Yaqoob's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Shalom to Our Friend Yaqoob

Posted on Tue, 04/03/2012 - 22:35 by Co-authored

Lily writes:

Just think, I saw this boy resurrected! I saw him briefly before surgery. I saw him right after surgery. I stayed on a vigil with his grandmother one night, when he was under critical care. I watched his blood pressure waver, barely holding on to small strands of life. I first heard the news when his kidneys stopped working. I held his unconscious hand, speaking to him, praying for him, and singing. I saw him transition from bed to wheelchair, to difficult first days of walking with a walker, to jumping out of his wheelchair, to walking by himself, to smiling, to laughing, to a twinkle returning to his eyes, to even running and kicking a soccer ball. And finally, a special goodbye party for this miracle boy. Praise God!

Ryan writes:


Miracle Boy Comes Home!

Posted on Tue, 03/20/2012 - 23:31 by Liliya Semenyuk

"Say goodbye to the hospital!" I told Yaqoob as he left for the first time in over two months.


His grin was more than just a grin. Yaqoob was beaming with a smile that would have stretched ear to ear

New Energy in a Frail-Seeming Boy

Posted on Sun, 03/11/2012 - 21:57 by Ryan Gregg

To rest your hand on Yaqoob

Outdoors at Last!

Posted on Wed, 03/07/2012 - 20:35 by Jonathan Miles

Yaqoob felt the sunshine on his face for the first time in six weeks today, thank God!

And Ryan and I were enabled by God's grace to keep our promise to take Yaqoob to see the giant tropical fish he's looked down upon from the hospital windows.

The celebration was indoors as well, as Shadi on the medical staff brought some Purim joy into Yaqoob's room.

And Liliyah entertained and challenged us all to make parrots from balloons!

Shadi told us that Yaqoob is now walking all the way from his room down to the ICU and back, a distance of several hundred feet. The ability to walk sufficiently on his own will be a signpost indicating when Yaqoob is ready to leave the hospital, God willing.


...Even Taking His First Steps

Posted on Sun, 03/04/2012 - 22:00 by Kristina Kayser

Yaqoob's miraculous story of recovery continues with each passing day. Last week, we rejoiced to see him transferred out of ICU to a step-down unit. Medically speaking, this was not just a shift in rooms but a dramatic shift forward in progress. Well, he surprised us once again this afternoon when our Shevet team arrived for a visit. A nurse informed us that Yaqoob and his grandmother were now in their own room in the pediatric unit. As I peeked around their doorway, I noticed an immediate change of countenance in Yaqoob. I saw life in his eyes, and his face lit up at the sight of us. No longer did he seem detached, but hungry for interaction. He looked right at me as I began talking and asking him questions. When I asked if he knew how to count in English, he impressed us all by counting to 100 without stopping! His grandmother kept saying, "Stop. You'll get tired." But still, he pressed on with a shy smile at the finish. 

Dr. Amir came in shortly after and gave us the extraordinary news that, recently, "Yaqoob took three steps!" He added, "It's almost scary to say he's doing well because of where he was before. He has a long way to go, but if he continues to progress this way, it will be..." When he hesitated for a moment, I offered, "A miracle!" Dr. Amir smiled and nodded in agreement. I translated for Yaqoob and his grandmother the doctor's good report, they seemed equally encouraged. Daily physical therapy, though painful, is helping to strengthen Yaqoob's heart and atrophied muscles. The chest tube, which was inserted last week, is still in place to drain excess fluid from his chest cavity. Once this issue is resolved, he will also be freer to move in and out of bed. 

I dare to hope that the shadows of death are fleeing for Yaqoob. We spoke today of Messiah's love for him, of all the people praying for him, and the miracle of his new heart. This twelve-year-old, who not long ago lay unconscious in ICU, was dreaming today of what he wants to be when he grows up (a teacher) and of the day when he will learn how to drive. Such things that once didn't seem possible are now a very beautiful reality. Like David the psalmist, my heart resounds in saying, "Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." Psalm 106:1

A Friendly Face for Yaqoob

Posted on Mon, 02/27/2012 - 21:15 by Jonathan Miles

Today my son Zak made his long-promised visit to Yaqoob, in order to help him work on his Gameboy skills. Sophie and my wife Michelle were on hand to teach Yaqoob to play Uno as well.

It was a good day to cheer up Yaqoob. He's been fasting all day in preparation for the insertion of a chest tube in order to remove fluid that has accumulated around his right lung. For this reason our visit to the fish pond outside the hospital is still a promise unkept.

Before we left, Michelle did extract a slight smile from Yaqoob with a friendly face created out of a surgical glove:


Sharing Hope with Yaqoob

Posted on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 17:07 by Jonathan Miles

On the eve of the Sabbath I found Yaqoob sitting in his wheelchair and a bit aloof at first, perhaps feeling it's been too long since I've come to see him!

Eventually he asked if I'd take him for a spin down to the ground floor of the hospital. The nurse on duty wasn't comfortable with him going so far just yet, so we parked by a large window where he could look out on the rainy day and the playground and fishpool below. 

I promised Yaqoob that next week, when the sun is out, we'll go down and see the fish. We also spoke of going to the sea, returning to Jerusalem, and eventually playing ping pong in Amman when he's on his way home. I hope this gave him some hope that one day he will indeed get out of the hospital.

Back in his room the nurse Heli (from a Jewish Egyptian family) allowed me to help her put Yaqoob back in his bed, and I sat alongside Yaqoob as his grandmother feed him bits of bread interspersed with spoonfuls of tea. Yaqoob clutched through the blanket a pen I gave him, with the encouragement that he would use it in school next year back in Kurdistan.

Several times I was filled with gratitude just to sit alongside and see Yaqoob like this--the last time I saw him he was unconscious in the ICU.

Yaqoob's grandmother is helping him with exercises to extend his limbs and overcome spasms and muscle tightening caused by the long days in the ICU. And here's a happy look at another very important exercise to help increase Yaqoob's lung power after his time on mechanical ventilation:


Three Weeks Later, Yaqoob Leaves ICU

Posted on Tue, 02/21/2012 - 23:58 by Stephanie Ventura

A sweet surprise awaited us today in the ICU ward: Yaqoob was not there. The nurse said that his condition is significantly improving and he is now in secondary ICU.

Their one concern at the moment is that Yaqoob is not gaining weight quickly enough. A special brand of milk called Ensure has been prescribed to give him extra vitamins. His grandmother said that she is trying to feed him all that his diet requires but it is difficult since his appetite is still quite small.

Aside from nutrition, we were informed that

The Substance Of Things Hoped For

Posted on Sun, 02/19/2012 - 22:47 by Kristina Kayser

Just over one week ago, Yaqoob's physical state had deteriorated to the point that the finest medical care in Israel was not enough to sustain him. I had written then that, despite this, he was in the perfect place...the place of miracles. We cried out to God as a community and invited our friends around the world to intercede for Yaqoob's life. And God heard and answered in a powerful way. It began with Yaqoob being weaned off the ventilator, followed by further steps of healing as described in the blogs below over the past five days. I couldn't wait to see him for myself today, and nothing could have prepared my heart for the good news waiting for our Shevet team at the hospital.

Stephanie, Madelyn, Goran (Shevet