Arkan's Heart Surgery

Northern Iraq

Warm-Hearted Visit

Posted on Sun, 11/02/2014 - 15:12 by Sophie

Two weeks ago, Kristina, Ruth, Jonathan and I had the opportunity to visit Kurdistan. One evening, we met Arkan’s father, but I was so disappointed when I learned that Arkan was not coming. I really wanted to see him and his mother, so I felt very sad. During the time we were talking, his father told us they had gone to his parents’ house, but in the morning before we would leave, his whole family would be able come to see us. I was filled with excitement; I could not wait to see them! Early the next morning, l kept checking because I was looking forward to their arrival. After breakfast, l heard a voice and immediately ran outside, there stood the boy I was waiting for!

I was so excited to see him and his family, especially in their own home in their own country. At first Arkan was a bit shy, but then he ran to give me a hug. We took them into the house where we had been waiting. Then we had some tea and some snacks while we spent some time talking with Arkan’s family. Watching his relationship with his brother and his father was a sweet thing to behold, and it really touched my heart.

Even in the short time we were together, Arkan’s smile always brightened my day. I wished I could have had more time with them to get to know them better, but we had to leave to go visit other children. So we spent some time praying for them and blessing them, and then hesitantly said goodbye.

Given Life

Posted on Sun, 09/14/2014 - 20:17 by Jesse Tilman

Arkan’s time at Shevet Achim went by quickly; his stay was less than two weeks! Coming back after 7 years, we were looking at a possible follow-up surgery to finalize his heart’s repair. Arkan’s initial thought that his stay in Israel would be limited to one visit to the hospital was not far off though. We might have guessed it from his energetic and healthy activity. He is a playful kid, and not delicate as a few of our volunteers have found. Whether he is climbing the jungle gym at the playground, jumping in on photos, fending off the staff as we bring him medicine, cleaning, or just playing, he shows that he can push back.

Within just a few visits we saw him into a catheterization that showed for sure that he was doing better than expected. While his heart did have one narrowed artery causing higher than normal blood pressure, the doctors were able to expand it a little with a balloon stent to further reduce risk. With this small change he should be able to grow normally into adulthood. Thank God his next checkup will not have to be until a few years have passed when  he has reached his full stature.

His loving mother was a picture of steady grace as she watched over him. Her well-spoken English made this so apparent, as all of us could interact easily with her. She would chide him now and then and bring him back in line. I remember her watching happily as he played, moments before going in for his final catheterization; I think she was treasuring every moment not knowing what would happen. Then as soon as she saw him away into the operating room, she teared up and seemed to be at a loss as what to do. Two of our female volunteers who were there helped her to a seat, and the waiting began. We endeavored to keep an upbeat atmosphere through the next two hours for her. We could all tell that she was doing some soul-searching; she let us pray with her and we put our trust in God. When the doctors came out with the good news that he would not have to have surgery at all, we gave thanks!

At the house Arkan did have time to make some friends. Dawod is five years older but with his heart condition, is still near Arkan’s size and we often found them together. They also enjoyed playing the card game Uno with eight-year-old Lizan. I would often see these three dashing around the house, either following our dog or cat, or looking for a new toy. Arkan was even brave enough to hold our dog Shevie’s leash at the park and walk around with her! For a young Kurd this is a breakthrough.

Arkan knew Lizan and her mother previously from Kurdistan, as they are from the same city and their families are friends. One day these two had a great time in the kitchen helping out with the cooking for the evening. Lizan had started and went to bring him in on the fun, and everyone grinned as we saw them working away chopping vegetables.

I am so grateful to have met this family and see the love they share. Discovering Arkan’s healthy diagnosis was marvelous; we have much to be thankful for. May he grow big and strong and love God and the life He gives with gusto!

Home Sweet Home Kurdistan

Posted on Thu, 09/11/2014 - 22:20 by Rebekah Yang

Today was a very pleasant visit in Wolfson hospital. When we reached hospital we discovered Arkan and his mum were patiently waiting in the children play room. According to his mum, they had already been discharged by Dr. Alona around noon. We were also informed that he is completely discharged as of today.

Afterward, while we waited for his discharged papers to be completed by the doctors, Arkan, his mum, Abu- Ahmed, Ahmed, Abu Ahmad, Ruth and I went to the food court for some McDonald’s ice cream.

In this moment, our lovely Arkan’s mind immediately skipped forward to the future night’s festivities: ‘Wow! Tonight is Haf-la Haf-la (Kurdish for 'party'). I will be one of those being celebrated too!’ However, by far the best news was that their home-sweet-home, beautiful Kurdistan, will be there next destination.

Praise God for your protection for Arkan’s life, amen!

Prayers On Our Lips

Posted on Wed, 09/10/2014 - 21:37 by Kirsten Perow

Prayers were on our lips for Arkan and his mom as Courtney, Jesse, and I traveled to Tel Aviv at the break of dawn for this sweet boy's catheterization operation. On the way to the hospital, traffic was irritatingly slow; I began to grow anxious because I feared we would not make in time to be able to support Arkan and his mother as the doctors took him for his cath. It was in this moment that the Lord reiterated what He has been attempting to teach me all week: He literally is in control of everything. If He intends for us to arrive later, then that is what He has intended. No moment or circumstance goes unnoticed by Him. This instance may sound silly or small, but it served as an excellent reminder for me to "not be anxious about anything" and to "take everything to Him in prayer". Despite my small moment of worry, we made it to the hospital with enough time to spend with Arkan! Arkan may look like a solemn, serious child, but it took only seconds for his furrowed brow to disappear and for a slightly gap-toothed smile to take over his face and light up the whole room.

While waiting for the cath., I made him an elephant out of a rubber glove, innocently thinking it would be a "low-key" way to pass the time, but, boy was I mistaken. Arkan, with his bounding energy, decided to stand on his bed, jump up and down and repeated throw the elephant at me. It was so much fun, but I felt a little guilty because I thought I would surely get him scolded by his mom or the doctors. However, when I looked over at his mom, there was nothing but joy and love shining in her eyes and smile, what a wonderful moment!

Eventually the doctors took Arkan in the cath. lab, where his teary-eyed mom waved him goodbye. His mom was overwhelmed with emotions at first, but soon recovered her usual calm, strong composure. Two and a half hours later, Arkan's procedure was finished and went very well! Dr. Tamir said they used a balloon to dilate a stenotic artery, but other than that, Arkan's heart is in great shape. Arkan was believed to need at least one or two more surgeries, but according to Dr. Tamir, he may not need anymore operations the rest of his life! He said that they will reevaluate Arkan's heart when he grows into adult, but it is his hope that Arkan will lead a normal, healthy life! What awesome news! Praise the Creator of all Heaven, of all Earth, and this precious little boy's beautiful heart! Although Arkoa was tired, hungry and very thirsty, he was still able to give me a small smile and a high five. Granted, it was the most serious high five I have ever received, it was a high five nonetheless. Every minute I am able to spend with this boy and his wonderful mother I count as a huge privilege and blessing; I am so thankful for this family, for their joyous news, and for God's mercy.

Unexpected Invitation

Posted on Tue, 09/09/2014 - 21:30 by Jesse Tilman

Playfull Arkan went for admission to Wolfson Hospital today for his catheterization tomorrow. We were already at Wolfson Hospital for the Gaza clinic, so Kristina dropped him off, got him hospital pajamas, and waved goodbye.

His mother told me in her well-spoken English that he does not really know what is happening, and he will find out tomorrow. Through his entrance tests and checks he did well, getting through each one step by step.

After the tough blood drawing he perked up and we went around the ward greeting people. He is in lucky room number 5, and we looked it over together. We will be seeing him tomorrow for the time of the operation; please keep him in your prayers.

His Surprises

Posted on Tue, 09/02/2014 - 11:09 by Kirsten Perow

With large, puffy white clouds dancing throughout the sky overhead, Kristina and I headed to Wolfson hospital with our two new families in tow.

Pensive little Arkan sat very quietly, anticipating. His mom, who speaks English extremely well, told me Arkan thought today's trip to the hospital was the only measure necessary before he was able to go home to Kurdistan, so he was a bit upset about having to be in Israel longer. Thankfully, Arkan has made a friend in Lizan, the other child who has newly arrived.

When we arrived at the hospital, Arkan and Lizan promptly decided to entertain themselves in the hospital's play area, jumping around on the animal cushions. When they were not bouncing on the cushions, they insisted on whacking each other with them. Arkan and Lizan have been friends for a number of years, making the hospital experience less scary and much more fun. I'm so thankful for the delightful sight of watching this precious friendship! While we waited, Arkan and I colored and made paper airplanes. Although he had fun coloring, the paper planes really made him grin from ear-to-ear! As we giggled and tossed planes at one another, it was then that Arkan shared one of his biggest dreams with me: he wants to be a pilot! 

After vitals, X-rays, and blood work, all of which Arkan handled beautifully, we headed upstairs to the echo department. Because Arkan was in Israel 7 years ago to receive his first surgery, his mother and Doctor Alona remembered each other! The echo revealed that Arkan's first surgery was very well done, but his heart muscles have grown, which has caused some potentially problematic narrowing. Dr. Alona is hopeful though, and feels his heart may only require a catheterization for now and perhaps a second surgery when he is 14 or 15 years old. He and his mother were relieved to hear that he may not have to have 3 surgeries after all! Pray that Arkan's catheterization next week goes according to plan and that he does not need an extra surgery. Praising the Lord for His pleasant surprises!

Arrival in Israel

Posted on Sun, 08/31/2014 - 21:40 by Nick Boyum
Arkan arrived on Prohpets Street this evening!
He was a curious and patient traveler throughout the six-hour trip across the borderTomorrow he will have his first exams in the hospital in Israel. Let us pray that he is found to be in good condition for an operation, and that he will receive it in the Lord's good timing!

Arkan Coming Soon

Posted on Tue, 08/19/2014 - 15:05 by Sarah Powell

Arkan underwent heart surgery seven years ago as a first step in correcting his heart defect -- Double Outlet Right Ventricle, or DORV. When Arkan was born, both of his great vessels were connected to his right ventricle, which meant that his body would not receive any oxygen-rich blood coming from his lungs if it were not for the fact that he also had a small hole between the two chambers of his heart, allowing at least some oxygen-rich blood to find its way to the rest of his body. His condition was improved after his first surgery; however, his heart was not totally repaired. We now hope to have him with us in Israel very soon so that he can undergo a second surgery, which will, Lord willing, leave him with a fully repaired heart.