Bruska 's Heart Surgery


Goodbye To Bruska

Posted on Tue, 04/28/2009 - 01:00 by


We said goodbye to Bruska and her mother on Saturday afternoon as they boarded a plane bound for their home in Iraq.

Before they left Israel, I took Bruska and her mother, along with Rasan and his mother, to the Jerusalem Zoo for one last outing. We strolled around enjoying the birds, monkeys, bears, and elephants. Bruska enjoyed watching the monkeys play most of all and we sat and watched them for a good 20 minutes.

The journey through the border to Jordan was a long one, but Bruska was no worse for wear after we arrived late in the evening to the Shevet house in Jordan.

She was very lively, and practiced her leg exercises with me, laughing the whole time, until I became too exhausted to do them with her any longer. These exercises which are intended to combat the effects of her cerebral palsy have become one of her favorite activities when someone does them along with her, so please pray that her vigor in doing them will allow her to begin walking.

It was a difficult goodbye at the airport for Bruska. She had been very happy as usual, up until we were at the gate. Then she realized we were going to part ways and she started crying. Her emotions are polar, changing from smiling to crying at a moment's notice and back again. Thankfully by the time she went beyond the frosted glass screen that would hide her from view, she was blowing kisses back to us.

Bruska and Rasan are children who are still works in progress. They both go home with healthy hearts, but with other challenges still to be faced, Rasan with learning to eat after cleft palate surgery, and Bruska with the challenge of what we pray will be overcoming the effects of cerebral palsy which has left her legs crippled for now. Though they are back home, they will still need our prayers now as much as ever, as they continue the gradual processes of growing and healing.

Healthy Enough To Return Home To Iraq

Posted on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 01:00 by Justin_Strong


Bruska went to Schneider Children's Medical Center again today to see if,
after going off all her medications, she would display any adverse symptoms.
After a short echocardiogram, with the help of a much calmer Bruska thanks
to some toys and cartoons, we were told that there was no water around the
heart. After a doctor finished interpreting her results and doing a couple
final checks, he said that she is now healthy enough to return home to Iraq.

However, she will need at least one follow up echocardiogram in Iraq to make
certain no water begins forming around her heart again. Bruska will leave
this Friday for Iraq.

Very Good Test Results

Posted on Sun, 04/19/2009 - 01:00 by Justin_Strong


I took Bruska to Schneider Medical Center today for a follow-up on her surgery. She had an EKG and an echocardiogram performed to check on her healing and to see if the water around her heart remained. Bruska is normally the portrait of a happy child but during the tests she was very uncomfortable. However, it only took a few silly faces and a game of peek-a-boo to forget the tests and return to her usual giggling self. The results from the tests were very good; the water around her heart was completely gone, and the valves that she had surgery on showed no signs of leaking whatsoever, which is even better than expected.

After we finished everything at Schneider we headed to Wolfson Medical
Center to visit Akram and be there to support Dima and her mother. Akram
cares for Bruska very much and Bruska enjoys playing with him, it was also
good for their mothers to visit to encourage one another.

Amidst the hustle and bustle and stress of the hospital, we all enjoyed a nice Kurdish lunch together at Akram's bedside.

Increasingly Active And Alert

Posted on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 01:00 by Donna_Petrel


Since Bruska's return to the house last week, we've all been encouraged as we've noticed that she is becoming more active. She is talking more, responding more quickly when spoken to, and better able to move her legs, arms and hands at will. But within a couple of days of this additional activity, she began experiencing pain in her legs which increased, so on Sunday when Delbak and Shadyar were admitted to Schneider's, I called to ask if we could bring Bruska too. It is our hope that because Bruska has normal oxygen in her body now, it is able to respond in ways it could not before. We wonder hopefully if perhaps nerves and muscles are being regenerated as they are exercised again. The doctor on the ward consented to check her to be certain there were no heart-related causes for the pain. After the examination the doctor cited the medical evidence which showed that there was no relation between the pain and the heart surgery, and there was also no relation between the movement causing pain and any hope that Bruska would walk again. I understand the reasons for the doctor's opinion, yet cannot help but believe that God can answer the prayers we've been bringing before Him to fully heal Bruska. The hospital cannot offer any physiotherapy for Bruska, but the doctor says it cannot hurt her to have some, and if there is somehow any development in her abilities, it is likely that her Achilles tendons will need attention as they are atrophied at this point in time. After the examination I talked with Alex about the possibility of a center in the area doing an assessment and offering help with some therapy to help Bruska go forward at this time. We look forward to hearing of possibilities for help in this way.

Today was Bruska's regularly scheduled follow up echocardiogram appointment, so again she travelled to Schneider's for a check on her progress. The echo showed that her heart is doing very well, but there is some fluid around it which will require Bruska to stay for further observation.

Because the Passover holiday will begin next week, her appointment will be several weeks away, but as I considered this timing, I realized that this could be the window for helping Bruska with physical therapy. She will require at least two more echos, so it allows about a month within which, God willing, she can receive restoration. Let's pray and see how God will choose to work in Bruska's life during this time. Um Bruska delights in seeing her daughter rebuild her strength, but there is a shadow of worry about her too. Please pray for her to find peace as she perseveres in the waiting period with us. It is our desire to build her up in her thankfulness to God for all He's done so far for her daughter, and to believe for all He will yet do in this precious little life.

A Smiling Sweetheart

Posted on Mon, 03/23/2009 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel


Yesterday Justin and I made a visit to see Bruska and her mother after receiving news earlier in the day that she would be dismissed to us. Later the hospital called again to say she needed to stay until at least Tuesday. We knew it would be a disappointment to them to have to stay and wanted to offer some friendship and companionship to help offset the news. It was a delight to both of us to see Bruska doing so well in the ward, and her mother no longer wearing the anxious worry she had before Bruska's surgery.

We found out that Bruska was kept at the hospital because she had some water around her heart, and further tests were needed before she would be dismissed. Even though they were not able to come with us to Jerusalem, Bruska's mother was very gracious and thankful. Just looking at Bruska's big smile was enough to make anyone happy! The nurses all commented on what a sweetheart she is, and we share their consensus.

I asked again about whether there was a determination of cerebral palsy, and they said they didn't know, only that the lack of oxygen to her brain from the heart condition had caused some damage and they were not sure of the extent. Please keep praying for Bruska's healing to be completed by God's touch to her body. We look forward to having her back with us, possibly as early as tomorrow. Pray for her mother to continue to be comfortable in the hospital until she is able to rejoin us, and some other Kurdish speakers, in Jerusalem.

Resting Under Sedation, 99% Oxygenation

Posted on Tue, 03/17/2009 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

Bruska's mother appeared to be rested this morning when I greeted her at breakfast time. Already she was asking at what time we would return her to the hospital, and I saw the relief on her face to know it would be only a few hours longer. Just before we were to leave though, we received a call from Wolfson to bring Akram in for a catheterization in the morning. We delayed our departure long enough for Akram and his mother to pack a bag, and loaded up to head to the hospitals. Since Akram didn't have to be at Wolfson until early afternoon, we all went together to Schneider hospital so Um ("mother of") Bruska could get back to her daughter. She was obviously looking forward to getting there, as her smile grew wider the closer we got.

We headed straight into the ICU, and found Bruska still resting under sedation, with an oxygenation rate of 99%. The nurse reported that the plan of treatment was for Bruska to remain sedated all day today and most of tomorrow so her body could rest. This would help her recovery not only after the surgery, but also because of the crash she'd had on Sunday evening, and the five years she'd had without normal lifeflow through her body. She will be awakened either late tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon, or early Thursday. Because her daughter seemed to be the same, with no change at all as far as she could see, the worried look returned to Um Bruska's face. After she got the update translated to her in Kurdish, and then the reassurance from Um Akram, Kirsten and me, she relaxed again.

The nurses assigned a room to Um Bruska so she could be more comfortable while outside the ICU, and brought two lunches to us so all of us could share. We visited over lunch for a little while, but had to leave again to get Akram to the hospital on time.

We left Um Bruska assured that her daughter was doing very very well, and with the pass card for the ICU in her possession. She can go into and out of the ICU any time she desires to see Bruska, and I suspect most of her time will be spent just beside the bed of her daughter.

I was thankful knowing that yet another of the Jewish parents with a child recovering from heart surgery who'd shown great concern and compassion for Bruska and her mother, were one door down the hall. Just as we were leaving we saw each other on the elevator, so I was able to tell her which room Um Bruska was in. I am certain she will assist in whatever way is needed if Um Bruska needs help.

I called the ICU this evening to follow up again and found that Bruska continues to do very well, and it is still hoped she can be extubated tomorrow. Will you please pray for her dear mother as she waits patiently by her daughter's side? It is hard for her to understand everything without translation, but she knows the staff is providing the good care her daughter needs, and is already figuring out ways to communicate with the Arabic speakers around her.

Keep praying for Bruska. Let us hope that God will heal her supernaturally quickly as her body rests, so that when she awakens, we will all be able to give Him great praise.

A Total Repair For Little Bruska

Posted on Mon, 03/16/2009 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel


Alex and I took off for the hospital early this morning thanking God that we had not gotten any middle of the night calls saying Bruska required an emergency surgery, and hoped to find her in her ICU room when we arrived. We entered and saw her there with her mother sleeping in the chair beside her. The ICU staff reported that she remained stable throughout the night, and was expected to go to the operating theater at 8 AM. The interim time was challenging for Um Bruska as she was fighting fears and tears while the staff made final preparations to take Bruska downstairs, and her family called to check on her status. The surgeon came in for a final check before Bruska was wheeled out, and said he was optimistic about Bruska's surgery being successful since she was able to stabilize after yesterday's severe cyanotic spell. He added he had never seen a child's oxygen level drop that low before and the child survive - a real opportunity for all of us to praise God for His care for Bruska.

Um Bruska was allowed to accompany her daughter to the area just outside the OR, and I was able to accompany her for moral support. Once she was wheeled away, Um Bruska began to weep, but the nurse was kind yet firm with her about a positive way to spend her time during the surgery. We began this process in the waiting room near the ICU where she sat with her head on my shoulder for a very long time, praying. I was praying too, both for her and for Bruska. After a while, the parents with children in ICU or in the ward greeted her as they passed by, and inquired about Bruska. There were phone calls from home to inquire and encourage as well.

When she began to seem tearful again I suggested we walk, and since it was a beautiful day, we walked outside and then sat in the sun for awhile. Returning later to the waiting area a Jewish family who have been very diligent to check on both Bruska and her mom walked through. Their newborn infant daughter was well enough today to be transferred to another hospital in a city closer to their home, so it was a joy-filled day for them. Yet they were so concerned about Bruska that they stopped to find out details about her surgery and her mom, and said they had prayed all night for her. The husband also insisted on buying sandwiches for us so Um Bruska would eat... I had invited her to have tea and a sandwich already, but she wanted to honor these who had shown such compassion for her, and accepted their gift. To me it seemed God had His special way through them to keep Um Bruska strong.

After more phone calls from family checking the progress, at last, around 1 pm we began to see the doctors from Bruska's surgical team. Each of them said the surgery was finishing and had gone well, but were not ready to elaborate. I was able to give her this bit of good news until we had opportunity to meet with the surgeon. When he came to us, he shared that Bruska had a good surgery with no events during the operation, and it was a total repair. He was full of encouragement that she would be incredibly better than she had been in the previous days, although mentioned again that she had arrived with neurological damage before surgery. He called our translator Mazal, so that the results were translated to Kurdish for Um Bruska.

After a little while longer we were able to enter the ICU and see Bruska ourselves. What a relief to see her oxygen saturation at 99%! Her mother was focused on the drainage tube in Bruska's chest, but understood from the doctor's explanation that this was necessary and would be removed later.

Our visit was brief as it was time for shift change, and when the new team came on--the ones who'd been with us last evening when Bruska "crashed"--they suggested that we consider taking Um Bruska with us to Jerusalem tonight so she could rest while her daughter was fully sedated. By this time her good friend Um Akram had arrived after Akram's echo at Wolfson, and she translated this idea to her. To my surprise Um Bruska decided to come to Jerusalem with us, so after an emotional goodbye to Bruska, we set out. When we arrived at the house Um Bruska was welcomed by the other families and we all sat together to eat the nice hot meal which was waiting for us. Even though I suspect she was exhausted beyond what we could know, she also joined us for a party in honor of the good reports from Bruska's surgery, and the dismissal of Havan, and upcoming dismissal of Omed and Halo.

Let's thank God together for Bruska's timely arrival last Friday before this catastrophic attack yesterday which might have taken her life had she not been in hospital. We can thank Him for the doctors and nurses who were able to stabilize her, and then make the full repair of her heart today. The compassion of the staff at Schneider has also been a blessing for this gentle, humble woman and her desperately ill daughter. Keep praying for little Bruska to be fully healed. One of the nurses in ICU mentioned the neurological damage which was there before the surgery, saying even though this good surgery was from God, the damage would still be there and not heal. I shared my thoughts that since God was Bruska's creator, I felt it possible that He could create a way to restore life to her brain. She was willing to consider this because she earnestly believes God is the one who directs these surgeries. I look forward to how God will do His work in little Bruska's life. Thank you for praying with us.

To Emergency Surgery in the Morning

Posted on Sun, 03/15/2009 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

Our visit to Bruska and her mother today was a long and difficult one, very different than Kirsten, Um (mother of) Akram and I expected when we left this morning. The other mothers in the house prepared some Kurdish home cooking for us to take to Um Bruska, and we were glad to deliver it. We were looking forward to seeing our new friends and offering some encouragement and prayer while finding out the results of the echo planned for today. After a few minutes of greetings I visited the nurses' station and learned that Bruska had a severe cyanotic attack yesterday. An emergency echocardiogram and evaluation were done, and oxygen was started for her at that point. I was told they could see that some of her weakness was not due to her heart problems, but that she had come from Iraq with neurological damage. After an evaluation to check the cause for this, the plan was to take her to the ICU for monitoring until surgery. It was hoped she would have surgery in the next day or so pending an opening on the schedule.

A team of doctors and nurses came in to Bruska's room do the evaluation and translation to Arabic, and Um Akram translated from Arabic to Kurdish. After this examination and consultation, a CT scan was scheduled for late afternoon for Bruska. The move to ICU was made, and we were all allowed to gather there to talk and visit with each other. During the course of our visit one of the doctors explained to Um Bruska that because Bruska's inability to walk was not due to her heart condition, it would not go away after her heart surgery. Her mother was understandably very sad at the news.

Kirsten and I took turns doing simple, silly things to entertain Bruska, and we were as delighted as she was with the outcome - she enjoyed watching us, and we enjoyed her giggles.

Her mother laughed at the laughter of her daughter, but was visibly emotionally fragile and on the verge of tears every moment. Kirsten shared her impression that it was a time to offer prayer for both of them, and so we did. We cried with Um Bruska as we prayed for the Lord's help by His comforting presence in the Holy Spirit, and His peace, to be with her. Then we prayed for Bruska's healing from head to toe, believing God that He can heal her lack of ability to walk. Um Bruska seemed more peaceful afterwards, and at the end of the day when we looked back, Kirsten and I were so thankful for the timing of God's prompting for prayer.

We didn't know at that point that the day would become even more difficult after Bruska's CT scan. When she was returned to her bed in ICU, her mother was asked to leave the room for a few minutes and Bruska began to cry. This began a very dangerous cyanotic attack, and we learned later it required a team about one hour to stabilize Bruska again. Her mother sat outside the ICU on the floor weeping most of the time with her friend Um Akram beside her, waiting to go inside again.

Eventually I entered and a doctor explained that Bruska needed mechanical ventilation, and the surgeon was on call and it was possible that Bruska might have her surgery in the middle of the night. At that point with the team having done all they could, they were ready to inform Um Bruska of the situation. This drove her into further distress in some ways, but she seemed at last to understand that the doctors her daughter needed were ready to do the lifesaving surgery at a moment's notice. She understood that Um Akram had to go back to Jerusalem but was as close as the telephone, as were three other Kurdish speakers. I asked specifically if I might stay with Um Bruska during the night, and just at that moment a nurse came out of ICU and said Bruska had stabilized. She felt it good for me to go back home and come early in the morning as previously planned. I felt this was good, and asked if we might accompany Um Bruska into the ICU to see Bruska for the first time with the intubation. They agreed, and we entered for just a few minutes to offer reassurance and say goodbye. As we left and I offered a final comforting hug, Um Bruska's eyes were peering into mine to see if I believed her daughter would be ok. It seemed that - far beyond my ability to do anything - she saw what she was looking for in my confidence in the Lord, and I was thanking Him in my heart that this was so. The nurse assured me that they would call if Bruska was taken to surgery during the night. We left Um Bruska sitting beside her daughter's bed. I felt comfortable in the sense that all of the doctors and nurses were very kind, compassionate, and helpful to all of us, but especially to Bruska and her mother, so I felt I was leaving them in excellent care.

Please intercede for Bruska and her mother, for each one have very specific needs our heavenly Father alone can meet. Let us watch together how He will work in this precious little one's life, and her family's lives too.


Bruska's Urgent Transfer to Hospital in Israel

Posted on Sat, 03/14/2009 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

Tiny Bruska arrived in bad condition upon arrival from Iraq to Jordan Wednesday night, very cyanotic, and it was urgent that she cross quickly to Israel and get to the hospital for her treatment. For this reason we left very early Friday morning to send Alaa and her mother on their way home, and greet Akram and Bruska at the border. We wanted to transport her immediately to Schneider Hospital, who'd agreed to receive her as soon as we could get there even as the Shabbat approached. We understood that Um (mother of) Bruska was very frightened about her daughter, and also about being the only Iraqi in the hospital. We prepared the phone numbers of our Kurdish-speaking friends who could help us with translation at the hospital, and set out trusting God to help us as we went forward.

We made good time through the Jordan valley, and were able to get Alaa and her mother on the bus toward Jordan just as Dirk was sending Bruska and Akram and their mothers to us. We'd notified the border authorities about Bruska's condition and the fact that we might need to use oxygen right away when we met her. The duty manager assured me he would assist us in any way possible, yet when he realized Akram was an 18 year old young man, came to me and said there might be a delay because of security protocol requiring an interview. He suggested that we might consider taking Bruska and her mother along with Akram's mother on to the hospital and sending someone else for Akram, but when I told him I could not do this, he again said he'd do what he could. I sent a message asking the team for prayer for this dilemma, and God answered faithfully. The interview process was accomplished quickly after an employee at the terminal who is familiar with us was asked to assist with translation during the interrogation. He came and told us he'd been asked to help, and shortly afterwards Akram and Bruska and their mothers appeared at the door exiting customs.

Tiny Bruska was carried by her mother as she is unable to walk, even though she will celebrate her fifth birthday next week. Kirsten and I were thankful to see that she was not blue, but was in fact doing better than the previous day. After some brief greetings, we loaded into the van and headed for the hospital. I offered everyone some food from the basket I'd brought, but at first Um Bruska was too shy to accept it. Once Um Akram and Akram began to eat however, she and Bruska also shared some bread and cheese. We were commenting about the very good timing we were making as we headed to the hospital, but were unaware that our van was almost overheating as we traveled. Just as we exited off the highway, the alarm sounded to warn us of the trouble. Kirsten and I conferred with the men who are more familiar with the quirks of the van, and we all felt if we could make it the few more miles to the hospital we could safely address the problem then. We arrived safely and as I helped Bruska and her mother upstairs for admission, Kirsten assessed the problem with input by phone, and added needed water to our radiator. We hoped that this would solve our problem, and attended to Bruska and her mother's needs as we helped them settle into their room.

Upstairs in the pediatric cardiology ward we were greeted by the waiting staff. Bruska was assigned an isolation room near the ICU, and sat near her mother until a bed was brought in and initial exams were begun. This fragile girl was very quiet until her mother opened a gift they were handed by a group of visiting Israeli teenagers as we entered the ward. I suspect that because of Bruska's short hair the girls thought she was a boy, because the gift contained a car.

But when we began to roll the car across the floor, little Bruska began to smile, and then to giggle. Soon she was interested in the lollipop which was also contained in the package (see picture at start of today's entry), and a sense of relief and encouragement entered the room. The nurses were very kind and helpful; they also brought a toy to Bruska, and once Bruska was settled in her bed, she enjoyed our antics with these toys. I was thankfully recalling that laughter does good like medicine, believing the healing in this hospital had already begun.

The initial pulse oximeter reading showed Bruska's oxygen saturation at 84% which I thought, with thanks, was surprisingly high. The doctor on duty did not feel Bruska needed further immediate treatment and said that the plan would be to do her echocardiogram on Sunday morning following the Shabbat. We worked for a little while to get the SIM card and long-distance phone numbers worked out so that Um Bruska could talk to her family and they could reach her. This was a relief to all. The nurse assigned to Bruska made a call to our friend and Kurdish translator Mazal who shared with Um Bruska everything about the plan for Bruska. I also called our house to ask Abu Halo to explain that we would be bringing Akram and his mother to Jerusalem but Um Akram would come back to visit as soon as possible. Both mothers wanted very much to be in the same hospital, but their cases were accepted by different doctors, so that it not possible. It was very difficult to leave Bruska and her mother alone, but we know that she will be well treated, and will learn her way around the hospital. We'd already provided food for her in the parents' kitchen, and the hospital will also provide meal trays for both of them. Tomorrow we will make another visit to see them and find out the results of Bruska's echo. I'm looking forward to seeing this precious little one again and hearing her giggle.

Please pray for comfort and peace for Um Bruska, and the revelation of the hope that is possible with God. Pray for life and health for Bruska, that she may be healed and strong, able to walk for the first time, and show God's glory as she lives a full life in the coming years. With God, all things are possible!