Monday, July 23, 2012

Joyful Hearts After Tears

A nervous little Hani got into the van this morning to depart for the hospital. This perceptive little girl has put 2 and 2 together. Getting into the van means we are probably going to the hospital. Going to the hospital is scary. Therefore, the van is to be avoided at all costs. But she still remained calm throughout the whole ride and even had a smile on her face when we entered the play room at the hospital. Toys are always exciting and we had a fun time climbing in and out of the little playhouse while we waited her turn. Mohammed on the other hand could not be pleased today. He does not like car seats. Or hospitals. Or echoes. Or doctors. We did everything possible to get him to smile. This was achieved frequently, but only for brief periods. Once he again realized the horrible situation he was in, the wails of protest resumed.

Both children's worst fears were confirmed when the doctors called them in and placed themon the echo table. Their protests could be heard echoing down the hallway, despite the closed door. For Hani, her mother and Shevet staff member, Ruth, were at her side to calm and sooth her through the echo. Thankfully it did not last too long and the result is excellent news! The doctors announced Hani has "trace" amounts of fluid around her heart which they consider to be "trivial"! Since she is doing exceptionally well they are reducing her medication significantly and plan on taking her off it all together in three days. They expect that next week will be her final echo and she will be able to return home! Mohammed was also accompanied by his mother and Shevet staff member, Kristina. They were able to console him after the echo. He also did well, but we learned we would have to take him downstairs for some blood work. Na xhosh bo Mohammed. Not good for Mohammed. Little guy doesn't like giving up his blood to the evil needles.

However, we had some time to kill so we took a little jaunt to the sea!  One again cries emerged from little Hani, but this time they were cries of joy. Her laughter and enthusiasm were contagious as we all got soaked by the splashing waves. It took our best efforts to keep her from jumping into the water and swimming away forever. This child has an enthusiasm for water that cannot be matched. Mohammed on the other hand was terrified of the water. The poor little guy probably thought the sea was going to come up and swallow him whole. We tried to put his feet in the water, but he strongly opposed, so that ended quickly. Maybe when he gets a little older he'll be able to appreciate the sea.

We headed back to the hospital so that Mohammed could have his last terrible experience of the day. While he had blood drawn, Hani, her mom, another Shevet volunteer, and I waited in the "Fish Room". This room decorated with drawings of fish, Ariel, and dolphins is where we hang out while we wait. Hani, still joyful, charmed everyone who walked by. She quickly made a new friend in the girl who runs the toys and coloring supplies. Within a minute of introduction they were blowing kisses and waving. She also waved at anyone that walked by and uttered more than one tentative, "Hallo".  

It was a long day, but a ton of fun. It is good to see both of them doing so well. On the drive home, Hani dozed off while Mohammed stayed happy and played games with his mother. Between the fun and sad parts of today, I think they will both sleep well tonight. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Night and Day

Proverbs 13:12...."Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
Today's two hospital visits so perfectly displayed this verse. The difference between the two was like night and day. There are two main hospitals that do the heart surgeries for our Iraqi kids. Right now we have 3 kids between the two. The first hospital was so sad... 

Night: Poor Hewa has been in the hospital at least 90% of the time that he has been in Israel due to various complications. This is exhausting to his mother who is tending to his every need. It is also very scary and wearing. Each time we rush him to the hospital it's not like he just needs a check-up. There is something seriously, life-threateningly wrong that has to be looked at immediately. Right now he is in because there was a large amount of fluid built up around his lungs. This is a common side effect after surgery as the body is in shock. However, Hewa has an abnormally large amount. Today they drained over a liter from his body! When we walked into his room in the ICU the heaviness in the room was as thick as a storm cloud. Both Hewa and his mother's faces remained serious and pained throughout our entire visit. Hewa's furrowed eyebrows made his little man face look even older. The best we could do was stroke his hair, speak softly with his mother, and bring words of encouragement to lift their heavy spirits.

Day: The second hospital was a completely different story. Joy was abounding in ICU! Normally, that room is very high pressure and tense. However, the light radiating from Achmed and his mother's faces had everyone around them smiling.

 After a leaving a tense mother post-surgery yesterday, we were unsure what we would walk into this afternoon. Would she be fretting over her son? Joyed that he was out of surgery? Thankfully it was the latter. We opened the door and immediately were acknowledged with big smiles. We made our way over to Achmed's bedside and were quickly welcomed and seated by his beaming mother. We quickly engaged Achmed in making funny faces and blowing bubbles. Achmed was extubated this morning at 11 and his oxygen level was also really high. Before surgery it was in the low 70s, but today, only a day after surgery, he was breathing without assistance and his oxygen level was at 99%! It was wonderful to see him doing so well so quickly. All of the nurses in the ICU have also been charmed by his darling little smile. They all love to stop by his bed to check on him. We also were able to visit baby Mohammed, who had his surgery last week, and his mother. He was looking great! All of the tubes and monitors have been removed and we hope to bring him back to Jerusalem tomorrow! We had a wonderful time playing with him and the other Gaza kids in the children's ward.

It was so encouraging to end our day with these families and celebrate with them. But we continue to pray that Hewa and his mother experience the same joy and hope. Interestingly enough, Hewa means hope in Kurdish. So we are constantly reminding them to have hewa for Hewa! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In the Face of Poverty

In our morning Bible study before work, we as a staff are working through the book of Proverbs. There are so many themes that we pull out in this rich book every day, but one that continually reoccurs is the rich vs. the poor man. Sometimes this seems very literal. Do x gain wealth, do y lose wealth. Other times it seems to refer to more spiritual or moral poverty or wealth. But in the midst of all of this learning, the topic of beggars came up.

At home, I live in the suburbs. I have my whole life. Until I went to college where I live in the cornfields. In these settings, I see very few beggars on the street. This might also be compounded by the fact that 8 months out of the year it is freezing and we have penguins for neighbors. But anyway, I have never on a daily basis had to look poverty in the eye and decide what to do about it.

That is not the case here. There are homeless people all around. There is one woman who sits at the top of our street on a bench. For awhile we didn't know if she had a home. But, she carries a couple bags and is always wearing the same clothes and is almost always on that bench, so I'm going to assume she lives there. We invited her over for dinner and she actually has showed a couple times. Now I say hi to her if I see her around, and a couple times she has given us gifts of pudding and marshmallows she bought at the store.

But that is just one woman, what to do about the dozens of others I've seen? Most social workers I know always say not to just hand out money, but to support ministries that can help the homeless get clothing, lodging, and jobs since we don't know what the money will go to otherwise. I get that; it makes sense. But it doesn't ease my conscious. I don't want to always be judgmental and critical of someone who might honestly be trying to survive. Like today, when a handful of clothing items and sheets when missing from the wash line, I want to be upset at this injustice. But it is likely that the person who took them needs them far more than we do.

I don't have the answers... If I did I could probably solve worldwide poverty. But for now I will just remember Proverbs 19:17: "Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ups and Downs

Well, after the past few days being stuck in bed, I am finally up and starting to engage in a normal work day! Yipee! I will say, I knew I was actually sick because for four days I did not mind being told to stay in bed and rest. My roommates know it can be hard to get me to call it quits. Last year they had to help me write an email to my professors saying I was sick and going to the health center. I could barely function, but I didn't want to miss class!

Anyway, it was actually a blessing to get a diversion from the temperature here. It is hot. Hot. Hot. Our house has fans in most rooms, but no air conditioning so sweating is just a normal part of the day. But this weekend I was freezing! I wrapped up in all my blankets and curled up in my bed. The nurse felt my head and sad I was actually hot, but my body enjoyed being confused for a time!

But it is good to be up and around again. I wasn't able to see the kids while I was sick. It is extremely important they stay healthy or it can be dangerous since their bodies are already working so hard to recover from surgery. I wandered back in there today and we were able to reconnect quickly. Although, I think they like anyone who smiles and plays games with them. But it was a good thing I saw them today... one was admitted this afternoon for surgery and one was readmitted due to fluid build up around his heart. He has to have a chest tube reinserted for at least five days. The poor little guy is handling it like a champ, but his mother is clearly distressed to be back in the hospital. The ups and downs of hospital life are difficult on all the patients and mothers. We just try to be a source of encouragement and love when we can. I just hope I can be a little bit more empathetic after experiencing the confinement of a small space for a few days this weekend.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fireworks and Firecrackers

I'm sorry I haven't written in forever. Sometimes I get so busy living life here I forget to share what we are doing! But hey, that's the way it should be, right? It has been one crazy week full of energy and changes.

Last week we celebrated the 5th of July. I know that's weird. We were going to celebrate the 4th of July since a lot of our staff is American, but we sent most everyone to the hospital that day, and then that evening we got a call to bring another kid in for surgery. Since there was no one here, we postponed our party a day. For the fifth we went all out.... hamburgers, french fries, potato chips.... we even built a bonfire in our tiny garden and had s'mores! Somewhere in the city fireworks went off (probably for a wedding), but it felt like the city was celebrating right along with us.

We've also had a lot of changes with the kids here. Since sending two kids home last week, we got one new one. His name is Ahmed and is a four year old that is full of energy! Apparently he has learned screaming accomplishes a lot and has tried to employ this method to get things he wants. But in the few days that he has been here he seems to have settled down a bit. But he still has a ton of energy! We also have two other kids in the hospital.

Little Hani is.... well if you took a firecracker, the energizer bunny, and a spinning top and combined them into human form then gave it a vente starbucks coffee you might almost reach the level of energy that Hani possesses. This kid is off-the wall awesome. However, she just had surgery last week. When they started to wake her back up after surgery, they had to tie her arms and legs down because she flailed so much she was going to hurt herself by pulling out the i.v. and chest tube. Now, only four days later she is up and walking again. We expect to have her back in the house in a couple days.

We also unexpectedly admitted our other child for surgery today. Little Mohammad is about 7 months old. He has this huge toothless grin that is absolutely adorable. His surgery tomorrow morning is supposed to be very difficult. I was at the hospital yesterday for his diagnostic echo. It took an hour. (Normally they are less than half that time). The doctors wanted to make sure they really understand his condition. Despite all this, they still don't know exactly what they will do once they open him up tomorrow. They have three different surgery options and won't know which to pick until they are looking at his heart. If you think about it, pray for the little guy. He'll go into surgery about midnight today, US time.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An Everyday Miracle

Yesterday I got to sit in on Sarchil's echocardiogram. What an amazing experience! I am not a science person at all. General Biology was general torture my sophomore year. It has always seemed really boring and complicated. I trust that God made the human body and that it runs and that is all I need to know! The rest can be cared about by other people. I am content with understanding the basics.

However, seeing a live echo has made me realize what a miracle the human body is. The echo basically gives an ultrasound of the heart. We could watch the muscle pumping blood through the body. From certain angles we could see valves opening and closing to let blood in and out. The valves look like stiff arms clapping. The blood shows up red and blue on the screen depending on whether or not is oxygenated. Then they turned the sound on and we heard the heart whooshing as blood went in and out. I can't even explain how cool it was!

On top of all this, for Sarchil's heart, this is a new thing. He has lived 8 years with his heart struggling to get the blood where it needs to go. But now, it works perfectly! You and I have hearts that have worked forever. But watching these kids run around and have more energy than ever before is incredible. It is a miracle, one that happens every day, but one that we rarely remember.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Middle Eastern Hospitality

If there is one thing that I am always amazed in in this culture, it is their hospitality. I think the western world has failed in many ways in our ability to make people feel at home. Here, I have visited  several shops of people we know that are overwhelmingly welcoming. In some stores this is because they want you to buy something. But in the stores of people we are friends with, it is simply because they like you and want you to feel comfortable there.

I also had the special opportunity to visit a coworker at her home in the Old City of Jerusalem. She is an Arab Christian that has lived in Jerusalem her whole life. Today, she invited three of us over who have never been to her family home before. Her mother graciously welcomed us in and fed us a delicious lunch of rice, an okra and chicken stew, salad, and ice cream for dessert! During our time there, a couple of their friends dropped in to visit and we all were able to chat with each other. It was so comfortable. Even though we didn't know these people, they accepted us as their friends. I felt so special to get to be part of their lives and see what a normal afternoon in a Jerusalem home looks like.