Dina 's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Dina's Story Guided By A Kind Hand

Posted on Sat, 04/02/2011 - 00:00 by Ryan Gregg
It was December 2010 when doctors in Kurdistan first diagnosed Dina with a rare congenital heart defect known as Aorto-Pulmonary Window, a confusion of blood flow between the major arteries exiting the heart. Doctors warned that she needed surgery soon, before her first birthday, or her life would be in grave danger. Dina turned one on February 13. Her heart surgery was on March 13. In the gap of this additional month, God was faithful to preserve her health. This morning she and her mother left the Shevet Achim house in Jerusalem for the final time, heading home towards Kurdistan with a healed heart.
Dina took her first steps in Jerusalem. Her stamina increase after surgery gave her strength to explore the house. It has been a common site around here to see an adult staff member hunched over and holding both hands of a cautious little walker, whose dark eyes are subdued and warm like embers.

After person-to-person farewells were said, the staff and visiting families gathered in a circle under the courtyard tree. Dinas physical heart now healed, our spiritual hearts were stilled to acknowledge the kind activity of Gods hand in the story of this child.

This mornings gathering had additional bitter-sweetness, because we also said farewell to Donna Petrel and Michelle Bradburn, two long-term volunteers. They are beginning a ten day trip to Kurdistan to visit with children and families whom we have hosted in the past. The hope is that this trip will allow us to maintain connections and friendships we have previously made, strengthening the kinship of the children of Abraham in this region. So then, in your prayers of thanks for Dinas successful treatment, please also be in thought and prayer for Michelle and Donna as they function together as a mobile extension of our team and His love.

"Twow!" ("Finished!")

Posted on Fri, 04/01/2011 - 00:00 by

Dina was officially released from the hospital today with a healthy heart and a brilliant smile.

We arrived at Wolfson Hospital in Tel Aviv this morning after a (mostly) calm drive from Jerusalem. Dina began to cry as the echo-cardiogram technician moved the ultrasound across her heart, but thankfully God designed children (especially this child) to be easily amused. The entire echo consisted of a medley of us singing her name and making whatever noises our voices could generate to amuse her; my favorite smile (Dinas) was faithfully returned for almost the entire duration.

After several minutes of such charades, we neared the end of the echo, and my attention was diverted to Dina's mother. She was looking intently at the screen with an eagerness to know the final result. Finally, the technician announced in English that there was no fluid around Dina's heart, and I looked to Dinas mother and said "Bash!" ("Good!" in Kurdish). The relief on her face was instantaneous, and she exclaimed "Twow!" ("Finished!" in Kurdish).

Dina and her mother begin the journey back to Iraq tomorrow morning (April 1st, 2011) leaving an impact of bravery, love, and joy on all of us here at Shevet Achim; I'd venture to say that they will be bringing the same with them on their journey ahead.

Taking Steps With Her New Heart

Posted on Wed, 03/30/2011 - 00:00 by

Anticipation is mounting as Dina progresses not only from crawling to walking but also towards returning to her beloved Kurdistan. Her operation to correct an Aortopulmonary Window on March 13th has proved successful. Moreover, the unexpected opening of her wound about a week ago is almost fully resolved. Daily incision care and antibiotics have helped the wound to heal without infection. Dr. Merav was pleased with this improvement, commenting on how clean it looked.

As Dina and her mother waited for the echocardiogram on Monday, the hospital hallways provided ample space for Dina to explore and practice her new walking abilities. She absolutely delights in walking and taking others along for the ride. Her wobbly steps quickly gain surety with each new day. Once the echo exam commenced, a hospital clown was present to keep Dina entertained.

The test results were unremarkable, her heart continuing to show proper functioning. This Thursday Dina is scheduled to have her final echocardiogram. We look forward to when she will take her first steps on home soil in Kurdistan, reunited and celebrating with her father and sister. Praise God for His faithfulness in walking Dina through each phase of healing!

Dina's "Bye-Bye" To the Hospital

Posted on Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:00 by

Dina was ready to say "Bye, Bye" to the hospital today. She was quite happy to see our staff member and driver Gadi and me. We seemed to be a signal to her that she was leaving the hospital. As we waited for the echo and paperwork to be completed by the doctors, there were many young people walking the hallways and passing out gifts and cookies in honor of the Purim holiday. My hands seemed to be preoccupied with everything except a camera when the crowd of young people dressed in costumes danced through the corridor giving gifts to all the children. But here's video of her joyful waving "Bye-Bye":

Dr.Tamir was pleased to release Dina to go back to Jerusalem with an antibiotic and a caution to monitor her closely for fever. He said he expected her to be able to be weaned off her medications easily. Tonight we have all three little girls back in the Shevet House for a little celebration - and that is a lot to be thankful for.


Dina's Wound Opens, Re-Admitted to Hospital

Posted on Sat, 03/19/2011 - 00:00 by

Yesterday afternoon, Dina and her mother returned to the Shevet Achim community with grateful hearts. Unfortunately, the relief of being home was short lived. Dina's mother informed me around 9:00pm that something was wrong with her daughter's incision. When I lifted Dina's shirt, I was surprised to find mild wound dehiscence. This means that the lower two centimeters of her incision had prematurely opened, pulling away from the suture line. There was no bleeding, but it certainly required immediate attention. This, along with a high temperature, led us to call the hospital and quickly leave for Wolfson Hospital.

It was difficult to comprehend how the incision, which had been clean and intact this afternoon, changed so dramatically within a short time frame. Michelle and Bill, fellow Shevet staff, also supported Dina and her mother on our late night hospital run. By the time Dina was admitted, her fever had subsided, but her weariness of nurses and doctors had not. As she cried through the examination, Dina's mother bravely held her daughter, speaking words of tenderness in Kurish.

The pediatrician handled Dina beautifully, keeping the environment light hearted and even making her mother laugh. A blood sample in addition to a culture swab were taken in order to test for bacterial infection in the wound. A surgeon was called in to observe the nature of the wound, and both doctors agreed that Dina needed further treatment. The pediatrician commented that the incision did not look clean and determined to start antibiotic therapy if tests confirmed an infection. Meanwhile, a nurse gently cleaned the wound opening and covered it with gauze.

Once this was finished, Dina was swept up in her mother's armed and her crying ceased. Michelle and I walked them back to the room they had left just hours before. Dina lay quietly sucking her thumb as we sang to her and prayed with her mother. It was difficult to say goodbye, leaving them in the hospital again, but Dina's mother agreed with us that she is in good hands.

This morning, we received word that antibiotic treatment has begun and that medical staff are continuing to monitor for infection. Please pray that any infection will quickly diminish and that Dina will heal well. Although this was an unexpected chapter in her story, we know that God is faithfully protecting and present with Dina. "The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms." Deut. 33:27a

Her Face Breaking Into Smiles

Posted on Thu, 03/17/2011 - 00:00 by

Although she didnt want to leave her mothers arms when we visited her today at Wolfson Hospital, Dina had fun watching our German coworker Andreas blow bubbles. And her little face broke into a smile at the familiar sight of our Israeli coworker Gaddy.

For all of us looking forward to Dinas return to the Shevet Achim home in Jerusalem, it was a welcome sight to find her out of intermediate ICU and into a regular room. Her progress continues. We rejoice in this, the healing of a little heart. Rejoice with us.

Healing Now in ICU

Posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 00:00 by
One day after open heart surgery, Dina is recovering well in the ICU at Wolfson Hospital. On the heels of a surgery with which doctors were pleased, today the medical staff was able to remove her artificial breathing device, and tomorrow they intend to remove the tube in her chest draining excess fluid. Her nervous sobs for her mother did cause some alarm today, as violent crying could upset her healing wounds. But most of the time she lies quietly in her bed, breathing steadily and peering up and around cozy blankets, letting the miraculous healing abilities of the body run their course. As she drifted in and out of sleep, her mother gazed at her recovering child with deep concern. Unlike her daughter, she clearly had not slept much, and looked thoroughly anxious. All of us here in Jerusalem are eager to hear Dina's baby babble once again and to see her bright-eyed smiling face back at Shevet Achim.

Her Timeline Expiring, Dina Has Heart Surgery

Posted on Sun, 03/13/2011 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

Today many prayers were answered as little Dina underwent successful heart surgery at Wolfson Hospital. At the echocardiogram screening in Iraq in early December, Dr. Kirk advised that Dina needed surgery for her rare heart defect by her first birthday. Dina's birthday was February 13, and her mother was becoming very anxious, as surgery was delayed to give immediate attention to two urgent cases from Iraq and several others from Gaza Strip. But this morning Dina had her operation. Doctors emerged from the operating room around noon and installed her in the ICU with reports of an excellent operation.

The morning began with a happy Dina playing in the ward and the pre-operating room.

Tears came at one point, but were soothed by the calm embrace of mother.

When the nurse came to take Dina to the operating room, mother held back tears until her daughter slipped from sight.

Dr. Sasson wished to schedule Dina's surgery in the morning in order to make provision for extended operating time should it be necessary. So we braced ourselves for a long wait. We spent our time sitting together first with Marwa and her mother, and then sitting peacefully in one of the hospital's courtyards where it was quiet and beautiful. Around three hours after Dina went into surgery we proceeded to the corner hallway so that we could watch for her gurney when she came to the ICU. Approximately forty-five minutes later we saw the doctors approaching with Dina. The initial report was that everything had gone very well, and Dina's mother began to show relief right away. Not until she was able to see Dina for herself did her concern began to truly lift.

Dr. Sasson was in the ICU when we were allowed to enter, and explained that everything went very well and that he was pleased with the results. When Dina's mom realized he was the surgeon, she was overwhelmed by the chance to thank him. She approached her daughter's bed, and looked at her and all the equipment very carefully, and began giving God thanks, clearly overwhelmed by what she was experiencing. After several joyful hugs, she was ready to share the news with family, and go again to Marwa and her mother. We join Dina's family in thanksgiving, and ask you to keep Dina in your prayers as she begins her recuperation.

Dina Sets Out for Hospital, Cheerful and Calm

Posted on Sat, 03/12/2011 - 00:00 by Michelle_Bradburn

This evening we brought Dina and her mother to the Wolfson Hospital to be prepared for Dina's surgery in the morning. It's been a long wait for Dina's mother, and she was so relieved to hear that the time has come, although behind the relief there remains a quiet anxiety in her eyes. Yet she remained peacefully calm, and was deeply grateful to know we continue to remember Dina in our prayers. On the drive to hospital she looked around at all of us in the car and said, "You all love her so much."

Dina herself is cheerful and calm, she even sang (in sweet, mumbled baby-talk!) all the way to the hospital, waving her little hands in the air dreamily. I'm so thankful that the God who created this beautiful girl loves with a love greater than all others. I pray that Dina and her precious mother would experience God's peace and presence this evening as they wait in the hospital for the coming surgery.

Dina's Big First Day at the Hospital in Israel

Posted on Thu, 02/24/2011 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

Very early this morning we left Jerusalem for Wolfson Medical Center for little Dina's initial examination in Israel. After a long day of travel yesterday, she was still tired, and slept sweetly most of the way. Dina is a happy, curious baby who is easily pacified, especially with crackers to nibble on, and most of the day she was pleasant and adorable. The few exceptions were when she underwent her blood test, and when it was time for her echocardiogram.

Even her mother's kisses couldn't soothe her during the blood test, but thankfully the doctors were able to give her a mild sedative so that she slept peacefully during the entire echo. Results agreed with Dr. Kirk's findings last December in Kurdistan, that Dina needs treatment for an AP window. Aorto-Pulmonary window is a rare heart defect in which there is a hole connecting the major artery taking blood from the heart to the body (the aorta) and the one taking blood from the heart to the lungs (pulmonary artery). This hole causes blood from the aorta to flow into the pulmonary artery, and too much blood flows to the lungs, resulting in high blood pressure in the lungs (a condition called pulmonary hypertension) and heart failure.The condition is congenital, which means it is present from birth. It is very rare, accounting for only 0.1% of all congenital heart defects.

Today the doctors said Dina is doing well for now, and made a medication change which they believe will be better for her condition until surgery. Dina's name will be added to the surgery schedule, and it is hoped she will be called for her turn in about two weeks.

Back home in Jerusalem tonight we celebrated our coworker Donna Jo's birthday, and Dina joined in the celebration with some joyful dancing (click the play arrow below to have a look).

Please keep precious Dina and her mother, as well as her father and big sister waiting at home, in your prayers.