Today marked a beautiful milestone in the life of a small boy from Kurdistan: Rahand began his journey home. What makes this return so significant is the fact that he was in such a critical state to begin with. Upon arrival to Israel, doctors were incredulous that Rahand had survived this long. Life prevailed despite overwhelming odds. And in the midst of his mother's despair, hope was born. Rahand's heart surgery and smooth recovery were a testimony of God's grace toward the weak. Truly, "He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle" (Isaiah 42:3).
After his dismissal from Wolfson, I loved watching Rahand's transformation in the ensuing weeks. His mended heart finally provided the oxygen his body had craved for nearly two years. Though brain damage proved to be extensive through a CT scan, Rahand grew stronger and more responsive by the day. His smile warmed our home and gave us reason to rejoice. His mother also delighted in her son's health and disposition. The weight of long held fear was slowly lifted from her shoulders.
Last evening, the Shevet community surrounded Rahand and his mother for a night of celebration. The hour passed with cake and tea accompanied by sweet melodies on Ryan's guitar. Rahand's mother swayed to the music, her baby content in her arms. Rahand was soon passed to other loving arms, eager to hold him close one last time. We took time to express our love for them, praising God for His gift of healing.
Several gifts were also given, including a picture DVD made by Madelyn that chronicles his time in Israel. Now, Rahand's story can stretch beyond these borders and inspire hope in his homeland.
With prayers for God's presence through the journey home, we bid Rahand and his mother goodbye this morning. Rahand's mother embraced us quietly. Her eyes spoke more gratitude than any words could express. She and Rahand settled into their waiting "chariot," where Rahand promptly fell asleep as Jerusalem faded in the distance. In the years to come, may this boy always remember that his heart beats to the rhythm of grace.
Monday's hospital visit held great anticipation for Rahand's mother as we set out from Jerusalem for her son's final echo appointment. In the car, Rahand happily fell asleep as we left Jerusalem.
While the nap made for a quiet journey to the hospital, it caused him to resist succumbing to the mild sedative given him during the echocardiogram procedure. Once he finally slipped into slumber, a thorough check was done of his heart, and the report was all good news.
Rahand's mother looked expectantly to see if she would hear the words she longed for, and I was able to translate to her: "He is finished, you can go home!" Thanks to God was followed by thanks to the doctors, and then a plea for a parting picture with Dr. Alona and Efrat, the echocardiogram technician. You'll notice that Rahand slept on, still drowsy from the sedative.
He awakened full of smiles a little while later and had lunch as we waited for the dismissal report to be completed.
We are praising God for the good news of Rahand's increasing strength, and pending departure to his family in Iraq, but are waiting for the completion of his Jordan visa process. As you join in praise for his health, please join us in prayer for the release of his visa so we can send this sweet baby boy and his mother home by week's end.
When I think about Rahand, I am reminded of a small fragile plant pushing its way through the soil. Each day it grows closer to the sunlight, steady and unassuming, until it breaks through the surface, and its beauty is at last visible.
Rahand's new heart, though unseen, has become apparent to all though his remarkable progress. One week has passed since he was last at Wolfson, and today marked his penultimate echo. Everything is as it should be. Nevertheless, Rahand couldn't help but cry as his heart was meticulously examined. He did have his mother and me nearby for consolation and a friendly green frog to hold his hand.
Dr. Alona stated that Rahand is no longer in need of cardiac medications and next Monday should be his final echo! His mother's smile shone with thankfulness. Under the light and warmth of her love, Rahand will no doubt continue to thrive. I praise God for the gift of witnessing His redemptive and beautiful healing in Rahand.
It's only the beginning of the new week and already, Rahand is making strides in his recovery. His bright eyes greeted me this morning as we headed to the hospital. During the car ride, I noticed how he moves his legs and arms more now than before surgery. He also smiled and babbled while playing peek-a-boo with me. These may seem small achievements to some, but to me, they are all praiseworthy. Considering that Rahand’s body is functioning at last on a proper amount of oxygen, even his robust crying is something to thank God for.
Low lighting and unfamiliar faces in the echo room produced just such a cry from Rahand today. This made it difficult for the doctors to complete the exam initially. With every deep and tearful breath, his lungs would inflate and close like window shutters over his heart, hiding it from view. Thankfully, a brief intermission restored peace and Rahand began smiling again. Dr. Alona then commenced her work with a much more compliant boy. The echo showed medically sound healing without complication. One medication was discontinued, indicating further progress.
Rahand may only need two more echoes before returning to Kurdistan. His mother, although anxious to be home again, is thankful for today's good report. In the meantime, Rahand will continue resting and healing at the Shevet house in Jerusalem. As Rahand grows stronger one day at a time, we will "not despise these small beginnings," for "the Lord rejoices to see the work begin." Zechariah 4:10
Shabbat was nearly upon us Friday morning when an unexpected phone call arrived from Wolfson. Rahand was coming home! For a baby whose start in Israel was so turbulent, his surgical recovery has been refreshingly placid. One look at his mother's face and you can see all is well. Life has been granted to her son, and hope springs up once more.
Friday afternoon, several of us wound our way towards Tel Aviv to retrieve our friends. They were ready and waiting when we arrived, full of smiles. Sharing the same room with them were two mothers and children (Zahra and Farrah) from Gaza. Over the past week, these three mothers have formed an unlikely friendship. Unable to speak a common language, their bond has grown through shared experience. Had it not been for their children’s need of heart surgery, these women from Gaza and Kurdistan would never have met. Zahra's mother embraced Rahand's mother as they said goodbye, tears streaming down her face. They conveyed words of mutual regard, regardless of the surface differences. It was a beautiful picture of boundless love.
Everyone at Shevet rejoiced to see Rahand return to Jerusalem after three weeks in the hospital! His now vibrant pink skin is the outward sign of healing within. The surgery, though palliative in scope, is enough to give Rahand strength and breath for years to come. Sabbath sunset and quiet descended as our community gathered upstairs to welcome mother and son home. We shared from our morning devotions about God's compassion and kindness towards the weak. He goes to great lengths to save even one; every life is precious to Him. How true this is for Rahand! "He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle." Isaiah 42:3
Morning sunlight illuminated shadowy fields on the road to Wolfson Hospital this morning. Today, Rahand's small heart would undergo the operation he's desperately needed since birth. On the road, as I considered what the day would hold, my eyes fell on the ancient text opened on the page before me: "How have you helped him who is without power? How have you saved the arm that has no strength?" (Job 26:2). Surely I was incapable of helping Rahand or sustaining his mother. So I read further, finding comfort knowing there is One whose power to deliver is immeasurable. "He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing." Job 26:7. Taking this truth to heart, on arrival at the hospital I rushed inside to meet Rahand and his mother already walking towards the operating room.
Despite a sleepless night for both mother and child, Rahand looked bright-eyed and alert, albeit a little frightened. Nurses busied themselves with final preparations, giving Rahand a few quiet moments with his mother. She kissed him gently, and then it was time to part.
No indication was given for the length of the surgery; I simply told his mother to be prepared for a potentially long wait. What transpired over the next five hours was quite remarkable. Rahand's mother was a picture of repose. Sitting at a cafe just outside the hospital, we sipped hot drinks and talked. She listened carefully as I explained to her that while the surgery would not change any previous damage created by low oxygen levels to his brain, it would strengthen his heart and help him grow. She then shared how hard she had searched for help in Kurdistan, going from one city and hospital to another, finding nothing. While this mother is far from home, and has had very difficult days of waiting here in Israel, she is now beginning to recognize it was worth the sacrifice.
At this point, I suggested that we make the short drive to the coast for some much needed fresh air. Two weeks of uninterrupted stay in hospital was wearing on her. She responded with enthusiasm. Blustery winds made for a stormy sea, its blue waters swirling and crashing on the shoreline. Rahand's mother stood gazing out over the wide landscape, interjecting the silence with comments on the sea’s beauty or how cold the salt breeze felt.
I told her that though the sea was great, God's love for her and Rahand was greater still. We walked for a bit in the sunshine, which seemed to refresh her. On our way back to the hospital, a siren sounded for two minutes, marking the memorial of Israel's holocaust. I briefly shared the background of this event, noting that today was an important day for Rahand and all of Israel. On the day in which the people of Israel remember a painful legacy of death, they are giving life to Rahand, fulfilling the charter first received by Abraham of being a light to the nations.
Hours passed and no word came from the operating room to quiet our questions. Encouraged to rest, Rahand's mother laid down and fell asleep, undisturbed by the surrounding dissonance of hospital clatter. Meanwhile, a visiting group from France came to ask about Rahand and gathered in the lobby to pray for him. What a beautiful reminder that the heart of God is expressed across many languages and nations.
On my way back from fetching some lunch for Rahand's mother, I turned a corner to see Dr. Sasson (lead surgeon) coming out of the elevator. Perfect timing! We both stopped for a moment, and then I quickly asked him how Rahand was doing. He told me the surgery was near completion and that everything turned out fine. An atrial switch procedure was performed, untangling Rahand's two great arteries and placing them in their proper position. Dr. Sasson also said he corrected a deformity in his chest wall called pectus excavatum. He was born with the chest bone pointing inward, creating a sunken appearance. Any respiratory discomfort or cardiac obstruction due to this will now be relieved. I rushed back to tell Rahand's mother the good news.
We rejoiced together, hugging and praising God. Soon after, the group from France joined us in celebrating this wonderful answer to our prayers!
Rahand's mother seemed delighted that so many people were happy for her son. It wasn't long before she stood at his bedside and kissed his forehead with tears of joy in her eyes.
Rahand is stable and resting in the Intensive Care Unit under vigilant care. During this critical post-op period, he will also remain on a ventilator until strong enough to breathe on his own.
Throughout the day, several things brought to mind the nature of God's deliverance through suffering. Both in Israel's past and Rahand's present, He is redeeming life from the grave in ways only He is capable of. "Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, And how small a whisper we hear of Him!" Job 26:14
Update from Sunday, April 22, by Hannes Buchmann:
Today I made a short visit at Wolfson Hospital to see Rahand. Before I could even ask where he was, I saw him perchance in a bed in the children´s ward. He is not even in the intermediate ICU, but is staying with other children in a normal room. Of course he is still weak and tired, as you can see in the picture, but I thank the Lord that his recovery is progressing quicker than I had even realized.
Answered prayers often come as a surprise to me...the kind of surprise that makes me wonder why I ever doubted God.
Rahand's mother was teetering on the brink of despair when I last wrote. Everything familiar to her had been stripped away, save her son, and nothing could console her. With a heavy heart, I asked for intercession on behalf of this woman and child, knowing that only the Lord Himself could lift them up. To those who responded through prayer, there is good news to be shared.
When I saw Rahand's mother yesterday, Monday, something was different about her. I noticed her countenance had changed and that light reflected in her eyes once more. She was also thrilled to see the four other Kurdish families visiting the hospital with me. Their company provided a beautiful avenue for her to fully express her thoughts and emotions.
It seemed as though Rahand's mother suddenly knew she was not alone. Her smiles and laughter reminded me of the scripture which says, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5).
In centuries long ago, a woman named Hagar found herself in a similar crisis. Frightened, isolated, and desperate, Hagar cried out for the life of her son. In a powerful demonstration of love, God responded to her, revealing Himself as the God who hears and sees. Likewise, He is faithfully present and loving towards Rahand's mother.
Just before leaving the hospital, Rahand was moved out of intermediate ICU to the children's department. This boosted his mother's spirits even more. He will continue receiving oxygen and antibiotic treatment for the time being, with a surgery set tentatively for this Thursday.
Praise God for hearing the cries of our heart and yours.
"I want to go home!" Rahand's mother whispered repeatedly between sobs today.
Eleven days ago, mother and child arrived in Jerusalem, only to be admitted to Wolfson Hospital the following morning due to Rahand's critical condition. No timeline was given for surgery, as is common – just the profoundly difficult instruction to wait.
As time passes, Rahand is stable in intermediate ICU, receiving oxygen around the clock as well as antibiotics for a fever. A recent CT scan revealed atrophy of the brain due to his body's compromised oxygen levels. Nevertheless, doctors are moving forward in planning the operation to repair the transposition of Rahand's great arteries.
While nursing staff work tirelessly to care for his physical needs, his mother's vigilant presence and affection seem to be sustaining him as well. One nurse noted that she hardly ever leaves his side. "She is an incredible mother!" Indeed, this is true; yet, even the best of mothers can find themselves in a place of despair. Concern for her son, the intense hospital atmosphere, in addition to feeling lonely and afraid, has gradually become overwhelming for Rahand's mother.
Both mother and son need the gift of hope right now. As you intercede for them, please pray that the love of God would be made tangible and that crushed spirits would be raised up. May new life be given to Rahand, and likewise, may his mother lift up her eyes and find that her help comes from the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1)
He arrived in Israel the evening before, his mother anxious and overwhelmed. As I gave him oxygen and observed his blueish skin, I wondered how he had fared this long in such a state. He has received oxygen therapy at home since birth and is too weak to even sit up. Not knowing his condition, the hospital initially asked to wait until the Passover week had ended before Rahand's first visit. However, after further discussion, they agreed to see him early Friday morning. With suitcase in tow, his mother prepared for an indefinite stay at Wolfson Hospital.
The general reaction from doctors at seeing Rahand was one of shock and disbelief. "This is amazing!" Dr. Houri repeated several times. "I've never seen a child with this diagnosis live this long. He shouldn't have survived the journey here." Rahand's oxygen saturation rose no higher than 30% when the first vital signs were taken. Dr. Alona promptly declared he would be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit right away. His mother remained calm and strong as her baby cried fearfully.
After an EKG, and echo test was performed, Rahand's diagnosis was confirmed. His primary heart defect is called Transposition of the Great Arteries. The aorta and pulmonary arteries are in opposite locations, creating absolute chaos in blood flow to his lungs and body. This, in addition to a large hole between his upper chambers, has created a compromised oxygen level for all of Rahand's twenty-one months of life. Oxygen through a face mask and sedation brought him relief as doctors settled him in the ICU.
It was at this point that his mother's strength crumbled, and she broke down in sobs. These tears then ceased as time went on, but an expression of helplessness and fear remained. I had known this woman for less than a day, but in her grief, she gravitated towards love. Sitting beside her, my thoughts turned into a prayer. And as I voiced my plea to God for Rahand's life, her head bowed and nodded in agreement. On Good Friday, the day that perfect love was given through perfect death, perfect mercy was extended to this small boy.
Two days have now passed since Rahand was admitted. Sunday has come and Christ is risen. And hope remains for Rahand. He remains in ICU, receiving oxygen as well as antibiotics for a fever. Dr. Iyal shared today that a CT scan will be performed on Tuesday to measure any damage to his brain from low oxygen. Afterwards, further plans will be made for Rahand's care. There was strength once more in his mother's voice today when I spoke with her, and a twinge of joy also in knowing friends will be at her side tomorrow.
Please pray that our visit to the hospital on Monday will encourage Rahand's mother in her struggle. Rahand needs faithful intercession right now, and I ask you to join us as we cry out on his behalf. We serve a risen Lord who "will swallow up death forever, and wipe away tears from all faces." Isaiah 25:8
I thought Rahand's medical report from Iraq must have been wrong when it listed his blood oxygen level at 46% of normal, since this is hardly compatible with life. But when he reached Amman on Wednesday his mother informed us that he was taking oxygen a couple times a day. As we almost headed out the door to the emergency room, I discovered an oxygen canister left by a previous child, and with the providential help of Erica, a nurse escorting Rahand to Israel, we were able to settle him down without a hospital trip.
We reached Jerusalem safely Thursday evening after an eight-hour journey, thank God, and Dr. Alona at the Wolfson Medical Center agreed to see Rahand urgently Friday morning, even though she would be preparing her family's Passover meal for that evening.