Ster's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

The Long Journey Home

Posted on Sat, 01/06/2018 - 17:47 by jonathan

The ban on international flights into Kurdistan made it impossible to ship Ster's body home directly by air, so we set out Thursday to return to Jordan in one of the Shevet vans. The Israeli staff at the bridge were initially shocked to find we had Ster's tiny casket with us in the van, as their protocol requires an ambulance. But mercy quickly triumphed over judgment. 

A Kurdish Jew at the border brought tea to the mother, and told how his own daughter also lost her first child, and went on to have a family. And the crossing director then intervened directly with Jordanian officials to win permission for us to cross in our private vehicle. They stood waiting for us on the Jordanian side, and spared no effort to smooth the transition, even though the mother had no visa to enter the kingdom. Within the hour we were on the dark road leading up to Amman.
It would take nearly two more days to complete all the arrangements necessary to return Ster to her home on the same plane as her mother; by God's providence there was staying in the Shevet base in Amman a young woman serving in Kurdistan named Magdalena:

It’s been a blessing to be here with Jonathan's family while Ster's mother was here too, although there were many sad moments. Tuesday evening when my new teary-eyed friend arrived I felt my heart immediately drawn to her and knew God wanted me there for her at this time.  It didn’t take long until our hearts connected. Since I work in Kurdistan we soon discovered we live only a few kilometers apart. It did her heart good to be able to speak in Kurmanji Kurdish.

We shared a room, her sleeping mat and mine only a few feet apart. She soon relaxed and we were able to visit some. But the recent events of her life were still very fresh and we talked much about the whole ‌trying time. It was also good for her to connect with her family and hear their condolences. She shared that she hasn’t felt like eating and has hardly slept much since she left home. I took the opportunity to pray for her and ask God for a sweet rest that night. It was only a matter of minutes until she was soundly sleeping! She slept quite well that night, and by the following evening, thanks to the homey atmosphere of Jonathan and Michelle's home, she also ate supper.

Ster's mother is a strong lady. Even in her grieving moments when the tears freely flowed I would hear her repeating, “Alhamdulilla, Alhamdulilla” which is saying, “Thank God.”

Before leaving for the airport Thursday, we went to the hospital where Ster had been kept for several hours on the way to Jerusalem. It was easy to see that it hurt her mother's heart to remember how her precious baby had suffered there. The mother had questions about whether there was a delay in treating Ster due to financial issues; we're hoping the hospital will refund some of the funds the mother eventually paid them.
At the airport it was hard to see her walk away from us all alone. I told her not to fear, that God is with her. She has a loving family at home who will be grieving alongside her. I hope to keep in contact with her personally. I sense that this difficult time was directly ordained from God as a time of revealing more of himself to her. I was happy to have been able to grieve with her, pray with her, and walk alongside her.

With the Father

Posted on Tue, 01/02/2018 - 22:03 by Alexa Bigl

As we waited last night in the room between the cath lab and the ICU with Ster's mother, we called upon the Lord, interceding for one month-old Ster. She had gone in for her catheterization unstable and declining. After nearly three hours, we saw Ster being wheeled back into the ICU with a large team of medical professionals surrounding her. The team initially waved us off, not wanting us to be in the ICU and seeing their extreme efforts to stabilize Ster. But things worked out for Ster's mom and I to hang back towards the entrance of the unit, and the cardiologist soon found us there to update Ster's mom.

While the physical procedure went well with the cath, Ster was not doing well. When she arrived to Sheba, she underwent a long time of CPR before she was resuscitated, and during that time little Ster's body was stressed to a breaking point. Due to the limited oxygen she received when her heart was not pumping, her organs began to fail and she experienced internal bleeding. So, even thought the cath dilated what it needed to, Ster was still declining because of the previous damage. The ICU staff worked for a long time pushing the strongest medications and trying to increase Ster's blood pressure and heart rate. The staff allowed Ster's mom to hold her precious baby's hand as they worked.

After some time, the medications and other interventions were maxed out so the doctors took a step back and waited to see how Ster's body would react. Very soon, they could see Ster was not recovering and they informed mom we were looking at the final minutes or hours of her daughter's life here on earth. This news was very hard for mom to hear and as she collapsed to the floor it was only through the Lord's strength and peace we knew she could regain herself. After a few minutes, the staff helped baby Ster into her mother's shaking arms where she laid for about an hour and then she went from in her mother's arm to her Heavenly Father's arms.

We then continued to spend time with Ster for her mother to say goodbye before coming back to Shevet's house in Jaffa. There, Ster's mom was surrounded by some of our other Kurdish mothers currently in Israel and it was a touching sight to see four beautiful women mourning alongside dear Ster's mother. Their love and care during this difficult situation was exactly what was needed for Ster's mother and she was eventually able to fall asleep. This morning, arrangements were made for the little family to get back home to Kurdistan and just a couple hours ago they began their journey back. The grieving process is just at the beginning and we entrust all to the Lord during these coming times for Ster's family. May God's peace prevail. 

Lord of All

Posted on Mon, 01/01/2018 - 23:06 by Alexa Bigl

After working with our partner hospitals the past two weeks and with the ministry of interior, we got confirmation baby Ster was all approved to travel and receive her life-saving cardiac surgery at Sheba Medical Center. We were rushing the process to get Ster here so her surgical correction would be possible with one operation. Once a child with transposition of the great arteries is over 4 or 5 weeks old, the correction usually takes two surgeries. And Ster was born at the end of November, so we were praying for God's hand. And favor was seen when we got word late last week that the visa was approved. With Ster stable on room air, we booked her on a flight leaving Sunday night. After many hours of noneventful travel, Ster began having problems during the final layover in Jordan. Her blood oxygen levels began dropping and after supplemental oxygen at the airport wasn't helping, Ster was moved to a hospital in Jordan. There she crashed and had to be resuscitated and put on a ventilator. She stabilized enough to be transfered, via ICU ambulance, to Sheba. The Mom reported a difficult trip in the ambulances and Ster needed to be resuscitated again as they arrived up to the cardiac ICU here. 

The doctors were able to do an echo and place a central line as the team here continues to work to stabilized Ster. Ster's mom, Andrew, and I are waiting in a small room just outside of the ICU, hoping for new information in the next hour or two. Ster's mom is exhausted and becomes easily teary eyed but is remaining very strong and is doing a good job understanding all that is going on. With Ster as her only child, it's easy to see mom's whole heart is on the line here. Please join us in praying. Ster's life is hanging in the balance and her fragile body struggling. The Lord is over all, though, and we trust in him. May He reign over Ster and in each of us.