Zahab's Heart Surgery


A Big Day for Zahab

Posted on Thu, 09/22/2016 - 10:59 by Agnes Bruna

Sunday was a big day for Zahab. Last week the doctors in Nahariya decided she is now well enough to go back to a hospital in Gaza. She is breathing on her own all the time, is now fed with a simpler food supplement than she was before, though still by tube, and weighs more or less double her birth weight. However, because of the big Muslim Eid Al Adha (commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son), no one in Gaza, in the Gaza hospital, or at the Gaza border was available to make it happen.

So Laila and I started the week communicating with everyone needed to transfer this little baby from Nahariya back to Gaza. Unusually, the Gaza side was fairly smooth. The hospital was ready to receive her, the border authorities just needed the right information to coordinate the transfer of Zahab between the ambulances, and the ambulance in Gaza to pick her up was arranged without any trouble.

Finding the right ambulance in Israel to transport her was much harder. Various ambulance stations did not feel they could do it because of the distance, or asked for exorbitant prices to do so. In the end, our regular ambulance station we use for transfers from Wolfson hospital in Tel Aviv agreed to do it.

In the meantime, the later in the day it got, the more worried the hospital in Nahariya became. They needed Zahab’s bed for another child, and also felt Zahab would be much better cared for in a hospital close to her family’s home.

I am glad Zahab was not aware of all the phone calls, emails, and WhatsApp messages flying back and forth, all to arrange a relatively simple ambulance transfer. We just wanted to make sure she was cared for optimally - during the journeys, during the transfer at the border between the ambulances, and of course most important of all, at the receiving hospital in Gaza.

At last, at 1am in the morning, I finally got the message that she safely arrived at the hospital. We are so grateful for all God has already done in this little baby’s life. We are praying that God continues blessing and healing her. We also pray that God will give the doctors in Gaza wisdom when to send this baby home to her loving family, after an opportunity to train the parents in her care.

Progress, One Step at a Time

Posted on Fri, 09/09/2016 - 11:04 by Agnes Bruna
Suhail and I went on another trip to visit little Zahab in Nahariya. I was pleasantly surprised at how much better she looks.
She weighs 1.684 kg (3.7 lbs) and is extubated now, but still gets oxygen at times through her tracheostomy. She is also still being fed through a tube, but her food is now less specialized. This means she is several steps further towards being able to breathe by herself all the time. However, they have tried to feed her by bottle, but it seems that her swallowing reflex is not functioning at the moment.
Until these two problems have been resolved, it has been decided to keep her in this wonderful, caring hospital. We tried to find a hospital in Gaza nearer to her home, but the doctors there do not feel confident they can give her the care she needs at the moment.
Another purpose of our visit was to take her aunt back to Gaza so she could celebrate the upcoming Muslim holiday with her family. The hospital is contacting a local volunteer organisation called Hibuk Rishon (first cuddles) to give Zahab some extra love and attention while her aunt is away.
We will keep praying for this little warrior princess, as the doctors discuss if and how any long-term issues can be treated, if they're reversible, and how eventually her parents can be trained to take proper care of her.

Progress and Excitement

Posted on Mon, 08/15/2016 - 21:25 by Agnes Bruna

Suhail, Yousef, and I drove to the Gaza border at Erez today to pick up Zahab’s aunt to be her companion at the hospital in Nahariya for the next weeks. She was very excited, and impatient, to see Zahab and find out how she is doing. It was her first time inside Israel, and the first time in 13 years she left Gaza. Full of questions, and constantly taking photos, selfies, and videos, this confident and outgoing aunt seems to be just what Zahab is needing right now.

There was an initial hold-up at the entrance to the hospital because of an incorrect permit, and because this hospital has never had patients from Gaza. They have had plenty of wounded from Syria brought there by the Israeli army, but no one from Gaza. But then we were on our way to the children’s ICU accompanied by some cheerful and helpful security guards. The doctors and nurses there were, again, very happy to see us and did everything in their power to make Zahab’s aunt feel welcome. Nearly everyone in this hospital speaks Arabic as well as Hebrew (and Russian!) which is very helpful.

Zahab looked visibly better than 3 weeks ago, when I last saw her. After arriving at this hospital at a weight of 1kg, she now weighs close to 1.4kg. Her infections have cleared up – no more antibiotics – and she is extubated. She still has an oxygen mask, but they switch the oxygen off for 4 hours, and then back on for 1 hour. All this to give her lungs a chance to develop. A physiotherapist comes in regularly to exercise her little legs and arms, and even to give her mouth muscles a workout.

Until today, some people came in from time to time to hold her and give her some personal love and attention, but the staff was very excited to now have Zahab’s aunt there for this specific purpose. This ICU has space for the aunt to sleep and put her bags. The staff is very caring, not just towards Zahab, but also towards her aunt. I am sure she will quickly overcome her fear of being left by us as she makes new friends there.

I cannot wait to hear and see more of Zahab’s progress. God’s care for her is so visible, it reminds me every time I see her that “His love endures forever”!

Of More Value Than the Sparrows

Posted on Thu, 08/11/2016 - 10:59 by Agnes Bruna
My co-worker Yousef spoke today to tiny Zahab's father to find out how she is doing. I was so pleased to hear she is doing a little better every day. She might look like a little bird, but she clings tenaciously to life.
She is now well enough for the doctors to ask for a family member to be with her. As I mentioned in my previous blog, until recently she was mainly sleeping and also quite infectious, so the news that they want a family member to be there is very exciting! The thought that they want someone there who can hold her and love on her warms my heart.
Zahab's father told us that the doctors are slowly reducing the amount of oxygen assistance she receives. Another good sign! Please pray with us that the permission for her aunt to come to be with her will come through quickly. An excellent reason for another visit to this hospital in the north to see her.
"Aren't two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will......Therefore don't be afraid. You (so Zahab also!) are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29, 31

Welcomed With Opened Arms

Posted on Mon, 07/25/2016 - 21:51 by Agnes Bruna

Today we made the long trip to Nahariya, on the coast in Northern Israel, to see how baby Zahab was settling in, and to meet the medical staff who so kindly and willingly took her in.

While looking for her, we were pleasantly surprised to find nearly everyone we asked for directions knew who she was and who we were. So we found the children's ICU with only a few detours, and after telling the nurse at the intercom who we were, they let us in immediately.

Three doctors were waiting for us, very excited to finally meet us. They showed us Zahab (as she is the most important one here, the head of the ICU said). Zahab has not gained any weight during her first five days with them, as she has fluid in her lungs and they are trying to "dry her out" before they increase the fluids in her IV feed. She also has a bladder infection which is being treated with antibiotics. Further, they found an amoebe infection, which sadly meant we were not allowed near her.

At the moment there is no family member with her, though the father calls daily to get updates. The medical staff feel that, as Zahab mostly sleeps, and also is quite infectious, it would be better for any family member to wait until she is more aware and has overcome the various infections.

The doctors say they cannot make any prognosis for her recovery, and in any case it might take a long time. They are very committed to doing everything in their power to save this little life. I felt very grateful to God for this amazing hospital and medical team. We are praying for God's supernatural intervention and healing for Zahab. This little baby is so valued and loved by God. God does not have any hopeless cases!

A Door Opens for Zahab in Galilee

Posted on Tue, 07/19/2016 - 22:15 by Jonathan Miles

Tiny Zahab is doing better--so much better that doctors in the cardiac ICU in Israel were ready to send her back to Gaza today. The ambulance was already enroute when it came to light that the hospitals in Gaza are not equipped to give Zahab the support she still needs. In particular she needs TPN (total parenteral nutrition) until she is able to overcome a life-threatening buildup of digestive fluid in her chest. She is also still on mechanical ventilation.

Her treating doctor in Gaza told us plainly that she will die if she returns to Gaza now. Yet the Sheba Medical Center, which is caring for her in Israel, needs her ICU bed for other urgent heart surgeries. Doctors asked us to try to transfer her to Palestinian hospitals in Jerusalem or Ramallah; both refused to accept her.

Ruth and I prayed, thanking God for caring for every detail of Zahab's life, as he does for each of us. It seemed unlikely that any other Israeli hospital would agree to step into Zahab's care midstream. But the Western Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya came to mind; we've never worked with them before, but they've taken great initiative in treating wounded Syrians over the past few years.

And indeed, by God's grace, late this afternoon the hospital director agreed to take on Zahab's care. We in turn have committed to help with financial support for this act of compassion (an opportunity to share in the cost of Zahab's care appears on the right side of this page).

We'll be arranging for an ambulance early tomorrow morning to transfer Zahab to the north; the hospital is close to the Lebanese border. 

More Precious Than Gold

Posted on Wed, 07/13/2016 - 17:46 by Ruth Zellweger

Little Zahab is fighting to survive. This was obvious right away when Suhail, Marilyn, and I entered her room in the ICU today. The tiny baby is hooked up to many different machines and pumps supporting her in this time of struggle. According to the senior doctor in the ICU, the medical team does not see it as an option right now to send her back to Gaza to continue her treatment there. Of course we are thankful for the excellent medical care Zahab is receiving at Sheba Medical Center. However, that also means she is seriously ill. Her little lungs cannot function on their own.

Zahab's grandmother is very discouraged and exhausted from five weeks living in the hospital. She requested to return home tomorrow and have someone else come to be with Zahab. When we asked what she wanted us to pray for, she said: "For Zahab and my whole family."

Zahab means gold, a precious metal. In the eyes of our heavenly Father, she is far more precious than gold. What a good reminder in challenging and difficult times. 

The support we can offer is imperfect, but we know the One whose love and comfort is perfect. Please join us in calling out to Him on behalf of Zahab and her family.

C'mon Little Lungs

Posted on Wed, 07/06/2016 - 17:26 by Alexa Bigl

Our brothers Suhail and Yousef were able to visit precious baby Zahab at Sheba's ICU today. 

They report Zahab is doing ok, but is still struggling with her under-developed lungs. She remains intubated, a machine breathing for her. The doctors reported her lungs continue to be their main concern. It is common for premature babies to have issues with their lungs, and they often require extended periods of time to develop enough to have the ability to function correctly. The doctors are looking to potentially send Zahab back to Gaza for this time of development. We will be praying for wisdom for the doctors, peace for Zahab's family, and for her tiny lungs to soon be able to support the oxygen needs of her body. 

Full of Hope

Posted on Wed, 06/29/2016 - 00:00 by jonathan

Precious Zahab is still in the ICU and not going anywhere soon, according to her attending physician Lior. Her weight has increased now to 1.3 kilograms (nearly three pounds), but she is still intubated since her premature lungs are simply not developed enough yet to breathe.

Yousef and I asked Lior if they have hope for Zahab; "We are full of hope," he replied, "but it will take time."

We prayed for Zahab, and told her grandmother not to be afraid--we will dance at Zahab's wedding!

Little Sparrow

Posted on Sun, 06/26/2016 - 20:46 by Ruth Zellweger

Ten days after her open heart surgery, tiny baby Zahab is still in the Intensive Care Unit at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv.

Her brother Mohammed was transferred back to Gaza last week and she was supposed to follow soon. Our co-worker Suhail visited Zahab and her grandmother today and reported that Zahab is still in the ICU. She had been extubated a few days after her heart surgery, but had to be reintubated due to some problems with her lungs, very likely caused by an infection. She is being monitored closely by the medical staff, who also reported that Zahab will probably need another surgery in the future. 

After spending some time at Zahab's bedside, Suhail visited her grandmother outside the ICU. She shared with him her fears and worries. It was obvious to Suhail that she is very discouraged. Both Zahab and her grandmother need the companionship and comfort of our Shevet family and others, but most of all the peace that can only come from their Creator. He has not forgotten them and cares deeply. Little Zahab is like one of these little sparrows, that hardly weigh anything and of which people might ask what worth they have. But He knows her by name. May her grandmother be encouraged daily by the love that God has for her and Zahab.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care," (Matthew 10:29).