Rand's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Reunion in Kurdistan

Posted on Sun, 09/04/2016 - 11:38 by Ruth Zellweger

It is such a privilege to travel to Kurdistan in order to visit with the families we have shared life with in Israel. In April we invited for the first time a larger group of these families to our home in Kurdistan to reconnect and to let them know that we want to be more present in their lives also after their return home. The number of people that came that day was larger than we had expected, even though we should never be surprised when we let God orchestrate everything.

Among the families that came that day was Rand's.

It was a joy for me to see him again, as he came to Israel during my first year with Shevet. Since then, quite some time had passed and it was amazing to see this little boy and his beautiful mother again. They were accompanied by Rand's father and his two older brothers. However, an event like the open house does not provide the opportunity to sit and talk in depth about what has happened during the past years and how everyone is doing. So I was glad for the opportunity now to go their home and have a more intimate time with them.

Rand's family used to live in Germany for several years and his father is fluent in German, which was a unique experience for me, since I am German. Usually I try to manage with my little Kurdish or with simple English, but here I could sufficiently communicate in my mother tongue. The family invited us to a little vacation house in the mountains, and on Thursday afternoon we went there, accompanied by their friends, a sweet family of four. This family also have a boy about Rand's age and the two seem to be best friends. They were together for the whole time. 

It turned out that Rand is shy and for the first two hours did not want to come close to Sophie and I, but instead would turn away as soon as we would call him or come close to him. In the end, our wonderful Sophie found a way to break through this barrier and played with the two boys for quite a while. They played soccer and when the boys got tired, she got out some coloring books and let them rest for some time. 

While the boys were playing, the men worked hard to prepare the main part of the meal - shish kebab.

The women got the side dishes and set the table. It was so nice to see the older two sons helping out whereever needed without any complaint.  

And then we sat down and enjoyed the tasty meal. It was a good time of fellowship, with yummy food and interesting conversations. We talked about life in Kurdistan and Germany, and about the problems Kurdistan is currently facing. Afterwards we enjoyed tea and fruit, before it was time to pack our stuff and head towards home. 

We are thankful that Rand is doing so well, and that he is growing up in a loving and supporting family. May we in due time meet again. 

Only for a Season

Posted on Sun, 04/07/2013 - 23:41 by Co-authored

Kristina writes:

The first time I met Rand and his mother in Kurdistan one month ago, I remember being struck by the gentle spirit they shared. What a delight it was to help shepherd them across the borders of Iraq and Jordan into Israel. And with each passing day, they filled our home with warmth. Though Rand's mother has a quiet and reserved personality, when she did speak, it was always with beautiful sincerity. Her eyes welled up with tears on two occasions as she poured out her gratitude to God, to the medical staff, and to all of the Shevet volunteers for helping her son.

During their last week with us in Jerusalem, I had the opportunity to accompany them along with Ayad and his mother to the Garden Tomb. Rand's mother lit up when I invited them to go on this outing. She smiled and said, "Yes, I want to go!" The Garden was a place of peace, with all the colors and signature of spring. Everything pointed to the miracle of new life, embodied in Messiah's resurrection.

Rand enjoyed practicing the art of walking with our friend Sonia, while his mother listened carefully to the story of God's love given through His Son. I then shared how this same love has been extended to Rand in the gift of a new heart. We then sat for a minute, letting this truth and all the memories of this past month sink in.

How I will miss this lovely mother and her ever-amiable baby boy. She hugged me so tight on the morning of their departure that I found myself wishing they could have stayed just a little while longer. Praise God for His perfect healing in Rand's heart and for weaving our lives with theirs.

Eilin adds:

Rand is one of those children that you just want to watch over and over. He seems to constantly be on the move around the room, looking for the next person to climb up on. When his huge eyes look at you, you cannot help but give him your full attention. 

Rand already had his surgery and was back at the house by the time I arrived here at Shevet Achim, so I have only been here for his recovery. His recovery seems to have gone well and he looks so healthy that it is amazing to think that he has had any problems at all with his health. I can also say that his time here at Shevet Achim has been a short one since everything worked out perfectly for him. 

Thursday evening we had a farewell party for him with gifts, Kurdish cookies, and tea. It was a sweet time with the families and I especially enjoyed watching all the children who are recovering so well.

Rand and his mother were grateful for all the toys and the beautiful quilt they received. Rand was particularly happy about the cookies, and had several bites of it. It truly is a joy to watch Rand and his mother and how they interact with each other and with the other families.  They both have such gentle appearances about them, and the most beautiful smiles. Rand's Mother

Rand Cleared to Return Home

Posted on Thu, 04/04/2013 - 22:05 by Karen

Welcome to the penultimate chapter in the saga of our beautiful little Kurdish boy, Rand. Today I was blessed to accompany Kristina, Ayad, Rand, and his mother to Wolfson Hospital for Rand

Rand's Penultimate Echo

Posted on Thu, 03/28/2013 - 16:54 by Kristina Kayser

Rand's recovery thus far has been as smooth as any recuperation from heart surgery could be. No complications ensued following the repair of his VSD two and a half weeks ago aside from a minimal amount of fluid around his lungs. Today's echo showed that even that issue is now resolved. Though fussy throughout the ride to Wolfson hospital, Rand was a happy baby upon arrival. He played contentedly in the waiting room and chatted up a storm to anyone who passed by.

The echo technician, Efat, soon invited us inside and was met by Rand's bright, and rather startled eyes. Laying on his back to be examined by a doctor was not exactly what he had in mind for today. Nevertheless, all four layers of clothing were removed (per usual Kurdish custom), and the echo commenced. Rand began to cry. Then, quick as a whip, a musical Israeli show for children was turned on, and Rand began to dance. He waved his hands and bounced to the beat. Double tasking her way through the echo, Efat joined Rand in dancing whilst scoping his cardiac condition.

The party ended abruptly when the music stopped, and suddenly Efat was in a match against a very wriggly, crying baby. If only Rand knew that Efat needed a mere two more minutes to finish. Once the last image of his heart was captured on screen, the results were in. Rand's heart was free of any excess fluid, the VSD patch looked excellent, and his last medication was dismissed. The good news continued as Dr. Alona announced that next Thursday would be the final echo. Linn and I rejoiced with Rand's mother who was beaming from ear to ear. What a wonderful gift God has given this mother and son! May we continue to trust Him for Rand's complete healing in the days to come.

Rand Returns to Jerusalem

Posted on Sun, 03/17/2013 - 20:15 by Meagan McLaughlin

Today I had the great joy of witnessing Rand's release from the hospital after his six day post-op recovery. Upon our arrival at the hospital to pick Rand and his mother up, we found them in the middle of Rand's heart echo. The doctor said afterwards that Rand is doing great, and that with no extra fluid around either his heart or lungs, he is ready to be discharged. Rand's mother looked so full of joy at the news! Rand will return to the hospital for a check-up on Sunday. 

Upon Rand's arrival back at Shevet Achim in Jerusalem he was greeted by the other children and mothers with huge smiles on their faces. This was my first experience with Shevet Achim, and I have to say, it was a truly amazing one! It was just a blessing to be able to share in the joy of Rand's release from the hospital.

The Day After Surgery, "Something Different"

Posted on Tue, 03/12/2013 - 17:11 by Jenna Hazard

Rand is still in the ICU but everything is looking great! He was taken off the ventilator this morning, and it was replaced with an oxygen mask. His mom told us that he had a hard time adjusting to this, and the nurses gave him something to help him sleep. 

While we watched him sleep, we were able to see that his heart beat is solid and his oxygen level is the best it could possibly be. I saw Rand the day before his surgery, and when I looked at him I had a difficult time believing he had VSD. He is such a sweet, joyful child with rosy cheeks and a ready smile for everyone he meets. Today, just one day after surgery, I looked into his face and was surprised to see such a difference. I don

Rand's Surgery Day: An Unseen Gift

Posted on Mon, 03/11/2013 - 22:10 by Kristina Kayser

Johanna and I arrived at Wolfson early this morning to find both Rand and his mum still sleeping. I was thankful they were both able to get some rest, as surgery days can be arduous. When Rand did awake, he was the sweet and cheerful baby we know him to be. Fasting through the night and morning did not seem to irritate him. In fact, rather than us trying to occupy him with toys and antics, Rand entertained us with a game of peek-a-boo.

His mother later told us that this was a new game for him, so we were one of his first audiences. Eventually, we took our little friend outside to explore as the waiting time stretched on. His mother, while a picture of calm, was grateful for a few quiet moments alone to gather her thoughts. Around 9:30am, the transport team arrived to escort the man of the hour downstairs to the operating department. 

Rather than being frightened by the buzz of doctors and nurses around him, Rand was mesmerized. And it was only after his mother released him into the hands of medical staff that she cried for the first time. I was once again struck by the immense love that a mother has for her child. I also began to think about the fact that by all outward appearances, Rand does not look like a child in need of emergent heart surgery. His skin is pink, he's meeting all standards of development, and constantly happy. No doubt his mother's head was spinning, as she now found herself waiting on the other side of the operating room doors, her beautiful baby about to face a life-altering event at the tender age of one. Her tear-stained face spoke volumes. Here was a woman willing to brave new territories and frightening unknowns for the sake of her son's future. This is love. 

While we settled into a posture of continued waiting, a large surgical team led by Dr. Sasson, prepared to give Rand a gift. This gift, though unseen by its recipient or anyone else, save the eyes of God, has worth beyond measure. A large defect breaching the lower chambers of Rand's heart would be sealed shut and his pulmonary valve and artery would be mended. Together, these repairs will allow his heart to pump life-giving blood for years to come.  

Much of our time together was spent sitting in an open-air lounge of sorts. Hours passed in simple conversation or peaceful silence. Rand's mother received each phone call from Kurdistan with grace, relaying the same news: "No, we're still waiting. Just a little longer." I told her how much I respected her, and we reflected on the ways God gives us strength to step out in faith. Three and a half hours later, Rand's gurney turned the corner into view, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Dr. Sasson was close behind, offering the encouraging report, "Everything is good!" Rand's mother smiled her beautiful smile, the kind that brings warmth to a room. News soon reached family in Kurdistan, and within an hour, we were at Rand's bedside in ICU. He was perfectly stable, his heart and body responding well to the surgery. 

Today, I thank God for the gifts which are seen -- for friendship, for redemption, and tears that lead to joy -- as well as the gifts which are sacred, yet unseen.

Rand's Surgery Delayed At Least One Day

Posted on Sun, 03/10/2013 - 18:16 by Jenna Hazard

Sometimes it is important to be flexible in life. This rings true today, because Rand was supposed to have his surgery this afternoon, and unfortunately it was postponed. It has been rescheduled for tomorrow morning. There was no specific reason given for the rescheduling, but we know that it was not rescheduled because of complications with Rand. His mom took the news very graciously. We could tell, however, that she was a little disappointed about waiting until tomorrow for the surgery. 

My friend Sal and I got the chance to play with Rand while Ruth made sure his mom was comfortable and taken care of. It was simply delightful to play peek-a-boo and experience what a happy, energetic little guy he is before surgery. I can

Rand Ready for Surgery in the Morning

Posted on Sat, 03/09/2013 - 21:43 by Kristina Kayser

It was a quiet Shabbat afternoon in Jerusalem when the hospital called today. Rand, who had just settled down for a nap, was blissfully unaware of the fact that he had been invited for surgery tomorrow. 

Hardly one week has passed since he and his mother first arrived in Israel. So, unlike many children who are delayed weeks or even months before their operation, Rand has "passed GO" and avoided the angst of waiting. His mother's eyes welled up with tears as she packed her bags for the hospital. She seemed hesitant to show her true emotions until I assured her that it was normal to feel anxious or even afraid. She nodded her head, crying silently. Then we spoke of trusting God's hands to guide the surgeon through the surgery as he mended Rand's heart. This time, his mother breathed a deep sigh and seemed to take comfort in this thought.  

Rand was a happy baby all the way to the hospital. There is no doubt that this boy is a sweetheart. And I'm not the only one who thinks this way. No sooner had we entered Wolfson's nurses' station than medical staff dropped their work and started cooing over him in "baby talk." The admission process was a breeze until the time came for a blood test and IV start.

It took four sets of hands to keep Rand still enough for Dr. Jenny to find a vein and secure a line. After this bridge was crossed, Rand was his cheerful self once again. 

Beginning at 2 a.m., Rand will be required to fast until the time of surgery, which will be early afternoon. Cardiac surgeon Dr. Sasson is set to repair a large VSD and open a narrowed pulmonary artery. Both of these corrections will optimize oxygenated-blood flow between Rand's heart, lungs, and body. Please pray that all will  go well tomorrow and that Rand and his mother will experience God's peace through restful sleep tonight.