Dana's Heart Surgery

Northern Iraq

Short But Sweet

Posted on Sun, 08/31/2014 - 20:42 by Nick Boyum

Here on Prophets Street, we have become accustomed to the unusual. Due to the numerous varieties of heart defects, children will sometimes arrive under the strangest of circumstances; Dana was no exception. Even before he arrived in Israel, it was known that an urgent child was coming soon. When Dana did finally arrive, him and his father arrived late one night and promptly disappeared to the hospital early the next morning, where he remained through the duration of his operation and recovery. Some of us did not even get a chance to meet him at the house, and many of us experienced what might best be described as a 'phantom member' of our Shevet family. Although we frequently saw this little guy and his father in the hospital, they did not step back through our front door until the Lord's healing work had long been accomplished in Dana's life in the form of his surgery.

Despite a brief scare in the form of a cyanotic spell his first night at the hospital, which inevitably led to his receiving surgery very shortly after arriving, Dana made miraculous time on his 'race to healing' in Israel. His surgery day proved trying for the father, as most do, however he had a privilege many fathers do not: he was surround by other supporting fathers from among our families.

In fact, that has been a defining feature of the group of families we have on Prophets Street right now. I am more accustomed to our children coming with mothers, but we have had four fathers in the house for many weeks, and I am consistently amazed at how they support each other and their sons through the trying time that heart surgery can be. I am reminded of Christ's words in Matthew 7, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then... know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (v. 7-11) I saw the Lord providing for Dana and his father throughout their time with us.

Dana finally arrived back on Prophets Street, and a few of us were meeting him for the first time! Here was a child walking through our door, not with blue lips or squatting on the ground to coax every ounce of oxygen out of his failing heart, but instead a handsome young boy with a beaming smile and plush, beautiful skin tone. 

They both quickly became a close part of our family. Because the fathers and their sons live in closer proximity to the volunteers space in the house, we will see them much more often than the female patients and their mothers. In some ways, we build a closer, be it different, relationship with families such as Dana and his father. They will often join us for evening meals or interact with us while passing through the kitchen or dining room. As soon as we were really getting to know them, it was time for them to go home!
Although their time with us was shorter than most, a lightning-fast four weeks, we grew to love Dana and his father very much. Our prayer for them as they return to their family is that they would both grow to know and love the Great Father who has provided them both with so much. Praise God for Dana's new heart!


Posted on Mon, 08/25/2014 - 22:11 by Brian Mace

Kristina, Jackie, and I took Abu Ahmed, Dana and his dad, and Raiyan and her mum to Wolfson for echos for the two children and removal of their sutures today.

We had a long wait at Wolfson before Dana was seen for his echo, which also took a long time to complete. But the result was good: his heart looks good, his medications were reduced, and he was given his discharge. Though, he is subject to visiting a local doctor in Iraq two weeks after their return home. 

Subsequently, we returned to the nurses station for his sutures to be removed. Dana, bless him, was very fearful of both procedures and found them difficult to endure.

Following this, we all went to the beach in Tel Aviv, where everyone enjoyed immensely a perfect sea beach location under a shade cover from the extreme heat from the sun. Dana's dad rushed into the sea and thoroughly enjoyed playing in the big surf.

Dana was fearful of the sea, though, and he feared for his dad who was away in the sea.

But they were very happy to be together again afterward when Dana was peaceful again.

Dana on the Mend

Posted on Mon, 08/18/2014 - 22:49 by Kristina Kayser

Today was Dana's first day back to the hospital for a check up since being discharged one week ago. He was dressed in a bright new Popeye outfit and was looking very happy indeed. His father, also, was in his usual cheery mood as our crew rolled out this morning. 

During the echocardiogram, I watched as Dana's father made a game out of the exam. He told his son not to cry because he and I were the ones who weren't brave enough. We made a show of "crying" and asking for tissues, which helped Dana giggle throughout most of the doctor's pushing and prodding. Only a few real tears were shed on Dana's part when the echo probe touched a sensitive spot. Nevertheless, our little friend bounced back quickly and was ready to play again. 

The exam itself looked wonderful, according to Dr. Hanita, and Dana's heart is growing stronger by the day. I'm still amazed every time I see his bright pink lips and skin – what a contrast from the blue complexion he used to have! Dana will return to the hospital in one week's time for his next appointment and then will be yet another step closer to returning home to his mother and two older brothers. Thank you Lord for the gift of Dana's smooth road to healing!  

This is "The Day" for Dana

Posted on Wed, 08/13/2014 - 22:57 by Rebakah Yang

As Ruth and I walked towards Wolfson Hospital's main entrance door, I saw our little Dana being carried in his father’s arms and enjoying an ice cream. Both of them were so happy to greet us and were fully dressed-up. How great to know today is the special day the Lord has made for Dana. He was discharged and returned with us to Prophets Street. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

While we were still waiting for some special medicines for Dana before we could leave the hospital, he started to use his balloon sword to play with me.

I told him I came from the same area that “Chinese Kung Fu Jackie Chan” was from, so our “fight game” began. After I got a few stabs from Dana, I pretended I was hit by him and laid on his bed, saying, “Wow! Ana Ha-la-se….” ("I'm finished/dead" in Arabic.) Cute Dana started to laugh a lot. Thank God for the love he has given to me so that I may be able to love Dana with God’s eyes.

My prayer for our little Dana and his father is, “Lord, this is the day Dana can be healed by You, not only physically, but especially for his soul as well. AMEN!”  

Improving Day by Day

Posted on Sun, 08/10/2014 - 22:59 by Ruth Zellweger

Our little friend Dana has made much progress over the past days. Last time I saw him was after his successful surgery on Tuesday afternoon. When Rebekah, Konrad and I arrived today early in the morning, I peeked into the Secondary ICU and saw the father and son together there. They seemed to be of good cheer, and it only got better after Dana was transferred to the children's ward in the afternoon.

One of the first things they did was to go the little supermarket of the hospital and buy a stack of snacks; they know the tricks of the trade to enduring the hardships of hospital. There was only one occasion today that made little Dana cry, which was when the doctor had to draw blood for a culture to check for an infection. She informed us that it was because of a fever he had developed. But soon after the test he was again the happy little boy, eating potato chips and talking to his mother in Kurdistan on the phone. We are thankful for his recovery and expect to have him back in Jerusalem soon, praise God!

Fed From My Hand

Posted on Thu, 08/07/2014 - 20:48 by Jesse Tilman

We were glad to see Dana in the secondary ICU this afternoon. He has been moved from the ICU after only 2 days, praise God! His healing is on track and it was good to see his healthy appetite and well-colored lips and fingers. During my time with him, he was spending some quality time with his father.

He kept sitting up and motioning for more food from his father’s hand. His dad gave his thanks for all that we are doing for his son, and I gave him a hug and congratulations. Thanks to God for His wonderful healing and continued care of this precious family.

Dana on the Mend

Posted on Wed, 08/06/2014 - 23:17 by Kristina Kayser

Less than twenty-four hours after Dana's beautifully successful heart surgery, he was already taking further strides toward a full recovery. The cardiology team deemed him strong and stable enough to wean him off of anesthesia and the ventilator! The catheter and an IV line were also removed. This is remarkable progress. Just considering all of the changes his heart and body must adjust to is enough to cause amazement. 

When I first saw Dana this morning, he was drifting in and out of sleep and was a bit tearful. His skin looked as beautiful as ever, particularly his rosy lips, and I was so thankful. He seemed to recognize me, especially when I spoke to him in Kurdish, but it was his father and mother he kept calling for. His father soon returned from taking a much needed break outside the ICU in time to soothe Dana's discomfort. Dana is receiving pain medicine, but the day following surgery is often the most difficult. 

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of Your healing and lovingkindness towards Dana!

A Father's Heart

Posted on Tue, 08/05/2014 - 22:33 by Ruth Zellweger

Dana's surgery day turned out to be a day I certainly will remember. Kristina and I went early in the morning to come alongside Dana' s father during the waiting time. For me, it was the first time to experience such a day with a father instead of a mother, and I was curious how he would do. During the past few days, I have gotten to know Dana's father a little bit, as he showed me pictures of his family and his home in Kurdistan. We also found out that we are both the same age, only a few weeks apart. He has a very gentle and caring personality and obviously wants the best for his son. Kristina and I arrived just in time to help with translation of the consent form each parent has to sign before surgery. And then Dana was already wheeled to the operation area. His father was allowed to accompany him into the operation room and was at his side until he was put to sleep. 

Then the waiting time, a very special time, began. Kristina and I were privileged to witness how the fathers of Ahmad and Ahmed came alongside Dana's father. Especially Ahmed's father found many ways to serve and encourage Dana's father. He comforted Dana's father when he was crying, found him a chair to sit on, took him for short walks, and kept him company throughout the day. It was such a beautiful thing to watch. These two men do not speak the same language and come from different countries. However, Ahmad's father knew exactly what the other father was going through. He had experienced the helplessness, the hopes, fears, and anxieties regarding the outcome of a surgery himself. And he had overcome them. Today, he was a special source of strength and encouragement for Dana's father and a beautiful example of selfless love. 

At 2pm, after we had positioned ourselves closer to the elevators, we suddenly saw Dana's gurney appearing, accompanied by two doctors and a medical student. They were smiling and seemed to be relaxed, which is always a good sign that the surgery went well. The two fathers followed the gurney. The face of Dana's father showed relief, the face of Ahmad's father joy.

After Dana had disappeared into the ICU, we all went to have a late lunch outside in a grassy area where we were joined by the other Ahmed's father. Before we ate, we took some time to praise God for how He had watched over Dana's life and healed his broken heart.

The following time of fellowship was a special time. All of these fathers have earned my highest respect. They had to leave their families, their jobs, and their comfort zones in order to receive help for their sons. And they were willing to pay the cost. Also, they do not hide how much they love their sons. At one point during the day, I saw two of the fathers weeping together, not being ashamed of their tears. 

An hour after Dana was wheeled into the ICU, we were able to see him. His skin tone was a beautiful pink, his lips not blue anymore. The doctor in the ICU confirmed that a full repair was done and that Dana was doing well. If he continues to do so well, then he will be taken off the ventilator tomorrow. 

I am thankful for all the beautiful things I was able to observe today. Dana's heart got healed, and three fathers were, in their own unique ways, an example and reminder of God's heart. He only has the best in mind for His children, and His ways are loving and kind!

Dana Approaching Surgery Day

Posted on Sun, 08/03/2014 - 23:25 by Kristina Kayser

It has been four days since Dana was admitted to Wolfson Hospital due to his disconcerting oxygen levels. He and his father have been taking residence in the Intermediate Intensive Care Unit, which is where Kirsten and I found them today, sound asleep. Dana warmed up to us soon enough when we returned for a game of balloon toss later. After a minute or two, our efforts were rewarded with Dana's adorable giggle. It was contagious as well, so pretty soon everyone was laughing around his bed.

Later on, Dana was anxious to get up and move around.  And despite Dana having an upset stomach earlier that morning, Dana's father thought that his son needed to stretch his legs and get some fresh air. Thankfully, the doctor concurred. Dana enjoyed exploring the hospital grounds in his father's strong arms, especially when we visited the grocery store and bought him some of his favorite snacks! 

Dana is scheduled for surgery this coming Tuesday to repair his Tetralogy of Fallot defect. His deep blue lips are a constant reminder that this boy's journey to Israel is a life-saving one. Praise God for His grace in sustaining Dana's life! We look to Him for continued grace in the days to come. 

A Timely Arrival

Posted on Thu, 07/31/2014 - 22:00 by Kristina Kayser

A sweet and shy little boy arrived in Jerusalem last evening. Nearly four-year-old Dana stuck close to his father and peeked up at me when I first met them, and I thought, "What a nice pair we have received." Dana's father was happy to know that his son's first hospital appointment would be the following morning. Dana seemed less enthused; however, I felt confident that with a patient and loving parent at his side, this boy would do very well. 

A van full of Shevet volunteers and a Syrian father journey together with Dana and his father early this morning. It was a beautiful day that God had made. On the way to Wolfson hospital, I tried to prepare Dana's father for the long day ahead of us. Today, his son would undergo many assessments for the purpose of providing the best possible care. And truly it proved to be a trying day for Dana. His father, as I hoped, was there to comfort or entertain or care for him at every turn though.

Like most children his age, Dana saw the various doctors and tests as fearful things, despite most of them not causing any pain, such as the chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, or echo. In fact, Dana had to be given a mild sedative in order to sleep through his echo exam. This gave Dr. Alona an uninterrupted opportunity to thoroughly examine Dana's heart. His shunt surgery two years ago has sustained him until now, but his heart is now in urgent need of corrective repair. 

Dana's heart condition is called Tetralogy of Fallot, which means that he has four major defects that create a very limited oxygen supply to his body. You can see this clearly by looking at his blue lips and fingers. With this condition comes a dangerous side effect called cyanotic or "Tet" spells, which occur when the oxygen level drops to life threatening levels and consciousness is often lost. Dr. Alona had informed us that she wanted Dana to be hospitalized today so that his oxygen levels, which are in the low 60's, could be closely monitored

His father was very open to the doctor's recommendation and wanted what was best for Dana. It was just a matter of getting father and son settled in. But right when our crew was preparing to leave, Dana started having a "Tet" spell during his IV insertion. A flood of doctors and nurses came running into the nurses station to assist with intervention. One doctor gave a dose of morphine to increase his oxygen while another started an IV drip line. To an outsider, it may have looked chaotic, but to this very skilled team, everyone knew what to do and was prepared to do it as quickly as possible. Dana's oxygen had dropped into the 40's, but he was soon stabilized, praise God! His father remained calm throughout--a steady source of calm for his son. 

It was then decided that Dana would stay in the intermediate ICU to remain under close watch over the weekend. It is possible that his surgery may be as soon as this Sunday or Monday. This also made his father very happy and relieved. I believe that the Lord, who sees the end from the beginning, was faithfully watching over Dana and brought him here in His perfect timing. He is the good Shepherd who can be fully trusted for all things. Please pray for Dana and his father to find rest in the Shepherd's care as they wait and prepare for surgery.