Yousif's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Four Months Vacation For Yousif

Posted on Tue, 05/28/2013 - 02:01 by Ruth Zellweger

Little Yousif has won my heart with his sweet toothless smiles - they melt my heart and cheer me up immediately. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that it has been less than a month that he had his emergency surgery. On our way to Wolfson Hospital today, Yousif was sitting in his car seat contented, and smiled most of the time. His mother was seated beside him, relaxed. She knew that today was supposed to be Yousif

Yousif's Steady Advance

Posted on Thu, 05/16/2013 - 23:12 by Kristina Kayser

Just three days since his last echo, Yousif was once again at Wolfson and showing even more signs of improvement. His mother tried hard to contain her curiosity throughout the exam to know what the doctors' prognosis would be. It's safe to say that while she is so thankful for her baby's progress, she is counting down the days to see her husband and two-year-old daughter.

Yousif's stronger heart has not only resulted in an increased appetite but also the ability to assert himself. Before surgery, he was too weak to struggle or even make a noticeable sound when crying. Yousif is now gaining muscle mass and able to wiggle and resist. This made Dr. Hanita's job a bit more difficult and required all hands on deck to keep him calm and still during the echo. Eventually, his mother had to sit on the exam table with Yousif in her arms, holding his legs, while I tried to feed him with one hand and occupy his curious fingers with another. It felt a little tense until we all managed to look up at each other and laugh. Contrarily, Yousif cried loudly. Too bad I didn't have a third hand to snap a shot of this comedic scenario. One full bottle of milk later, the echo was finished and Yousif had a full tummy.

We then received the echo results in addition to a projected plan for his next surgery. The fluid around the lungs, which showed up on the last echo, has since abated and his cardiac vessels are slowly growing. Dr. Alona believes that Yousif's heart would best tolerate a full repair three to six months from now. When given the option to wait in Israel or return to Kurdistan to wait, Yousif's mom quickly responded, "I want to go home!" I could tell the sweetness of seeing her family soon was nearly tangible for her in that moment. At this time, Yousif will likely have two more echoes before being released temporarily from Wolfson's care. How remarkable to consider the way tables have turned for this baby. No other explanation can be given except for the perfect love of God. 

Yousif Healing Step by Step

Posted on Mon, 05/13/2013 - 22:33 by Kristina Kayser

The longer I know Yousif, the more I love this precious boy. It is his smile and his baby babble that steal my affections most of all. As he recuperates in our home I continue to marvel at the miracle he is, how close he was to death, and how merciful God was to deliver him. While Yousif shows daily evidence of healing, internal assessments of his heart are equally encouraging. This morning, he and his mother traveled to Wolfson for a follow up echo to measure the progress of his heart now twelve days post surgery.

The echocardiogram showed several steps of improvement as well as a small step-back. A small amount of fluid, called pleural effusion, has built up around his lungs. The good news is that this is a very normal side effect of thoracic surgery and is easily treated with medication. As Dr. Naiz examined him, Yousif's wiggling turned to frustrated cries. Funny enough, he was eventually soothed by his own voice recorded on his mother's phone. Dr. Alona also reviewed his echo and stated that it is too soon to tell whether Yousif's full repair will take place one month or one year from now. More time is needed to observe the response of his heart to the initial surgery. I appreciated the doctors' respect of time and not wanting to rush forward. Likewise, I understand Yousif's mother wanting a definitive timeline, especially when her family in Kurdistan is waiting to hear of their return.

Yousif will return to Wolfson this Thursday for the next echo appointment. With each step of healing, we will continue praising God. Already, Yousif is a far cry from the intensely blue baby who arrived in Israel not so long ago. May his life bring God greater and greater glory in the days to come!

A Picture of Peace

Posted on Thu, 05/09/2013 - 19:06 by Jesse Tilman

Driving with Yousif to Tel Aviv today, I was reminded of just how small he is. Seeing him in the roomy car seat, Ruth and I discussed his safety and possible better arrangements for his seating. He

Yousif Returns To Jerusalem

Posted on Tue, 05/07/2013 - 21:50 by Ruth Zellweger

Ever since Yousif arrived at Wolfson Hospital one week ago, he has become the subject of public interest and quite famous. Each time I went to see Yousif, news reporters and charity groups were visiting and wanted to hear his story. Today was no exception.

I admire Yousif

Yousif Close to Coming Home

Posted on Sun, 05/05/2013 - 17:53 by Ruth Zellweger

The speedy recovery of Yousif continues to amaze me; and makes me praise God whenever I think about the way He sustained Yousif's life.

On today

Yousif Recovering Quickly

Posted on Wed, 05/01/2013 - 19:13 by Ruth Zellweger

When I reflect on yesterday, I find myself in awe and wonder of what I witnessed.

We had been praying for little Yousif for several months until he was finally allowed to travel to Israel. I knew that his condition was serious, and when doctors and nurses gathered around him and quickly took him into ICU, I was relived and thankful that he had made it in time. It is a miracle that Yousif is still alive, and I believe that God sustained his life and poured out His grace and mercy upon him.

Today Jared and I had the honor and joy of visiting Yousif and his mother in the hospital. Earlier we had been told that Yousif was extubated and breathing on his own. My heart rejoiced. When we came to the hospital we found Yousif

A Beautiful Rescue

Posted on Wed, 05/01/2013 - 00:35 by Kristina Kayser

Two months ago, I found myself in a hospital room in Kurdistan as a fragile two-month-old boy was placed on the exam table. His body was a shocking shade of blue, his raspy cries muted by extreme oxygen deficiency. This baby's name was Yousif. His young mother stood by helpless, with an expression of unveiled fear. The prognosis only served to confirm her intuitive disquiet. Dr. Kirk, an American cardiologist and long time partner of Shevet Achim, reported that Yousif's case was worse than previously thought. He even questioned whether this child was operable or not. Since then, Wolfson's chief cardiologist, Dr. Tamir, has been weighing the outcome of inviting Yousif for surgery. Meanwhile, our community in Shevet has been waiting and praying for him, asking God for wisdom and to make a way for Yousif to be rescued.

God indeed heard our prayers and opened the door to Israel in a rather extraordinary fashion. Due to a bad respiratory infection followed by bureaucratic revisions in the Interior Ministry, Yousif's arrival was delayed until just yesterday; and not a moment too soon. Since his visa to enter Israel required special permission, his story, along with those of his two travel companions, made national news. Less than twenty-four hours after crossing Israel's border, Yousif and his mother were whisked off to the hospital early this morning. Looking at his sweet face, I couldn't decide which was more striking: his long dark lashes or his equally dark lips and fingertips. I couldn't wait to get Yousif into the hands of the doctors. Then, as if to calm my own heart, Yousif looked up and smiled at me, and I melted.

Soon after entering the hospital, we were met by the Minister of Regional Cooperation himself. A news crew decked with microphones and large cameras were waiting as well. Their introduction to Wolfson Hospital was nothing short of dramatic, but his mother took it all in stride. Her grace and poise amazed me, and this was only the beginning. Dr. Alona was immediately notified of Yousif's arrival and came to see him for herself. She took one look at his dusky-tinted skin and rushed him into the ICU. In the following video, you'll see how a team of adept doctors and nurses came rushing to his bedside as his emergency condition became apparent (note how blue Yousif's feet are in the video below):

While one doctor worked to secure an IV line, oxygen was applied, blood was drawn, medication was given, and a plan of rescue was formed. At one point, Yousif's oxygen saturation dropped to single digits. The atmosphere of the room was thick with tension, like a storm cloud swollen with rain. Doctors voiced their bewilderment on how Yousif could have survived for so long on such limited oxygen.

The next step was for Yousif to be sedated and intubated in order to regulate his breathing. After a few hours of observing unstable oxygen levels and blood pressure, the verdict was given: Yousif's surgery was imminent. Tears streamed down his mother's face as she grappled with the suddenness of this news. Her cheeks still hot and tear-stained, a reporter approached her for an interview. Once again, she answered their questions with remarkable composure. While only twenty-two, this mother is a unique combination of youthful innocence and seasoned maturity.

Around 3:30 pm, Yousif was escorted to the operating room for what chief surgeon Dr. Lior Sasson projected would be a BT shunt procedure. Essentially, a new pathway would be created for blood flow between his lungs and body. The shunt repair is a palliative surgery that temporarily improves oxygenation and relieves cyanosis until a full repair can be accomplished in the future. While Ruth and I sat and comforted Yousif's mother in the waiting room, Jonathan secured permission to enter the OR and witness a miracle. Speaking with Jonathan beside the operating table, Dr. Sasson described Yousif's heart as being dark and nearly black before the repair. Then, within moments of the shunt being secured, the heart literally transformed into a thriving red organ. Oxygen levels immediately rose to near 80% saturation! In this next video clip, you'll see Yousif's heart beating strong for the first time in his life:

As the surgical team began suturing up Yousif's tiny chest, Jonathan asked Dr. Sasson about the timing of Yousif's rescue:

Jonathan then came upstairs to share the good news with us. His mother, who had been crying for the past several hours, had a beautiful smile on her face. We all stood and praised God together for Yousif's life and healing. It had truly been an extraordinary day, with the love of God being poured out from every direction. Families from Gaza had welcomed Yousif's mother as their own sister, offering her anything she needed. Jewish youth from a nearby school gave her gifts and encouragement as well. And Wolfson's team gave everything they had to save Yousif's life today. There is no denying that this baby boy is immeasurably precious in God's eyes! 

Yousif is now resting in stable condition in ICU. As we watch and pray for his continued recovery, may God continue to be glorified. Yousif has extended life, and breath, and healing this day. If he could speak, perhaps he would echo these words of praise written by King David long ago: The Lord "reached down from heaven and rescued me; He drew me out of deep waters...He led me to a place of safety; He rescued me because He delights in me." Psalm 18:16,19


One Heart, Many Defects

Posted on Thu, 02/14/2013 - 15:50 by Kelsey Cannon

The birth of a child is almost always a joyous occasion. Keeping with this well practiced tradition, I picture Yousif