Baran's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

Hearts Knit Together

Posted on Sun, 08/21/2016 - 21:52 by Ruth Zellweger

Today, our Kurdistan crew had the opportunity to visit Baran's family. I had been looking forward to that visit for several weeks, and was happy that we were able to see them right on our first day. Since we had built deep relationships with Baran's mother during her time in Israel, and also met her husband and son before, they not only opened their home. but also their hearts right away.  

Of course, Baran is missed very much by his family, and they talk often about him. His older brother Aro asks every day where Baran is, since he cannot fully process yet that Baran will not return. On the other hand, he enjoys now more undivided attention from his parents. Baran's young parents shared how they continue with life, like going to work, but also about times visiting Baran's grave which is an hour drive away. Aro was in and out during our visit, as he is quite shy. However, his mother told us that he loves Jonathan and as soon as he heard that he would come to visit, he was waiting outside for his arrival.

Even though we didn't spend a long time together, it was precious time. Our hearts have been knitted together by the times we shared together trying to safe Baran's life, and now that he is not with us anymore, that bond still holds. We are thankful for that and pray that we will be able to continue to love and support each other. 

Peace Like a River

Posted on Sun, 07/10/2016 - 22:15 by Ruth Zellweger

A few weeks ago Suhail and I took Baran's mother to the nearby Mediterranian Sea, after doctors had just revealed to her that they couldn't do anymore to improve her son's condition. They had tried hard for the past three months to restore the function of Baran's left lung, but without success. 

The sea was like a picture of the state of her heart. Being at the beach and watching the waves finding their way to the shore helped her to clear her mind and process the news that she had just received. When we returned to the hospital that day, she had regained some strength and started preparing for their upcoming departure. All she wanted was to quickly return to her husband and older son. 

On Monday morning, Baran was cleared to return to Kurdistan and our Shevet family celebrated this in the evening. The following night Baran and his mother were already on their way to Kurdistan, where they arrived safely Wednesday morning. They were welcomed by Baran's father, who for such a long time had longed to see his beloved son and wife. Even though they had been separated for over three months, Baran recognized his father immediately and started smiling when he saw him. It was a joyful reunion and the entire extended family came together that day. 

Thursday evening, as I prepared to go to bed, I received a short viber message from Baran's mother, telling me that Baran had passed away. I felt an uproar of emotions as I tried to process the news. Thankfully, the next two days were days of rest and our community had time to pray and process. I wasn't able to get hold of Baran's mother until late yesterday evening, when she called me to share what had happened. Baran had developed a high fever on Thursday evening, and within a short period of time he was so weak that he passed away. She was with him the whole time, embracing him and giving him the love and comfort that only a mother can provide. On Friday, the family buried him. 

Baran's mother shared openly the events of the past few days, telling me how sad she was. She thanked our community again for the love and support she had received over the past year, and invited everyone to her home in Kurdistan. As we had tired ourselves for her (a Kurdish expression), she wants to be tired for us. Her house is our house. I was struck with the strength and peace resounding in her voice. This young woman had gone through so much since Baran was born, and here she was, opening her heart and house to us after losing her beloved son. I thought again of that day at the beach, when billows seemed to overroll and swallow her, but now I was reminded of Baran's favorite song, that we had sang at his farewell party: "It is Well". This peace like a river, that people have experienced in times of sorrow and trial, is my prayer for Baran's family, as they face each new day. It is only by the grace of God, and we pray that they will experience daily His peace and comfort. 

Baran's life was fragile, yet precious. We are thankful for all the love, time and skills that were invested, first of all by our partners from Save a Child's heart, as well as the prayers and financial support from our friends all over the world. Baran's family knows that everything possible has been done. And that is something they will never forget!


When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll; 
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

(Horatio G. Spafford)


The Strength of God

Posted on Tue, 07/05/2016 - 21:02 by Alexa Bigl

As our Shevet Achim community sat down for dinner last night, Jonathan shared some challenges we were facing to organize Baran's flight home. After lifting the whole situation up to God, we were reminded that nothing can be accomplished in our own strength. However, by the strength of God, before dinner was over, we learned that doors were opening. Baran and his mother are scheduled to fly home late tonight! 

God is continuing to orchestrate His plan. We pray we continue to lean on His strength throughout the process of Baran's return home. This morning Baran had a fever and we turned to God, once again, to orchestrate this day. God's faithfulness has shone through again and again for Baran, and we have complete belief everything will work out for Baran's return.
Last night, we enjoyed a special time of celebrating Baran and his mother. After we fellowshipped together over dessert and tea, we commenced a time of sharing. We shared memories, experiences, and times together with Baran. This precious boy has certainly left a mark on our hearts! It was beautiful to hear about the shared bonds between Baran, his mom, and the volunteer members of our community. It was clear Baran and his mom have joined our family in a deeply abiding way. Like all family, the bonds we have cannot be broken by distance or time away.
We also had the opportunity to give gifts to Baran and his mom. His mother's favorite gift was a book in English and Kurdish for Baran. It was a book of children's Bible stories. It's moments like these that God affirms the work we are doing. He shows us He is using us to plant the seed of the Holy Spirit. We pray that through the time with us, this book, and any other means the Spirit chooses to use, that Baran and his family come to know the Messiah. 
Next on the agenda for the evening was the farewell DVD with pictures of Baran throughout his past three months here in Israel. The pictures showed us all the love that surrounds Baran. The love between Baran and his mother. The love of the medical staff at Wolfson. The love of every volunteer here at Shevet. And the love our Father God has for His precious son, Baran. 
We finished our special farewell evening with worship songs and taking pictures. Baran's mom had done all the girls' lipstick for the party, wanting us to all be beautiful. So, at the very end of our evening we got a picture all together.
For a last photo, we let the boys join us too. 
We are all soaking up the last hours we have with this family, treasuring our remaining time with them before tonight's flight. And just a few minutes ago we had a final meeting for prayer and gave our last hugs and words to mother and son. Then, with Jonathan and Dr. Hiwa, they were off! 
Goodbye Baran - we love you!

All In God's Timing

Posted on Mon, 07/04/2016 - 17:30 by Alexa Bigl

Wow! I can't believe the day has come. Through this blog I get to report Baran has received his final echo.

We knew things would move quickly once the doctors decided the best course of action would be for Baran to be happy and comfortable at home (in Kurdistan) with his family. However, it's hard to believe he had his last day at Wolfson already. As many, many people greeted Baran and his mother throughout multiple departments in the hospital, the joy Baran's mom expressed in telling all of her Israel friends she was going home would put a smile on anyone's face. 

The doctors were very happy with Baran's echo and said being home at Shevet was agreeing with Baran. His heart looked the best they have seen it. He maintained his weight since he was discharged last week too! 

After figuring out some logistics with medications and medical reports, we were finished.

Baran's situation is very complex and I find myself struggling through difficult, mixed emotions as I think about and pray for Baran. Knowing Baran received the best medical care possible with medical professionals who poured unconditional love onto him is unbelievably helpful and reassuring. It is difficult to put into words the struggles within about learning a child cannot be helped further in a physical/medical way. Questions arise in my mind about why this happens to beautiful humans, like Baran. But as I write this blog while riding home to Jerusalem sitting next to Baran and his mom, the hymn It Is Well playing, I am reminded God cares about the well-being of our souls. In the end, it's not about what was accomplished for Baran physically. It's easy to loose focus of the end goal as we celebrate physically healed hearts in other children. I am reminded, despite unsuccessful medical results, Baran is actually an example of a success in the eyes of our ministry. We have formed relationships and bonds with Baran and his family that will stick with us for a lifetime. We have faithfully spoken the truth of who God is to them. We have seen relationships between Jewish and Muslims cross barrier after barrier because of this mother/son duo. And we will continue to pray for and be involved with Baran. We pray God performs a physical miracle for Baran's healing. However, we will be praying for the even more vital aspect of Baran (and his family), and that is for him to know God and the Messiah.

After three months in hospital

Posted on Wed, 06/29/2016 - 21:20 by Ruth Zellweger

Today marked a very special day, as baby Baran and his mother came to join our Shevet community in Jerusalem after three months at Wolfson hospital. Before they return to Kurdistan, the doctors want to see how he will cope when not under the care and supervision of the hospital staff. 

Baran and his mother did not leave for Jerusalem until after 6 pm this evening. We used the time of waiting to get their bags packed and organized the medical care with our Shevet nurses Rebekah and Alexa, who will monitor and watch over Baran while in Jerusalem. When it was finally time for Baran and his mother to leave, they first had to say goodbye to the many friends they have made at the hospital. 

Then they were finally on the road:

Many happy faces were on hand to greet Baran on arrival in Jerusalem, as he tried to make sense of his new surroundings:

Baran has been invited for a check-up on Monday, and this could be potentially the day he will be cleared to return to Kurdistan. We ask you to lift up Baran in prayer, and ask for peace and comfort for his mother. Thank you for praying with us. 


Posted on Thu, 06/23/2016 - 22:00 by Ruth Zellweger

Early this morning Suhail and I headed towards Tel Aviv to be at the hospital in time to discuss, with the doctors and Baran's mother, his future treatment. It turned out to be a day that reminded me of the song "Oceans" by Hillsong. 

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Baran's mother has taken the step of faith in leaving behind her home in northern Iraq to come to Israel to find help for her precious son twice. Neither she nor our Shevet family knew what the outcome would be, but in faith we entrusted Baran into the capable hands of our heavenly Father and of the medical team at Wolfson hospital. And they did everything possible to help this little boy. We cried out to God when Baran underwent his open heart surgery in August last year and the chances to survive were very low. He answered and Baran survived. However, it took several months before he was ready to return home to his family. 

Back in Kurdistan, Baran had several bad chest infections and needed constant oxygen supplementation. It was then the doctors there did a bronchoscopy and found out Baran's left lung was not ventilated at all. We informed our partners in Israel, and they invited Baran back for further evaluation and treatment. Within a short period of time Baran and his mother were again on a plane, leaving their family behind for an unknown period of time.

Over the past three months the doctors here have tried everything possible to get Baran's lung functioning again. However, today in a big meeting with doctors from different departments, they came to the conclusion everything they tried has not worked. Baran's left lung is still not ventilated or functioning despite all their efforts, like the highflow oxygen. They had also inserted a feeding tube and put him on a high calorie diet to help him gain weight, but so far it has not been successful. And after talking it through, the medical team at Wolfson hospital thinks it is best for Baran to return to home to be near his family. 

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

The atmosphere in the room felt heavy as two of the main doctors shared this news with Baran's mother. I admired her strength as they stated the facts. She even graciously thanked them for all they had done to help her son. Several nurses cried while listening to the conversation. When the mother hugged the doctors at the end, I saw the emotions and pain in their eyes. They had to hold back their tears, and I came to understand how hard it was for them to pass on this devastating news to the mother. They had invited Baran back to Israel with the hope to help him get better. But now they had to face the truth it had not worked out the way they had hoped for. So, today they put Baran on regular oxygen with hope he will soon be ready to return to Jerusalem and soon after to Kurdistan.

Suhail and I prayed with Baran and his mother. Other mothers from Kurdistan, Gaza, and the Westbank came to the room to support and comfort her. It was beautiful to see the bonds that had been developed these past weeks and months. Baran's mother has made many friends during her time in Israel. 

After a lunch break, we took Baran's mother and another mother from the Westbank to the nearby beach. This turned out to be just the right medicine for a wearied soul. They took some pictures, enjoyed the water around their feet, and then kneeled down to collect sea shells. Even though it wasn't a very long time spent there, the impact was huge. Both mothers returned to the hospital refreshed. 

These coming days and weeks will require all the strength and energy Baran's mother can muster. Her mother's heart is hurting for her son. We pray she can put her trust in the One who created her and Baran and who can minister directly to her heart. Please pray with us and lift up this precious mother and son duo. 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

It Is Well

Posted on Wed, 06/22/2016 - 20:47 by Juanita Florez Parra

Today, we left very early because Baran had his CT scan around eight. The test was so the doctors could see how well Baran's lung is being perfused. When we arrived he was awake and smiling in his bed. We played with his toys and his bubbles (which he loves) and also watched some babies' videos on his mother's phone. He also had time to take a shower before the exam. 

At some points before the exam, Baran started to cry. He was so hungry because he was fasting for his exam, and the CT did not actually happen until around 1pm. For me, it was so sweet to see his mother playing and singing "It Is Well" when Baran was crying. When she played the song to him, he immediately quieted down.

Around one, Ruth, Baran and his mother went to the CT room. They were there for almost an hour; for the test and the recovery. 

For now we can only wait and pray for him. The doctors have a meeting tomorrow to talk about his case and see the results of the CT.
"When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well with my soul"


Happy and Swinging His Arms!

Posted on Sun, 06/19/2016 - 23:37 by Suzanne Martin

I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to visit Baran and his mother at the hospital. 

When we got there, Baran was lying in his bed playing with toys. His mother was so welcoming and she explained to Courtney and me that even though Baran has a feeding tube he isn't gaining weight. We played with Baran for awhile and we were so happy to see him swinging his arms and throwing his toys on the floor (like a typical baby) and he would smile. He has such a beautiful smile.

Baran's mother left the room for awhile and we noticed Baran was rubbing his eyes and looking sleepy. I rubbed his back and soon he was asleep. His mother came back and was so happy to see him sleeping; she said he won't go to sleep when she is in the room.
We discovered that Baran loves music, especially the song "All is well." When his mother played the song his eyes just lit up and he started swinging his arms and smiling. The doctor came in right before we left and told Baran's mother she needs to try to give him food. She was very concerned about this because in the past he has vomited. The doctor explained she must try because it is necessary for him to gain weight.
I can see that Baran's mother is a very strong woman. Please continue to pray for Baran and his mother, especially that Baran will be able to keep down his food so he can gain weight.

Our Little Warrior

Posted on Mon, 06/13/2016 - 18:01 by Valentina Jaimes Vargas
Our Baran is like a little warrior who has already won a lot of battles, and he won't give up until the war is won. We thank God because He has been with Baran all this long way, showing His faithfulness and love.
Yesterday, Baran went to the ICU again. After a long night he is back in the children's ward today. He still has a slight fever, but he is getting better. It is amazing to see how good this baby is doing. He is always been wanting to play, and he is moving his arms and body more and more.
Also the greatest news is the doctor said Baran can go for short times without oxygen. This is like training for his lung! We really praise God for His mercy and because He made Baran a warrior. Through Him Baran is winning this battle.
We ask God to give more strength and understanding to Baran's mom in order that she may have the chance to feel peace and joy throughout this process.
Praise the Lord for the life Baran. 
"He gives strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak "
Isaiah 40:29

Baran gets a PEG Tube

Posted on Tue, 05/31/2016 - 20:08 by Alexa Bigl

Baran had his procedure today to place the feeding tube. We thought it would take place around noon, but we ended up having a bit of a delay. This gave us time to catch up with his mom and play with Baran! Both mother and son were happy this morning and ready to take this next step towards recovery. 

Finally, at 1:30pm the time came. The doctors had Mom sign the consent form and we wheeled Baran over to the ICU'S procedure room. The tiny room seemed chaotic as multiple doctors and nurses set up the equipment and performed the preparations. After a bit, Baran was put to sleep and intubated. Then, it was time for us to go and wait outside. 

About 45 minutes later, we got the call it was finished! Everything went perfectly and we walked in to an awake, extubated Baran! There is a small chance that future complications could arise in the coming days, but we are hopeful; especially given how well the procedure went! While we were thanking the doctors and saying hi to Baran, his mom started to feel sick. She was able to go out and rest for a while. After another hour, Baran was ready to go back to the children's ward. His mom was still feeling very poorly, and the nurses and doctors gathered around her, worried. Our wonderful Colombian volunteer, Alejandra, will be spending the night at Wolfson hospital to help care for Baran, so his mom can get some extra rest. Having Alejandra there also gives his mom the option of seeing a doctor, if she ends up needing and wanting to go. 

We are so thankful Baran's procedure went well and that he was smiling immediately after! We pray this feeding tube will allow Baran to gain weight and he will grow strong. Please join us in this prayer, and please also join us in praying for his Mom. We lift her up into the hands of our Heavenly Comforter, we know through Him she can be strengthened and renewed!