Awezhan's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq


Posted on Tue, 10/24/2017 - 19:37 by Co-authored

Praise God for the work He has done and is doing in the lives of Awezhan and her beautiful mother.

What a joy it has been to have them in the apartment. It has been a treat to watch Awezhan's recovery and to see her cheekiness return, back to cheating at card games, tickling volunteers, and just generally being playful.
Awezhan does have a progressive heart condition in keeping with her Marfans Syndrome, so she has been discharged on medication for the rest of her life unless there are more major breakthroughs in cardiac treatments in the future. Meanwhile this vibrant 10 year-old lives life to the full. She has won many hearts and has many people around the world hopefully watching her progress in life.
Our prayers are for their safe travels home to Awezhan's sisters and a long and fulfilling life that is filled with a hope that only comes from our Creator. 
"He turned my mourning into dancing." Psalm 30:11

Currently, Awezhan and Mom are on their way home to Kurdistan, soon to be reunited with the rest of their family at long last. After two and a half months here in Israel, Awezhan's heart is healed and her Israel journey complete. While her mom is very anxious to be back home, Awezhan has been a bit more hesitant and often jokes with us she will happily stay and become a volunteer at Shevet. But we know she is missing her siblings and she and her mother cannot wait for the reunion. 

Last night, we celebrated with a farewell party, in combination with Lya. After eating and singing worship songs together, we enjoyed sharing with Awezhan and her mom. We learned Awezhan would like to join the Kurdish army, the peshmerga. And we reflected on how she and her mom have been part of the glue keeping our community together and an important part of the engine keeping us running these past weeks. With many families and few staff, Awezhan and her mom have welcome many, many new families and showed them 'the ropes' of life here at Shevet. Under Awezhan's mom's direction, the families are a beautiful group who work together nearly seamlessly. They work together to run the house and share love with each other in amazing ways. We are so blessed by our current group of families and we are beyond grateful for the leadership roles Awezhan and Mom have played in this. They will be deeply missed! 
Last night's party ended with watching the photo slideshow of Awezhan's time here and journey towards a healed heart. We watched as it played through all the different assessments, her time of waiting, her incredibly successful operation, and her very good recovery. The Lord is indeed good! Praise His name for the miracle of healing He has done in Awezhan. 
Awezhan's sister, also with a cardiac defect, and is not faring well recently. We ask you to join us in praying for Payam. May the doctors soon make a decision regarding if she will be accepted here. And we are prayerful about the Lord's perfect timing in her potentially coming here. So as we lift up prayers of thanks for Awezhan, we ask the Lord's hand to be upon Payam. 
Written by: Deborah Burke and Alexa Bigl

Nearly There

Posted on Tue, 10/17/2017 - 00:29 by Deborah Burke
Our cheeky Awezhan has returned albeit quite slowly.
Today she headed off to Wolfson in the second batch of children for another echocardiograph. She was funny, playing with everyone, breaking any tension, taking us up and down lifts, and eventually finding her way to the music therapist. Nothing was going to coax her out of that room.
The results of her echocardiograph were very good, everything is healing well. Awezhan's medication has been reduced and her final echocardiograph,  God willing, will be next Monday and after that she is free to return to Iraq. 
We give thanks to our Great God who brought this young girl into our lives. She has won many hearts as has her loving mother. We rejoice with her as her heart is being healed, and continue to pray for ongoing good health and a life that is filled with His purposes for her being realised.

Awezhan's Follow-up

Posted on Mon, 10/09/2017 - 22:33 by Alexa Bigl

Awezhan headed to Wolfson this morning for her follow-up echo. There were many children getting their echos today and Awezhan patiently waited by her mother's side.

Once it was their turn the team did the echo and a few minutes later it was reviewed by Dr. Alona. All looks well! 

Awezhan has been experiencing headaches and low-grade fevers in the evenings since she has been discharged from the hospital. So, we had a blood test done to ensure all looks good from that side of things. The team suggested making sure Awezhan is hydrated and treating her with some tylenol in the evenings.
Please be lifting this up in prayer. Everything is looking good and there is no apparent explanation for the pain or raised temperature. But we know God's hand is mighty and we pray His complete healing over Awezhan. Next Monday we will return for another echo, but we are very happy with how Awezhan is progressing and are looking forward to another week of fun with her!

A Quick Return to Wolfson

Posted on Mon, 10/02/2017 - 21:20 by Alexa Bigl

Although Awezhan was discharged home just yesterday, she needed to return to Wolfson for an echo today. Since yesterday's echo showed some fluid, the doctors wanted to ensure it had not increased overnight. And the exam had good results, Awezhan can stay at the house with her current medications continued. 

Awezhan and her mom enjoyed lunch in the garden of the children's ward after the echo. Her mom, as usual, was making sure everyone had and opportunity to eat and get the food they enjoy most. And at the end end was cleaning up and making sure everything looked nice and everyone was doing well. Awezhan played in the activities room and colored as we waited for the van to come pick us up. 
Please be praying for Awezhan's fluid to decrease and her continued recovery. Her smile has returned and we are loving every minute of having her back at our house!


Posted on Sun, 10/01/2017 - 22:53 by Lindsay Martin

Today we heard the good news that Awezhan could be reunited again with us at our home in Jaffa. After waiting quite some time this morning for an echo, the doctors were encouraged by her progress and decided she could be discharged from the hospital. She does have some fluid around her heart and lungs so she will go to the hospital again tomorrow for a follow-up echo.

Her mother was encouraged to know that Awezhan will most likely not need a future surgery, even though the doctors had mentioned before that it would be a possibility. It truly is a miracle to see how well Awezhan is healing and we are thankful for God's sovereign hand that has intervened. 
Please pray for continued healing and joyful times as Awezhan is reunited with the many people she has come to love here. 

Awezhan in the Children's Ward

Posted on Thu, 09/28/2017 - 23:16 by Coby van Wijhe

This morning when I entered the children's ward, I was surprised to see Awezhan there. She had just been moved from the ICU to the children's ward. Sadly she didn't look so happy. She had a little fever and felt sick.

Mom was also sad about this. We helped mom to have WiFi again so she could communicate with her family. She was glad about that. Just before we left, we saw her again and she had a smile on her face and felt a bit better. When Awezhan's mom asked for some oranges, I phoned my husband, Ben, who was picking us up, and asked him bring some oranges for her. She was pleased and I was thankful to help her feel better. She looks so well after her daughter, staying by her bed the whole time. Please pray that the fever will go and Awezhan will soon feel better again.

Extubated and Upbeat

Posted on Tue, 09/26/2017 - 18:33 by Alexa Bigl

After Awezhan's mom spent the night getting a good rest at our Jaffa house, she accompanied me to the hospital early this morning. Not long after we arrived, the ICU team was ready to extubate Awezhan. It's amazing to see the Lord's hand over Awezhan during these past days. The surgical team had been quite concerned with how Awezhan's heart would respond to the big surgery, but everything looks incredibly well! So, the team was happy to get Awezhan breathing on her own and take her off the sedation medications. Around 9am, Awezhan was sitting up with an oxygen mask on, asking for her mother to return from getting some water. The next time I went into the ICU, after lunch, Awezhan had just a nasal cannula with minimal supplemental oxygen. I asked her how she was feeling and she surprisingly said she felt good. Usually the first day after surgery, especially for the older children, means uncomfortableness and some pain. However, Awezhan even managed a smile as she asked her mom if she could eat a snack. Awezhan and mom looked very peaceful sitting next to one another in the ICU; what a beautiful blessing from the Lord! As the Kurds often say, "God is big!" Thank you for your continued prayers as Awezhan still has quite a recovery in front of her. 

The Voice of Joy

Posted on Mon, 09/25/2017 - 23:21 by Deborah Burke

"The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts: for the Lord is good; for his mercy endureth forever..." Jeremiah 33:11

There is so much to tell about Awezhan's surgery day. People around the world were praying for our precious girl and the Lord of hosts responded in a way that was more than we could have hoped for.
At 7:30am my co-worker, Alexa,  and I accompanied Awezan and her mother to the OR. For one hour we waited in the waiting area of the OR. This was no ordinary waiting. Awezan played up to her usual cheeky reputation.
We played together, took photos, entertained the others waiting behind closed curtains for surgery with "Hine Ma Tov" and "Hallelujah", prayed together, and just had our own private party. 
At 8:30 the tears started as mother and daughter were escorted a little further until it was time to let go and deliver Awezan into the skilled hands of the surgeon and his team.
During the surgery Awezhan's mother was kept company by a whole variety of the Shevet community who love both she and Awezan. Not much could console her, however, until 3:40pm, when Awezan was wheeled out of the OR by the doctors and a nurse. The surgeon stopped to tell us the surgery was perfect. He was obviously very pleased with the outcome.
It was more than an hour before Awezan's mother could go into the intensive care unit. No more tears, just a voice of gladness, and a desire to take a photo to send to Awezan's 4 sisters and 2 brothers. The doctor in intensive care also exclaimed what a great outcome and was very positive that tomorrow they would likely extubate Awezan, and within a couple of days her personality would reappear from the sedation. I did warn them about the voice of joy that may well ring around the ICU when Miss Cheeky wakes up.
Praise God for the wonderful work He has done and is doing in the healing of a heart that has so much to give.

Miss Cheeky One Step Away from Surgery

Posted on Sun, 09/24/2017 - 21:03 by Deborah Burke
So many people have been waiting for this day when our precious Awezhan would be admitted for surgery, and no less Awezhan herself. She has watched all of the others she arrived with go for surgery and return, and even some others who arrived after her have gone to hospital.
Just before leaving the apartment I asked Awezhan if she was excited. She said yes. I then asked her if she was afraid. She said no. This is either the innocence of youth or a pure faith that everything will be ok. In Matthew, (18:1-3) Messiah responds to the disciples question, "...Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"  with, "...Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven". What a profoundly simple thing to aspire to, to become like a child and to have such pure trust. How difficult this can be the more we journey through life.
For the whole 4 or so weeks since Awezhan arrived at Shevet Achim she has nearly every day asked all of the volunteers, " surgery?" I for one, feel blessed to have had that time with her preoperatively. She is a very talented girl, quick to learn, loads of fun and cheeky. The apartment will be so quiet without her distinctive voice calling out.
Today as we walked into the hospital Awezhan engaged with the clown doctors. There was mutual joy in their exchange. She brings such joy to situations and has an enormous capacity to love. It is obvious that she has received great and tender love from her mother and sisters. 
We had fun waiting in the garden, choosing Awezhan's pyjamas, watching funny videos... but there was a small interval of no fun when the nurse commenced the formal admission process. Before the doctor had commenced inserting the cannula for the blood test, screams were emanating from Awezhan. It was deafening. While the cannula was being inserted Awezhan's mother said something that made her laugh so that's what she did meanwhile watching everything that was happening to her.
We left Awezhan comfortably reclining on her bed connected to the Internet, her mother hovering close by. Tomorrow is the big day and I encourage you, wherever you are, to join us in lifting up Awezhan and  praying for a full healing of her heart so that she can have the opportunity to be the woman God created her to be.

CT Scans Can Be Fun?

Posted on Sun, 08/13/2017 - 16:08 by Maxine Stuart

Today Ahwezhan had to go to hospital for a CT scan. She had to fast all night before the scan, so we set off early. We arrived, and were told to wait while the CT staff made preparations. After a painful IV insertion, Awezhan met the hospital clown.

As he was entertaining her, children started appearing in the doorways, and little smiles grew across their faces as they watched. Awezhan was very entertained by him and wanted to follow him all through hallways. She changed into some hospital pajamas, and was assigned a bed to wait in. She was delighted when Stuey the clown came back to give her and her neighbour a private show!

Then, it was time to go upstairs for the scan. I wasn’t allowed into the room, but her mother accompanied her, and she did very well. She came out with a smile. I imagine the CT machine was quite fascinating. She enjoyed a well-earned snack, then we were told to wait in the hospital playground. Soon we were joined by volunteers running a craft club, and Awezhan got to decorate a photo frame.

A musician also came to play some music with the children. Awezhan played the drums and a few other instruments, and really enjoyed it.

Afterwards she changed, the nurses removed the IV, and she got the all clear to go home. The doctors will examine the CT scans and come up with a plan for her surgery. Today I thank God for all the hospital staff and volunteers that work hard to bring joy and happiness to children (and parents) that really need it.