Mohammed's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Mohammed Bound for Kurdistan

Posted on Mon, 12/03/2012 - 01:09 by Kristina Kayser

Toddlers have a way of charming you with their charisma and cheeky personalities, and Mohammed is no exception. He brought joy to our community with his smiles and giggles, which increased exponentially over the six weeks he spent in Israel. Notwithstanding this darlingness, Mohammed didn't hide the fact that he also knew how to throw an occasional royal tantrum. The beautiful thing about love in its purest form, is that it is unconditional. So, whether Mohammed was laughing or screaming, we came to love him through it all.

Looking back now, the honor of loving and sharing life with this little boy came to us because he was born with two holes in is heart. Fast forward two years, and all manner of red tape was cleared, allowing him to travel from a remote Kurdish village to the bustling metropolis of Tel Aviv for open heart surgery. A successful repair was made several weeks ago, and Mohammed found himself ready to return home. Shabbat was quickly approaching this past Friday when we kissed Mohammed and his mother goodbye. Meanwhile, a a patchwork of memories flooded my thoughts... 

I remember when Mohammed and his mother first arrived. They mirrored each other in fear, highly suspicious of their new surroundings. I saw a sullen-faced boy with a runny nose carried by an austere woman with striking beauty. 

Mohammed quickly warmed to our home and his new friends, while it took his mother a little longer to reveal her uncanny sense of humor. Sometimes, she would sneak up on one of us girls with a playful pinch or swing us around in a dance. She also found ways to entertain children and dry their tears by making funny faces. Though she was the youngest mother of the bunch, she assumed the role of chief cook for our daily Kurdish lunches without a second thought. She found delight in this, and we all benefited from her skills in the kitchen. I loved watching her true personality blossom as she grew in confidence and trust. 

Seeing his mother at ease, encouraged Mohammed to explore new possibilities, particularly the field of medicine. Every day, Ruth or I go upstairs with our stethoscope and thermometer for the children's assessments. At first, Mohammed cried and resisted every effort to be examined. I wondered if or when he would learn to trust us as well. The day came, however, when our nursing accessories were no longer a thing to be feared but were of irresistible interest. I started calling him "Dr. Mohammed" because he followed me around like a little shadow, handing me my pen or looking over my shoulder to see what I was doing next. Despite his continued disdain for echoes, perhaps Mohammed's curiosity will some day prompt him towards a medical career. 

During their last days in Jerusalem, Mohammed and his mother were able to visit the nearby Garden Tomb with four other Kurdish families. While they seemed to enjoy the park's abundant flora, the equally abundant tourists seemed to intimidate the group. I shared with the women and children the beautiful significance of this place, elaborating on the gift of new life the Messiah has extended to us all. Reflecting on this reality with children whose mortality is so obviously fragile, helps me see the power of the resurrection with fresh eyes. May Mohammed's life also bear witness of the beautiful gift he's been given.

If you think a grand finale party for one toddler would be fun, try a double toddler party! Mohammed and fellow playmate, Lya, had a joint celebration on Thursday evening for their new hearts. When the time came for Lya to open up her bag of gifts, it was too much for Mohammed to handle. I learned that taking turns does not come naturally to two-year-olds. As mentioned at the beginning, our little friend knows how to throw a tantrum, and this was just such an occasion. When Mohammed's turn finally came, he was still so wound up that the first two toys I handed him, he threw right back. Nevertheless, Mohammed relished in his gifts the rest of the evening, along with frosted cake, and a beautiful photo DVD of his time in Israel. Several of us also shared how much we loved and cherished their friendship.

All of these memories and more were fresh on my mind as I said goodbye to this boy and his mother on Friday. Mohammed graced us one more time with his delightful smiles in the courtyard. His mother was overflowing with kisses as she called the ladies among us, sisters. We echoed back similar sentiments till the last minute. Our love for one another in that moment was nothing less than a reflection of God's unconditional love towards us. The Lord bless you and keep you, Mohammed and mother of Mohammed, and cause His face to shine upon you for all your days.

Mohammed's Final Echo and Trip to the Sea

Posted on Mon, 11/26/2012 - 23:46 by Kristina Kayser

What proved to be a monumental day in several ways for Mohammed was met with much consternation on his part. Today was to be his final echo, an event his mother has been waiting for with great anticipation. Not knowing the purpose of his visit to the hospital, Mohammed was initially amused by the waiting room's large colorful playhouse. As his turn approached in a long cue of other cardiac patients, I asked if he would need to be given a sedative prior to the exam. Toddlers typically cannot be depended on for proper behavior on such occasions when quiet is necessary. Wanting to begin the echo straight away, the decision was made to take a chance and perform the echo with Mohammed fully alert. 

Hoping for an alliance with his small patient, the cardiologist said, "Okay, Mohammed! It's you and me, man to man!" Mohammed, rather, took one look at the probe in his hand and returned the invitation with an expression that read, "This means war!" What ensued over the next half hour was sheer cacophony. Not one minute passed that did not require his mother and I holding his arms and legs down in a futile attempt to keep him still. He wrestled and wailed while two doctors struggled to achieve the desired results. In the end, Mohammed's heart proved sound in every way, securing the right to return home in the coming week! Repairs to both the VSD and ASDremain secure with no complications. His mother left the echo room rejoicing with an exhausted and whimpering boy in her arms. Just when he had calmed down again, the nurse needed to remove a surgical suture from his side. Mohammed protested tearfully once again and left Wolfson for the last time quite disconcerted. 

In hopes of bringing cheer to our miserable companion, we headed to the Mediterranean coast before proceeding home to Jerusalem. Surely the fresh air, cool sand, and crashing waves would give Mohammed something to smile about.  If this photo is any evidence, this was not to be. 

No sooner had our group, including Lya and her mother, begun walking toward the beach, that Mohammed shrieked and buried his face in his mother's shoulder. It didn't help that his mother was equally timid, and it took all our convincing to help them reach the sand. The vastness of the Sea was almost too overwhelming for them to behold, for neither had ever seen such a thing. More gentle coaxing brought Mohammed and his mum to at least a place of toleration. I even caught a few brief and subtle smiles on their faces. 

The sun was just beginning to make its grand descent toward the horizon, illuminating the clouds in gold and creating an atmosphere quite sublime. To me, it was another beautiful expression of God's love toward this mother and son. With fine precision, He healed Mohammed's heart, and with broad strokes of sea and sky, He gave them a glimpse of His glory.

More Positive Signs for Mohammed

Posted on Mon, 11/19/2012 - 22:32 by Sophie H.

After almost sixty people joined us today for lunch at Shevet, we went to the hospital with Mohammed. Our arrival was at the perfect time, and we were taken directly into the echo room for Mohammed

Mohammed Released to Return to Jerusalem

Posted on Sun, 11/11/2012 - 22:59 by Sophie H.

This afternoon we got a call from Wolfson Hospital that Mohammed was scheduled to be released today. When we got hospital to pick him up, his mother was ready to go back home. But first we also needed to visit Lya and Rozhgar so Mohammed and his mother had to wait some time more until we were ready to leave. In the van ride home, Mohammed started eating and playing. He was so excited and kept talking or suddenly shouting. We are all happy to be with this lovable boy. A can believe hardly believe he has recovered so fast. It

Mohammed Clearly On The Mend

Posted on Wed, 11/07/2012 - 23:13 by John and Cyndi Carter

We visited Mohammed today, and he made it plain that he

Step by Step

Posted on Wed, 11/07/2012 - 21:14 by Mikaela Lönnqvist

Yesterday was very special as it was my first time to meet some of the children and mothers. For some reason I wasn't nervous despite not knowing any Kurdish and my Hebrew was limited. Kelsey, Sophie and I left to go to Wolfson Hospital in the afternoon, and visited Mohammed who was very cheerful. He was no longer in the ICU, but had been moved to the children's ward. I was blessed to see this radiant young boy who didn't shy away his big personality even though I was new to him. 

He seemed very well, his fingers weren't blue and he was eating and drinking plenty. His mother seemed very peaceful about the progress and how well he was doing. He loved playing with an orange Sophie gave him and a wrapped chocolate bar that the nurses had given him. At one point during our visit he became very agitated, and a nurse came in and asked his mother to take his temperature. He seemed to have a slight fever, but that didn't change his willingness to interact with anyone. Later on, the same nurse and one of the doctors came in and asked us to leave so that they could remove his chest tube. Mohammed's mother couldn't stay in the room during the procedure as she started feeling queasy after watching a small part of the procedure. She huddled by the wall in discomfort at the thought of what he was experiencing. We could hear Mohammed screaming and crying but it was quickly over, and then he was back in his mother's loving arms and in good spirits. The other Kurdish mothers there were all supporting and helping each other and we left Mohammed and his mother very content and happy. It was a special time and a great reminder to end the day on the note from our devotional that morning "Hope doesn't disappoint." We hope the best for Mohammed, as for the rest of the children, and ultimately our hope lies in God to oversee and watch over these precious children to bring them to health step by step.

Mohammed Fighting the Good Fight

Posted on Tue, 11/06/2012 - 00:14 by Kristina Kayser

The success of Mohammed's surgery yesterday made possible further steps of progress today. I spoke with an ICU nurse at 7:30 this morning who said he would be extubated soon! This meant that mechanical ventilation would stop, and Mohammed would begin waking and breathing on his own. As this transition is often a frightening one, it was now essential for his mother to be at his side. I called Mohammed's mother and found her in much better spirits than the night before. She had slept really well and was now prepared to be with her son in ICU. It was encouraging to hear strength and confidence in her voice. 

When I arrived at Wolfson with Kelsey and Ruth several hours later, I found her just as I had hoped. There was Mohammed, semi-awake, off ventilation, but undeniably agitated. His mother was doing her best to keep him calm in his fitful state with love and patience. She had her work cut out for her the rest of the day as Mohammed grew increasingly conscious and increasingly obstinate. Despite having his arms restrained with cloth ties, he managed to contort his body into the most uncomfortable positions. I told his mum he may be small, but he is so strong. The two of us together could barely keep him from thrashing about in bed. This behavior is not entirely unusual for children coming out of anesthesia, but it's nonetheless wearisome for both parent and child. Nurses gave him sedatives periodically to prevent overexertion on the first post-op day.

During one of his brief naps, I encouraged Mohammed's mother to take a lunch break with Lya's and Rozhgar's mothers outside. The food and company refreshed her, and she returned just in time for Mohammed to wake up with a voracious appetite himself. Perhaps his empty stomach was partly the cause of his distress. Thankfully, Mohammed was able to drink a full bottle of milk by mid-afternoon and so curb his hunger. Next, it was decided that both his urinary catheter and central IV line could be removed. 

Mohammed's mother was finally rewarded for her patience and diligence when Mohammed fell sound asleep at day's end. Her own exhaustion, however, was quickly displaced by the laughter and company of friends. It was lovely to watch her drink tea and joke with our Shevet volunteers and the other Kurdish women.

I couldn't help but think what a drastic difference tonight was from the one before. The Lord has been so good to comfort and strengthen both mother and son. I trust that Mohammed will continue to improve day by day, and that his mother's heart will find rest.

Smooth Surgery Day for Mohammed

Posted on Mon, 11/05/2012 - 00:19 by Ruth Zellweger

Over the last two weeks it has been nice to be greeted at our house by little Mohammed. Whenever I came to administer the children

Mohammed Admitted for Surgery Tomorrow

Posted on Sat, 11/03/2012 - 22:40 by Kelsey Cannon

Mohammed and his mother left this evening for his admittance to the Wolfson Medical Center for his surgery, which is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. His mother was a little teary eyed upon leaving Jerusalem for fear of what was to come, and the tears continued once at the hospital because of the difficult and exhausting process of watching the nurses draw Mohammed