Zakariya 's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

Rapid Progress

Posted on Wed, 02/08/2017 - 21:41 by Camila Buitrago
There is a saying that the best fragrances come in small bottles. And I think our little friend Zakariya is an example of that. Today Ruth and I made a visit to the ICU check on the state of this beautiful little one. When we arrived, Zakariya's father was at his side trying to distract him with some videos on his cell phone.
Despite our limitations with communication, Zakariya's father told me that our little friend had eaten, but nevertheless continued to be hungry. This was why after failed attempts to distract him, Zakariya was still crying. After changing his diaper, the nurse told us that possibly tomorrow they will send Zakariya to the ward, which shows his rapid progress.
As Zakariya gains more weight, his strength and defenses will also increase. So, the nurses allowed him to have another bottle, and he finally fell asleep.
I believe that in the face of a child you can see the love of God. In the brightness of their eyes, you can see the purity of life which some call innocence. Many of us lose this over the years as we age. This is why children are so important. Not only because they are the future, but also because they are white books waiting to have a "history class" to fill in their pages.
Maybe our faces he will not remember. But surely when Zakariya grows, he will reflect our help and our love which only comes from God.

Extubated and Sooooo Hungry

Posted on Mon, 02/06/2017 - 18:26 by Ruth Zellweger

After a night's rest in our Jaffa home, Zakariya's father returned  with me to the hospital this morning to be with his beloved son. I wasn't able to go to the ICU right away to see how Zakariya was doing, but met his father about an hour later outside, talking with another father. When I asked him if Zakariya was extubated he affirmed that and smiled happily. Together we entered to ICU and I could hear tiny Zakariya's loud voice already from the door. He was obviously not happy, and it soon became clear that he was very hungry. However, after an extubation the children only get slowly water and milk / food to make sure that they are actually doing well. 

So there he was: Little Zakariya in his big hospital bed, very hungry, and his happy and strong father beside his bed, both gazing  into each other's eyes. 

Zakariya's father and I went for lunch and in the meantime Zakariya received a bottle of milk that satisfied him for a while. Nevertheless, half an hour later he was already hungry again. The nurse told us that he would have two more hours until the next feeding. While it can be very stressful and heartbreaking to see your child in need, we talked that this was also a very good sign. Zakariya failed to thrive before the surgery because his body used every calorie he received to fight to survive. Now with his heart repaired he can actually start putting on weight, and his huge appetite proves that he is on the road to recovery. 

Only a week ago Zakariya was rejected to board the plane in Kurdistan because he looked so sick, and today he is already after surgery. We are praising God for His lovingkindness on little Zakariya and his family.

A Day to Remember

Posted on Sun, 02/05/2017 - 22:46 by Ruth Zellweger

A special day lies behind us - Zakariya's surgery day. From the beginning to the end it was full of God's tender mercies and many prayers lifted to our heavenly Father on Zakaryia's behalf all over the world. And now baby Zakariya is already recovering in the ICU with a repaired heart. 

The day started out peacefully early this morning when Paul and I entered the children's ward. Zakariya and father were already awake, getting ready for the big day. These moments before everything gets busy in the hospital are so valuable. While the father and Paul had a tea I had the privilege of holding Zakariya for a while. His big eyes seemed to know exactly that there was something going on.

A few minutes later there was already a lot of bustling going on in the children's ward with the nurses doing their rounds and other children and parents waking up. And then it was time to accompany Zakariya to the operation department. His father carried his son all they way, making sure that he was covered with a warm blanket. He and Paul were talking softly while waiting for the elevator. Once we were in the pre-op waiting room, several doctors and nurses came to check Zakariya's papers, his name and hospital number, and confirmed several times that he did not have any allergies. His father became quite emotional during that time and started to weep. It was obvious how hard this all was for him. We gathered around Zakariya and father and entrusted his life and the surgery into the hands of his Maker. The father visibly calmed down. Raya, the head nurse, appeared.

I was touched how tenderly she approached Zakariya and stroked his little head, personally interested in that beautiful baby boy. It was right then when I felt that something special was going on and the theme for the day became clearer and clearer: friendships. The kind formed under special circumstances and a lot quicker than usual, but very strong and supportive. The kind extended and returned by people who have seen a lot of suffering themselves, but still believe that life can be beautiful and meaningful. And that there is hope - hope for Zakariya to become well, to thrive, to play, and to grow. 

Raya covered Zakariya with a hospital sheet and the father was given a moment to say goodbye to his son. Then a nurse took him to the operating room, leaving us behind. I was impressed by the father, as I had expected tears, but there were none. We all headed upstairs. On our way something else became clear that fit well to the "theme" of the day - the given names of both Zakariya's father and myself have the meaning "friend."

During the next hours we met with Rasty and father who had become good companions to Zakariya and father over the past days, as well as Stuey, the hospital clown.

Zakariya's father was met with a lot of support and encouragement. And I was pleased to let him know that there are people all over the world praying for Zakariya and his surgery. This is something so special and powerful, and Zakariya's father truly appreciated that. 

After lunch we positioned ourselves in front of the ICU and soon saw Zakariya's gurney being wheeled towards the ICU. The surgery was finished, the heart repaired. The father quietly rejoiced and shared the good news with his wife and other family members. We waited patiently for about an hour and then we were allowed to enter the ICU.

Zakariya will be resting tonight in the ICU under sedation. If tomorrow the echocardiogram looks well, he will then be woken up and extubated. His father is spending this night in our Jaffa home. 

We are so thankful for this special day. Many friends, old and new, came together to make this an unforgettable day. Each person played their part. There were the medical professionals, the supporters, the prayer warriors, the encouragers, the listeners... everyone was needed, and everyone contributed to that day of which we can say: it was a day to remember!


Getting to Know Zakariya

Posted on Thu, 02/02/2017 - 22:00 by Alexa Bigl

After Zakariya arrived late Tuesday night and then was quickly whisked off to Wolfson yesterday morning, I had only been able to briefly meet him and his dad before today. But I was blessed with being able to spend time with father and son today. Zakariya loves his daddy very much and often gazes lovingly into his eyes for long stretches on time. His skinny little body is a sad sight, but Zakariya is a fighter! 

It was fun looking at pictures of him with his twin brother and his 2-year-old brother as his dad proudly showed us while we waited for the echo. We also looked at his pictures of the devastated city of Sinjar from his peshmerga deployment there. It was very eye-opening - war is a horrible thing indeed. It's interesting how Zakariya's dad has seen all these terrible things and yet he is extremely gentle and very caring. 
Zakariya's echo took some time as the docoters and technician did a thorough exam to have all information they would need for the surgery. This was a little upsetting for Zakariya at first, but a little sugar water on his pacifier and a children's tv program soon had him satisfied again. The echo showed his VSD is very large at 6mm and he also has a small ASD and a PFO. The doctors say he is a great surgical candidate and we have great news: Zakariya is already on the schedule to receive his surgery on Sunday! He will stay admitted to the hospital over the weekend with the NG feeding tube. His father was a little confused because the news was so surprising that Zakariya would have his surgery so quickly, but once he understood he was excited. Zakariya and his dad are nervous about being alone in the hospital over the weekend, but we reminded him Rasty is next door and we live right down the street. 
Thank you for praying with us for this sweet boy and loving father. We will be lifting up the small family over the weekend that they can rest and have peace and we will also be praying for the doctors as they finalize the surgical plan. 

Travel Mercies and Hospital Admission

Posted on Wed, 02/01/2017 - 22:53 by Ruth Zellweger

Precious Zakariya and his father are finally in Israel. Yesterday, when they wanted to board the plane in Kurdistan for the second time, an airport official almost hindered them again. However, our co-worker John interceded on the phone for father and son and they were eventually allowed to board. 

Just before Paul and I reached the airport in the evening, I had a phone call from a security officer at Ben Gurion airport. She told me that she was with Zakariya and father and that they soon would be in the arrival hall. I was amazed and so thankful for the favor we had experienced that afternoon and evening.

Only a few minutes later we met in the arrival hall and I could hold Zakariya for the first time. It was the smoothest and quickest airport pick up I have experienced so far. Praise God.

Father and son were welcomed by our other families, and while the father was eating, Zakariya was fed by Yaser's mother. It is so special to see how the families come together and support each other during these times of trial. 

Zakariya was scheduled for his initial assessments for Thursday morning, but this morning he was crying a lot and was not well, and his father in distress. So the hospital agreed to let him come in already today. Due to his extremley low weight they inserted a nasal feeding tube and will start him on a higher calorie diet. Tomorrow he will have his echocardiogram. We are thankful that Zakariya made it to Israel in time. Even though he still has a long way to go we know that our faithful God is watching over him. 

When I left the hospital I found Zakariya's father already engaging with a Palestinian father. We pray that during these next days both father and son can get some rest and that God's peace would prevail in the hospital. 


Arrival Delayed

Posted on Tue, 01/31/2017 - 04:34 by Ruth Zellweger

Little Zakariya and his father have to overcome quite some obstacles. Originally they were scheduled to arrive a week ago, but due to a chest infection Zakariya had to be hospitalized. Yesterday, the family met with our co-worker John to receive their visa copy and fill out some papers and everything seemed to be set.  However, again this morning it did not seem to be God's perfect timing, as Zakariya and his father were denied to board the plane in Kurdistan after an airport official was requesting that Zakariya would travel with oxygen. When I called the father to ask about his whereabouts I was impressed by his calm voice despite the trouble and inconvenience. 

We are hoping to welcome Zakariya and father tomorrow evening, and we are trusting that our heavenly Father is watching over them as they start their journey. May it not only be a time of phyisical healing but also of beautiful new relationships.

A Precious Life

Posted on Thu, 01/19/2017 - 16:25 by Ruth Zellweger

Our Shevet community is awaiting the arrival of baby Zakariya and his father. Both father and son are expected to travel the beginning of the coming week. Zakariya was born with a VSD, a hole between the two lower chambers of the heart. In addition he suffers from severe pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs). In order to prepare father and son for travel, our co-worker John and the local cardiologist in Kurdistan met with them yesterday. At that time Zakariya's condition was so serious that he had to be admitted to the hospital. His little heart is failing and he needs urgently medical intervention. 

Zakariya's family are IDPs (Internally displaced person) who had to flee the Islamic State. As a result they are currently residing in one of the refugee camps in northern Iraq. Zakariya has a twin brother and one more older sibling. 

Even though we haven't yet met Zakariya personally, he is already very dear to us and hope and pray that he will make it to Israel in time. We appreciate your prayers for Zakariya's condition to improve enough so that he is able to fly, as well as for all the travel arrangements and the medical treatment. Our desire is that he and his father will experience the excellent help of the Israeli doctors, and unconditional love through our community.