Sara's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq

Sara and Her Father Return to Iraq!

Posted on Sun, 11/23/2008 - 06:51 by Donna_Petrel
After a busy few days in Amman, Sara and her father flew home very early Thursday morning a week ago. Here is an overview of the our last few days with Sara and her father.
We left Jerusalem along with Simantov and Linda early Monday morning heading for the Jordan border on our way to Amman. We had hoped to reach Amman by early afternoon so Sara and her dad could settle in at the hotel where the other Iraqi families were staying in preparation for Tuesday's echocardiogram screening. Instead, we had a grueling time with the Jordan border authorities over the visa requirement for all Iraqis who enter Jordan. Previously, they allowed us to use the original visa that was used when our patients initially entered Jordan for their return trip as well, but now we were told that we needed to reapply and secure a second permission once they are dismissed from the hospital in Israel.
Because we did not have this new document, they decided not to allow Sara and her father to enter Jordan. While we were trying to secure Sara and her father permission to enter Jordan, we got the heartbreaking news that one of the children who had come for the echocardiogram screening had died in Amman. Dirk (our Jordan coordinator) was very busy helping this family, and could not easily communicate with the border authorities.
The combination of events caused us to have a 3 - 4 hour wait at the border, culminating in permission to enter after Simantov, Linda and I started to pray. We had also asked the team in Jerusalem to pray.

I had summoned my courage and addressed one of the authorities (who was actively telling us to leave) in order to explain about the child's death in Amman. This allowed him a moment to re-consider. Finally, he unhappily directed us to the office of his superior. No one there was in favor of giving us permission, but when I updated Dirk about our situation, he was able to make a call to a connection God had made for us recently in the appropriate government office, which allowed us to have permission to enter Jordan. I couldn't help but notice how God's plans are able to override the decisions of men when we persevere. We were all thankful that the tension of the previous hours was over. We loaded into taxis for the trip through the mountains and up to Amman.

Sara and her dad had a short time to check into the hotel and then met us along with the other families at a local church that had agreed to host everyone for dinner and orientation.

Saras father had agreed to speak to this group of anxious parents about his experiences with Sara in Israel, which was a blessing to all. Over the next few days the families were able to come to him and ask questions or hear his advice.

On Tuesday we didn't see Sara or her father at the screening, but on Wednesday they were with the other families throughout the day. They were also there as we all gathered to give the results of the echocardiograms to the families and let them know when they might travel.

Sara's father again made himself available for the others while Sara enjoyed doing activities with the other children. He said an appreciative goodbye to all of the Shevet Achim staff late Wednesday evening at the hotel since he and Sara were leaving very early the next morning.

Because we were all still working on the follow-up to the screening, we were not able to accompany them to the airport. It was a beautiful thing to see the joy and anticipation on the faces of Sara and her father as they prepared to head back to their family in Iraq. We sent them off with our love and prayers, and they said goodbye with invitations to come to their home the next time we can visit their city.

Let us continue to remember Sara and her family in our prayers. We know this wonderful father and sweet daughter have had many good seeds and opportunities to know the love of God while they were with us. May the fruit be pleasing to the Lord.

Released, On Her Birthday!

Posted on Sun, 11/09/2008 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

After a delay of several hours due to an emergency surgery which called the doctors to the operating room, Sara had her final echocardiogram today, and got the wonderful news that she is dismissed to go home to Iraq!

When we were told that Sara's echo would have to wait, Keleigh and I came to a quick decision for an alternate plan -- we'd have a picnic by the sea. We put together an impromptu menu of inexpensive items from the hospital shops, and took off for a seaside meal in the warm Mediterranean sun. Both Rezhin and Tarza and their mothers were with us since they had a brief follow-up check on their PPD tests, but Sara's father chose to stay at the hospital and visit one more time with Ali's dad. It was a beautiful day for a picnic, so we all enjoyed the food and the break together, then headed back to the hospital.

We were able to go straight into the echo room when we returned, as Dr. Tamir was immediately available. After a thorough echo exam, he told us that Sara's heart was doing very well, and she could go home! Sara had a huge smile on her face, as did her father as he thanked Dr. Tamir and said goodbye.

Sara and her dad will leave for Amman with us in the morning as several of us go over to our next cardiac screening for more Iraqi children. He will be able to share with these parents and patients about his experiences, answer some of their questions, and calm some of their anxieties. This is a blessing for all of us, and we're very thankful for God's timing to dismiss Sara at this time.

Please keep praying for this sweet little girl and her father as they spend a few more days with us until their flight to Iraq in a few days. Pray that as she heals, Sara will continue to bloom from her shyness into the joyful girl we know and love. It is my hope that she and her dad have caught a glimpse of God's love for them expressed through Jesus' gift of salvation, which has brought us to share Him with them.

After our happy return to Jerusalem from the hospital and sharing dinner together, Sara was playing with Lawk and some visitors to our home while I set about preparing needed documents to cross the border tomorrow. As I entered the passport information on the computer I realized today was Sara's ninth birthday!! Neither she nor her father had mentioned it to us, so I went to confirm the date. With a big smile Sara's father confirmed that today was indeed Sara's birthday. I shared the news with our guests, regretting that I had not realized it sooner so we could have celebrated together. After a few minutes the little girls visiting came to me with a cake that they'd purchased before, and I found some candles we could use. We marched together into the family room to surprise Sara and her father with a little celebration to add to Sara's already-special day.

How many little girls get the news their hearts are healed for their birthday!? We thank God for the chance to share both of these happy events in Sara's life today.

Final Days In Jerusalem

Posted on Mon, 11/03/2008 - 06:51 by Donna_Petrel

We arrived at the hospital this morning with anticipation that today's echo might be Sara's final one in Israel. Dr. Alona gave a good report as she examined Sara's heart, saying everything looked very good. But she said that because of one of the medications she was on, Sara would not be dismissed until after another echo in one week. Sara herself seemed pretty sleepy and not herself today, and this news made her cry a little. Then she had to go to the nurses' station to have a few remaining stitches snipped free, and the nurses had a hard time removing a couple of them. So although it was a good visit today, it was still not the dismissal they'd hoped for. This was disappointing news for her father, of course, and our ride back to Jerusalem was pretty quiet for that reason. Sara took a nap in the car, but still seemed subdued when we arrived at the house.

Let's keep praying for perseverance for Sara and her dad as they are surely in their final days in Jerusalem. I am sure that the days seem longer now that the other children have gone back to Iraq, and even though we are playing with Sara off and on through the day, we can't replace the companionship of other children. We can hope together that as they count down yet one more week, Sara's smile and the sparkle in her eyes will again return to brighten our home.

Getting Stronger Every Day

Posted on Thu, 10/30/2008 - 00:00 by Esther_Mueller

Today we went with Sara to the hospital for an echocardiogram. We're happy that everything is fine and that the medication can be reduced. Sara was examined by two doctors, who told us that the recovery is proceeding very well. Hopefully she will have only one more echo, on Monday.

Sara becomes stronger every day and she comes out of her shell by playing UNO wherever we are. Although she doesn't want to eat so much, we are not in sorrow, because her dad is taking very good care of her.

Please keep praying for Sara's complete recovery and that God would continue to touch her and her dad's heart.

Playing UNO With Friends

Posted on Mon, 10/27/2008 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel
I was thrilled to see Sara today after responsibilities in Jerusalem and at Tel HaShomer kept me from visiting her for over a week. It was a delight to sit beside her and hold hands again as we'd done many times here at the house. She looks very good, and doctors hope she will be released within a day or two. The presence of a fever from infection in her body will determine whether she can come to Jerusalem tomorrow or have to wait another day. They have removed her from the IV antibiotic, and put her on syrup instead to be sure the fever will not return. While we visited today she was checked for fever and had none. We are all hoping she will be with us here in the house by tomorrow evening. 
Sara was happy to see her friends Shanaw and Kale who visited after they had their final echoes and were released to go back home. Sara and her father also remembered a visiting friend named Esther whom they met in Jordan when they traveled on their way to Israel, and were happy to see her again. We were able to play a few rounds of the international favorite card game UNO together while all the parents chatted about home.

Keep praying for Sara's recovery to be complete, and her quick return to us here so she can soon go back home to her family.

Receiving Treatment for Infection

Posted on Wed, 10/22/2008 - 00:00 by Keleigh_Glisson

When I walked into Saras room today there was a curtain around her bed so I wasnt able to see her. Once I poked my head around the curtain and Sara saw me, her mouth opened up into a big smile. This was the first big smile I have seen from Sara since her surgery. 

A picture Sara had drawn of a mysterious person sat next to her on the bed.

Sara's father reported that he is still having difficulty getting her to eat, but that she has become a little more comfortable with him walking away from her side. 
Sara's nurse informed me that they are reluctant to consider releasing her because she currently has some type of infection. It was thought earlier that she had an infection in her blood, but this is not the case. Saras blood work revealed that she has an infection somewhere in her body. Because the precise location is unknown, Sara is receiving general antibiotics to combat the infection. 
Overall she looks great. Her face doesnt seem to be retaining water like it has in the last few days and, most importantly, her smile is back. Hopefully Sara and her father will be able to return to Jerusalem soon.

Walking Around and Eating

Posted on Mon, 10/20/2008 - 00:00 by Nancy_Bell
It was wonderful to see Sara today in her room at the hospital. She was not quite her perky self, but a few precious smiles did sneak out. Her dad reported that Sara was eating and had walked in the hall today. She appears to be recuperating very well and hopefully will be returning to the Shevet House before too long. 
Please pray for Sara to continue on the course to a full recovery. Thank you for all your concern, support and prayers that have helped Sara have another chance at a full life.

Continuing to Recover and Moved Out of the ICU

Posted on Sun, 10/19/2008 - 06:51 by Mary_Dailey
Sara is doing much better. Shanaw and Kale were able to visit her today after she was moved out of ICU and into a room. Sara is also slowly beginning to eat and drink water. Even with all this progress, don't forget to pray for Sara because it seems she has a lot of fear. She doesn't want her father to leave her side. He cannot even get near the door or she will start crying. As long as he is near her, she doesn't cry so we know that pain is not causing her tears.
Please pray that God will give her peace and that He will calm all her fears just as He calmed the angry sea. He said, "Peace. Be still." This is what we want for Sara. Thanks so much for all your prayers and support. His ears are open to hear all our prayers. May God bless you.

Recovering Normally

Posted on Fri, 10/17/2008 - 00:00 by Donna_Petrel

After spending most of the day at Tel HaShomer Hospital with Alaa and her mother during Alaa's tracheotomy this morning, Nancy, Kay and I stopped by Wolfson for a brief visit to Sara before returning to Jerusalem. I had committed to her and her dad to visit her today, and planned to bring her a special gift of paper and markers which she'd discovered on my desk just before her admission. I was hoping she would be alert enough to be encouraged at seeing her gift again, and was looking forward to presenting it to her. 

When we entered the ICU Sara was sleeping and her father was not in the room. We stood by her bed a few minutes and I talked to her softly but she did not awaken. Her father came in, and upon noticing me talking to her, wanted to wake her up. But when she was awake, she was aware of how uncomfortable she was, and it made her unhappy, so she was crying a little and moaning. Nothing her father said or did soothed her; she was very uncomfortable and needed to go back to sleep. The nurse assured us that she is doing fine, and everything is normal. She is at about 96% oxygen saturation, and still has the chest tubes draining fluids. She had just a sip of water while we were there, but even that was between moans. Eventually she fell back to sleep. Her father appeared tired and I believe is experiencing that difficult phase of recovery which dads find harder to handle than moms, although he is still doing a wonderful job helping her in every way he can. I am certain that his job will become easier as Sara recovers and she is more her happy little self. 

Please pray for Sara to feel God's touch of healing in her body as she recuperates. Pray for her father to be able to get enough rest as he devotes his time to Sara's care, so they can enjoy together her returning strength and joyful nature.

Stable and Breathing On Her Own

Posted on Thu, 10/16/2008 - 00:00 by Nancy_Bell

Sara looked good for her first day after surgery. She was awake and her eyes were open, but she seemed to be experiencing significant pain, so the doctors decided to increase her morphine. She was extubated and breathing on her own, while using an oxygen mask to help increase her oxygen intake.

She still had the heart monitor which showed her vital signs to be stable. All the other tubes she came from surgery with were still in place a well, which was not unusual this soon after surgery. It was not easy to see Sara whimpering and her eyes tearing up due to her pain.

I pray that tomorrow she will see much improvement and will be well on her way to feeling like herself again, the happy, playful, adorable, lovable girl she is! Join us in praying for her father as well who is being so strong and supportive of his precious daughter during this most difficult time.