Mustafa's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Dismissed To Go Home

Posted on Fri, 05/02/2008 - 01:00 by Donna_Petrel

Yesterday was a day for celebration - Mustafa had his final echo and was found to be in excellent condition, and ready to go home at last! Praise God! As Dr. Alona performed this final check-up, she and the other doctors marvelled at the beautiful echo pictures they see of Mustafa's heart after the healing of his third and final surgery. And what a joy it is to see him! The little boy we met seven months ago who was blue, had a hard time breathing, not very much energy, and often felt badly is just not the same child. Each time I see him I am in awe of the new life in him, and the joy he has in everything he does. His mother is also a different woman, with a beautiful glow and peace about her that also tells part of the story of this journey she and Mustafa have made together. Her first comment when told how well he is doing and can go home now, was "I thank my God for this," to which I agreed wholeheartedly! They then took off together to get the dismissal report with Mustafa asking to carry the large book representing his medical record for this last time.

As the day progressed while we waited for the newest Iraqi patients to complete their pre-admission tests, Mustafa and his mother had a chance to say goodbye to the staff whom they have come to love, and who've come to love them during their six-month stay. For Mustafa's mom, it was a chance to thank them for everything they have done for her son and for her. It was quite touching for me to hear the surgeon himself tell her how thankful they are that such a difficult heart problem requiring such a difficult surgery, and the hurdles along the way through all three surgeries, have had such beautiful and perfect results.

As they go, we're preparing for them a collection of many pictures to take home to help them remember these friends and care-givers. Even in the midst of the joy about leaving there is also a sadness about saying goodbye to those with whom they've had such unique and special relationships. Those of us with Shevet Achim certainly feel this way in the midst of our thankfulness and joy that they can go home at last. We have been blessed to know them as friends, and thank God with them for all He has done in their lives.

In the coming days we will leave for Jordan where Mustafa and his mother will fly home to their waiting family. Having had the chance to meet them in Iraq, I can picture them vividly and the anticipation they must have as these final days tick by. Please pray now for a little more patience until that long-awaited reunion becomes a reality.

Sending Love Back

Posted on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 01:00 by Danielle_Parish

Mustafa is clearly on the mend and lights up the faces of all who meet with both him and his mother.Mustafa's mother continues to be a great blessing to the other mothers in the hospital, in spite of the nearly six months she has been away from her husband and two daughters due to Mustafas surgeries.

Mustafa's mom
so appreciated the prayers and pictures from the children in America and they received the letters with great joy, sending love and thanks back to the children.

Continue to pray for both Mustafa and his mother, that their patience and joy would be an example to the other mothers at the hospital and the children's house.

Up and Walking Around

Posted on Mon, 04/14/2008 - 01:00 by Keleigh_Glisson

Mustafa was moved from the intermediate ICU Sunday and is up and walking around. Praise God for a smooth surgery and a quick recovery.

His mother, however, now faces her own health problems. At first the doctors diagnosed her with gallstones, but an ultrasound today revealed that this isnt the case. Please pray for her healing so that she can fully enjoy her sons complete health.

Still Intubated, with External Pacemaker

Posted on Wed, 04/09/2008 - 01:00 by Elly_Miles

Yesterday my friend and I got to visit Mustafa and his mother at the hospital. Mustafa's mom was feeling very concerned because, although Mustafa's surgery was successful, his oxygen level had started to drop that morning. I asked one of the doctors why this was happening, and he told me that they really didn't know why. His best guess was that Mustafa was experiencing "excitement" in response to the surgery.

After a few minutes, the doctors started looking pretty concerned and brought in both an echo and x-ray machine. They asked all of us to leave, so for a few minutes we sat outside waiting to go back in and hear what the consensus was.

During this space of time, Mustafa's mother, my friend and I all went to see Nahro being prepared for his catheterization that would take place the next day. I was impressed to see that in the midst of Mustafa's mother's own struggle and fear over her son, she was still available emotionally to help the other mothers, and to care for the difficulties she saw them experiencing.

A little while later we found Mustafa sedated and reconnected to his tubes ("intubated"). Usually as a patient recovers he is taken off of the tubes ("extubated") and given space to start breathing on his own. Mustafa's response to this was poor enough that they decided to put him back on the tubes for a little while to let his body gain strength.

Please be praying for strength in Mustafa's body as he pulls through this, and also for Mustafa's mother as she struggles with her own fear and weariness.

Simantov wrote about today's visit: Mustafa remains in ICU as his mother stood by in a demonstration of joy and faith I rarely get to see. She allowed us to pray for Mustafa, who is still on a respirator and an exterior pacemaker. Even though Mustafa is taking a bit of time to get stabilised, he is doing well. Tomorrow doctors will see if things have improved and may attempt to take him off the respirator.

Smooth and Successful Surgery

Posted on Sun, 04/06/2008 - 01:00 by Keleigh_Glisson

I had a lot of time to sit and talk with Mustafas mother today during his surgery. She told me that she found out about Mustafas heart condition one month after he was born. At two months old Mustafa underwent a catheterization in Baghdad. If this first operation wouldnt have taken place he would have only lived a few more months. Following this operation in Baghdad, the doctors told Mustafas mother that he still had a very serious condition. Without intervention he would only have a life expectancy of about 18 to 20 years at best.

At this point Mustafas family used all of their resources in order to find some help for him. They wrote letters to many organizations around the world. Often it would take up to a year to hear back from some of them and the answer was always that for this or that reason they were unable to help Mustafa. She also said that there were a few countries around Iraq with the ability to help Mustafa, but all wanted an astronomical fee that her family didnt have the money to pay. Finally, after four years of continuous searching, she was pulled aside by a doctor who told her about a secret organization in Israel. That was seven months ago. Only a few weeks after hearing about this secret organization, Mustafas mother found herself and her son in Israel preparing for the first of what would be three operations. Today Mustafa had his final operation.

Immediately after the operation was complete, one of the doctors came out with a big smile on his face and informed us that everything had gone really well. Mustafas mother and I sat outside of the ICU waiting for Mustafa to be brought up. Finally we saw him coming down the hall. He quickly passed us and as he did the worry on his mothers face quickly diminished. She turned to us and said, His lips! They are pink! After we went into the ICU we discovered that not only were his lips pink, but his fingers and toes as well. (Before the operation they were blue.)

Another thing she quickly noticed was his oxygen level. Before any of his surgeries his oxygen level was around 60%. Following his second surgery it was around 70%, but today his heart was completely healed. His oxygen level (shown below in turquoise) was fluctuating between 98-100%.

Initially the doctors told us that Mustafa would be attached to an artificial heart that would assist his heart until it was strong enough to pump blood to the body on its own, but by the time he arrived to the ICU there was no need for this.

Praise God for a smooth and successful operation thus far. Please continue to pray that Mustafa would remain stable throughout the night and continue in his recovery.

Staff member Hank, along with his family and guests, brought a birthday celebration to the hospital for Mustafa's mother:

Little did Mustafa know that while he was sleeping in the ICU his mother's birthday had come and gone, but not without a little birthday celebration. We tried to prepare a meal that his mom would enjoy--vegetables in sauce over rice--and then we made our way to the hospital.

The dinner and the cake were a hit but the small gift, a picture frame with a picture of her and Mustafa by the Dead Sea, was better than the icing on the cake.

Barb Yeakel, one of our guests, said that "just to be able to fellowship with people of other nations in a land of such uncertainty has blessed me beyond what I could have imagined."

As the night came to a close, Mustafa's mother asked if we could make a small cake for her son when he is out of the ICU. Our trust is in God for a quick and total recovery.

Waiting for Second Surgery

Posted on Mon, 03/10/2008 - 00:00 by Elly_Miles

Mustafa is still holding out at the Shevet house in Jerusalem, awaiting his next surgery. From what I am seeing firsthand, I think his mom sure could use a break sometimes! But Mustafa is very, very attached and often refuses to let anyone really close besides his mother.

Last week we went on a walk down to the Old City. The return trip (especially with the kids) is very laborious and steep. Mustafa's mother laughed as she recalled the first and second times she made the same trip. On both occassions, upon completing the hill, she anounced that it was "the first and the last time" she would be making the trip. This time she admitted that it probably wouldn't be her last.

Mustafa's mother proved to be very kind and helpful this last week when another Iraqi named Karim was in surgery. Karim is our only patient at Tel HaShomer Hospital, which is about 10 minutes from the Wolfson Medical Center, where most of our patients are treated. Since Karim and his mother are all alone there and speak only Kurdish, it has been a very intimidating experience for them. Thankfully, Mustafa's mother was willing to accompany Keleigh to the hospital and translate from English to Kurdish for the entire day! I know that she was able to minister more comfort to Karim's mother than probably any of us could have, simply because of her multilingual skills. This was also a sacrifice for Mustafa's mother, because she chose to stay all day as a comfort to this mother, rather than accompany Juliana, Sarah and their mothers to the beach. She also had Mustafa with her the whole day. I think it is so neat to see the way these mothers have been so helpful to one another in adjusting, in comfort, in sacrifice, and in friendship.

His Dream Come True

Posted on Tue, 02/19/2008 - 00:00 by Hank_And_Michelle_Dannecker

What does it take to bring joy and happiness to three Iraqi women and their children when they've endured so much already? These families have been away from their husbands and other children, left their country for indefinite lengths of time, and watched their children undergo difficult surgeries. So it was my family's desire to pamper the mothers of Mustafa, Hussein, and Tara.

When a simple request to visit the Dead Sea was made, I welcomed the opportunity to spend some quality time doing what we love best: fun, food, and fellowship. Summing up what Jesus said to Mary and Martha: the worries, the preparation and work surrounding Him will always be there, but Mary chose what is better, to sit at His feet and listen to Him, and He said, "That will not be taken from her." We at Shevet are compelled to do many things: administration, logistics, coordination, and all the things that go on within a well-tuned ministry. It would be easy, like Martha, to be consumed with the things pertaining to Jesus and His kingdom, but we want to be intentional about our first love, which is to make disciples of all nations. We do this at Shevet much of the time, through friendship evangelism but also recognize the need to share the Gospel in many different ways, like taking the time to build relationships and fulfilling the simple desires of the mothers and children. In turn, as we go through the day, we watch the "walls" come down, and many spiritual questions being asked.

So with eager expectation, Mustafa, Hussein, Tara, and their mothers got ready at 1:00pm yesterday for me to pick them up to begin their afternoon of fun. The women enjoyed the sights en route to the Dead Sea, but faces broke out in pure joy when glimpsing the sea for the first time. Mustafa excitedly shared with his mother, "My dream came true. This is the sea in my dream!" As we made our way down to the water's edge, basking in the beauty of it all, and sharing in some laughter, we soon found ourselves in ankle-deep water, with our shoes still on!

The women and boys did many things in our short time there: took some pictures on cell phones, tasted the water (yuck!), threw some rocks, collected some "treasure" (Mustafa's mother's term for sand, rock and salt). But one thing we did not do was go swimming, as Tara's mother kept saying she wanted to do.

Dusk quickly settled in and dinnertime was approaching, so after a long walk back up the hill, we piled in the van and headed for home.

Just a side note: as we were going through the checkpoint, ironically I was the only one to have my passport checked, which the women thought very funny!

On our trip back to Jerusalem, all three children quickly fell asleep and Mustafa's mother and I began to talk about many spritual things. She was quick to inform me that Mustafa, on seeing the Dead Sea said, "This is the sea that was in my dream" and kept insisting to her that it was indeed one and the same sea. She said I was instrumental in making that dream come true, and "her Lord" would keep me safe at all times, in the work we are doing. I was able to share my testimony with Mustafa's mother as she listened intently and asked questions. She brought up Satan or "the devil" and said that he is responsible for all the killing in the world--that he works in getting people to kill others. She also asked how I personally felt about Muslims. To say the least, it was the Holy Spirit working at His best, pointing to Christ every step of the way and drawing all men to Him.

While we were out sightseeing, my wife Michele was preparing "a feast" at the request of Tara's mother, and was waiting for our return. Upon entering our home, all the children quickly found a spot on the carpet and played with puzzles together, while the mothers enjoyed paging through "American" magazines until dinner was served.

The fellowship was sweet, but all too soon, it was time to end the day and return them to the Shevet house, as the children were becoming tired. But a good day cannot end without some group pictures to savor the moments.

We were richly blessed by and thankful for this opportunity to show Christ's love. Our prayer is that we can say, like Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14, "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him."

New Shoes, New Toys

Posted on Sun, 02/10/2008 - 00:00 by Brenda_Giangregorio

During the last visit to the children's house in Azur this past Wednesday, we learned that Mustafa's mother needed new shoes. Her old ones were worn out. Stopping at Shuk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv today, we found some leather sandals to bless the moms.

They were delighted and said it was beautiful to have such a special gift. Usually, there is such a focus on the child that the mother forgets to tend to her own needs, resulting in
being distracted during this time of medical crisis. The moms said they are not used to thinking about themselves, or someone asking, "What do you need?" This small gesture spoke volumes of the compassion and attention of those serving and caring about their needs.

For several months now, women from a local church have volunteered to come along on visits to the families both at Wolfson Hospital and at the house where the families reside while waiting, before and after surgery. Today was a special day for all. New toys donated to the church from an organization in the states were taken by taxi to the moms and kids along with new shoes and lots of hugs.

We are very happy to have taken part in making these Iraqi families' lives a little brighter. You can see the delight in their faces.

We thank everyone who has had their heart touched for this work, and responded by giving freely of their abundance.

Her Anxious Wait Is Over

Posted on Wed, 02/06/2008 - 00:00 by Brenda_Giangregorio

Mustafa returned to Wolfson Hospital today for a three-hour cardiac catheterization procedure to check from within how his heart is doing. From 11 am until 2 pm this afternoon Mustafa's mom waited anxiously for her son's return from the cath lab. Results were positive with good heart function signalling success after his initial surgery a month ago. Staff doctors making their rounds discussed his pulmonary arteries and we were informed that within 24-36 hours from now he will return to the children's house, to await his second surgery in approximately one month. He tried to drink a little water while we were there and his stomach immediately reacted but the doctors reassured us that he is right on schedule with targeted recovery.

To our great pleasure, upon arrival at the hospital we found Mustafa's mother is in wonderful spirits and socially interacting with the other Arab moms in the rooms surrounding Mustafa. We shared tea together and watched Mustafa smile continuously as he enjoyed his little cars given to him to pass the time before he can be released tomorrow.

Recovering from Catheterization with Generosity

Posted on Wed, 02/06/2008 - 00:00 by Hank_Dannecker

On entering the children's ward today to spend time visiting "our kids", Hank and I noticed that most beds were empty. So we inquired about Mustafa with Nava, the head nurse and she told us that he was still upstairs recovering from the heart catherization. About 10 minutes later, he was wheeled into his room, but still pretty groggy from the anesthesia. I was surprised to hear that this procedure lasted about three hours, which the nurse said is normal. After getting him hooked up to various monitors, his oxygen level remained at 76%, so he was given oxygen.

Dr. Alona came in to let Mustafa's mom know that the procedure was a success; his pressure within his heart is very good and he will be ready for another surgery in one month to switch the crossed arteries to his heart. Dr. Alona went on to say that though this next operation is a complicated procedure and not an easy one to recuperate from, in the long run, it will give him the ability to live a long life. Without the operation, a person's life expectancy usually does not exceed 30 years of age.

I was touched at the generosity of spirit in both Mustafa and his mom. I stood amazed, when this beautiful little boy, just coming out of anesthesia, offered my young son, Levi, one of his treasured toy bikes he just got yesterday while visiting the hospital canyon (mall). He made sure he kept his favorite colored bike - yellow! Knowing that her own son was in discomfort, Diyka Mustafa unselfishly went to the ICU with Hank to offer her assistance in translating between the charge nurse and Shinyar's mother. As Levi and I stayed with Mustafa, I quietly asked God to bring quick healing to such a tiny body. When his mom returned, he softly asked her if the cath was done, because he didn't feel any pain.

Let's continue to pray for him, as the road to full healing and recovery is a long one for this precious boy. Remember his mom in your prayers as well. Though she seems in good spirits and cheerful, the long hours and days spent in the hospital become very tiring, I am sure!