Arina 's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

Dancing Out The Door With A New Heart

Posted on Thu, 06/16/2011 - 23:19 by ryan

During her last 24-hours in Israel, Arina was a queen. She spent her final day in the country experiencing the big sands and big skies of the beach in Tel Aviv with the friends she has made at Shevet Achim. In the evening, a special party was thrown for her in Jerusalem, the Shevet community celebrating God

A Plane Ride On This Week's Agenda

Posted on Mon, 06/13/2011 - 22:05 by Kristina Kayser

The much anticipated day for Arina has arrived! Into the van she went proudly showing off her freshly painted fingernails. 
Long before we even arrived at Wolfson Hospital, the celebration had already begun. Arina's joy spilled over into exuberant laughter and shouts of "Dilxosh!" ("happy" in Kurdish). She was absolutely convinced that today's echo was the climax to her great exploit in Israel. It turns out, she was right! The echo revealed a beautifully repaired heart gently "whooshing" to a rthymic beat. It's no wonder why infants are so comforted by their mother's heartbeat. Only God could create such a soothing sound for the adroit organ which pumps life-giving blood to the rest of the body. The ventricular septal defect (VSD) that once threatened her life has been sealed. 
Ryan, Shevet member/deep thinker/middle earth dweller, mused that God's highest achievement as the Creator was to create "creators." The same God who designed the heart gave humans the ingenuity to craft gortex, the synthetic material used to patch Arina's heart. Half way through the echo, Arina's mother whispered to me that she could feel her own heart pounding within her chest as she waited for the final result. When I shared the exciting news that a plane ride bound for Iraq was on this week's agenda, Arina's mother breathed a huge sigh of relief and started laughing like a school girl. 
Arina, on the other hand, smiled confidently all the way back to Jerusalem, as if someone had shared this secret with her long ago. This charming "songbird" is getting ready to take flight

Arina's Echo Solicits Praise

Posted on Mon, 06/06/2011 - 19:21 by Elena Canler

With sparkling eyes and enthusiastic laughter, little Arina set off this morning from Jerusalem to Wolfson Hospital where she would undergo her second post-op echocardiogram. After entertaining the waiting room by dancing to music on Um Arina

Kurdish Songbird Returns to Jerusalem

Posted on Sat, 01/29/2011 - 00:00 by

Six days after Arina had a full repair of her Ventricular Septal Defect, her new heart is beating strong and steady. Doctors at Wolfson concurred that she was ready to be discharged to our care at Shevet Achim.

Arina was beaming all day with the excitement of being reunited with friends in Jerusalem. She even "made a call" on the payphone to check up on them before heading home, asking "Choni bashi?" ("how are you" in Kurdish).

Although she was released earlier this morning, Arina and her mother waited patiently into the afternoon until Chrakhan's surgery was completed successfully. Yusef, a Shevet volunteer, helped to keep the morale up as he laughed and colored with Arina in the play room. Hearts are truly knit together between families in our community, standing by each other through thick and thin.

In one week's time, Arina will return for her next post-op echocardiogram. At this point, we will see how well her heart is functioning with the modern wonder of a Gortex patch. We are rejoicing with our little songbird, who loves to fill the air with sweet Kurdish melodies. Today, Arina has much to sing about!

Ups and Downs for Arina

Posted on Wed, 01/26/2011 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

Arina has had a long wait for her first echocardiogram in Israel nearly two weeks and today's visit was successful in accomplishing the desired objective but only after another long wait. The prior visits to the hospital were at the beginning of the Passover holidays, and it was not possible to work her in to the crowded schedule before the doctors' echo appointments were filled. Today's visit was lengthy due to hands-on training on the new echo machine, meaning Arina got a very in-depth echo study of her heart as Dr. Livia used the new features available to the SACH team.

The beginning of our wait was pleasant enough as Arina and Chrakhan played together in the play house. And when Chrakhan went first for her echo, Arina continued to entertain herself (and her mother and me) by singing to an imaginary tune she played on the toy piano.

Once we were called to the echo room, the wait continued due to a glitch with the new machine. Arina's mother became the doctor in order to entertain her because as Arina grew tired, she also grew fearful.

When the problem with the machine was solved and doctors were ready to begin the echo, Arina began to cry so much that sedation was necessary for a good echo. After Arina settled down, she smiled at everyone intermittently, complimented the doctors, blew kisses, and generally enjoyed herself! The change was remarkable, and the doctors continued the echo as long as the sedative was effective, which was around an hour. Afterwards, Dr. Livia reported that Arina would need a catheterization before her surgery to have a look inside her heart so the doctors would know exactly what to expect for her surgery. She stated that the pressures in Arina's heart were higher than she liked to see, but since she is stable, it is good to leave her medication just as it is.

The only negative about today's visit was the news that, because a portion of the medical system in Israel is on strike, there can be no catheterizations this week. The doctors said that at this point it would be at least two weeks before Arina might be catheterized, and since there is no way for them to know how long the strike may last, there is no way to be sure of that estimate. Arina's mother was surprised to learn that Arina would need a catheterization, and then disappointed that she'd have to wait for two weeks. We are hopeful that Arina remains stable during the wait, and ask that you pray with us for her, and also for peace and patience for her mother. When I left the families upstairs a little while ago, Arina's mother was chatting with Chrakhan's mother about what a catheterization was like, since Chrakhan had one last year in Iran. Her experience is a valuable insight for Arina's mom. We're all looking forward to the time when we'll receive the call to head to the hospital, and Arina's healing will be underway.

Arina In ICU After Heart Surgery

Posted on Tue, 01/25/2011 - 00:00 by

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Arina is recovering very well from her heart surgery. When I came into the ICU this morning, she had a little breakfast, composed of an apple and tea with a lot of sugar. While I spent time with Arina and her mother, Arina asked me to sing the Kurdish songs for her, which she loves so much and usually sings with so much passion. I sang for her Xuadaim goraya (My God is so big) and Har tow pirozee (You are awesome) and for a short moment she even started to hum the song with me. At lunchtime her mother asked me to bring some rice and chicken for her, because thats Arinas favorite meal. As you could see at the picture, she enjoyed it very much. Tomorrow she will be hopefully moved to the secondary ICU and that is one step closer for our precious little singer to come back to us to Jerusalem!

Arina erholt sich sehr gut von ihrer Herzoperation. Als ich diesen Morgen in die Intensivstation kam, hatte sie gerade ein kleines Fruekstueck bestehend aus einem Apfel und Tee mit viel Zucker. Waehrend ich bei Arina und ihrer Mutter war, bat mich Arina ihr die kurdischen Lieder zu singen, die sie so sehr liebt und normalerweise mit grosser Leidenschaft singt. Also sang ich fuer sie Xudaim goraya (Mein Gott ist so gross) und Har tow pirozee (Du bist wunderbar) und fuer einen Augenblick begann Arina sogar die Lieder mit zu summen. Um die Mittagszeit bat mich Arinas Mutter Reis und Huehnchen zu holen, da dass Arinas Lieblingsessen ist. Wie man am Bild erkennen kann, genoss sie es sehr. Morgen wird sie hoffentlich in die sekundaere Intensivstation gebracht und dies ist ein Schritt naeher fuer unsere wundervolle kleine Saengerin zurueck zu uns nach Jerusalem zu kommen.

Waking From Her Surgical Slumber

Posted on Mon, 01/24/2011 - 00:00 by Donna_West

Arina was resting comfortably as I approached her mother this morning in the ICU. Her mother pointed to the tape on her daughter's eyelids. No sooner than expressing her concern about the tape on her eyelids, Arina began to move her arms and legs about, trying to cry but with no sound coming forth. She was waking up and the medical team was helping her through the process of having the tape removed from her eyelids, the breathing tube removed from her lungs and replaced with an oxygen mask. For a six year old to awaken in a strange place, surrounded by strange people and find herself tied down (to keep her from pulling out her tubes and ports while sleeping) must be very frightening. You could see the compassionate pain Arina's mother was sharing with her as she watched. She quickly took her place at her daughter's side, holding her hand, stroking her forehead and telling her, "Ameleah toe wow" (meaning: surgery is finished). Arina's mother immediately phoned home to Iraq for Arina to speak with her father. As Arina began to tearfully speak with her father, she then listened and began to calm down. It was a privilege to see how the father's love brings peace in the natural. We know this to be true of our heavenly Father's love also and we know it brings healing and life. Thank you Father.

Tears of Thanks On Arina'sSurgery Day

Posted on Sun, 01/23/2011 - 00:00 by


In the past almost-22-years of living, I have 15 times been the patient walking down the hospital hallways nervously holding fast to my mother. I have experienced the feelings of fright and vulnerability and unfamiliarity as my little bare feet trod down the cold tiles to a small room where the anesthesiologists would take me away from my mother. Even as a child I knew that I would be all right at the end of the day; I even knew that I was brave. And so, I would bid my mother farewell, shed my last tear, and swallow my fear in one giant gulp and then take the hand of the anesthesiologist to follow him to the operating room.

Arina underwent a successful open-heart surgery today, and for the first time in my life, I was not the patient 'going under.' In this new experience, I witnessed the same emotions I had once felt. This time, however, these emotions were exuded and manifested through Arina's strong and courageous mother, Um Arina ("Mother of Arina" in Kurdish).

When Kristina and I arrived at the hospital this morning, we soon found Arina and her mother sleeping on the bed in the children's ward.
It wasn't long before they both woke up and we all enjoyed the never-failing delight of bubbles.

A short two hours later, the time for Arinas operation arrived. We made our way to the waiting room.

Our little Kurdish Shirley Temple, Arina, nervously smiled until it was time for her to be given anesthesia. Her mother kissed her goodbye, and the anesthesia began taking its effect. Um Arina strongly held her tears; it wasn't until Arina was wheeled into the operating room that she let them go. After she shed her last tear, she let out a deep sigh, and Kristina and I led her to to a place to wait during the surgery.

Truly, it was not only Arina's heart that was vulnerable under skilled hands today, but Um Arina's heart was also vulnerable under the mightily skilled hands of God as well. During the period of waiting, Kristina was able to share her love for Jesus with Um Arina, she said "Jesus gives us strength and peace and love." Um Arina responded with "I know that when you pray to Him, your God is big."

And God did indeed prove Himself to be big this evening. After a surprisingly short three hours of successful operation, Arina was wheeled into the I.C.U.

Um Arina, Christina, and I followed closely behind, eager to hear the consensus of Arina's surgery: "Tov meod!"(Hebrew) "Zor Khosha!"(Kurdish) or in English: Very Good! All three of us sighed with joy and relief, and Um Arina blurted out with tear-filled eyes "Spas bo Khua!" (Thanks to God!).

We thank you for your prayers; by them we are seeing God do mighty feats in the hearts of daughter and mother. We ask that you would continue to pray for Arina and her mother as they proceed to the journey of recovery.

An Answer To Prayer: Arina To Surgery

Posted on Sat, 01/22/2011 - 00:00 by

The evening of the 22nd of May was a sad day for the Kurdish women at Shevet Achim. The doctors @ Wolfson hospital were on strike. This meant that treatment for their children would be delayed. Word came that the women were crying. A group of ladies began praying, for the Lord to strengthen, comfort, lift these simple women up. Within the space of an hour, a call from the hospital was relayed, saying that little Arina was to be operated on tomorrow, the 23rd of May, for a repair of a VSD (ventricular septal defect). It was an answer to prayer. Our picture shows mother and daughter waiting in the hospital while being admitted: an anxious mother, & her daughter of 6 years, not fully aware of what lay ahead. Our prayers are with them.

Familiarized With Hospital Corridors

Posted on Mon, 01/17/2011 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

Arina's first trip to Tel Aviv brought mixed reviews from this vivacious girl: balloons, bubbles and snacks got the seal of approval, while seatbelts and blood-work were definitely the least favorite part of her day. It took a little time for Arina's turn for preliminary tests today, so we enjoyed crafts in the waiting area first, and later when we moved to the ward we employed bubbles, paints and balloons to pass the time between exams. All was okay until it was time for the blood test, and this poor little one required five "sticks" (of the needle) before some blood was drawn. At that point she was so hysterical the doctor asked us to take her out of the exam room for a few minutes and come back because they didn't yet have all the blood samples they needed. The second time was better, but still full of tears.

Returning to the room in the ward, I offered to prepare tea for everyone, and there in the hospital kitchen discovered one of God's special blessings of this day. Just as I was juggling three cups of hot tea and walking back to Arina's room, a gentleman walked in and insisted on helping me carry them. After delivering them to Arina and her mother, and hearing the Kurdish thank you, he responded with the same greeting. As he was about to walk away, he paused and asked her where she was from. It was then that we discovered he is an Iranian Kurdish Jew who has returned to Israel. Because Arina's mother is also from Kurdish Iran, they began delightedly speaking Farsi with one another.

When next we went for Arinas PPD test, our new friend accompanied us for translation. Arina was upset to see yet another needle, but when her mother also had to be stuck, she laughed out of relief that it was turn-about. Because of the Passover holiday, an echocardiogram was not scheduled today but will be done later. So our final stop on this portion of admissions was for a chest x-ray, after which we again returned to the nurse's station. We thought we had only the doctor's final assessment left to do and we'd be on our way. Instead, Arina's mother was trying desperately to explain something she wanted the doctor to know. Our new Iranian friend had left the hospital by then, but he left his phone number with Arina's mom, so she called him and gave the phone to the doctor. We were surprised to learn from his translation that about three months ago Arina put a watch battery up her nose! It was removed in Iraq, but not before causing her adenoid glands to become inflamed. This swelling caused her nasal airway to have a 50% blockage and at the same time increased her nasal congestion. This is causing her to have difficulty breathing while she's sleeping, and the doctor said it may require corrective surgery following her heart operation if she cannot maintain proper oxygen levels. Arina's mother was thankful to understand this news, and we were all ready to leave for home when results from the day's tests were given to the doctor. Incredibly, the blood work showed that yet another vial of blood needed to be drawn in order to investigate anemia, and another chest x-ray needed to be taken because the first one didn't turn out well. So Arina sat down again at the nurse's station for one more blood test, then we went across the hospital for one more x-ray. At last, everything was concluded and we headed back to Jerusalem.

Arina will return to the hospital on Wednesday following Passover to have her PPD test read, and also receive results for a proper iron dosage as treatment for anemia. We hope at that time to hear an idea of how long her wait might be for surgery. Needless to say, Arina's mother is hoping it will be soon. We can support them in prayer during their wait, whether it's short or long.