Zulaikha's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

Prayers Needed for Ongoing Treatment

Posted on Wed, 09/20/2017 - 22:39 by Coby van Wijhe

This morning Ben and I visited Zulaikha. She was very bright and looked at us with big eyes. Although she looked much better, the oxygen flow had to be increased to 2 liters/minute. She still has a little bit of a temperature.

The doctor expects that Zulaikha will need antibiotics or another blood transfusion. This will depend on the results of the blood culture, which has not come in yet. Mom asked if the tube could be taken off soon, but this will not happen because of the ongoing treatment. Zulaikha is not keen on the tube and is fussing around with it with her little fingers. Please pray for full recovery.

Still Some Obstacles

Posted on Mon, 09/18/2017 - 00:45 by Lisa Smith
We set out for Sheba Medical Center after our daily morning meeting at Shevet. I was excited to see Zulaikha and her mother. It has been a long road for them. When we arrived at the hospital room, Zulaikha was asleep. Her mother was resting on the bed/bench beside Zulaikha's crib. After some time we were able to speak to the doctor. He informed us that Zulaikha's cultures came back negative so they stopped antibiotic therapy. This is good, however, she is still having fevers. The doctor said that the team is anticipating the fevers will resolve themselves in the next 24 - 48 hrs. Zulaikha also needs to be weaned off of supplemental oxygen. She was on 1.5 liters this morning. 
Zulaikha's mother was asking for our nurse, Alexa, when we arrived. Naturally, she wanted to speak to someone that understands her native language of Kurdish. We were able to contact Alexa and have her give Zulaikha's mother the update. This made her happy. 
Please continue to pray for this sweet little girl and her mother. Having a sick child is difficult enough. Add to that taking care of that child in a foreign country, surrounded by people that care but do not understand you must be unimaginable. We know that God can give them the strength and peace to carry on. 

Praise the Lord!

Posted on Wed, 09/13/2017 - 20:00 by Lisa Smith

Coby and I left early this morning to get to Sheba hospital. There were children and moms to visit, as well as assessments to lend support through. I found Zulaikha in a new room today. This was very encouraging, because she is no longer in the pediatric ICU. When I first saw Zulaikha, I was pleased to see a happier little girl. She appeared to be rested and in less pain. Her chest tubes were out and she was smiling.

Shortly after our arrival, Zulaikha’s mom came in to feed her. Zulaikha had no problem taking the whole bottle! That is also encouraging because one of the points the doctor made while updating us, was that Zulaikha needs to gain some weight. Zulaikha’s mother was also much happier than last we met. I can only imagine the relief she must be feeling to see her precious baby girl thriving.

“For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

After a bit of a visit we found the doctor. He told us that Zulaika is doing well. She needs to gain weight, be weaned off oxygen, and have no more sign of fever before she can leave. He informed us that he is consulting another team in the hospital regarding the source of Zulaikha’s fevers. She is currently on an antibiotic but they may need to add another to her therapy in order to stop any infection that may be causing the fevers. The team at Sheba were helpful and professional. We are so thankful for all they do!


Tired, But Happy

Posted on Tue, 09/12/2017 - 17:38 by Deborah Burke
After our morning meeting my co-workers, Dayo and Ben, and I left for Sheba hospital to return Omeed's mother to her son, who is still in the ICU awaiting his second surgery, and to visit our other sweet baby, Zulaikha, and her mother.
We arrived at the ICU and after saying hello to the nurses headed towards what we thought was Zulaikha's room to gown up before we entered. One of the nurses then said there's no one in that room and we all joked that we were there to visit no one. It is a pleasure to work with the lovely staff at Sheba; they have been helpful, communicative, informative and friendly. They seem like a well-oiled machine. Anyway it was with a smile that they informed us Zulaikha had improved so much that she was in the intermediate ICU. This is particularly good news given her 7-hour surgery and the possibility of being 1 week in the high needs ICU. 
When we found Zulaikha's new room, her mother was all smiles. We still have to be gowned and gloved to visit to ensure that possible cross-infections are minimised. Zulaikha however was bright-eyed, giving the occasional smile and glimpses of the sweet-natured baby that she is. She remains on oxygen delivered nasally but overall she is getting stronger each day. Her mother seems overjoyed but is so tired that she was almost asleep while standing. Despite that, they were communicating together in my presence as a hen communicates with her chicks (Matthew 23:37). I pray that mother and daughter both get some much needed rest so the journey to recovery can strongly continue. I also pray that somewhere on this journey God's voice is heard by all who are meant to hear it, families, hospital staff, us. The voice that calls us by name and opens the gate for us to walk through into His Kingdom where his mysteries are revealed.

Zulaikha's Progress

Posted on Mon, 09/11/2017 - 22:20 by Alexa Bigl

Sheba ended up delaying Zulaikha's chest tube removal until today. She fasted for a couple hours this morning and early this afternoon had some sedation and the team removed all three drainage tubes. They had also hoped to have Zulaikha completely off her supplemental oxygen as she was weaned down to a very low setting, just 0.5L/min, but Zulaikha still needed it for today. Her saturation went a bit too low without it, but the team is hopeful tomorrow or the following day to be rid of the nasal cannula. 

Zulaikha was crying a little bit before the chest tube removal because she was hungry, but would also smile a bit with some effort from me and her mom. Zulaikha's mom was so sweet today saying how Zulaikha loves all of us. She showed me pictures of different community members holder Zulaikha's little hands from over the past week. And when Zulaikha started to fall asleep when I was stroking her head, her mom thought it was so precious. 
During the chest tube removal, we were able to step out of the ICU for some time and Zulaikha's mom got to take a long shower and get her clothes washed. Her mom seemed much refreshed by the time we headed back into the ICU, a big smile on her face to see her precious daughter.
Zulaikha was excited to eat and happy drank her entire bottle of milk before falling asleep, her tummy warm and full. It is exciting to see Zulaikha doing so well after such a major surgery. Her recovery is going very well and the Lord's hand is apparent in Zulaikha's healing. May His Name be praised during this time of healing for Zulaikha. 

Prayers for Healing

Posted on Sun, 09/10/2017 - 22:33 by Lisa Smith

We left right after morning prayers to get to the hospital for a visit with Zulaikha and her mother. When we walked into her hospital room, she was wide awake. Her breathing was labored and she was a bit restless. As I stood at Zulaikha’s crib, across from her mother, I was overwhelmed by what I saw. Tubes and bandages covered her tiny body while her big beautiful eyes watched my every move. I did my best not to cry because I did not want to upset Zulaikha’s mom, but neither of us could help ourselves.

Soon after our arrival we learned that Zulaikha has Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), a bacterial infection that is resistant to most antibiotics. The nurse told us that they tested Zulaikha when she arrived and it was then that they learned of the MRSA. The nurse instructed us to wear personal protective equipment when entering the room.

While there, I asked the nurse if Zulaikha was being treated for her labored breathing and wheezing. Turns out the nurse had come to her room, in part to administer Zulaikha’s nebulizer treatment. Shortly after the nurse began the treatment, Zulaikha sounded much less wheezy and her breathing was visibly less labored.

I asked the nurse if Zulaikha was eating yet and she said no because she was having so much difficulty breathing. Fortunately, the nurse said it was possible that her drainage tubes could be removed today. When that happens, she will be more mobile and that will help her to clear her lungs, breath better and start eating again. Please keep this precious girl in your prayers to heal. 

7 Hour Surgery Complete

Posted on Thu, 09/07/2017 - 21:41 by Co-authored

Today was Zulaikha’s big day. We set off early in the morning to make it to the hospital in time to see her before she went in to the operating theatre. We learned that she was the first on the surgical schedule. She was full of smiles as usual, and was happy to have visitors. Not long after we arrived, the surgical team came, and began the process. Zulaikha’s mother started to cry as the realisation of what was happening around her sunk in.

She quickly skyped Zulaikha’s father, and he was able to see Zulaikha’s big smile right before she had her surgery. We called Alexa, our head nurse, to translate the process of surgical consent, and once the papers were signed, we headed towards the operating theatre.

Zulaikha’s mother was, understandably, crying when she waved goodbye to her daughter as she was wheeled into surgery.

It was a long wait and we tried to pass the time with as much positivity as possible.

About seven hours after Zulaikha entered the OR she was wheeled out by three of the doctors and a nurse and taken to her room in the intensive care unit. Nothing can really prepare a mother for the sight of their child with blood-filled tubes coming from many places on their tiny bodies.

Zulaikha's mother was no exception - almost collapsing with relief, disbelief, and exhaustion. How strange it is to have your child lying there breathing, but so sedated that they don't respond to voice, touch, or pain.

After Zulaikha had been cleaned up, attached to the life-sustaining and drainage tubes, the surgeon came to tell us the outcome of the surgery which he was very happy with. In brief, they did a full replacement of the ascending aorta and arch by graft, and repaired her heart. How admirable is their work and how humbly they respond when we tell them this. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that, "...we are God's handiwork, created in Messiah to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." This surgeon obviously knows a big purpose for his life. May he be blessed for following it.

Written by: Maxine Stuart and Deborah Burke


Posted on Tue, 09/05/2017 - 22:47 by Deborah Burke
The psalmist writes, "...For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things..." (Psalm 107:9).
There are fewer things that are more satisfying than resting in the salvation of the Lord. He is the God who brings true satisfaction for the longing soul, and for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Little and sweet Zulaikha is too young to comprehend what this all means so we need to stand in the gap/intercede for her, and her mother who seemed quite unsettled when we arrived at Sheba hospital today. Despite it being our first meeting, Zulaikha responded happily to my voice and YouTube.
It wasn't until 12:30 when the nurse came in to attend to Zulaikha, that we received some information. The CT scan that we were still expecting to happen had been completed in the morning and confirmation was given that Zulaikha will need heart surgery. The nurse said that surgery may happen tomorrow, God willing, but we await confirmation. After completing observations it was deemed that Zulaikha was no longer required to be nil by mouth so the nurse prepared a bottle of formula. As the bottle was approaching, Zulaikha's hungry eyes moved from her mother to the food. Her hungry little body was filled with good things and her satisfaction was sounded out with happy gurgles. How our Heavenly Father longs to feed His children and satisfy our every need.
This morning we sang "As the deer pants..." from Psalm 42:1. Let us take up those words and allow our souls to pant for our God.

Second Day in Israel

Posted on Mon, 09/04/2017 - 21:53 by Konrad Wiedmer

Today was the second day at Sheba Medical Center for sweet Zulaikha and her mother. After the tough beginning and the separation of Omeed and his mother, it seemed that Zulaikha’s mother was doing much better today. Zulaikha was quite active and happy in her little bed.

We first arrived at the hospital about 10:30 this morning and as we reached the ward where Zulaikha was, we said hello to her mother and entered the room. Zulaikha’s mother looked somehow worried. Probably the cause was that she is still overwhelmed by the many new things she is seeing and hearing here in Israel. Nonetheless she talked with Alexa and was glad that someone came to visit her and her little daughter.

Later we found out that Zulaikha’s CT scan, which was scheduled for today, was postponed until tomorrow. Due to the CT scan, Zulaikha was fasting and as it became clear that there was no scan happening, it was a joy to see how the little girl would enjoy drinking milk again.

While waiting for further assessments Zulaikha was playing with a glove filled with air and it was sweet to see how interested she was in it. Also, by talking to her or just looking at her with a smiley face she would start to smile back at you. She even smiled so much that she lost her pacifier over and over again.

After a few more minutes, a nurse came in and was explaining that she would now do an ultrasound of Zulaikha’s kidney and her head. As she started, the little one started to cry. After the mother and the nurse tried to calm her down without success, the nurse organized a syringe filled with some sweet fluid. This helped to calm the baby down and so the nurse could finish getting all the information she needed at that point. After she had left, the mother was also trying something from the ampoule, as if she wanted to see if this is good for her little girl, which was quite sweet to see.

Also, another nurse came to do some physiological test with Zulaikha. This nurse was, just like the other one, very friendly and this was nice to see. Zulaikha also didn’t like this test so much. Still she was patient and cried only a few times.

When it was time to have something to eat, we told Zulaikha’s mother that we would go downstairs where our bags were. She asked us to wait until Zulaikha was asleep so that she could have some time with Omeed's mother. This was a good idea for her to spend time with somebody she already knows from the journey to Israel, someone who speaks Kurdish and is in the same situation. During the day, Zulaikha’s mother even smiled sometimes which was good.

Please pray for Zulaikha’s path here in Israel and her upcoming assessments - especially the CT, which is hopefully happening tomorrow. May the Lord bless this little girl and her mother as they brave the unknown in Israel to receive healing.

Welcome to Israel, Zulaikha!

Posted on Sun, 09/03/2017 - 22:46 by Alexa Bigl

Zulaikha has safely arrived to Israel! She and her mother left on their long journey around 10pm last night. They met up with Omeed and his mother before driving to the airport where they boarded their flight to Amman. Zulaikha has been prescribed continuous oxygen support the past month. She received in-flight oxygen and then our co-worker, Maxine, met them at the Amman airport to switch Zulaikha onto Shevet's oxygen concentrator machine.

The team at the Amman airport were lovely, helping above and beyond to ensure Zulaikha remained safe and healthy. The two children traveling together even received an ambulance escort from one plane to the next, and the crew had Maxine and the children seated in business class after the captain double checked with Maxine all was good. The Lord's provision was in full-force in having the concentrator because the airplane's oxygen hookup was malfunctioning, so we could simply use our machine for the short flight and keep Zulaikha stable. Everything went smoothly at Ben Gurion and Suhail and I were soon welcoming Zulaikha, Omeed, their mothers, and Maxine at the welcome hall. 

From there we headed straight to Sheba Medical Center to have Zulaikha's initial assessment completed. After getting her registered and checked in, Zulaikha had her first tests completed including an echo, ECK, vital signs, and weight. With these assessments completed, the team decided they need a CT scan to better see Zulaikha's aorta. We don't know what time, but the CT will happen tomorrow.
For tonight, mother and daughter will remain at Sheba. It is best for Zulaikha to be monitored in the hospital as the remainder of the information needed to prepare a surgical plan is gathered. When Zulaikha was getting prepared for admission it was very difficult for her exhausted mother. She was overwhelmed with the idea of being alone in a foreign place with no one who knows her language.
Especially when she learned she would be separated from her new friend, Omeed's mother, she was very distressed. Up in the pediatric ICU Zulaikha's mother was overcome with tears and worked to control her emotions as she put on a brave face for the medical staff and her family's video calls. As the doctor and nurses assessed Zulaikha up at the ICU and gave Mom some time to settle, she seemed a bit more able to process all that was happening. It is still difficult for her with many unknown factors in the coming days. We don't know what time the CT scan will be, what the next steps will look like, or the time-frame for when Zulaikha will undergo her surgery. Please join us in praying for the beautiful little girl and her scared mother. We are excited to see how the Lord is going to work in and through the journey towards Zulaikha's healed heart.