Wisam's Heart Surgery

Northern Iraq

Wisam's Father

Posted on Mon, 06/30/2014 - 21:53 by Jesse Tilman

Today, Wisam and his father accompanied us as we took Hussein for a blood test at the nearby Arab Clinic. Wisam’s father has been experiencing some stomach pain and requested being checked out by a doctor. So Yousef and I got our expedition together and walked down the hill to the clinic’s location near Herod’s gate outside the Old City of Jerusalem. Twenty minutes later, Hussein got his blood test, but Wisam’s father was told to come back on Saturday to be seen.

Upon hearing this, we began thinking about other options. Our Office Administrator, Josh, reminded me about the Greek Clinic inside the Old City that we have visited before. Wisam’s father gave the green light to this nearby option, and we started out toward it, parting ways with Hussein and Yousef, who went back to the house. Entering through Damascus Gate, we threaded our way through the crowded streets as Wisam took it all in wide-eyed. We had a baby stroller with us, and it soon became difficult to get it over the rough stone walkways and around all the people and store displays.

When we got to where our path ascended many stairs, we decided to just carry the stroller. Wisam’s father grabbed one end and I the other and we began the ascent. With his stomach in pain and groaning a bit with every step, Wisam's father soon needed to sit down and rest. After a bit, we started again. This time, we folded up the stroller, and I carried it while Wisam’s father held his son. So we came to the Greek Clinic.

There we met with the doctor and discussed the case. He did a physical examination of Wisam's father and then asked us to go for a blood test and urinalysis. Half an hour later we had the results but had to wait for the doctor. Wisam used the time to explore the whole hall, get his diaper changed, eat and drink, and play drums on the chairs!

Another half-hour later, we got in to see the doctor and heard that the only thing the tests showed was that his white blood cell count is high. The doctor said this indicates inflammation and higher bacteria presence. He recommended healthier eating, exercise, and waiting. Eight cases out of ten get better, and only a few have a problem that needs medical attention. The doctor also said that he could prescribe some antibiotics that would wipe out the problem for a while, but then it might come back without us knowing what it was. If the stomach pain persists, then he recommends we go for a stomach sonogram at a local hospital without using antibiotics so that we can actually see what the problem is.

So we headed back with renewed hope and a gladness in knowing better what was happening and what we could do about it. Back at the house, Wisam’s father began by eating a large plate of salad with Wisam joining in on a few bites. I was thankful to spend some time with this family and see them working through their stay here with determination.

Sun, Surf, and Healing

Posted on Sun, 06/22/2014 - 21:08 by Philip Rasmussen

Around two and a half weeks have passed by since Wisam arrived here at Prophets Street. He and his father have been doing well, anxiously waiting to hear from the hospital when Wisam will receive his surgery. They are both very open and interactive, and try to look at things in a positive way.

Considering what is going on in Iraq and all the unrest that is taking place relatively close to their home, they have stayed calm and focused throughout their time so far. Wisam’s father stays in touch with family members through the internet as much as possible – when the internet and electricity is not shut down in Iraq – and I see a lot of strength and maturity in him being away from his wife and other children. Although he feels powerless and out of reach, and still finds ways to care for them. He has still not lost his hope and longing to see his beloved son healed from his heart defect. Every day for more than a year he has looked at his son and not been able to provide him with the urgent care he needs, all along not knowing how much longer his child’s unstable heart would keep beating. 

As it looks right now, Wisam is not on the surgery schedule for this week due to many other patients at the hospital. This is unfortunate for Wisam, but we have had the opportunity to spend much quality time with him and his dad. Frequent outings to the nearby park with the other families are something they both like a lot.

Here they can roll around in the grass and enjoy time in nature. Last Friday we spent a whole day by the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, and they got to see the ocean for the first time in their lives! It was a great experience for both of them, and especially the father loved to swim around in the water. It was the most beautiful day of his life – those were his own words.

Being by the sea makes you meditate of your life, and it often turns out somehow comforting. If our God is so big and has created this impressing scenery of water and sand, how much bigger is He than our fears and anxieties? We all hope and pray that Wisam will be invited for operation soon, and in the meantime we will keep having good opportunities to bond more with this precious boy and his father.

Illustrated Promises

Posted on Sun, 06/08/2014 - 22:47 by Rahel Eschler

Today, as we drove toward Wolfson for our little friend Rozheen’s surgery, we did not yet know Wisam and his father would be returning with us to Prophets Street in Jerusalem. Upon arrival in the children’s ward, we could not find them. Wishing to greet them after the long weekend, we asked a nurse where they might be. We assumed they would be found enjoying the beautiful day together on the ward’s playground, but the nurse informed us they were in the echo ward.

Later on in the afternoon we got the amazing news from that echo: Wisam would be discharged today! The doctor also passed on to us more important information about Wisam's further medical treatment: the preparations for surgery are completed; if the hospital schedule allows it, he will receive his first heart surgery in about two weeks. Since Wisam’s heart defect is one of the more complicated ones, the exact procedure is not yet known. It is known, however, that he will most likely need a follow-up surgery to accomplish a full repair. Although Wisam’s oxygen level is still quite low (around 70%) the cardiologist considers his condition as stable enough to come back home to Jerusalem.

For the next weeks, he and his dad will fill our base with their radiant cheerfulness and thankfulness. Although Wisam is only one and a half years old, he was so well-behaved throughout the day. During long waiting times, he would simply take a nap; if he became fussy, his dad would take wonderful care of his needs. On our car ride back home, Wisam babbled in baby language and enjoyed himself.

Meanwhile, the day slowly drifted into dusk, and the stunning sunset reminded me of God’s faithfulness towards us. In the book of the prophet Malachi, the Lord draws us a beautiful picture of his promises: “But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.” Pray with me that our precious Wisam and his dad would experience the Lord’s healing power and his faithfulness towards them.

Big Steps

Posted on Thu, 06/05/2014 - 23:26 by Philip Rasmussen
Wisam and his father had barely woken up this morning before we could tell them that the medical team at Wolfson Medical Center wanted to see them today. Thus a team of us headed out in the early morning to take the first steps together in Wisam’s journey towards healing. We ended up taking far bigger steps than we all expected.
After the typical assessments of weight, length, temperature, and blood pressure, we were asked to go upstairs to the echo department. There it was clear the cardiac team had had a very busy day. The department was full of loving and lively African kids, and we had to wait quite some time for our turn. At around 3:30 PM we were called into the room. The echo itself did not take a long time. The senior cardiologist had a quick look at Wisam and the echo scans and concluded that he would be kept at the hospital for observation. Simply from taking a look at his body color, it’s apparent that he needs urgent care. Basically, his aorta is in the wrong location, which decreases his level of oxygen-rich blood, making him very blue.
We were escorted down by the doctor to the ward, where we were told to go and get a x-ray of little Wisam. He was given some drugs to make him sleep during the echo procedure, and it seems like he got a good shot. He was sleeping right through the x-ray procedure and he even stayed half asleep through his lengthy and painful blood test.
The father seemed okay with the surprising news that he would not come back with us to Jerusalem as planned. I tried to encourage him by simply reminding him that at the hospital he will get the best care he could ask for. Throughout the whole day, the father had been cheerful and talkative, and he kept his good attitude even at this news. Despite the fact that a lot of factors are still unknown, such as when the next procedure will take place, he kept loving and caring for his son, undisturbed. He is a mild and attentive father, and he told me several times that Wisam’s well-being is the most important thing to him. As far as I understood, he had made several sacrifices to be able to travel and come to Israel for treatment. For instance, he had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye to his job, which he will very likely not be able to get back. 
We spent a good hour trying to reach his dear family in Iraq so that he could let them know what was going on. We tried different options until we finally ended up calling a volunteer located in Jerusalem who was calling the relatives from another cell phone at the same time. By this indirect way of calling, the father could let people know back home what his news was.
We are planning to visit them again tomorrow to bring extra clothes and other necessary items. Moreover, we are also aware that it can be a difficult first encounter with the hospital when you are thrown into it all of a sudden like Wisam and his father were today, so we want to visit them just to encourage them also.
Please keep Wisam and his father in your prayers and thoughts during this weekend as we hope to soon hear good news about further treatment.

Sweet Wisam Safely in Jerusalem

Posted on Wed, 06/04/2014 - 23:11 by MadelynMiles

I was quite surprised when I first heard one-year-old Wisam would be coming to Israel accompanied by his father instead of his mother. This is unprecedented for Shevet Achim. You see in Kurdish culture, fathers are rarely involved in the work it takes to care for a small child. This is primarily the mother's role. As such, we usually see fathers accompanying older children, but not so with the younger children like little Wisam. I was skeptical of this arrangement, but Jonathan had met the father at the heart screening in Iraq and felt confident he would be loving and caring. He was right. From the moment Wisam's father arrived in Jordan, he displayed a tender, considerate heart towards his son.

Every now and then I bit my lip or raised my eyebrows in worry at the father’s "Mr. Mom-like" antics, but what he lacks in maternal instinct, he makes up with in genuine effort and love. At one point in our journey through the Jordan Valley today, I observed him nuzzling Wisam's head with his and saying in a sing-song voice, "I love you! I love you!" I also found out the main reason he (instead of his wife) came with Wisam: his wife just gave birth to twins a mere month ago! What a trial for this family to go through: the mom on her own with newborn twins and her partner traveling to a foreign country for their one-year-old to have open heart surgery!  

Wisam is a very easy-going boy, as long as Papa isn't far away. He barely made a peep during the long car journey, and now both he and his father are resting in their new, temporary home in Jerusalem. We currently have one other father in the house, with perhaps more on the way. Way to go, dads! It is fitting, I think, to have this many fathers with us as the American Father's Day holiday comes around the corner. Please keep Wisam and his family in your prayers as they travel through this trying time.

Approaching New Life

Posted on Mon, 06/02/2014 - 22:00 by Benaiah

Wisam is a one-year-old from Northern Iraq diagnosed with the heart defect of Double Outlet Right Ventricle. This congenital heart flaw occurs when the aorta comes out of the same chamber of the heart as the pulmonary artery, resulting in severe oxygen deficiency throughout the body (click the profile link to read more). Wisam’s case is urgent, and both he and his father will arrive in Israel on Tuesday, June 3rd. We plan to begin his treatment as soon as possible.