Little Walid did not end up having his heart surgery this afternoon. His procedure had to be rescheduled because a more urgent case needed surgery today. We found Walid and his grandfather, as expected, in the same room they have been occupying in the children’s ward at the Wolfson Medical Center. But there was something tangibly different when Ruth and I arrived to see them. There seemed to be an unusually adorable and touching scene unfolding itself in the cramped space of the shared hospital room.
Walid’s grandfather was standing over Walid’s crib accompanied by two other Shevet volunteers, Aad and Gerrit, who had arrived earlier in the day, bringing with them several more Gaza children who need to receive heart surgeries at Wolfson. Since Walid’s grandfather spoke some English, the three men were able to formally introduce themselves and get to know one another. The conversation soon turned to family, as it so often does, and the men discovered that all three were grandfathers with a significant number of grandchildren. The scene was almost too precious to behold. Here all of these men were, huddled around this precious and tiny child, cooing and smiling at him while they volleying back and forth with each other how many grandchildren they each had. (In case you were wondering, Walid’s grandfather “won” with a impressive nineteen grandchildren). Here again is another instance of how the typical social, regional, national and religious boundaries so often found in the world break down inside the leveling ground of a hospital ward. Men from very different backgrounds had the chance to get to know one another while sharing in the very human experience of delighting in a precious child.
Please remember Walid and his grandfather in your prayers as he continues to wait for his heart surgery. We hope that it will be soon.
Today we went, myself and Aad, to visit Walid at Wolfson Hospital, and to check on him. The grandfather was so happy and excited to see us. I asked him if Walid had had the surgery, and he said not yet, probably tomorrow.
While I was there the nurse came and confirmed that if Walid's blood test is good they will take him to surgery tomorrow morning. She thought the chances to stand at 50-50. So please pray for him, that his results will be good and he can go to surgery tomorrow and may go home soon to his family in Gaza.
Today I had the opportunity to join a team from Shevet Achim, getting to know the work here for the very first time. In my current two-week trip to Israel, I did not think I would spend time close to Gaza, especially not at war. But this morning I gave my day fully to Jesus and trusted that he is going to make things good, that he has got a plan which is full of love and hope, and that he is about to create new things - in Israel, among the Jews and Muslims, and in my life as well.
So as I arrived this morning at Shevet Achim I was asked to join the team which went to Gaza, and I did. A five-month old baby named Walid (pictured above with his grandfather) is in need of heart surgery to correct oxygen deficiency. Our task was to pick up the baby right at the border to Gaza, and to bring him to the hospital in Tel Aviv. We had a 1.5 hour ride down to Gaza, which I felt was protected and blessed by God. The area we passed has been shot with about 1,000 rockets in the previous days, so we are grateful that God kept us safe.
As we arrived in the area of the border there was a road block. Israeli soldiers told us they would not let us in for security reasons. We waited a long time while the soldiers discussed our case and made phone calls. About half-an-hour later we were very happy that the baby and his grandpa were brought to us by a driver, and the plan was going to work out. The baby Walid looked quite content and dear driving with us in the car, and soon fell asleep.
Arriving to the hospital, we brought the baby to do a heart echo, to gain evidence for the surgery. I was impressed to learn about the site there at Wolfson Hospital, which is doing a clinic for heart-sick children every Tuesday at no charge. The responsible doctor told us that he was concerned about the situation between Israel and Gaza. However he does not want to be a politician or any other high-positioned person trying to solve the problems. His purpose to bring peace and love is to do what he can as a doctor, in his environment.
Walid stays with his grandpa in the hospital now and will undergo surgery soon. During the ride in the car through the critical area I was reminded about verses in the bible which tell that the name of God is our protection and our hiding place. Once again today I saw how true that is, and I know that God is the same for the baby Walid. His little heart is kept safe in God's heart, with his great love for him.
(Lina Sara is Gaza Coordinator for Shevet Achim)
On Sunday we received a call from Wolfson Medical Center that the little child Rimas from Gaza is ready to go home, but that she cannot unless she has a special milk called Monogen, a low fat milk. The fluid of the milk is linked to a build-up of fluids on Rimas’ lungs. A surgery was already performed to release excess fluid on Rimas’ left lung, and in order to prevent the necessity of a surgery for the right lung, the milk is needed. It is a very expensive formula: every can costs fifty dollars (USD) and she needs fifteen cans. We wanted to help the child, and on Monday I ordered the milk from the pharmacy.
On Tuesday I went with Shevet volunteers Kelsey and Yousef to visit Rimas and to comfort her grandmother. They have been more than a month at the hospital. We arrived about ten in the morning, and it was a joy for the grandmother when visitors entered the room. Rimas also seemed excited to see us… she started laughing and blowing kisses for me and Kelsey.
I told the grandmother that she is able to go home, that we ordered for her the milk formula. But the pharmacy had not completed the order yet, and four other heart patients from Gaza Strip where anxious to return home that afternoon. I asked Dr. Alona if Rimas and her grandmother might stay another night, and she replied, “Of course she can. Without that milk Rimas will die.”
As we were about to leave with the four other families, the pharmacy called and assured us that the formula would be ready in one hour. We decided to wait the extra hour, and Rimas’ grandmother was touched to feel so important.
Please pray for the fluid in Rimas’ chest, which the milk will help to minimize. Also for her little heart: she has two holes between the lower chambers, as well as a deformity called Transposition of the Great Arteries, which causes her blood in effect to flow backwards. The transposition has been surgically corrected already, thank God, but a remaining surgery is needed to patch the holes.
And please keep in your prayers the children from Gaza Strip. Many are suffering from heart disease, and many cannot reach Israel for treatment.
It's been a few weeks since I have been able to visit the Gaza children hospitalized at Wolfson, so it was good to pay another visit to that hospital this past Friday.
We shall begin with Hala. This tiny baby girl and her twin brother were born to their parents fifteen years after the rest of their siblings. Her brother is fine, but Hala was born with a small hole in her heart. Doctors believe that this will heal itself, but if they are to operate, she will need to gain more weight. Therefore the treatment plan for now is to wait for some months, and feed her extra nutritious milk, which is why she's in Israel. Let's pray for God to close up the hole even now, so that Hala and her family will not have to deal with the shadow of hospitals and operations while they enjoy the blessings of children in their "older" age.
In the next bed over we found Heba. This baby, I am told, was nearly black last week, with lack of circulation. She came to Wolfson right after birth, and remained at the hospital on-and-off for the next two months. Now, after her heart surgery, she is eating and recovering well. This visit, we could tell right away that her circulation had improved by leaps and bounds. See for yourself in the picture above! Why don't we pray that there will be no lasting effects or damage from Heba's previously poor circulation?
In this same happy room was Wisar, visiting Israel with her aunt for a catheterization. Wisar has had heart surgery twice before, and unfortunately she might still need a third operation. May the doctors to have wisdom and a clear idea of what's best for Wisar!
Lama is here from Hebron, together with her mother. She needs help to repair the pulmonary atresia she was born with. Thankfully, the blood pressure seems to be good, so it looks like Lama will be transferred out of the ICU soon. Let's pray for a complete and speedy recovery for our little friend!
Finally came the more somber part of the visit. One-and-a-half month old Alma came to us with pulmonary atresia. Like all parents, her parents were hoping to get the surgery behind them as soon as possible. However, Alma developed an infection caused by excess fluid on her heart, so the procedure had to be delayed. Praise God that His timing is perfect, and for that reason we can trust Him to look after Alma's situation completely. Unfortunately no picture is available of Alma or Lama because we were not allowed into the ICU at the time we were at Wolfson.
On Friday, a group of Shevet volunteers went to Tel Aviv to visit the kids in the hospital. We were able to spend time with two heart patients from Gaza, one of whom was available for a photograph.
Hala is a one-month-old baby girl who has to wait a bit before having surgery. She only weighs about one kilo, 800 grams (four pounds), as a result of having a twin brother who is about 3 kilos. The staff wants her to gain more weight before undertaking the heart surgery that she needs to live.
Heba is a baby girl from Gaza. I did not get a picture of her, because she is doing so poorly. She has bacteria in her blood, low oxygen, and her health in general is just going down. Please pray for her and her mother.
We were able to briefly visit with the families of two Gaza patients this Friday and learn about their children's current conditions. The individual reports for each child can be found below:
Hamad Aker -
Hamad is a seven-month-old baby boy that has had one operation since he first arrived in Israel. However, he has been at the Wolfson hospital for about three months now, due to a closed artery. And due to some breathing difficulties that he's been having, Hamad will need to be hospitalized once he returns to Gaza until he can return to Israel for his second operation, which should take place in six months' time. While we were visiting with the family, the doctors were doing their rounds, and I was able to learn that the staff is slowly taking Hamad off some of his medications, as he seems to be less agitated now that his mother is able to be with him.
Nasreen Ahmed Barbara -
This tiny baby girl came to Israel three days ago as an emergency case. She has four holes in her heart, and also needs a pacemaker, as her heart does not beat regularly on it’s own. Nasreen will need three more operations, over the course of time.
Today, there were five pairs of parents and children journeying to the Wolfson Medical Center from the Gaza Strip; some were coming for catheterizations, others for post-op checkups. Once at the hospital, we went through the usual routine: drop the patients off at the gate, wait for the security guards to look over their papers, and wave everyone through. Upstairs in the hospital clinic area, we quickly settled down and gave the doctors all our paperwork and waited for their promptings to enter various rooms. I played with the kids, occupying their attention for a short while, long enough to give the parents a break. Little Ahmed, one of the Gaza patients, enjoyed handling a large stuffed duck and we walked it around and brought it into a child’s-size play house in the hallway.
As noon approached, we realized that the day might be longer that we originally thought, as the clinic was still crowded and one of the families had not even arrived yet. And just half an hour before the Gaza patients’ clinic is supposed to close on Tuesdays, our fifth family finally arrived and we started their process. The dad looked like any middle-aged city-dweller in Israel and the boy, Ahmad, was a tall 12-year-old with bright red hair and in fashionable clothes. I walked around with them before he received several tests and an echocardiogram. He had already had heart-surgery and I could see the big scar on his chest when he took his shirt off. The nurse administering one of his tests was alarmed at his heart rate registering on the machine, as it was flashing red and a small alarm rang out. However, she told him not to worry. I later asked our nurse Kristina about it and learned that his pulse was just on the high end of a normal range. I read on his papers that he had Tricuspid Atresia (a condition characterized by the valve between the right atrium and the right ventricle failing to develop normally), among other issues. He has an appointment for a catheterization in November, and another surgery soon after that. After the echo I showed him how to make a thumbs-up sign and he smiled for the camera with his new style.
The last 20 minutes at the hospital were spent waiting for the necessary paperwork to arrive and gathering everybody outside for the drive back to the Erez border crossing. Once we all were stopped by the first pre-screening inspection gate at the border, we helped them carry their luggage as far as the guards would let us and then said our goodbyes.
This Friday, because of time constraints, we only had 45 minutes to visit all of the Gaza children at the Wolfson Medical Center. However, we still managed to spend a good amount of time with each child. The individual reports can be found below:
Abdel's heart surgery was four days ago after his arrival in Israel the week prior. He is currently in excellent condition and recovering well from the surgery. However, his mother found out this past Thursday that he has a brain growth, and his doctors don't know yet if it's malignant or benign. In light of this situation, I think John 14:27 is a beautiful verse that we can pray over and meditate on for our friend and her son.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27
This child first came to Israel for surgery three years ago suffering from transposition of the great arteries. The doctors were able to correct this condition during his first surgery, but he was required to return for a second surgery in order to complete his treatment. This second and final surgery was six days ago, and Salem is in recovery and high spirits. We hear that the nurses love him, which is not a surprise, because he's such an affectionate person and quite the character. For a small taste of his joyous personality, see the photo below.
Mohammed has been slowly recovering and is at present in the ICU because his breathing still requires improvement. However, his mother is able to take him out for walks in the fresh air which is an immense encouragement to her. Please pray that Mohammed’s respiratory system continues to gain strength so that he and his mother can return home soon.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17
Contrary to many of my previous visits to visit heart patients from Gaza, when a majority of boys seemed to prevail, last Friday’s visit had the opposite in store for us: three girls and one boy. Interestingly enough, two of the girls were dressed in orange (as well as one of their mothers), and I suspect the third girl might have been dressed in color too if she hadn't been sleeping in the ICU.
We started off our visit in the ICU, visiting Zahra and Hamad Aker. After that we found Rimas with her mother in the children’s ward, adjacent to Lin El Asta, who snuggled next to her grandmother. Here are the individual reports:
Remember Zahra? This sweet and bubbly baby girl has been at Wolfson hospital for the past six months, waiting for surgery. Last week she was finally able to undergo the procedure to repair her heart, and she is doing well, thanks to God. Let's pray for her continued and swift recovery.
Hamad Aker -
This baby boy has not yet been operated upon. This is because his bones are soft, and so the doctors need wisdom about how to proceed. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given him." Let us approach God with faith that He will light up the eyes of the doctors to see the best treatment strategy for Hamad Aker.
Rimas came to Wolfson on Tuesday. It's possible that she will receive operation on July 17th. In the picture below she greeting all of her loving fan club! Say hi back :)
This gentle ten month old baby is diagnosed with transposition of the great arteries, as well as an additional inter-chamber hole. This procedure might be complicated, but we can trust the Lord to guide the hands of the doctors. Praise God that our times are in His hands, and we can trust Him for everything.
Lin El Asta -
In the next room over was another ten-month old girl named Lin El Asta. She has two holes in her heart, one large and one small. In addition to that, her bones are soft too. Please pray that Lin's operation will be this week, as her grandmother is understandably in a hurry to get home!