Marya's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Sweet Marya Heads Home

Posted on Sun, 09/01/2013 - 23:15 by Rahel Eschler

When I met Marya and her mother for the first time, she was already in intermediate care at Wolfson Hospital. I remember her lying in between some tubes in a neatly made bed, with noisy monitoring devices sounding off in the background. Seeing Marya’s mother’s lovely care for her daughter touched my heart. I remember carefully approaching her bed, reaching out, and saying my first hello to Marya. She grabbed my finger and was gave me a shy smile. There was an instant connection there that lasted through the whole time she stayed at Shevet Achim. There was nobody that could resist her cute nature.

Her open heart surgery and recovery went very smooth and quick. After only five weeks in Israel we were already having an awesome farewell party for Marya. Together we were celebrating her new heart and her returning home to northern Iraq. She was all dressed up in a very cute little white dress with blue flowers on it.

Everyone was cuddling her and she liked the attention she received. During the songs we sang to praise the Lord for this precious life, she clapped her hands and with Phillip’s help even tried her hand at playing the piano.

After having traditional Kurdish tea with tasty homemade cookies, we watched a slide show together of her journey to become an active, strong and vital baby.

They not only received a lot of hugs and kisses, but also a huge bag of nice gifts to remember their time in Jerusalem. Marya particularly loved the stuffed animals and the tambourine. And her mum put the pink hair clips from the gift bag in Marya’s dark hair, making her looking very cute.

We told them how much we loved them and how impressed we were by seeing her caring love for her little, precious daughter during her whole recovery process. It was also very sweet how she shared Marya with our community and fully trusted us. We made good friends with them and we’ll miss them both, but at the same time we are very happy to see them returning to their family.

Before they started their journey back, we all gathered together in the front yard to pray for them and said goodbye. Marya’s mum was so grateful for all the help she got from us, and that she could now return home with a stronger baby. Sonia had a special parting gift for Marya. It was a very beautiful brown leather bible written in English which she is to receive on her eighteenth birthday. We pray and believe that Marya one day will be able and willing to read this beautiful book. Please pray for Marya’s future as well as her whole family - that they will be safe and feel the love of our heavenly Father. We praise the Lord that Marya’s heart is completely healed!

At the airport in Amman, before Marya and her mum boarded their plane back home

Discharge Day for Marya

Posted on Mon, 08/26/2013 - 00:54 by Rahel Eschler

Today was Marya’s big day. She faced her final echocardiogram at Wolfson Hospital. But before this could happen we needed to retrieve her file from the nurse’s station. So we made a quick visit to the children’s ward where Marya stayed for recovery after her surgery. The nurses were happy to see her so happy and full of life. 

When we made it to the echo department, Dr. Tamir was very busy. It seems that he was the only one performing echos since his colleagues are all on vacation. As a consequence of this,  the waiting room was already very full when we arrived. Marya made a special friend (here from Africa for treatment) while waiting and playing with the other children.

After a while, we started to feel a rumble in our stomachs and so we got a bunch of food from the cafeteria to enjoy for lunch. But soon enough it was Marya’s turn.

Finally on the examination table, her patience was tested once more. But her mother did a great job entertaining and distracting her. After the procedure, Dr. Tamir was glad to report that Marya’s heart is in good condition. So much so that he gave Marya and her mother his his final OK for them to return home to northern Iraq by week’s end. But that was not all. We can all rejoice and be thankful that Marya doesn’t need to take any more medicine in the future. All this good news conjured up a smile up on the face of Marya’s mother - and that made all of us cheerful and glad. We praise the Lord for his faithfulness and the great work he has done on Marya’s heart. We will cherish the few days left where we can enjoy their fellowship.




Marya's Penultimate Echo

Posted on Sun, 08/18/2013 - 22:23 by Sonia D'Orso

Today was Marya’s echocardiogram at Wolfson Hospital. We waited a long time for her to be called in for her appointment by the doctors. During this time we played a lot with Marya and she smiled the whole time. This little girl gives us such joy.

Once she was finally called in for her echo, the procedure went smoothly. Marya didn’t cry at all during the appointment, instead she played with the transducer cords. Dr. Tamir told us that her heart is doing very well and that she does not have any fluid in her chest or around her heart. All of her medications have been reduced. Marya’s mother was very happy to hear this news, but was slightly disappointed to learn that it would still be another week before she and Marya could go back home to northern Iraq. Next Sunday is set to be Marya’s final echocardiogram. Please pray for patience for Marya’s mother and that her remaining time here will be good for both her and Marya. We praise the Lord for this fast and good healing in Marya’s life.

Lemons, Echocardiograms, and Beaches

Posted on Sun, 08/11/2013 - 21:51 by Rahel Eschler
Once again, we were heading towards Tel Aviv's Wolfson Hospital with a precious cargo on board. Marya had a funny looking white hood on; she was looking like a Bedouin. And her mother was wearing a very nice black dress with sparkling sequins. On the road, Marya was asking for all our attention and entertainment. Every time she started to weep we found a new toy in our purse to get her distracted. She would taste everything by sticking it into her little mouth. Her favorite was a luminous yellow lemon. Once at the hospital, Marya had a quickly taken echocardiogram with slight resistance from her. The doctor was very pleased with the function of her heart. There is no more fluid around her heart – what good news. Nevertheless, her mother was feeling sad because she hoped to get home to Kurdistan very soon. But the doctor told her that there would probably be two more echocardiograms necessary to monitor the improvement of her cardiac performance.
At the end, we were able to convince Marya's mom to make a short stop at the wonderful sea, an opportunity for different thoughts. As the sea appeared at the horizon, she got all excited. Down at the beach she slowly walked through the sand towards the foaming water. She dipped her toes in the nice cooling water, but she wasn’t brave enough for more . She kept asking if it is safe and if we can swim. But Marya was so impressed by the incoming waves that she wasn’t even paying any attention to the camera anymore. On the way back to Jerusalem, she fell asleep after an exciting day. We’re so thankful for the quick recovery of Marya and her open mind. God’s love for her and her mother is at least as big as the great sea, and he will continue to bless them while they are staying with us and way beyond that. Our great God knows them so well and is watching over their precious lives. 

A Joyful Return

Posted on Thu, 08/08/2013 - 22:08 by Brandon Verna
A call from Wolfson Medical Center brought welcoming news: Marya was being discharged. After such a short time in the hospital and such an amazingly quick recovery, she is happily back on base with the rest of us at Shevet Achim. When we arrived at Wolfson, we found Marya and her mother eagerly waiting outside in expectation. It was all smiles all afternoon for this mother and daughter, who were warmly welcomed upon their return by the other families on base.
Although the difficult operation is completed, love, prayer, and time are still greatly needed as the complications of open heart surgery continue to linger throughout the healing process. All the same, praise God from whom all blessings flow! He has given one of his children another gracious gift: the possibility of new life. 

In Her Mother's Arms Again

Posted on Mon, 08/05/2013 - 21:11 by Philip Rasmussen

Today we headed to Wolfson Medical Center to pay our families there a visit. We went straight to the secondary ICU, being sure that we would find Marya there. But the bed was empty and clean sheets were prepared for a new little one. We then went looking for Marya and her mother in the children’s ward and found them enjoying a peaceful rest, side by side in the bed. Just this morning she had been moved to the ward as she is improving more and more and yesterday got her chest tubes removed. She probably still has a little fluid around her lungs, but it is expected to disappear within a short time. With much struggle, Marya has now come through almost a week with a mattress as her main physical comfort. She loves to finally be held by her mother, and she is slowly beginning to be more generous with her sweet smiles. Thank you, Lord! 

Steady Recovery

Posted on Thu, 08/01/2013 - 23:28 by Susan Kent

I continue to be amazed at how quickly children can heal. Just two days after open-heart surgery Marya was stable enough to move to secondary ICU. She was the picture of beauty sitting in her hospital bed, eyes big and bright while her doting mother sat close by. Marya was extremely irritated by the oxygen tube in her nose so we did our best to distract her, tickling her pink fingers and toes! Please continue to pray for Marya's recovery as well as peace and comfort for her sweet mother.

God Heals the Brokenhearted: Marya's Surgery Day

Posted on Tue, 07/30/2013 - 21:53 by Kristina Kayser

As the sun rose and and soft light descended on Jerusalem's hills, we set off to meet dear Marya in hospital. Dr. Alona had advocated for Marya's surgery to be today, and her voice was heard. En route to Wolfson, Sonia, Susan, and I read from Psalm 147: "The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (v. 2-3) I could not help but consider how Marya's heart would experience this same promise today.

They say that little girls are made of "sugar and spice and everything nice." As for Marya, nothing could be truer. We found her snuggled in her mother's lap upon arrival to the children's department. Her big brown eyes sparkled when she recognized us and sent us all into girlish squeals with her bashful smiles. Both mother and daughter seemed so content just to be together. Their love for one another is beautiful to see.

The transport team soon arrived to escort Marya downstairs to the operating department. Much to the relief and delight of her mother, Sonia had received permission to accompany Marya into the operating room and stay for the duration of the repair. Downstairs in the pre-op room, mum and baby waited calmly, their cheeks pressed tightly together. It wasn't until a nurse took Marya into her arms and out of the room that her mother began to cry. How brave these women are who deliver their precious children into the hands of strangers, trusting them with their hearts and lives.

Meanwhile in the OR, Sonia writes firsthand: "It was amazing for me to be there in the operating room. Marya was a strong girl, and she never cried while they prepared her for surgery.

One hour was used for preparation, including anesthesia, monitoring, and stocking sterile cloth. After the thoracic cut was made, they opened the pericardium and began the operation of the heart. See a small clip of the procedure in the video below:

There was a big surgical crew, approximately fifteen people, and it was very interesting to see how they all worked together - fluidly while hand in hand. I also thank the Lord for His grace that I could see the operation and see how God's hands guide the surgeon's. Praise the Lord the surgery went well!"

Waiting is never easy, especially when your daughter's heart is on the line. Nevertheless, Marya's mum bore the weight of anticipation with much patience and grace. There were times when tears spilled down her cheeks and she would tell me over and over how beautiful and sweet her Marya is. Her level of compassion was so sincere that she said, "When Marya hurts, I hurt, even if it's just her finger." She then shared that her greatest hope is for Marya to be "calow" ("fat") and have white, not blue, skin. Her voice was full of confidence.

The clock read 12:30 pm when Sonia and a team of escorts brought Marya upstairs to the ICU. Her mother's face lit up as Sonia began tell her how well everything had gone. It was a beautiful moment of praising God for His faithfulness. Once Marya had been stabilized in ICU, we made our way to her bedside.

A presiding doctor reported that although somewhat difficult, a full repair of Tetralogy of Fallot was accomplished. Small pulmonary arteries were the biggest hurdle but the outcome proved restorative in the end. Marya's fingers and toes were a beautiful shade of pink and her heart was beating soundly for the first time!

As we began to make our farewells, I smiled at what was before me - Marya's mom was surrounded on either side by friends and fellow Kurdish mothers.

This was a picture of love, a love that shares both joy and pain. I trust that the Lord will continue to surround Marya and her mother with His steadfast love and mercy in the days to come.

Marya's Exciting Day

Posted on Sun, 07/28/2013 - 22:09 by Jesse Tilman

This morning Marya began crying and continued for so long that she became dangerously low on oxygen, as evidenced by her skin and lips turning visibly darker. This is a dangerous situation, so we brought her supplemental oxygen that we keep in the house for just such emergencies and phoned the hospital. She had almost reached the time for her morning dosage of Deralin, which helps with blood pressure, so that was duly administered. The hospital staff agreed with us that she should go to the hospital and we set out for a fast-track trip to Wolfson Hospital in Tel Aviv.

With the drugs fresh in her system and the oxygen, she recovered perceptibly well during the ride and arrived seemingly normal. The nurses gave a check-up and drew blood eliciting more crying, but she had recovered. Still they prepared room for mother and child to stay the night, and we settled them in. Marya soon fell asleep on her bed after playing with Sonia’s iPhone and a picture book we had brought.
Later in the day we heard that all her stats are good and she is on track for surgery on Tuesday if all goes as planned! Thank you for your prayers for this beautiful child and resolute mother. It is a busy time at the hospital and both could use some peace in the storm.

Marya Returns to Jerusalem

Posted on Tue, 07/23/2013 - 22:03 by Kristina Kayser

Marya was cheerful and bright eyed when I found her and her mother at Wolfson this morning. The night had passed smoothly for Marya without any further cyanotic spells or medical incidents. Upon arrival, I also received an interesting piece of news  regarding her plan of care. The nurse informed me that there was a slight possibility that Marya would have surgery the following morning. However, we would have to wait until 3 o'clock in the afternoon for confirmation.

In the mean time, precious hours were spent with this charming girl. She was positively delighted as we blew iridescent bubbles her way. And although I have only known her for a mere two days, Marya wrapped her arms around me and laid her head on my shoulder as I held her close. (Sigh). A child's trust and affection is a priceless gift.

True to her word, Marya's nurse had an update for us at 3p.m. It had been determined that Marya would not have surgery tomorrow, but would return to Jerusalem with us instead. Her mother was disappointed in the postponement of surgery but thankful for the reprieve of a home away from home. As we wait for further news from the hospital, I trust that their presence in Jerusalem will cheer our hearts and home.