Yousif's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

Bye, Bye Yousali!!!!

Posted on Sun, 10/04/2015 - 16:48 by Alexa Bigl

Yousif and mother are safely home in Kurdistan!  After two cardiac surgeries and one surgery on his lymphatic system, sweet Yousif is doing very well.  During his post-surgical time at Wolfson Medical Center and Shevet in Jerusalem, Yousif gained much strength.  He even began crawling during his last week here.  We will be continuing our prayers for Yousif’s continued development and strengthening.

It was such a pleasure to have the opportunity to get to know both Yousif and his mom.  They are both so joyful and lovely.  Mom loves her son dearly and delights in him daily.  She loves when other people give attention to Yousif and show their care towards him; and Yousif loves attention!  While he is happy to be engaged by anyone, he certainly has a deep bond with his mom.  Whenever she would walk into the room, Yousif would light up, and any special attention from her would have Yousif smiling hugely.  While being in the hospital for seven weeks, almost straight, would be difficult and testing for anyone, this pair handled it with amazing grace and contentedness.     

Yousif had Tetralogy of Fallot, which is a defect with four complicated issues within the heart.  Despite Yousif’s defect being complicated, his first surgery was quick and went very well.  A week after this surgery, Yousif’s repaired heart needed a little more TLC (tender love and care).  He underwent a second open-heart surgery, this time for his mitral valve (the valve between the left atria and ventricle).  After his initial defect was fixed, his blood began flowing the correct directions with correct pressures in his heart. This led to the discovery of the insufficient function of his mitral valve. 

With another successful operation, Yousif was out of the ICU within a couple of days.  Yousif was soon allowed to return home to Jerusalem.  Sadly, two days later, Yousif developed a fever and was brought back to the hospital.  This was the beginning of a trial for both Yousif and his mother.  The fever was due to fluid buildup around Yousif’s lungs.  After the insertion of chest tubes, the doctors spent the next couple of weeks figuring out the underlying problem leading to this fluid collection.  It was discovered that during the second surgery, a lymph vessel had accidentally been nicked.  The fluid from the lymph system was leaking out, causing the buildup.  This is a fairly common complication of open-heart surgery. 

Yousif was put on the typical treatment plan: wait and see for 4-6 weeks while on a special diet with chest tubes inserted to drain the fluid.  After this time period, the lymph system had not been able to heal itself and Yousif continued to need a chest tube. So the decision for a surgical ligation (closing of the lymph leakage) was made.  After another week of healing and hospital observation, Yousif came back to Jerusalem.  Two more outpatient echos and less than two weeks of extra healing in Jerusalem, and Yousif was discharged home to Kurdistan, northern Iraq.  Flights and all the details were quickly worked out for Yousif and his mother to be on their way home the very next day. 

The farewell party was a busy one, filled with many, many gifts.  Yousif’s mom became close with many of the volunteers here who wanted to show their appreciation for what an amazing person and mother she is.  We ladened her with jewelry, lotions, clothes, toys, and other gifts for Yousif and expected her to fit it all in her luggage.  Thanks to some amazing repacking by Ruth, everything fit! The bags were getting ready to burst at the seams, but no reports of issues while traveling came back to us.

Yousif, given a couple of nicknames by the staff at Wolfson while here – including Yousali and Youskali – will be greatly missed.  His mother will be also.  Her love for Yousif, all of us workers at Shevet, the other mothers and children staying with us, and the hospital staff was apparent everyday.  Thank you for coming to Israel, blessing us, and becoming our friends, Yousif and Mom!  

Monumental Day

Posted on Wed, 09/30/2015 - 22:22 by Noa

Today was a monumental day for Yousif at the hospital, the day of his last echo! This final echo showed that Yousif is healthy and ready to return to Kurdistan tomorrow with his mother.

When Yousif and I got to the hospital today we headed up to the echo for Yousif's last hospital visit. I brought my camera, so naturally we had a series of photo shoots. While we waited to go in for his echo, Yousif's mother helped to pose him as we took some photos with a couple of his friends from the children’s ward. As it turns out, Yousif is quite photogenic and thoroughly enjoyed his stint as a baby model.

During his final echo Yousif waited a bit longer before eating the paper on the bed, but nevertheless started in on his new favorite snack, which distracted him from pulling cords. He was happy as ever as he interacted with the technician and posed for pictures.

Yousif and I spent some time in the children’s courtyard after lunch while waiting for his discharge papers and reports to be completed. When I carried Yousif out to the car, once we had obtained all of his paperwork, he fell asleep immediately in my arms exhausted by the day. Onlookers adored him and one lady even came over to touch him on the head and say how cute he is. As all this was happening his mother was picking some fresh Israeli dates from a tree at the hospital as a memento of the trip.

We will be terribly sad to see Yousif and his mother go, I can speak for everyone at Shevet Achim saying that we love Yousif and he always lights up a room with his constant joy and sweetness.

Pray for Yousif and his mother's safe journey home tomorrow, and keep praying he will remain healthy in Kurdistan!

Echo! (Echo, Echo)

Posted on Thu, 09/24/2015 - 18:52 by Alexa Bigl

Yousif made the trip to Tel Aviv today for an echo. We went in with high hopes of a good report and were not disappointed! The doctors were very happy with Yousif’s heart and were able to report he has no fluid around his lungs. This means the surgery on his lymph system was a complete success with no lingering issues!

Since his heart has had quite a while since his cardiac surgery to recover and the echo is demonstrating the complete repair has maintained itself, it looks like Yousif and his mother’s departure to Kurdistan, northern Iraq, will be in the near future. With an echo scheduled for this coming Wednesday, please pray with us that it will be Yousif’s final echo.

Yousif had us all laughing in the echo room as he continually tried to eat the paper covering the echo table he was laying on.

Despite his mom reminding him multiple times the paper is not food, Yousif seemed to think it was the most delicious food he’d had in a while. Yousif was very brave during the echo and smiled as the technician tickled his belly with the ultrasound wand.

With a medication change and the good reports in from the doctors, we headed down to the children’s ward to have his remaining two stitches removed. Yousif did cry a little as the nurse had to pull at his scabs, from where the chest tubes had previously been placed, in order to remove the remaining sutures. Luckily it was a very quick process and Yousif was back smiling in just a few minutes. After a quick lunch with the other mothers at the hospital, Yousif and Mom headed back to Shevet! As they happily play in our front courtyard now, I am already preparing myself for the emotions we’ll soon be facing when this wonderful mother-son pair depart.      

Yousif is Back on Prophets Street

Posted on Sun, 09/20/2015 - 22:34 by Trine Korneliussen

Yousif has returned to our home on Prophets Street!

This day is filled with joy. Yousif and his thankful mother have been in the hospital for 7 weeks. In the last 7 weeks Yousif has had 3 surgeries. Today we got the great news that he is discharged and able to come back home to Jerusalem.

During the long waiting time, Yousif and his mother were so patient. Their joy in leaving the hospital was overpowering. The Shevet community and the other mothers were so happy to have them back. They were met with kisses and hugs.

It was so good and heartwarming to feel the joy in the mother’s heart, finally her son is feeling well. It has been inspiring to get closer to the mothers and support them. They’re just grateful for your presence.

We are so thankful to the Lord for his great provision in this little boy’s life, and continue to pray for the Lord to bless and keep Yousif.

Transfer to the Children's Ward

Posted on Thu, 09/17/2015 - 21:18 by Alexa Bigl

After his second surgery this past Sunday, Yousif has been moved out of the ICU into the children’s ward! Yesterday, the doctors thought it would still be a couple of days before they knew if the surgery on Yousif’s lymph system would remain a complete success. We were pleasantly surprised to walk into the children’s ward today to see Yousif there with both chest tubes removed! With a significant drop in the drainage from his chest tubes the medical team felt comfortable removing them, and all is looking well for the surgical repair. The evidence is demonstrating the surgical repair is holding and Yousif’s lymph system is leak-free.  

Yousif enjoyed the attention from our hospital team today, although he reserved most of his smiles for his mom. Yousif’s calm temperament makes him a joy to be around. He is a typical one-year-old and thinks everything should be put in his mouth and tasted before determining if it is worth his time.  

With prayers for return to Jerusalem and Shevet soon, we are so thankful Yousif was able to receive this corrective surgery!      

Emerging Victorious

Posted on Sun, 09/13/2015 - 17:14 by Emily Peck

This morning Yousif went in for a corrective surgery to fix the leak in his lymphatic system. A couple hours later he came out of surgery with a full repair. He is now in the ICU, and he is stable and doing well. We are praising God for a smooth surgery and pray for continued healing.

I had a wonderful time with his mother today and enjoyed spending time with her. She has so much strength and joy, even though she’s been at the hospital for several weeks now and has been through a lot with Yousif’s treatment. I can’t understand many of her words, but her love is plain to see. She has a sweet and bubbly personality, which comes out in Yousif as well. He is a happy, sweet child, and I think a lot of that comes from his mother.

It was wonderful to see the love and support that these mothers have for each other. The mother of another Shevet child that is at the hospital right now was so loving of both Yousif and his mother. These mothers look out for each other and care for each other in a way that warms your heart to see it.

Yousif’s mother was also supportive of another mom there today whose child passed away while we were there. Even though she was concerned for her own son in surgery, she poured out love and compassion on this grieving mother. It was deeply moving to see these women who did not know each other before, come together and lift each other up in a difficult time.

Adieus Final Chest Tube

Posted on Wed, 09/09/2015 - 20:36 by Alexa Bigl

As I walked into the secondary ICU today to visit with Yousif, his mother gleefully showed me his second chest tube has been removed!

On Tuesday, Yousif began eating orally again, and his TPN was stopped yesterday (feeding nutrients directly into his veins). It is wonderful to see progress in Yousif’s recovery, and his mother was refreshed to have a change in her son’s healing status. He will remain in the secondary ICU for the close observation the unit provides.

We will be praying extra hard for Yousif because these next handful of days will be vital. The cause of the fluid around Yousif’s lung is due to a leak in his lymphatic system. This is a common complication in open-heart surgery. While the body can often heal itself from this issue, surgical correction is sometimes required. Although the chest tubes have been removed, his lymph system is still leaking. There is a possibility Yousif will need a second surgery to stop the leakage. Our prayers will be that his lymph system can finish healing on its own. We will also pray that while this final healing takes place his body can keep up with processing and disposal of the extra fluid from the leak. We look forward to your joining our prayers and are excited to see God’s continued work in Yousif’s life!  

Yousif on the Mend

Posted on Sun, 09/06/2015 - 21:25 by Jesse Tilman

Good news for Yousif today. He's alert and active in his bed in secondary ICU. Also, his left chest drainage tube was removed this morning (it was originally reported that he only had one drainage tube but he, in fact, had two).

The amount of drainage is significantly less than before. He is still being supplied nutrients by a TPN line and has a good healthy baby weight by the look of him. His mother keeps him occupied with balloons and special sounds she knows he likes. He'll start grinning right away when she walks up trilling a bird sound.

We look forward to God's healing for this boy to see him able to crawl around soon. As you can see his oxygen is 100%.

A Precious Child

Posted on Wed, 09/02/2015 - 21:31 by Deborah Burke
Yousif's mother was eager for me to meet her precious son this morning. Her loving tenderness for her son is striking, especially when the world around them might leave him for dead.
"...even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings..." -Matthew 23:37
Yousif was alert, smiling and happy. His mum proudly showed how he can sit up with assistance. He is obviously a favourite with everyone in the secondary intensive care unit.
The consultant was doing his rounds while I was visiting so I was able to glean some useful information. Yousif's cellulitis on his foot is improving and will be checked in 2 days for a decision about any further treatment. He is still having treatment for an infection but otherwise is generally improving. The discharge from his chest tubes has diminished, one has been removed, and his central line has been removed so he was being started on solids today (fish). 
Please continue to pray that all infections and inflammations will heal quickly and this mother's delight will soon be moved out of the intensive care unit.

Smiling Yousif

Posted on Mon, 08/31/2015 - 21:59 by Emily Peck

Yousif is still about the same, although the drainage has gone down a little bit. He still has both chest tubes in and there is very little change in regards to the fluid in his chest. He seems to be getting better, but it’s a very slow process. He is a strong boy though and is holding up. I was able to be with him while one of the nurses was giving him a bath. It’s nice to see how much they care about him and how sweetly they treat him. He is a sweet boy and I love seeing his smile. It’s also wonderful to see how he lights up when his mother comes in the room.


Please continue to pray that he would recover quickly and that the chest tubes can come out soon. It is hard for him and his mother to be in the hospital for so long and they are worn out. Please pray for strength and comfort and peace for both of them.