Zulaikha's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

Farewell, Zulaikha!

Posted on Wed, 01/03/2018 - 22:00 by Sophia Vogt
Yesterday we had to say goodbye to Zulaikha and her Mom. It was a bittersweet farewell - we are all glad that she is healthy enough so that she can go home, but her cute smile will be missing here. So we organized a little party for her and Kovan, who had his farewell too, and the mommies were cooking a delicious meal. After that we sang a few worship songs in English and Hebrew as well. Oh, and we had a great chocolate cake! Then we came to the highlight of the evening: the presents!
The first one she got was a little baby doll and once she saw it, she wouldn't let it go. She did not even look at the other things, she was totally enraptured by it. Her mother got some presents too, for example a Bible. Pray for the family that they will read it!
As we saw some photos of Zulaikha's time here and in the hospital, some tears were falling and it was hard, especially for the mother, to remember the reason she came here and see the pictures of her right after the surgery.
But at the end it was an emotional and also funny evening and I hope not only the hearts are healed, but also the souls comforted. Keep praying for all of them!

Fighting Through a Virus

Posted on Sun, 12/31/2017 - 04:29 by Alexa Bigl

Zulaikha and her mom have remained at our Shevet house these last weeks since her final echo, waiting for another family to be ready and be their traveling companions. But the Lord's timing is perfect and we were glad Zulaikha was in Israel as she struggled to overcome a viral GI infection last week. She was not able to eat and became dehydrated so we needed to bring her into the children's hospital at Sheba this past Thursday.

She got an infusion of fluids and was started on supplemental sodium for the weekend. By the time our team was home very late Thursday night, Zulaikha was already doing much better. She was stronger, happier, and healthier over the weekend. And today we had her follow-up visit which revealed she has fully recovered from the infection! All her symptoms are gone and the lab results are very good. 

We had a while of waiting today, but Zulaikha remained happy or was sleeping so the visit was over without stress and we were able to head back to Shevet. We are praying for the Lord's timing to continue reigning as we look at this week potentially being Zulaikha's time to depart back to Kurdistan.
Please join us in praying, she and her mother have been waiting four months for the word they will go home. We are hopeful these words can very soon be spoken! 

Zulaikha Free to Go Home!

Posted on Thu, 12/14/2017 - 17:04 by Maxine Stuart

Today was a happy day for Zulaikha, her Mum, and myself. She had her final echocardiogram and ECG. Her doctor was very happy with the results, and could see no major issues. She has gained weight and is now 5 kilos (11 lbs)! So, after roughly 3 very touch-and-go months, Zulaikha has been given the all-clear to go home to Kurdistan!! What a miracle this is.

She has had so many complications, and been the subject of many desperate prayers. I remember when I first met Zulaikha, her condition made my heart race then, and has a few times since. I was one of the first of our Israel-based team to meet Zulaikha. We actually met on an empty plane in Amman, Jordan. She needed to travel with oxygen, and I was her medical escort. I also remember the times I left the hospital quite discouraged after having to deliver the bad news of her internal bleeding, need for more surgery, and sometimes the hardest news... we don’t know what’s going to happen. But I also remember the good times that I was able to share with her after God had pulled her through. The day she was moved out of ICU for the final time.

The day she successfully kept her milk down and was starting to feed again. The day she began getting her mobility back, and started to smile again. The day she came home to the Shevet house. And every day since then when she gives me a HUGE grin, even when I’m hooking her up to equipment while testing her vital signs (which some of our kids do not appreciate), or delivering her yucky medicine.

Even though she still has more healing to do in her lungs, liver, and oesophagus, and the state of her “tortured-veins” condition is unclear (until we receive the results in a couple months), this little one holds a special place in my heart. She is an example of what God can do when people sacrificially work together and trust in Him.

After the testing was finished, we took Zulaikha and her Mum to say goodbye to all the staff. She was met with love and joy by everyone. Her Mum waved everyone off, and was saying “Bye bye Sheba!” all the way home.

She is relieved and excited to be back with her many children soon, and we are overjoyed for them. Today my heart is full of praise to God for his immense love for “even the least of these”. This is the God we serve, and He is worthy to be praised. Thanks for being a part of His work in Zulaikha’s life.

Central Line Removal

Posted on Mon, 12/04/2017 - 22:42 by Alexa Bigl

Coby and I had the privilege of accompanying Zulaikha and her joyful mother to Sheba today. Zulaikha had her appointment to have her central line removed. Despite fasting since early this morning, Zulaikha had a good car ride and patiently waited to be seen by the doctors. 

Getting Zulaikha signed in and finding the correct places to go went very well, and we were pleasantly surprised by how smooth the whole process went. The doctors and nurses asked a few questions and the surgeon very quickly came to remove the line. We had thought Zulaikha would need sedation, but praise the Lord this ended up not being necessary. 
As Coby carried Zulaikha into the procedure room, Zulaikha's mom and I collected our bags and followed. Before we even got into the room with Zulaikha, however, the surgeon was done and the cannula was removed.
The removal took just a couple of seconds. We then got Zulaikha's clothes changed, fed her long-awaited breakfast milk, and had some tea and cake. Then we were able to head home! 
Zulaikha's mom can feel we are getting closer and closer to the finish line. Their return to Kurdistan is in sight. We are waiting to hear if Zulaikha's next echo will be the end of this week or next week. Please join us in praying the coming echo will be Zulaikha's final one and her little heart will be declared as healed! Zulaikha also needs prayer for her blood vessels still. Sheba is doing genetic testing to find the underlying cause of her thin-walled and dilated blood vessels. Since results can take up to two months to process, we are happy to know Zulaikha and mom can receive the results after their return to Kurdistan. Thank you for joining us in praying for sweet Zulaikha. 

Back to the House!

Posted on Thu, 11/30/2017 - 22:42 by Jesse Tilman

Coby and I were happy to announce the return of Zulaikha to our community house today! She is healing and off of all but a few medicines. No IV lines, and no antibiotics. When we arrived at the hospital, they still weren't sure if she was ready to leave, but with much work on Coby's part, she was able to convince them that Zulaikha is hale and hearty! 

While at the hospital, Zulaikha's mother showed us some of the knitting she has been doing. One hat and shawl were for another mother here at the house. After checking various details, filling out medicine prescriptions, special milk preparations, and saying goodbye to friends, we were rolling out the door.

Zulaikha's mother could barely believe it, but soon we were driving down the highway free and clear!

At the house we gave a few honks to signal that we were coming in. Alexa met us at the door and celebrated with Zulaikha's mom.
Soon we had mother and daughter settled in their new room and chatting with Zhyar's grandmother. 
Thank you God for this blessed day getting to see a picture of Your Grace.

Good News and Big Smiles

Posted on Wed, 11/29/2017 - 16:01 by Maxine Stuart

Today was a day of good news and big smiles for Zulaikha and her Mum. The doctor confirmed that Zulaikha is now on her last day of antibiotics, and should be discharged from hospital tomorrow! Tomorrow morning the team will take one last blood test to send to the genetics lab. The genetic test results will provide valuable information as to the cause and treatment options for Zulaikha’s twisted veins. It will take a couple of months before the results are ready.

The doctors were happy to hear that we have nurses at our Shevet house to ensure Zulaikha’s medication is administered correctly. So, after 88 days in hospital, Zulaikha and her Mum are now able to look forward to the idea of being in a real home, with other children and mums, with their own space. They are VERY excited, and so are we!

Hoping to Go to Jaffa Soon

Posted on Mon, 11/27/2017 - 20:53 by Coert van der Veen

This morning Maxine and I drove to Sheba hospital to visit Zulaika and her mother. We expected to have a little talk, play a little with Zulaika and then return home early.

Zulaika was recently transferred to the children's ward. We asked at the desk which room she was. The attendant replied, "Ah...the girl from Kurdistan!"

They showed us the way and when we arrived, Zulaikha had just been taken off the infusion and had to go to the echo department.

We arrived just in time to accompany them. Both tests went very smoothly. Zulaika didn't protest or cry. And in the end the doctor was very content with what she saw.

Zulaikha's heart is fine, but the problem is with her somewhat twisted veins, which are cause for concern. Tere will be more examinations needed to sort out what is causing the problem with the veins. Also Zulaikha needs to complete her antibiotics in the next few days.

After translating the news to Zulaikha's mother, we showed them back to their room. We said goodbye hoping to welcome them soon to our Jaffa base. Please pray with us for Zulaikha's recovery and for strength for her mother who is very tired and looking forward to be able to leave the hospital.

Some Improvements, Some Challenges

Posted on Sun, 11/26/2017 - 21:52 by Elwira Kromer
Last thursday Ben and I visited Zulaikha and her mum. She was doing pretty well. During this time she received  therapy from a physiotherapist. The mother was told to alternate Zulaikha's positions by laying her on her belly and then also helping her to sit. Mum seemed to be happy about the improvement.
We visited her again today, and thank God during the weekend she moved out of the cardiac step-down unit to a normal children's ward. 
She is no longer on continuous cardiac and pulmonary monitoring in this new room which allows mom to interact and walk around more with Zulaikha. 
Mum said that Zulaikha had blood in her stool and at night she vomited. Yousef talked to the doctor and got the information that they are planning to do severals blood tests. She was crying more than at the last visits. So there are still challenges to overcome, but we praise the Lord for the good improvements that Zulaikha is making. We trust Him in all things. 

Digging Deeper

Posted on Tue, 11/21/2017 - 17:20 by Maxine Stuart

Today Jesse and I gave Zulaikha and her Mum a visit. Zulaikha was asleep when we arrived, but soon woke when it was time to take her medication. We played with her for a while and caught up with her mum. I then went to find the doctor to ask about the results of the MRI that Zulaikha had on Sunday.

The doctor reported that the MRI found tortured/twisted blood vessels in Zulaikha's limbs, abdomen, and head. Genetic testing is needed to help determine the cause, so that a plan for treatment can be made. It is possible that the cause could be genetic, or something else, and the treatment options vary widely. This genetic testing while expensive, is the best way to know how to help Zulaikha.

When Jesse translated the news to Zulaikha's mum, it was hard on her. Because Zulaikha's recovery has recently been going so well, and she has visually been improving, her Mum had hoped that they would be going home soon. We prayed for them, and I gave Zulaikha's mum a few hugs in an attempt to comfort her. She is quite fatigued from months in hospital. The unknown timeframe is hard to swallow as she has a husband, and six other children back home that she misses. Please keep Zulaikha, her Mum and their family in your prayers as they await news of their next step. 

CT Today

Posted on Sun, 11/19/2017 - 16:15 by Jesse Tilman

Helen and I and two newly visiting volunteers went to visit Zulaikha and mom as they had a CT scan for her this morning. Traffic was a bit much so by the time we got there she had already been for the scan. 

It took us a while to locate her as well in the hospital complex. We finally tracked her down in a back room of the MRI area. She was glad to see some more friendly faces and asked about the results from the CT. As I explained that those would be available the following day, Zulaikha began waking up from the anesthesia. The nurse described the anesthesia process and how Zulaikha would be slowly coming out of it. We waited a short time until they were ready to return her to the children's cardiac ward.
There they showed her to her new room and we waited as the nurses hooked up her wires and tubes and the doctor came and saw that she was stable. We played a bit with Zulaikha and set up some of her crib toys. Her mother was doing well and didn't want a walk outside, so we were soon ready to go. God bless this precious child!