Rayan's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Enormous Strides in Recovery

Posted on Sat, 04/26/2008 - 01:00 by Brenda_Giangregorio
It was late in the afternoon April 22nd when we arrived at the home of Rayan. The entire family, including Rayan's new baby sister, and Rayan's mom's look-alike sister, was there to greet us with grand smiles and open arms. As we stepped inside the doorway of their home, we were led to the receiving room where the Shevet team and our associate physiotherapist, Ruth, sat down on the traditional cushions and waited for the tea to arrive.
Ours was a great privilege to see what so many have prayed for since October 2007 when Rayan had his heart surgery and subsequent stroke that left the right side of his body compromised. In November he suffered several seizures and a mini-stroke post surgery, affecting his brain function and motor skills, and neurological damage affecting his eyesight. This turn of events prompted months of therapeutic intervention and intense intercessory prayer on his behalf.
Sometimes, we as believers never see 'the answer' to our own petitions before our mighty God on behalf of another. But, our Lord in His mercy and great love has allowed us this day to witness the enormous strides in recovery that Rayan has made. The evidence of many, many hours of motherly love, songs of encouragement, nights of tears, and bold claims to the promises of healing from the Throne of God is being delivered to you prayer warriors and faithful sponsors on Rayan's behalf.
Be blessed as you watch this little boy follow his heart as he responds to the call of those he recognizes, those he has come to love. The power of healing in action, breaking down walls of division as this child responds, risings by himself from the floor then toddling forward in innocent expectation of a hug-in-waiting.
Coordination with partner organizations in Kurdistan will ensure that Rayan is afforded continued physiotherapy and future care ongoing, working toward that goal for an expected full recovery.

On His Way Home

Posted on Thu, 12/20/2007 - 22:46 by Donna_Petrel

It was a very circuitous route we took today as Rayan began the final leg of his journey home. Because he awoke with fever and a bad cough during the night, it was decided that he should see a doctor before leaving Israel for home. But first, before leaving Jerusalem, we took the long-awaited trip to the Temple Mount in the Old City so Rayan's mother could pray. She expressed that it was very important to her to thank God for Rayan. We know our God sees and hears the hearts of mothers thanking Him, and trusted His ability to help her know Him more through our willingness to grant this desire to her. I couldn't help but remember it is His nature to be found by those who seek Him.

After speaking to one of the doctors who has been treating Rayan, we all felt it good that we not leave Israel until we were sure Rayan was in good condition to travel. Since he was not well, we left him at the house in the care of the mothers of Dilshad and Aras, and drove to the Old City. Normally we would be given access to the Temple Mount via a special ramp for "gentiles", but because of the Muslim holiday, this was closed until Sunday morning. And normally, there would be no Muslims allowed to walk through the plaza at the Western Wall area where the Jews go to pray.

But today when we asked if the very pregnant mother of Rayan could walk through the plaza to go to the only gate where Muslims could enter, rather than foregoing the opportunity due to the length of the walk due to the ramp's closure, we were given favor, and allowed to take this "short cut." This meant we could not go with Rayan's mother as she entered the Temple Mount area, but we could escort her to the gate and back to our van afterwards. One of the Israeli guards there who knew we were trying to photograph her there even though we could not enter, took a picture for us as she came out at the gate again.

From there, we gathered the luggage and Rayan from our house in Jerusalem, and headed to the hospital for a check-up for Rayan's symptoms. Dr. Gila found that Rayan had no fever at that time, but did have ear infections, so sent us on our way with antibiotics for Rayan for the next ten days. We were all thankful that he was allowed to go on to Amman rather than needing more follow up here. While at the hospital we learned that nearly all of the children at the Save A Child's Heart house had been treated for nearly the same symptoms from a respiratory virus which is going around here.

Finally we set out for the border about three hours later than planned. Because our new friend Ruth Ann who had been volunteering with us this week was already planning to go back to Amman today, we asked her to be the final escort for Rayan and his mother. After explaining that I would walk her through the Israeli side, and assist them to the bus to the Jordan side, I gave explicit instructions for crossing at the Jordan terminal. Ruth Ann agreed to go on alone with the family, and I entrusted these two who have become so dear to our hearts into her care early this evening. I was encouraged that upon arrival at the Israeli terminal we were greeted by two of the border contacts who have been of great help time and again during our crossings.


They helped expedite us through the crowd at passport control, and we went on to the bus. Much to my surprise - and delight - the bus was loading as we approached, so I was able to help load the luggage for them, pay the bus fares and bid them farewell all in a matter of minutes! I snapped one very quick picture of them boarding the bus so that you can see Rayan in his green sweater. At this hour they are all together at the guest apartment above the church of our friend Jody. I hope to have an email update from Ruth Ann or Jody which we can share with you about the next few days, and the flight which will take them back to Iraq.

Please keep praying for Rayan and his precious mother. Rayan has made great progress from the stroke, and we believe he will be completely restored to health again in the near future. Today he was saying a few words as well as parroting some of the sounds we made while playing with him. He is happy most of the time now rather than crying as he did at the beginning. He is using his right hand more spontaneously and it is getting stronger. But so far his right leg is still weak so pray for it to be strengthened as his mother works with him to learn to walk again. Pray fervently for Rayan's mother to maintain her strength and perseverance for the next days until she gets back home to her support system there. She too is not feeling well from a bad cold, or the flu. The new baby will come soon, and she will have the joy and the work that comes with the blessing of a new life. She has been a tower of strength and devotion to her son as she has helped nurse him back to health, and gained the admiration of many. She is a wonderful mother who has a great sense of humor which has helped carry her through this long process. May she and everyone involved see God complete the miracle He began in Rayan's life, and give Him the thanks and praise for it. 

Intensive Therapy Before Returning Home

Posted on Mon, 12/10/2007 - 22:46 by Lee_Liang_Chian

It's the season of Hanukkah, and Rayan is among many of our Iraqi and Gazan patients at Wolfson who has his first taste of the Hanukkah doughnuts with jam. The Hanukkah goodies are a timely reward after Rayan and his devoted mother have both worked hard during his speech and physiotherapy sessions.

Rayan is making good progress as a result of the dedicated re-training he has been under-going with speech therapist Nopha and physiotherapist Tali. Not forgetting the important 'follow-up' by his own mother, who continuously sings and talks to him, and tirelessly massages his limbs and encourages him to be independent with little tasks such as holding his own cup and finger food. 

Rayan is feeling more comfortable now with Nopha, especially since he gets to play with various toys which she uses to test his perception and responses. Nopha also uses pictures of animals familiar to children his age, and Rayan is asked to point to one or the other animal. As Rayan is apparently less able to reach out with his right hand and therefore uses his left hand more often, the first few "guesses" would be placed on his left, in order to give him some encouragement. Each time he gets it right, we would all clap and say, "Affareen!" (Kurdish for "Well done!"). 

Rayan's mother has so immersed herself with the therapy sessions, that she is even improvising and getting one step ahead of what Nopha was planning to demonstrate for her to do. For example, Nopha wants Rayan to start using his lips and mouth to make noises. So she would do the "Brrrrr" sound with an exaggerated expression. Rayan's mother would add to it and tap Rayan's mouth lightly when he attempts to do the "brrrr" sound so that there are variations to the "brrrr-ing".
As I will be returning home to Singapore by the end of this week, we have asked for another person to accompany Rayan and his mother during the therapy sessions, to ensure that the exercises and rehabilitative techniques used are correctly understood by Rayan's mother who understands just a little English and no Hebrew at all. Mazal, an Israeli lady volunteer who can speak both Hebrew and Kurdish turns out to the perfect choice! (Why didn't we think of it before?!)

A $400 Miracle

Posted on Wed, 12/05/2007 - 22:46 by Lee_Liang_Chian

Rayan had his first speech therapy session this morning. Physiotherapist Tali and speech therapist Nopha are working together closely on Rayan, to give him the best possible 'programme' in the remaining time he has in Israel before he is certified medically fit to return to Iraq.

Yet today's highlight is not so much Rayan's first speech therapy session as it is his foot brace! Here is a story worth both the time and space to tell it: Yesterday, the mother of one of physiotherapist Tali's patients brought a pair of foot braces which her daughter has outgrown. When Tali asked what size it was, she was exhilarated to know it was the perfect fit for Rayan! When Tali told us how she got these foot braces for Rayan, speech therapist Nopha kept saying, "It is a miracle!" and turning to me, she added, "Please let the mother know this is a miracle!"

Tali explained that it would cost about 1,600 shekels (about $400) for a pair of such foot braces. But now, Rayan can have them for free! And even if it was not so much the money which mattered (because the amount could be raised from well-wishers' donations), it would normally take several weeks for a pair to be custom-made... and now, the foot braces of the correct size and fit have arrived at just the right time when Rayan needed them for this next phase of his physiotherapy! What a wonderful provision our Heavenly Father has arranged for Rayan, to show how much He loves him and that He has heard the prayers of all of you who have prayed for Rayan's needs to be met. Praise GOD from whom all blessings flow...

Tali showed Rayan's mother the correct way of putting on the foot brace, which will help lift his 'lazy' right foot to a right-angle (90-degrees) so that it would not droop when he learns to walk. There is a little hole near the heel of the brace through which the little finger should be able to touch Rayan's heel, and not 'empty space' which is likely if the brace has not been put on correctly.

For a start, Rayan has to put the foot brace on his right foot for half an hour each day, without standing or walking. His mother is to take note of the duration of time it takes for any red 'pressure marks' to wear off, and this is to ensure that the foot brace suits him, and that his blood circulation is good.

Speech therapist Nopha showed Rayan two color pictures of animals and asked his mother to say their names in Kurdish while she held them forth, encouraging the boy to reach out for the animals mentioned in turn. But there was not much interest on Rayan's part. So Nopha switched to offering Rayan the choice of either the mobile phone or his shoe.

Since Rayan likes to play with the mobile phone, Nopha purposely placed it nearer his (weaker) right hand while the shoe was to his left. His mother would tell him "telephone father" in Kurdish but Rayan would reach out with his (stronger) left hand for the object nearer to his left, which is the shoe. This action reveals something about Rayan's present condition, and Nopha will plan her therapy sessions accordingly. 

While we thank GOD for His miraculous provision of the foot braces for Rayan, as well as the dedication of both Tali and Nopha, we also want to press in for the fullness of His promise as received a couple of weeks ago, claiming I Corinthians 1: 26-31 to happen, and I do believe it will... Hallelujah!

Recovering Motor Skills

Posted on Mon, 12/03/2007 - 22:46 by Lee_Liang_Chian

The good news on Rayan continues day after day, praise the LORD! As Rayan goes through his daily physiotherapy sessions, he seems to be recovering his motor-skills more quickly. 

Yesterday, he was able to sit upright without much support. This afternoon, he was happily licking an ice-cream cone which he was holding in his weaker right hand, and he was not even whimpering! This goes to underscore the fact that when a child is engrossed in an interesting or desirable activity, he can easily forget his physical discomfort and even whatever 'disability' he seemed to have! 

On Wednesday, Rayan will begin his speech therapy session and his mother is looking forward to hear him call her "Diyka, Diyka" (Mummy) once again.

Significant Progress

Posted on Sun, 12/02/2007 - 22:46 by Lee_Liang_Chian

Rayan has a new friend and he is none other than Aras from Iraq. While waiting for his physiotherapy session, Rayan was taken to the aquarium to look at the "marsee" (Kurdish for fish).

Earlier in the day, Dr Alona came over to the pediatric ward with her portable echo-cardiogram machine to examine the children. Rayan 'passed' his echo and will have his daily medication of fucid reduced to only once a day.

After his "echo" examination when Rayan was helped up from his lying-down position, I was rather surprised to see his mother getting all excited, until she told me that this is the first time in weeks that Rayan was able to sit upright without any support. How we all applauded Rayan!

Before Rayan returned to the Save A Child's Heart house for the night, he had a half-hour session with physiotherapist Tali. She insists that we do not address her as "Dr. Tali" as the word "doctor" makes most children at the hospital nervous!

It was very interesting to watch how Tali plays with Rayan to get him to use the parts of his limbs which are weak. Colorful toys which makes sounds when handled, oversized cushions and balls... with the help of these physiotherapy toys, Tali would get Rayan to reach out for something, or simply to stretch forth a hand or a leg to get back his balance.

While she held Rayan gently yet firmly, Tali would tilt him ever so slightly over to one side and this forced Rayan to use his weaker right arm to support himself, invariably enabling him to strengthen this limb. It is encouraging to note that Rayan's sense of balance is pretty good. 

All through the session, Rayan's mother would watch the activities closely and also participated in the therapeutic fun. Tali explained how she could continue with the therapeutic fun-exercises whenever and wherever there are opportunities.

Rayan's mother is indeed a wonderfully selfless mother, giving her utmost to her son without any regard for her own comfort. I have to constantly remind her not to over-stretch herself as she stoops and bends while attending to him in the ward, or when she would carry him around today (and Rayan weighs over 12 kg!) before a stroller was available for him.

We rejoice with Rayan's mother for the significant progress he is making. Many thanks to all of you for your prayers and well wishes, and let us continue to pray for speedy and complete recovery of all of Rayan's faculties. As far as his post-operation heart condition is concerned, Rayan is doing very well and Dr Alona said he may be released to return home in a couple of weeks.

Leaving Hospital for the Weekend

Posted on Thu, 11/29/2007 - 22:46 by Lee_Liang_Chian
I am happy to report that Rayan is slowly but surely making progress, praise the LORD! He is now able to eat solid food and was chewing on chicken for lunch. And when he was almost finished with his chocolate mousse dessert, I encouraged his mother to let him hold the spoon and it was such a delight to watch Rayan being able to bring the spoon to his mouth without a hitch. 
Dr. Tamir has decided to keep Rayan at the hospital till tomorrow, then Rayan will be released to the Save A Child's Heart house for the weekend and return to Wolfson on Sunday. Hopefully, the change of environment and seeing other Iraqi children at play, will cause Rayan to be drawn into naturally / sub-consciously moving his limbs to join in the fun. 
Meanwhile, Rayan has been receiving daily physiotherapy treatment, and his mother would diligently continue to exercise and massage his limbs several times a day. She would sing to him as well, as the physiotherapist has advised stimulating all his senses and Rayan's hearing is good. But she would not allow me to record her singing, and so there's no video clip of it.
After lunch, Rayan's mother and I brought Rayan for a bit for sun and some fresh air in the garden. I gave Rayan a book on cats, and there are 'cut-outs' in it with various textures such as fur and wool. His mother held his finger and ran it over the furry cut-out and Rayan seemed to enjoy the different tactile sensations.
The arrival of four more Iraqi children and their mothers at Wolfson in the afternnon was a welcome change for Rayan's mother. With them came some news on Iraq as well as some presents from her relatives. Among the gifts brought over was a portable radio and cassette player and a tape of Koranic verses in song meant for Rayan to help him get well faster. May GOD bring about the miraculous and complete healing which only He can do!

Rayan Has Seconds

Posted on Mon, 11/26/2007 - 06:50 by Lee_Liang_Chian
Rayan has a cheerful new sweater to keep him warm, thanks to Laura from Save A Child's Heart. Yet it was not just Rayan's good looks which caught my eye today, but that his eye contact was better focused than a week ago. Indeed, he seems to be improving as far as his vision is concerned, which is an encouraging sign!

Another encouraging improvement -- Rayan is able to take liquefied foods orally and does not need to be fed through the nasal tube. His appetite is pretty good, as he finished one cup of Cerelac within minutes and was on to his second one, the latter with chocolate flavour! 

My Singaporean friend Andes visited today and 'sang' her prayer over Rayan while he was being fed. A visiting clown gave Rayan two yellow doggy balloons - Rayan received the second balloon after he bit and burst his first 'doggy'!

Meanwhile, it is obvious that Rayan's mother makes use of every opportunity to stimulate Rayan's sensory skills to help him regain his normal abilities. While we were waiting for our turn at the computer to view Rayan's blog, his mother moved him over to the electric organ, held both his hands and started to make music as they tapped on the keyboard together!

Do continue to pray for complete restoration of Rayan's psycho-motor skills which have been affected by the recent stroke. We look toward the day when we will play a celebration tune on the electric organ and dance together in thanksgiving.

Very Little Improvement

Posted on Thu, 11/22/2007 - 22:46 by Lee_Liang_Chian

Rayan was sleeping very soundly for most of the afternoon when I visited, so I moved on and made my rounds checking on the other Iraqi and Gazan children. His mother is keeping well, in spite of the fact that there seems to be very little improvement in Rayan's condition. Even the nurses are commending her for being a good mother who remains strong and calm for her child's sake. 

And what a mother she is! In spite of being advanced in her pregnancy with her second child (she would like the baby to be a girl), this dear mother would conscientiously take time to exercise Rayan's legs, to keep his limbs supple. She also told me that in the morning, she would put Rayan on the stroller and bring him out to the garden for some fresh air, as advised by the physiotherapist. 

This morning I went to the photo shop to develop a picture which I had taken of the evening sky over Wolfson hospital on Sunday, 18 November, the day I received news that some of Rayan's brain functions had been affected by his recent stroke. That day, my friend Andes from Singapore had come over to Wolfson to visit the children and together, we had prayed for GOD to work a miraculous touch on Rayan, claiming that which was recorded in His word in the Bible (I Corinthians 1: 26-31). When Andes and I walked out of Wolfson that evening, both of us were awe-struck by what we saw in the sky.

The rosy-golden streaks of clouds above Wolfson looked as if the angels were spreading their wings over the hospital, providing a gentle covering of light and hope. Today, I gave Rayan's mother a copy of the photo and told her that this is like a sign from GOD that He has heard our prayers, and that Rayan's guardian angel is watching over him.

I also reminded her of the little angel which she had chosen from a selection of luminous stars and angels which I had offered to the Iraqi children who were all at the Save A Child's Heart house then, just a couple of days before Rayan had his seizures. Rayan's mother had drawn in the eye and eyebrow of the angel, and had brought it along to the hospital when Rayan was hospitalised for his bout of seizures.

By the look of relief and hope on her face, Rayan's mother indicated that she has understood and received what I had communicated to her, in spite of her limited English and my non-existent Kurdish. Indeed, the message of hope and the love of GOD crosses all language barriers and religious boundaries! Please continue to pray for Rayan and his parents for a revelation of his Healer in a deeper and more personal way.

A Picture Of Devotion

Posted on Thu, 11/22/2007 - 22:46 by Donna_Petrel

Rayan and his dear mother were working on his physiotherapy as I entered their room last night. What a picture of devotion she is as she works with Rayan; this session involved stroking his body with different textured fabrics to stimulate sensation. She was also singing to him. When she finished these exercises, she sat him in her lap and sang with him and clapped his hands. He was thirsty and was able to take some water from a spoon, gladly swallowing it down as she held the spoon to his lips. There is a particular toy the therapist has given him which he really enjoys, seeming to like both the colorful swirling beads as well as the noise of their movement as he handles it.
I noted that Rayan seemed more attentive to people and things around him last evening, and his right hand seemed more flexible. When I spoke to the nurses, they said that his condition was the same, and that an EEG had been done yesterday. They reported that the results will be available today, after the doctor reviews it and releases the results. We will get that information as soon as possible.

Please keep praying for Rayan's total healing, and his precious mother's perseverance. She and Rayan continue to have an adoration of each other which is beautiful to see. However the situation is not easy, and apart from God's intervention, does not sound promising. But we know God's word tells us that with God, nothing is impossible, and I choose to continue to believe Him for everything Rayan needs to be completely healed by the power of God.
Matthew 14:14 says: ''And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.'' May it be so even today!