Bilal's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Hearts Full of Thanks

Posted on Thu, 11/10/2011 - 00:00 by Kristina Kayser

It is often difficult to articulate the beauty of friendship, particularly one that crosses boundaries of age, language, culture, and faith. However, at Bilal's farewell party yesterday evening, hearts clearly expressed the love between family and friends. Celebrations are typically an opportunity for Shevet members to convey their sentiments to parent and child. However, Bilal's father, broke the mold by giving us a very personal testimony, recounting their journey together from Kurdistan to Israel. He began by sharing his uncertainties and fears in coming to Israel. With each step from Iraq to Jordan to Israel, his heart grew in confidence and joy. Since coming to Shevet, he and Bilal have felt very much at home. In fact, when Bilal telephoned his mother recently, he told her he has three sisters (Madelyn, Stephanie, and myself), and would it be alright if they came home with him?  Bilal's father concurred in considering our community as his family: "You are my brothers and sisters. I thank God for you." Is this not the essence of Shevet Achim? He also acknowledged that despite certain differences in beliefs, we were all in agreement in the greatness and love of God in healing his son.

Bilal is the firstborn in his family and a precious gift to his parents who waited nine years before they were able to have children. The successful repair of a ASD and a smooth recovery are reasons to celebrate. Even more so, we rejoice in the work God that has begun in the lives of this father and son. And as Scripture promises, "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6)."


The highlight of the party for Bilal, besides lovely music and cookies, was a surprise guest appearance... Perhaps you have seen his friend Akar's face in previous blogs?

Well, not only did Akar show up for this special occasion, but he delighted Bilal with the news that he would be returning to Kurdistan with him! The two have been so inseparable, I don't think Akar would have had it any other way. As evidenced by the photo, Akar is doing exceptional after his heart surgery as well. "Spas bo Xua (thanks to God)," as Bilal would say.

Once again, this farewell is bittersweet for our community. Bilal and his father have become so dear to us over the past month with their fun-loving personalities and genuine affection. In Abu Bilal, we have witnessed a truly exemplary father, teacher and friend. In Bilal, we found a sweetheart of a boy who loves to snuggle and blow kisses.

Early this morning, father and son set out for one final echo at Wolfson before beginning their journey home. Doctors noted that his heart's upper right chamber was slightly enlarged but could be easily managed by his doctor in Kurdistan. We rejoice in the successful repair of his ASD and smooth recovery, which at this point is medication-free. I believe that just like Bilal, his father experienced heart changes in Israel. While Bilal's heart grew in health and strength, his father's heart grew from fear to love. May God grant them life and breath for years to come. May truth be written on their hearts of His perfect love, which casts out all fear. And may they find in Him a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

A Boy and His Friends

Posted on Thu, 11/03/2011 - 23:03 by Kristina Kayser

Yesterday evening, I asked Bilal if he wanted his friend, Akar, to accompany him for his echo the next morning. He nodded his head "yes" enthusiastically. Akar may not be able to say much, but he's been a faithful companion to Bilal at home and hospital alike.

Today, they headed into the echo room together, both smiling from ear to ear. Unlike smaller children who cry and fuss through the exam, Bilal laid quietly for the entire procedure. Doctors noted that his heart is on track in the healing process. The Gortex patch used to seal the large breach in his heart is holding fast. Also, Bilal's arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) seems to be under control.

This was the news Bilal's father was hoping for! He is such a loving and gentle father, caring for his son's every need. He is also quick to assist the other mothers with their children. Bilal certainly has a wonderful example to look up to. With all medications discontinued and one surgical stitch removed, it was time to return to Jerusalem.

With each passing week, I have grown to love this sweet boy more and more. We call each other brother and sister, and each night, he blows me kisses before going to bed. Every child gives me a greater glimpse of the love of God, and every relationship nurtured in this place is a gift from the Father. Both Akar and I are thankful for Bilal, who has given us the most precious gift

Bilal "Comes Home" to Jerusalem

Posted on Sun, 10/30/2011 - 20:46 by Stephanie Ventura

It was four days ago when nurses said we had to wait to bring our little Bilal back home with us, and this day couldn

Bilal Resting and Recovering

Posted on Thu, 10/27/2011 - 11:13 by Colin Mayhew

Bilal was sleeping today when Suhail our driver and I visited him in the ICU Unit today. This was only the second day after his operation. His father said that he has been praying. There is great potential in a young life of five-years old.

Suhail said Bilal would be going home in a few more days. What a tremendous and skilled job the surgeons do in such a short period of time!

"And this is life eternal that they may know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ who thou hast sent" John 17:3.

Smiling in the ICU

Posted on Mon, 10/24/2011 - 22:04 by Stephanie Ventura

The day after surgery, for most of the children that undergo this major process, is usually expected to include hours of sleeping, whimpers from slight areas of pain, uncomfortable positions, separation anxiety from the parent(s) stepping away momentarily, and an overall melancholic mood; all of which every Shevet volunteer hopes to break through once they come to visit the child and family. That said, I was both surprised and not surprised when five year old Bilal greeted me with his best smile and an explanation for his red finger tip (which he thought was because nurses just wanted it that way).

It was such a sweet treat to see his beautiful smile as he spent a few minutes asking about everyone (all of the other children) that were still at home. Once I told him that they were all here to have an ECHO, he responded,

Surgery Day: Clowns and a Father's Kiss

Posted on Sun, 10/23/2011 - 22:58 by Tinka Jones

I was not sure if our little patient Bilal was going to be tired from waiting as we arrived early this morning at the hospital. (He was required to fast until the second surgical slot in the afternoon). To my amazement he was cheerful as usual and very patient. He did not once ask for water or something to eat.

His father was anxious, but appeared very calm. The two of them have a very special father, son relationship.

Bilal was trying out his new English words. We were all having a very good time with this sweet little boy. A clown arrived and Bilal was in his element, but the real clown of the day was our Bilal himself!

We were invited to go to the play room, but as we got there his father noticed that his arm, where the drip was, was swollen. They took us back to the room, removed the drip and wrapped his arm in a magnesium cloth. He was a little bit upset and looked tired. After a little while they then took him to ICU. There he stayed for almost two hours. It was an emotional time for his loving dad.

At last they took him to the theatre and we were sure it was going to be a few hours before we would see him again. God is good! The operation took only two hours! The father

Surgery in the Morning?

Posted on Sat, 10/22/2011 - 22:25 by Donna_West
(This blog makes referenc to Aya, who was admitted to the hospital this evening with Bilal.)
At the end of Shabbat everyone in the household was on a countdown to get the last two children on their way to the hospital for surgeries tomorrow. Some were preparing food to take to the hospital, some preparing a meal to eat before the families of Aya and Bilal left the house.
Once we arrived at the hospital we were greeted by many parents of children from Gaza. The medical staff was waiting to take Aya's and Bilal's vital signs, help the parents shower the children and find the right size pajamas. The admission procedures were nothing new to these two children and their parents as each of them have been through this process more than once now. 
So the big question asked over and over again in Kurdish was, "Tomorrow surgery? Surgery Tomorrow? Surgery in the morning?"  Yes, Lord willing!  May the Lord be willing.

To Operate Or Not To Operate

Posted on Mon, 10/17/2011 - 23:02 by Donna_West

Bilal was on the doctor

Beautiful Bilal Takes the Stage in Israel

Posted on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 21:36 by Donna_West

Bilal's first trip to the hospital didn't cause him too much distress. Being able to explain the numbing cream the doctors applied to his hand when they inserted a needle was a big help in fighting fear. The younger children watched the courageous five-year old and it seemed to help. 

Bilal's light heartedness was evident as he interacted with the clown and carried into the echo room as he took a couple twirls on the doctor's chair while the data entry was being initiated. 
Dr. Kapusta commented on what a lovely boy Bilal is and to her surprise found him to be quite comical as he kept trying to puff his belly up at her while she was trying to do the echo. Any of us that have children and grandchildren know, sometimes it is hard not to laugh

Many Smiles on Bilal's First Day in Israel

Posted on Tue, 10/04/2011 - 10:59 by Stephanie Ventura
Today I met Bilal at the Jordan/Israel border. He was all smiles and took time to explore the area as he trotted about, tugging his luggage behind. He accepted no help and often looked up at his father for non-verbal assurance that he was walking in the right direction with all of their goods.
His little spirit of authority was the cutest thing, and although he didn