities did they leave their quarters.

Communication with the families here was quite difficult at first, since they hardly speak any Arabic or English, with the exception of one grandmother. This older lady, who herself has raised 11 children, is active and has helped us with translation a lot. A Kurdish translator named Komar arrived here on Friday. It really helps a lot to have him build a bridge to their culture, even though two of the families speak a different dialect than Komar and the other three families.