Hemn's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

By the Grace of God

Posted on Wed, 02/17/2016 - 21:29 by Ruth Zellweger

During our recent visit to Kurdistan, Jonathan, Agnes and I had the opportunity to visit Hemn and his family. Hemn had received open-heart surgery in spring of last year. Together with his father, he had enriched our Shevet community for a couple of months. 

It was fun to visit this family for the second time since their return to Kurdistan. Hemn hadn't changed much, but his father had grown a mustache. The family welcomed us with a beautiful meal which we all enjoyed. Hemn's father had invited a young man, whose name is also Hemn, to his house for us to meet him. He also has a congenital heart defect, that has not been treated yet. While Jonathan took time with this Hemn and his father to get all their details, Agnes and I talked to Hemn and his family. Wolfson hospital in Israel, where Hemn had received heart surgery, had asked us to fill out a questionnaire for children who are back in their home country. It was a fun experience to go through this questionnaire with Hemn, as the whole family was involved. Hemn has been doing well this past year, has been going to school, and has not suffered any complications. Praise God! One of the last questions was how often Hemn has seen his cardiologist since his return home. That is when my breath stopped for a moment, because the joyful answer of Hemn and his father was: None. First I thought that I had not heard right, but they repeated it a few more times. They felt that he was doing well and did not need any follow-up.

While Hemn was still in Israel, he had been put on a special medication for irregular heartbeat, which he had experienced several times during his stay in Israel. His father had purchased a six months supply--which was the recommendation of the cardiologists in Israel, with the note of regular follow-up. I asked Hemn how often he took that medicine, since he still had tablets left. He said that some days he is taking his meds, and then after a few more days he takes them again...   

I am so thankful that our partners from Wolfson hospital asked us to fill out that questionnaire. I am not sure if we would have found out otherwise. And I am more than grateful that Hemn is doing so well, despite no medical follow-up and inproper consumption of his medication. By the grace of God, he is well!

Before we left that day, we made sure to counsel the family about proper follow-up. We tried to point out the fact that they can be so thankful to have a capable cardiologist nearby, which cannot be taken for granted. God is watching over him, but they also have their responsibility.

God loves Hemn and his family, and I am looking forward to my next visit in their home.


Looking Back With Joy

Posted on Tue, 06/02/2015 - 16:09 by Konrad Wiedmer

Last week, Ruth, Sophie, Jonathan and I had the pleasure to see Hemn and his family in Kurdistan! We were invited for dinner on the evening before the screening in Chamchamal. Hemn’s father picked us up with a friend of his. I was so full of joy as I walked down the stairs and saw him. He was smiling as usual and we embraced each other with joy.

When we arrived at their house, I was stunned by how many brothers and sisters Hemn has. His brother looks a lot like Hemn and I could see that they respect him very much.

Also, when I saw him, I received a joyful hug from him.  It was so amazing to see them again. Both of them are such unique characters and immediately bring a smile to your face.

Before dinner, Hemn and I looked through the pictures on his phone, which were mostly taken in Israel. He told me the names of everyone and I was amazed to see how he remembered every detail. We also looked at my pictures and there as well he loved to identify the Shevet staff members from Jerusalem. This young man definitely looked back on his adventure in Israel with joy. Hemn has an incredible sense of loving others and caring for them, that’s what I appreciate a lot about him. What a gift to see him in his home. I only can only thank God for this unique chance.

Then, we had a typical Kurdish dinner and after we finished many guests arrived. Mostly it was families with their children. All in all, I counted around 30 people in one room, which was really nice to see.

It is most likely that they came by without any notice, which I love so much about their culture. One of the visiting families had a sick child and so they wanted to talk to Jonathan to let him oversee the medical report. In the end, the decision was to invite little baby Kawan to the screening the next day.

Also, one of Hemn’s brothers brought an English schoolbook in order to show me how many words he can pronounce. In the end, both Hemn and his younger brother pointed out animals and other objects to say what it is in English. I enjoyed seeing that they wanted to show me how much they already know and how ambitious they are to learn more. The younger brother even read whole passages to me and I helped him with how to pronounce it. He did really well!

Before we left their house, we took several group pictures. I also wanted to take one with Hemn’s father. Suddenly he showed up with his gun and I was a little surprised, but, as a Peschmerga fighter this is typical. When he was in Jerusalem, he would often talking about his job in the Kurdish army and how worried he was about his job. When he arrived at Shevet he said he has only one month time to stay because he has to return, otherwise he will lose his job. In the end he and Hemn stayed for two and a half months. As we were gathered in his house, we received the news from him that he was promoted in rank in the army. After all the worries he had, he can now breath easily.

On the next day, Hemn and his father also came to the screening performed by Doctor Kirk Milhoan and a team from the States. For all the families, we played some farewell blogs from children who had been to Jerusalem in the past in order to show them what it looks like to be in Israel for heart surgery. Hemn also watched some videos and at one point he asked me to show his surgery video from our website.

As we were playing the video he could see himself in a bed being wheeled into the operation room. You could see on his face that he has good memories about his time in Israel. He was always very brave and I know that the experience in Israel shaped him quite a bit. May he understand that his healed heart and his good condition are because the Lord blessed and protected him so much!

Psalm 77:11 helps us to remember and to proclaim the deeds God did in our lives and others: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” We thank our Father that He restored Hemn’s heart and we give all glory to Him.

Xua Hafiz Hemn!

Posted on Sun, 05/03/2015 - 13:08 by Kyle Carlson

The relationship between a father and son is a very special and unique relationship. A father teaches his son so much about what it means to be a man, and a son usually admires his father and acquires many of his characteristics in his own life. Hemn and his father are no exception, and they became very close during their time here. They journeyed to Israel for a second time, so that Hemn could complete his two-stage treatment for a heart defect called “tricuspid atresia.” When he arrived, Hemn was weak and unable to live life as a normal teenager due to his heart defect. However, praise the Lord, he has returned home with a repaired heart! With every day that passes, Hemn grows in strength and maturity.

In many ways Hemn was mature beyond his years. One of the ways he demonstrated this was in his love and care for the other children at Shevet. While many teenagers are perfectly content with staring at their phones during all waking hours of the day, (and to be fair, Hemn enjoyed this activity thoroughly as well) he also spent time with the other children. He was like an older brother to many of them. He would always greet others with a smile and a kiss. This care for others is something most teenagers do not have, and I think this is largely due to his father’s example.

Hemn’s father is a career military man with the Kurdish fighting force called the “Peshmerga.” He carried a quiet confidence and strength, but he also showed his love for his son and those around him. I will never forget one incident that depicted this perfectly. While he and I were at the hospital, a fellow father of a child was having a difficult time during his own son’s surgery. I was unsure how to best comfort him, as western social norms for men are a bit different. However, Hemn’s father walked right over to him and gave him a big kiss on the head and a hug. He knew exactly what to do to bring comfort to a hurting brother. I can only imagine the ideal soldier he makes, bringing compassion and strength, love and courage. Hemn has an amazing role model in his father, and hopefully he continues to listen to his instruction and observe his example.

Hemn already has a mature countenance in many ways, and he will continue to mature much more as he grows. But the important thing is that he will continue to grow, that he has a full life ahead of him. Hemn and his father brought a lot of laughter and joy to this house, and there were also some very serious moments during their time here. I had the privilege of being there during Hemn’s surgery day, as well as the day we took him back to the hospital due to an irregular heart beat. These were long and intense days for Hemn and his father. Open-heart surgery is an extremely serious procedure, and the many days following are often difficult. However, what a joy and miracle it is when a child completes the process, finishing with a healed heart. 

Psalm 48: 1 says, “How great is the Lord, how deserving of praise, in the city of our God, which sits on his holy mountain!” We thank the Lord today for Hemn’s life, and we pray that he would know the Lord and his love. We will miss Hemn and his father, but at his farewell party we praised the Lord for all he has done and will do in his life.

Xua Hafiz (translated:'God keep you') Hemn!

Good News

Posted on Mon, 04/27/2015 - 22:32 by Jesse Tilman

Hemn's last echo was a trial in nerves for his father. He was as jumpy as a springtime colt as he watched each step in the process. I was glad Ayman's father was also there to stand by him. I tried to take extra time to explain to him what was happening and what to expect, but of course these are things that must be done. Hemn would just smile and laugh, and now and then question what was going on.

Hemn's doing well health-wise, and the echo itself was quick and smooth. He is on quite a few medications, and none were changed though we are still waiting for the discharge report tomorrow. 

He is scheduled to have a reevaluation of three of the meds by a local doctor in Kurdistan in one month, and another check-up echo at Wolfson Hospital after a year. We are glad to see all the progress in his case, and happy to see a developed teenager looking back at us. May God continue to bless our friend Hemn!

Strength Will Rise As We Wait Upon the Lord

Posted on Mon, 04/20/2015 - 21:31 by Konrad Wiedmer

The last few weeks were very intense for the 13-year-old boy Hemn and his father from Kurdistan. Originally, Hemn’s father came with the expectation of leaving the country after a month. Now they have already been with us for more than two months. Hemn had a catheterization and an open heart surgery, and we praise God for how he was and is present in everything. Due to an irregular heart rhythm, Hemn had to be admitted again after surgery, so the last weeks were not easy for Hemn and his father.

Today, Ruth and and I were able to see a very happy and brave boy when we went to Wolfson Medical Center for Hemn's echo. The results were very good, and probably next Monday Hemn will have his final echo and can return with his father back to Kurdistan at the end of the week.

We planned to go the beach after Hemn's echo, but before that, I accompanied Hemn and his father from the echo department to the children's ward. Hemn had to go there in order to get his stitches removed from his three chest tubes. Once again, I was able to witness the loving care of Hemn's dad. While the nurses had to remove the stitches very carefully, Hemn was starting to cry, so his father took his hand and covered his son's eyes. While doing that, he talked to him in Kurdish, and I can just guess that they were words of encouragement. 

After the small procedure was completed, the nurse put a bandage over the biggest of the three wounds, but Hemn's dad pointed carefully to the second one with a worried face. Even though it was not necessary, the nurse offered kindly to put a bandage over this one as well so that the father would not feel worried.

Later on, after we sorted out everything, we headed off to the beach. The weather was perfect for going to the beach! Hemn went into the water up to his feet, and his father took so many pictures of him posing in the water or on the beach. Hemn's father also wanted to be photographed, and I really enjoyed seeing them having so much fun at the beach.

At one point, Hemn was standing in the water facing the sea, and he seemed to be thinking about something important. For me, this situation was a picture of waiting patiently for the Lord's intervention. Both father and son want to go home to their loved ones, but there is a slow recovery after such a surgery. So much patience is needed, and we can all intercede for them that God gives them His peace.  A scripture that gives us great hope is Isaiah 40: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

What a statement! Let us trust the Lord in his divine plan for Hemn and his father. He knows when the best, and most secure date for Hemn's return to Kurdistan is, and we put all our trust in Him.

Praise God for Hemn!

Posted on Thu, 04/16/2015 - 23:41 by Rebekah Yang

The Sun was shining beautifully in the city Tel-Aviv when Brian and I reached Wolfson hospital. I first went to the Children’s Ward to check Hemn and his father, but I did not see them inside the ward. Then I went to greet the on duty nurses and doctors at the nurse’s station, and had a short chat with few of them. One of the nurses told me about Hemn’s situation at hospital. She said Hemn is a very sensitive teenage child, it would be good to find a play partner in order to have some fun.

While we were waiting for his discharge medicines to be prepared, I saw he was sitting quietly in TV lounge crying. After I checked with his father, I found out he was in a bad mood today because he missed his family and would really like to go home as soon as possible.

On one hand I was happily praising God for His healing touch on Hemn’s physical body, but on the other hand I was a bit concern of this young man’s emotions.

On Monday he will have his first follow-up echo. Please pray with us that our Heavenly Father would continue to work in Hemn. Pray that Hemn, and Abu Hemn, would be encouraged and lifted up by the Lord’s mighty power. Dear Lord, may King David’s prayer be my prayer for Hemn and Abu Hamn,

“I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me” (Psalms 3:5).


Posted on Wed, 04/15/2015 - 20:58 by Kyle Carlson

Today, Hemn was moved from the secondary ICU to the children’s ward. He and his father were very happy about this and were enjoying their new room. Hemn has an echo tomorrow, and if it goes well, he will likely be discharged tomorrow afternoon. We are so thankful for the doctors and medical staff at Wolfson and for their thorough examinations of Hemn. He is in very capable hands, and we are thankful for his continued progress! 

God's Mercy For Hemn

Posted on Sun, 04/12/2015 - 11:47 by Kristina Kayser

There is a Scripture which says, "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness." I found this to be true for Hemn Saturday morning when I was alerted to a dangerous threat to his health. He seemed to be sleeping peacefully as I entered to give him his 8am medications. Hemn's father, however, startled awake and told me his son had not been feeling well during the night. Listening to Hemn's heart, I was surprised to find a racing heart rate (near 140 beats per minute) and an extremely irregular rhythm. 

After reporting his condition to the hospital, Hemn, his father, Kyle, and I quickly made our way to Tel Aviv. An ECG (electrocardiogram) and blood test confirmed that Hemn's heart was not functioning well. One clue to the cause of his arrhythmia (irregular rate and rhythm) was a low magnesium level in his body.

As doctors and nurses were working to create a plan of care for Hemn, I could see that he was struggling. Despite his best efforts to hold back tears, Hemn began to cry. Perhaps it was from fear or disappointment or both. Regardless of the cause, this brave teenage boy needed love and reassurance. We prayed together for the Lord's help. And I saw God's love for Hemn most clearly through Hemn's father. Throughout the morning, he held his son, taking his face in his hands and kissing his cheeks. Hemn even smiled a few times, as a result.

It was soon determined that Hemn's condition warranted treatment and observation in Wolfson's ICU. Hemn cried as nurses wheeled him down the hall while speaking to his family in Kurdistan. Strong cardiac medication was started through his IV as soon as Hemn was settled in. I was struck by God's mercies in protecting Hemn's life and prompting swift attention and intervention. His compassions fail not.

As of Sunday morning, Hemn continues in the ICU while doctors work to resolve his heart condition. Please pray for God's healing and continued mercies in Hemn's life. Great is His faithfulness!

A Joyful Return

Posted on Thu, 04/09/2015 - 20:44 by Co-authored

By Lindsay Martin and Konrad Wiedmer

We arrived at the hospital today to find Hemn and his father enjoying a shwarma in the cafeteria. They were in good spirits as they were waiting to be discharged after his surgery, and join us back at our home on Prophets street.

As we were driving home, Hemn's father was showering him with kisses, while making sure he was feeling okay during the long drive.

We took a detour on the way home to pick up Kristina, who was able to spend a short, but much needed break in Latrun. Hemn and his father enjoyed the beautiful scenery and took several photos to keep as a memory.

We are overjoyed to have Hemn and his playful spirit back with us at home. and hope that you will pray with us for his continued healing.

"Come and see what God has done: He is awesome in His deeds toward the children of man." Psalm 66:5

Step by Step

Posted on Mon, 04/06/2015 - 21:34 by Konrad Wiedmer
This morning, Ruth and I went to Tel Aviv in order to accompany Ilham and her mother for an echo appointment and also to visit our dear Hemn who was in still in the ICU when I saw him on the past weekend. Only five days ago, he had his successful open heart surgery and today we received the great news that he was moved to the children’s ward this morning. His condition is slowly improving as he has to have two chest tubes because of the fluid around his heart and lungs . Also, I observed that he feels still weak and is very careful in every move he is doing. 
What I also could see was the loving care of his father who was with him all the time. He changed the positon of Hemn’s bed, he put Hemn’s blanket carefully to the right place back and forth. What I liked the most was the fact that the father fed his son so that he could be able to rest and had not to do too many moves.
After a while Dr. Alona came in and told me that Hemn still needs to stay because of the fluid and that it is different from child to child how fast the fluid comes out of the body. Normally, the older the child is, the longer it takes. This requires a lot of patience for the father who wants to go as fast as possible back to Kurdistan. He is fighting in the army against ISIS and is scared that he will lose his job. Please pray for him and that the Lord gives him peace in the waiting time.
We also ask you to pray for Hemn’s recovery and that all the fluid around his heart will be removed as soon as possible. Our Lord has the best plan and his timing is perfect and so we trust and thank him that Hemn is improving on every day step by step.