Darbaz's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Celebrating Darbaz

Posted on Sun, 09/08/2013 - 23:38 by Johanna Eurich

I met Darbaz about three weeks ago during his long recovery at Sheba Hospital. I got to know him as a child who is excited about learning new things. Not only did Darbaz learn a lot of things, like counting to ten in English, he also taught us a lot of words in Kurdish! It was really fun being around him and spending time with him. 

Darbaz had a really long and exhausting recovery from his open heart surgery, which had a lot of side effects, like fluid around his heart and lungs - which caused him to need another minor surgery. During his rocky healing process, Darbaz and his mum needed some encouragement from time to time. But the day finally arrived when Darbaz could say, “Bayani, Kurdistan” (tomorrow, Kurdistan).

During the party, Darbaz was really excited about going home and he was vividly talking on the phone to one of his nine siblings. Of course we sang Darbaz’s favorite song “Halleluja” while he was cheerfully clapping his hands. After we sang praise to the Lord for Darbaz’s precious life, we all shared our memories of our times with Darbaz and his mum.

Since their arrival in Israel two and a half months ago, both have been growing in their journey together. Darbaz’s mum came as a very strong, hardened, and serious woman. She left us as a very warm, affectionate woman who has been growing in her capacity to express joy. She is a really caring and loving mother as well as a gentle friend to all of us working at Shevet Achim. We could experienced this on their last evening. She repeatedly thanked the Lord for all he has done for Darbaz’s health. In addition to that she showed all of us her thankfulness with a certain sparkle in her eyes. She tried to diminish the language barrier by giving candies to all of us just to show us how us her love. After that we watched Darbaz’s farewell video slideshow which reminded all of us of the immense strain Darbaz and his mum went through. The video also showed this little boy’s healing process and his growing strength - which really was a miracle. We all hope that he will be able to go back to school soon and learn how to read and write. The most important thing we could imagine him to learn is that Gods love for him is infinite and that he is unique. Last but not least, Dabaz received a lot of gifts to remember his time in Jerusalem.  

This morning, we all got up a little earlier than normal to say our final goodbyes to Darbaz and his mum. We escorted them to the van and it was really moving for us to see Darbaz’s mum being so grateful to finally return back home but at the same time trying to hide her tears.

After they were seated in the van, we said goodbye to them and their journey home began. We still pray that God will continue improving this brave child’s health and accompany him in his bright future with his new heart.

Darbaz All Clear to Return Home

Posted on Mon, 09/02/2013 - 22:56 by Rahel Eschler

The last couple of days, Darbaz has been asking about his upcoming echocardiogram. Lucky for him, today was the day. He stood ready in the front yard this afternoon wearing his bright orange sneakers he’s proud of. For our one hour car ride to Tel Aviv, Darbaz seated himself proudly in between me and his Mum. On the ride he kept himself occupied by pressing different buttons on my phone trying to find some “Yari’s” (Games) he could play. He spoke several Kurdish sentences to me, assuming that I would understand. With a questioning look and shrugging shoulders, I stumbled over a response using some Kurdish words I recently learned.

When we arrived at the hospital, Darbaz went straight to the elevator, knowing which button needed to be pressed to get on the correct floor. Because there is the holiday of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) coming up, the waiting area was very busy. Since poor Darbaz is so skinny and has only a few muscles, we made him play with us to get some exercise. We rolled him on the floor in a tube made of soft foam, and made him catch a foam cube. A little later a nurse called Darbaz for a blood test. Unfortunately, the machine to find out if he’s taking the right amount of blood thinner was broken.

When we spoke about Darbaz’s visit to the emergency room last Friday (due to decreased blood-oxygen levels and him not feeling well) she started to check his vital signs. Again his oxygen level wasn’t satisfactory. However, the days events kept moving forward and soon Darbaz was called in by the secretary to enter the room where he was to have his echocardiogram. Darbaz felt grown up enough to jump smoothly onto the examination table by himself. During the procedure, the doctor was carefully checking his heart and lungs. We did our best to distract Darbaz by making funny faces at him. After a long time of evaluation, the doctor finally told us this good news: there is no more fluid around Darbaz’s heart or lungs. And after checking his oxygen saturation again, we got the final OK for Darbaz to be discharged to return home to northern Iraq.

We went to celebrate this news with a tasty lunch shared together in the cafeteria. And Darbaz posed next to the smiling chef statue, which was showing his agreement with Darbaz’s echo results with a great big thumbs up.

In the van heading back home, Darbaz leaned his head on my shoulder while watching a kids cartoon series called “Pingu,” about cute penguin having adventures in icy landscape, on my cell phone. Although this series is from my generation, Darbaz is fascinated by it.

Darbaz needs closely follow-up care in Kurdistan, since he still has a residual ventricular septal defect (a hole between the two lower chambers of the heart). In the future, there might be a possibility that he needs further medical intervention. We praise the Lord for his kindness in giving Darbaz the opportunity to get a fully functioning heart to set him on track for a bright and healthy future. Please pray with us that Darbaz goes back to school soon and that his body continues to get stronger. May the love of God that Darbaz and his Mum experienced at this place impact their lives and their whole family.

A Little Bit Longer for Darbaz

Posted on Wed, 08/28/2013 - 22:45 by Kristina Kayser

Several of us from Shevet escorted Darbaz and his mother to Sheba once more yesterday afternoon. Just two days after his last echo, the cardiologist wanted to reevaluate the presence of fluid around his heart and lungs. Darbaz hesitantly positioned himself on the exam table. Although he's been through this routine multiple times, I could tell he wasn't looking forward to his sensitive chest being pressed and prodded. Towards the end of the exam, Darbaz began to fidget and moan, his patience waning. I encouraged him to hold on just a little bit longer, reminding him that a celebratory trip to the sea was next on the agenda.

Dr. Salem finished the echo after thoroughly viewing Darbaz's heart from every angle. "Well, there is no more fluid around his lungs," he announced cheerfully. "There is, however, still a small amount of fluid around his heart." He was encouraged by the improvement, while simultaneously exercising caution. In order to ensure the optimum state of health for Darbaz's heart, Dr. Salem requested one more echo next Monday. If everything looks good at that point, Darbaz will be free to return to Kurdistan.

His mother amazed me with her positive and receptive attitude. "No problem!" she quipped. So long as Darbaz didn't need a chest tube or hospitalization, she was more than ready to wait another week in Israel. I thanked her profusely for her cooperation and repeated the fact that Darbaz is indeed making progress.

All good beach trips include ice cream, and so began ours. Darbaz made his decision quickly once he eyed a watermelon-slice popsicle. After enjoying our treat down to the last bite, it was off to the sea.

A short drive away from the hospital lies a beautiful Mediterranean shoreline. And yesterday, the sun bounced off the water's reflection like a million sparkling diamonds. The sight was overwhelming to be sure for our Kurdish friends. Never before have they laid eyes on such a great expanse of water and sand. Darbaz's mother, a strong and determined mother, marched right up to the crashing waves. Her son however, stood several meters away in the sand's "safe zone," afraid to come any closer. With lots of encouragement and coaxing, Darbaz edged his way forward and finally dipped his toes in the warm waters. To our delight, his fears gradually dissolved to the point that he just went for it!

Lying fully stretched out on the sand, he welcomed the frothy waves with open arms (literally). "Just five more minutes!" he begged, when we announced it was time to go. We began our trek home, with Darbaz concluding that he's not quite ready to return to Kurdistan. The beach was just too wonderful.

Praise God for His deep love for Darbaz, deeper than the deepest sea. I thank Him also for the way fear is replaced with joy and the gift of witnessing this in Darbaz.

Unexpected Delay for Darbaz

Posted on Sun, 08/25/2013 - 22:59 by Kristina Kayser

Darbaz was so excited to head to Sheba Hospital this morning that he checked on our ETD (estimated time of departure) at least five times. The reason for his excitement? Today's appointment was intended to be his final echo exam, setting things in motion for his imminent and hugely anticipated farewell party and departure. His mother, likewise, could not hide her excitement with a twinge of anxiety.

When Darbaz was called in for the exam, his mother paced the room nervously. "I'm so worried he has fluid," she confessed in a whisper. A mother's intuition is a powerful thing, and this time happened to be accurate. The cardiologist rested his probe for a moment while announcing an unpleasant discovery: pleural effusion (PE). PE, an unwanted buildup of fluid around the lungs, is a very common post-op side effect for heart surgeries. The room was thick with tension as we waited for the doctor's prognosis.

Finally, it was decided that a chest X-ray was necessary to determine the severity of the situation. Worst case scenario, Darbaz would be readmitted to the cardiac ward and have a chest tube inserted to drain the fluid. Best case scenario, Darbaz would be treated with medication and reevaluated. I tried to encourage his mother that we could hope in the Lord and that nothing was too difficult for Him. Her spirits were seriously dampened, and I could see the effect it was having on Darbaz's sensitive spirit. To lighten the mood, we tried taking silly pictures with hospital props and finger moustaches.

Then, to our utter delight, the ER doctor brought good news! The fluid was not as severe as they thought, and he could be treated at home with medication. Darbaz will also return on Tuesday for a followup echo. Thus, there is still hope for this dashing young man and his mother to return home to Kurdistan this Saturday. Truly, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life." (Proverbs 13:12)

As we trust God for Darbaz's future, I pray they will see their hope fulfilled soon and very soon!

Classier than James Bond

Posted on Wed, 08/14/2013 - 21:00 by Sarah Powell
Darbaz walked bravely out the door today on the way to his first post-discharge echo. He was dressed in his nice polo, gray pants, and snazzy new orange shoes with his hair brushed suavely to the side. I couldn't help being reminded of classic heroes like James Bond when I looked at him. Throughout the day, he wore a smile that radiated confidence. He sat proudly in the doctor's chair posing for pictures after his echo, and even after he got his finger pricked for his INR test, he happily showed it off, blood and all. Just like those classic heroes of the movies, he appeared fearless in the face of his trials. But unlike those movie heroes, his struggles have been real, so his courage is all the more admirable. 
His mother has also shown admirable courage, and as we entered the hospital again today, she declared how much she likes this hospital because it is so nice and has such a big parking lot. We all laughed at this because only a few weeks before, when she and Darbaz were still staying in the hospital, she had not liked the hospital at all. It's funny how trials can seem so much less difficult in hindsight – and even beautiful. 
I've noticed lately the different stages that almost all of the mothers and children seem to go through while they are here. When they first arrive, mother and child are both at least a little nervous about the new surroundings and often downright fearful about the coming surgery. During the stay at the hospital, the actual surgery, and the post-op recovery in the hospital, there is still a lot of tension and anxiety. And I really admire the faith that the mothers must have to keep in good spirits during that time. Then when mother and child return to Shevet after their hospital stay, there is much rejoicing. I love seeing the changes in their attitudes. The mothers are much more relaxed, and the children grow stronger and more active every day. Finally, when news comes that a mother and her child can go home, they become radiant and remain that way throughout the rest of their stay all the way up till they are waving goodbye to all of us as they drive away in the van. This progression from fear and anxiety, to gradually regained confidence and peace, to sheer joy is so beautiful, and I love getting to watch a mother and child go through the whole process. The triumph at the end of the trial is always so sweet. 
Darbaz and his mother are only in the third stage of the journey, but I love seeing their growing confidence and renewed joy. At Darbaz's echo today, we heard all good news. Darbaz has been healing wonderfully after his extremely complicated Fontan surgery, and he is not having any more problems with fluid around his heart or lungs. The hole that the doctors purposely left in his heart to help his body adjust smoothly to new pressure after the surgery will have to be closed in the future. But that can be done by catheterization and may even be able to be done in Kurdistan after Darbaz and his mother return home. That is what we are all praying for. 
It has been so wonderful to see Darbaz and his mother make this journey together. I love seeing Darbaz's growing confidence and strength and his mother's growing joy. I am looking forward to getting to see the last stage of their journey – the stage where they will be able to return home with beaming faces and new hearts. Thank God for the work of grace that He has done in Darbaz's life and that He will be faithful to bring it to completion. 

Darbaz Home Again!

Posted on Tue, 08/06/2013 - 23:28 by Kristina Kayser
Sometimes the road to healing is rift with detours, delays, and roadblocks. Nevertheless, it is these challenges that make the breakthroughs even sweeter. Today, Darbaz experienced a momentous breakthrough in which we are all celebrating: he is home in Jerusalem again! Doctors deemed him strong enough to return home after being hospitalized for nearly three weeks. A difficult surgery followed by repeated chest tubes, another minor surgery, and poor appetite are now behind him.
Darbaz's heart continues to grow stronger and his oxygen is much improved. To his mother's delight, her son has greater voracity and the kilos he lost in hospital are gradually returning. Before bidding Sheba farewell, we couldn't help posing in front of the newest wall mural in the children's department. One section displayed a larger-than-life image of Peter Pan, the very embodiment of never-ending childhood adventures. As Darbaz recovers from the physical and emotional trauma of heart surgery, I pray that his remaining years of boyhood will be joyful and filled with adventures of his own. 
I'm so thankful to have Darbaz and his mother in our home once more. The Lord is doing a beautiful work of healing in him. And what a privilege it has been these last weeks to be a witness of this work. To God be the glory!

All Tubes Removed

Posted on Wed, 07/31/2013 - 23:34 by Rahel Eschler

Today I visited Darbaz for the first time. I met him while he was sitting in an upright position eating some rice and chicken. It looks like he was finally enjoying his food, after a long time of steady weight loss. Hopefully he will gain back his strength very soon. His mother was happy to see us and share the following good news. It seems that yesterday, the doctor took out all of the remaining tubes in Darbaz’s lungs and chest. We got all excited about this, since we were waiting for this to happen. This means that the fluid around his lungs and heart has been reduced. But he still needs oxygen to breathe without problems. I pray that he will recover from the complications very soon and will start to enjoy his new life.

Healing is Hard Work

Posted on Sun, 07/28/2013 - 21:12 by Susan Kent

Darbaz has had a rocky recovery following his heart surgery twelve days ago. The most recent complication has been the build up of fluid around his heart. This is not an uncommon side effect and the doctors started him on oral steroids a few days ago to try and resolve it. Unfortunately, the steroids were not as effective as they had hoped, so the doctors decided a quick surgical procedure was needed.

We received a phone call this morning telling us the surgery time had been changed from this afternoon to early this morning. We rushed to the hospital to try and be with his mother during the procedure, but Darbaz was already in ICU recovery when we arrived. During the surgery, the doctor made a small incision below Darbaz's heart and inserted a tube to drain the fluid that surrounded it. Although heavily medicated, Darbaz was uncomfortable and weary from this latest setback.

He was also quite weak from recent (and quite dramatic) weight loss from having almost no appetite since his heart surgery. As the fluid drained from his chest, Darbaz's condition seemed to improve quite rapidly. Within hours of his procedure he was awake, talking, hungry, and felt up to playing a game (Angry Birds) on my cell phone. He didn't even mind my sparkly pink phone!  As Kristina chatted with him in Kurdish he became more animated - asking about the other children at Shevet and happily reporting what he learned to his mother. Please continue to pray for Darbaz's healing and recovery.  Also, please pray that his appetite would continue to improve and that he would gain the weight he has lost these last few weeks.

In Need of Prayer

Posted on Thu, 07/25/2013 - 22:02 by Trevor Salazar
On our visit today, we experienced an event that is all too common for a patient after heart surgery: as one problem goes away, another one quickly arises. Darbaz's lungs had previously been surrounded by a problematic amount of fluid. That problem was fixed only to give way to what is called pericardial effusion. Pericardial effusion is when the heart is surrounded by excess fluid. The doctors have decided to start him on a round of prednisone, which is a type of steroid, to solve this problem. He is very tired and weak, which is apparent when looking at him. It would be much appreciated if you could keep Darbaz in your prayers as he is in a lot of pain due to his current situation.

"Zor Bash!"

Posted on Sun, 07/21/2013 - 22:44 by Kaytlin Butler

We found Darbaz and his mother in the children’s ward enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon. His mother happily proclaimed, “Darbaz zor bash!” or “Darbaz is very good!” His coloring is much improved and his energy has soared relative to the lethargic little boy that I remembered from my last visit. He seemed content to blow bubbles from his bed and occasionally dabbled with the coloring pages and crayons we had brought from home. I think it may have been the calmest I have ever seen him.

However, the nurses informed us that there is some fluid build-up in his right lung, and they are currently waiting to see if it will self correct. If not, his chest tubes may have to be reinserted to drain the remaining water. This morning, we also received a phone call from the hospital saying that his mother had tripped in the room and hurt her ankle. Thankfully, it was not a serious injury and she was in good spirits when we saw her.

Please continue to pray for endurance and patience for both Darbaz and his mother as they anticipate progress in his recovery. We are so thankful for his smooth recovery thus far!