Fatimah's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Fatimah and Mother Return Home In Joy

Posted on Tue, 06/19/2012 - 23:45 by Co-authored

(Fatimah's farewell blog was composed in two parts by volunteers Jesse Tilman and Donna Petrel.)

Monday, June 18, by Jesse Tilman:

Driving to Wolfson Hospital for Fatima's echo test, we were all pretty sure that it would be her last. She is back to her usual spirits, plus extra energy she now has after successful surgery. But there is always that lingering thought that maybe the doctors will find something awry and her stay will be prolonged. So we were all just a little apprehensive as we wound our way down the Jerusalem mountain roads to the plain by Tel Aviv and then forged our way through city traffic to finally begin the long walk through the hospital wards to the test rooms.

There we found a group of Africans already queued up to be tested so we had to sit down and wait a while longer as they filtered through the doctor's hands. Fatimah and the other child we brought today played with coloring books we had brought and dominos sets and stuffed animals on hand in the waiting area. All our attitudes were somewhat subdued as our bodies dealt with the onset of summer and a more humid city than we're used to in Jerusalem. 

Coming up on lunch time now, I went down to the cafeteria and brought back some food. Fortunately, the cafeteria had a lot of the foods that Iraqis like and I loaded up our to-go plates with tomatoes, cucumbers, rice, chicken, and some bread. Back at the testing rooms our mood began to change as we enjoyed eating lunch together and those in line ahead of us thinned out. Just as we finished, Dr. Alona came out and said that after they had their own lunch for a few minutes, they would be able to see to us.

As I ran a few errands, Fatimah headed in with her mom and Donna. When I got back and started waiting for them to emerge, I couldn't help but send up a quick prayer that their time at the hospital would be finished with this test. It took a while, maybe 45 minutes, but as they came out I could see the spring in their step and the smiles on their faces! Just outside the room, Fatima's mom picked her up for a delighted mother-daughter photo! (It is the photo leading off the blog.) With no prescriptions for further medicines or appointments in Israel, Fatimah and her mother are cleared to return to Iraq, a much healthier family now. We began talking about their soon coming farewell party as we headed back up the road to Jerusalem. Fatimah now is a living testimony to God's love.

Tuesday, June 19, by Donna Petrel:

Fatimah is going home! This good report was received yesterday with tears of joy by her mother, and various spontaneous songs from Fatimah about seeing her Baba (father) in just a few days. She is truly a "Daddy's girl" and is anticipating the happy reunion to her adoring father. The jubilant mother and daughter laughed and sang their way through the day as the Shevet team prepared a farewell party for them.

A large crowd of friends came to enjoy the celebration last evening, but our time was about more than just refreshments and presents. As several of us shared our memories of the time which Fatimah and her mother have spent with us, there was a repeated theme: Fatimah's mother is a gracious, thankful, and strong woman who deeply loves her daughter, and stood by her no matter the struggles of waiting or recovery. We recalled how she was up early daily, often preparing food to send to the other moms when they were hospitalized, and how she delighted to work in the kitchen, always the gracious hostess to all. Remarks were made about her constant thanks to God, and the beauty of her joy which has increased as Fatimah has recovered. She wept in humility as she shared that she was afraid Fatimah would not survive the surgery, but that she prayed for help from God.

Her husband didn't want to send his daughter to any neighboring countries, but heard about the help available in Israel from a relative who's child did not survive long enough to come. Thus six weeks ago we met a fear-filled woman willing to serve others as she waited her turn to see her daughter made well. We encouraged her to hope when delays came along, and we saw her grow stronger along with Fatimah once she returned to the Shevet house. We ended the evening by viewing a DVD of pictures which will allow the family in Kurdistan to see glimpses of God's touch on Fatimah's life. 

Today the van pulled out with these two friends in the back seat one more time, this time heading home. Our journey was smooth, and when it was time to board the bus to Jordan, Fatimah's mother erupted in tears again with great affection and gratitude to everyone who has been part of helping her daughter. I want to extend her thanks to each of you who have prayed or given towards her surgery, or donated your time, or sent gifts. God has used each part to work in not only Fatimah's heart, but her mother's, and her family's lives as well. Please join us as we thank God for His goodness in all He's done.

Joyful At Her Echo Appointment

Posted on Mon, 06/11/2012 - 22:34 by Donna_Petrel

It was with enthusiasm that Fatima and her mother joined Jesse and I this morning for her next echo appointment. Although we expected at least one more echo for her, we thought that two more echoes was more likely, due to the struggle Fatimah has had with fluid around her heart. The problem is very common post-operatively and has been treated aggressively with the appropriate medications.

Today Dr. Alona carefully reviewed the echo results and decided to eliminate two of Fatimah's meds, while beginning a step-down of the Prednisone treatment so that she will be completely finished in one week. At that time we will return Fatimah to the hospital for what everyone hopes will be her final echo. This news brought praise to God from her mother's lips, and a big smile from Fatimah, who had carefully surveyed every image of her repaired heart on the echo machine monitor beside her. 

On our way back to Jerusalem Fatimah talked almost non-stop to her mother, just as if she were talking to her best friend. Each time I peered into the seat behind me, they were engrossed in conversation, and Jesse and I enjoyed hearing her giggles and chatter. Her mother was continually encouraging her, never seeming to tire of the dialogue, and I imagined how very sweet it must be to her heart to hear this little voice so healthy and joyful after five fearful years of worry about whether her daughter would live. As I considered these things and felt so thankful and satisfied at the outcome, I knew my joy was nothing compared with their joy and the joy of the family in Iraq. So my final thoughts on this day for my sweet friends are these: O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever!

Fatimah Returns Home...Take Two!

Posted on Sun, 06/03/2012 - 21:58 by Kristina Kayser

A stormy week in the hospital of dehydration, increased fluid around her lungs, and chest tubes has come to an end for Fatimah. Clouds of discouragement have cleared into a beautiful calm. Fatimah was once again released to return home to Jerusalem today. This time, she is much improved and steadily gaining ground.

Aggressive treatment helped to eradicate the fluid buildup and return this little girl's spunky personality. She yelled to me from across the room, "Dahda!" (big sister) and greeted me with her brilliant smile. Both she and her mother were dressed and eager to say goodbye to all things "hospital." They were beaming as they bid new friends and nursing staff farewell. Fatimah and I walked to the car hand in hand, her laughter filling the air like a song.

If I could use one word to describe this little girl today, it would be "joy." Simple, pure, and irresistible. In one week's time, she will return to Wolfson for her next echo appointment, which we hope will bring another good report. Thank you for praying for Fatimah through this challenging time in her recovery. God has given her a fresh start, and we are so thankful. I invite you now to share with us in her joy! 

Fatimah Stable, and Losing a Tooth!

Posted on Thu, 05/31/2012 - 23:47 by Natalie Kayser

Upon entering Fatima's room today, we found her surrounded by Arabic mothers sitting and chatting away. It was a women's social circle to be sure! I felt immediately relieved by the warm and inviting environment, knowing Fatima and her mother had the encouragement of friends.

Fatima beamed as we entered and proudly wiggled her lower front tooth to show us how loose it was! And little did we know that our simple visit to check on Fatima's progress would turn into a tooth-pulling operation! Nurse Kristina took her medical training in a new direction as Fatima enthusiastically asked her to give it a pull! With gloves on and water and gauze ready, Kristina pulled the tooth with ease. Fatima, with no fear of pain, smiled and giggled her way through the little procedure.

And there it is! With the freshly pulled tooth in hand, Fatima grins with her new gap.

Besides the spontaneous tooth pull, Fatima's medical report is as follows:

The fluid around her lungs was reduced enough to take out the chest tube today. The nurses at Wolfson said they would like to monitor her for a few days more and will most likely release her on Sunday.

We will be happy to have our beautiful Fatima and her mother home with us again. I was blessed to see her filled with joy once more. She looks healthy and happy and eager to begin anew. Praise the Lord for new life and the joy He gives!

Twists and Turns in Fatimah's Recovery

Posted on Tue, 05/29/2012 - 22:19 by Kristina Kayser

Sometimes, the road to recovery is not a straight line but has a few twists and turns. Such has been the story for Fatimah. What we thought might be an overnight visit to the hospital for dehydration has turned into an extended stay of several days now. After yesterday's echo exam, doctors determined that the fluid around Fatimah

Fatimah Readmitted to the Hospital

Posted on Mon, 05/28/2012 - 21:51 by Donna_Petrel

Over the long weekend, which marked the holidays of Shavuot and Pentecost, Fatimah was experiencing stomach distress which resulted in her readmission to Wolfson Hospital on Sunday night. Although there was no suspected connection to her heart problem, her mother was very frightened at an additional evening onset of vomiting. Shevet nurse Kristina phoned the hospital and the decision was made to observe Fatimah and treat her with fluids for possible dehydration, her appetite having been quite poor.

When we arrived at the hospital today, we found Fatimah more her happy self, about to enjoy her lunch tray. We all had hopes for her dismissal following an afternoon echocardiogram, which had the purpose of checking for the amount of fluid on her healing heart. A small amount of fluid was revealed, and therefore Dr. Alona chose to keep Fatimah one more night.

We're thankful for her overall improvement, and look forward to having her back in Jerusalem again tomorrow. Please join us in prayer for continued strengthening and healing as Fatimah and her mother rest in the hospital again tonight.

Fatimah Healing Beautifully, Returns to Jerusalem

Posted on Wed, 05/23/2012 - 21:32 by Kristina Kayser

I answered my phone this afternoon, delighted to hear the news that Fatimah could return to Jerusalem today! We weren't expecting her until tomorrow at the earliest, so this was a pleasant surprise. The nurse at Wolfson instructed us to come at 4pm to take our sweet girl home.

When our Shevet team arrived, Fatimah was fast asleep. Her mother's face broke into a huge smile when our eyes met, and she stood to greet us. Several mothers from Gaza sat close by, sharing in their neighbor's joy. Fatimah awoke to a crowd of people around her bed, extending congratulations to her and her mother. As overwhelming as she might have felt initially, Fatimah warmed up quickly. She's not quite her spunky self yet, but everything happens in good time. It was apparent that she and her mother were saying goodbye to friends

Dropping In On Fatimah's Recovery

Posted on Mon, 05/21/2012 - 22:18 by Donna_Petrel

Our lively Fatimah is making a rather slow recovery after heart surgery due to water around her heart. Our visit today found her resting in the children's ward in a rather somber mood. Even seeing her friend Vina didn't cheer her when we popped in for a brief stop. But later, one of Wolfson's clowns was creating joy, and Fatimah was much more her usual self. It was wonderful to see her smiling and laughing.

Just then Dr. Adi entered to say that a blood test was needed, and that everyone must leave the room. When we returned, Fatimah was in tears as she nursed her new wound.

Slowly but surely we were able to calm her again by encouraging her that because she is improving today, Dr. Alona expects her dismissal by Thursday. I left a coloring book with her, choosing a picture I asked her to color for me so that when she returns to the Shevet house in Jerusalem, she could show me. This seemed reasonable to her, because although she didn't feel like coloring today, she said she would do so later.

Although Fatimah and Vina didn't spend a lot of time together today, their mothers clearly enjoyed visiting, and Vina's mother was a big encouragement to Fatimah's mother. All of us were thankful to see her smile beaming again as we left the hospital, as she's been very concerned about the delay of her daughter's dismissal. Will you join us in prayer for Fatimah's full healing, so that we can realize our mutual hopes of seeing each other again in Jerusalem on Thursday?

Fatimah's Recovery from Surgery Begins

Posted on Wed, 05/16/2012 - 23:34 by Donna_Petrel

Kristina and I enjoyed an opportunity to visit Fatimah in the ICU today so we could see her recovery in progress. We entered to find her mother offering her small sips of water in a syringe, which Fatima consumed appreciatively.

We thanked God for her progress as her mother described to us that the ventilator was removed around ten o'clock this morning. While some children are very irritable when they awaken from anesthesia and discover that their hunger, thirst and pain are not easily soothed, Fatimah was content to enjoy the sips of water, and slip back to sleep.

We took advantage of the time she was awake to give her a gift and handmade card from a special friend who'd been visiting us in Jerusalem.

She was thankful but alas, too drowsy to play with her new toy. Telling her mother that she wanted to go back to sleep, she asked to hold her mother's hand for comfort, and immediately drifted back to peaceful slumber. 

Fatimah's mother was in good spirits, although she did not sleep much last night, checking on her daughter through the night. We prayed for Fatimah as she slept, and headed out to Sheba to bring Sarchil home following his catheterization. Fatimah's mom was grateful for the prayer, agreeing with us that God was great in this situation. She also appreciated some fruit we brought to her from the other mothers in the Shevet house, and afterwards slipped out of the ICU to tell us goodbye. We are all thanking God for the new life that is strengthening Fatimah's body, and look forward to her transfer out of the ICU in the coming days. Please pray with us as the healing continues.

Surgery Day: An Intense Intervention

Posted on Tue, 05/15/2012 - 23:56 by Donna_Petrel

Lina and I arrived at Wolfson at seven-thirty this morning with plans to escort Fatimah and her mother downstairs to the pre-operation room, and then sit together with this emotional mom during the surgery. We found that they had already gone downstairs, so we headed down to encourage and comfort them during these difficult moments of separation. My first glance into the room revealed a somber mother and serious daughter waiting quietly for the intensity of the day ahead. Their faces brightened when they saw us, and together we filled the next forty-five minutes with conversation, encouragement, laughter and prayer. When the gurney was wheeled out of the room, there was not a good opportunity for final goodbyes between Fatimah and her mother, and this set a somber tone again for Fatimah's mother as the lengthy wait began. When we stopped in the pre-op area to remove our protective garb, there was an overflow of the tears Fatimah's mother had held back before her daughter left. Once she was able to release these pent-up emotions, we made our way upstairs into a beautiful courtyard where we sat peacefully for several hours. The time was punctuated by calls from Fatimah's father and other family in Iraq checking on the surgery, encouraging Fatimah's mother, and waiting for information. 

When we became restless from sitting, we went for a walk, and decided to wait indoors for awhile. Eventually we made our way down towards the elevators which had earlier borne Fatimah downstairs, and which we knew would also reveal her return and passage to the ICU after surgery. Had I known the length of the wait ahead of us, I would have steered us to a less intense destination for a little longer. But it seemed good to Fatimah's mother to wait here until her daughter returned, so the final hours of our vigil were spent surveying the elevator doors each time they opened in hopes her precious daughter was in sight. As exhausting as this was, the phone calls from home now began to add to the strain because we couldn't give a definitive time-frame for the surgery's completion. 

Almost exactly six hours after we'd seen Fatimah last, the OR team exited the elevator and we anxiously pressed around the gurney to see her once again. One short look at her daughter produced an exclamation of thanks to God followed by the question "Is everything good?" I could see the monitor reading 100% oxygenation, and that her color was good as the gurney was quickly wheeled away to the ICU. I encouraged Fatimah's mother to go quickly so she could see her little one briefly before we waited again while she was stabilized in the ICU. She had a hard time keeping up with the entourage, and all too soon found herself waiting again to see her child. This time, however, she had the relief of knowing the surgery was successful. Now as we waited, she sent text messages to her family so they could call back and hear the good news. Although we tried, we were unable to convince Fatimah's mother to eat until after she had seen her daughter, so each phone call from home was the best way to pass the one and a half hours until we could see Fatimah again. 

Once admitted to the ICU, this dear mother began crying as soon as we reached Fatmah's bedside. She was overwhelmed with the tubes and the stillness of her little girl, even though we explained the best we could what she might expect. She calmed after a few moments and began examining her daughter more carefully, as I pointed out to her the purpose of the ICU instruments. When she'd digested this, I lifted the covers and showed her the change in the color of Fatimah's fingertips now that blood was flowing properly in her body. At first, Fatimah's mom acknowledged what I was saying with a sweeping glance, and then did the proverbial double-take, stooping down by the bed to get an unmistakable look at the contrast. All her life Fatimah's fingertips, lips and toes have had a blue tint from poorly oxygenated blood, and now they were as pink as her mother's. And her mother was awed by the sight, rising to her feet with thanks to God and a fresh wave of tears. At this same time, Fatimah began to arouse from anesthesia and was responding to her mother's voice and presence. The nurse immediately increased her sedatives so she could settle back into a deep sleep, and we left the ICU so that Fatimah's mother could compose herself.

Once settled again, Fatimah