"How I Met Aland"—Danielle's Story

Aland and Danielle posing for a photo

We all know how it feels to read so many painful headlines about Iraq, which is why we're glad you're here.

There are people all over the world who haven't given upon the people here. They're as committed as we are to writing more hopeful stories for families in Iraq, and Danielle's is one of our favorite. While living in Iraqi Kurdistan, she met Aland (see what we've already written about about him here) and, after hearing of his decade-long search for a heart surgery, she refused to say no.

Here is her story...


Aland has a smile that melts your heart. He was also born with a heart defect.

When we first met, Aland was very, very thin, with blue-and-purple skin, especially around his lips and on his hands and feet.

He was seen by doctors almost every year with the same result: he needed heart surgery, but no one knew where to send him or what to do with him.

Every year, his story stayed the same, until God moved our family from California to Kurdistan near the end of 2013. My husband’s work brought him there, and after a few months our 18-year-old son, August, came to visit.

August was born with a congenital heart defect and endured five open heart surgeries over his life, including a heart transplant 10 years ago. His final day in Iraq, we were invited to meet our neighbor with an 11-year-old son Aland.

Danielle and Aland's family together for dinner

The Kurdish people are gracious to all visitors, and Aland’s family was no exception (both families pictured above). They welcomed us easily into their home, sharing his story and his medical paperwork with us.  

I kept staring at Aland’s mom, because I could feel her pain and fear. We hugged many times that day. Despite our language barrier, she knew I understood.

She and her husband were encouraged because our son was alive and doing well. I asked to pray for them, they agreed, and there wasn't one dry eye in their humble home. We took the paperwork and went home.

That evening, I wrote a cardiologist at an organization called For Hearts and Souls, Dr. Kirk Milhoan, and he wrote me back right away, saying he would love to see Aland and would be in a neighboring town soon! We shared the news with Aland’s family, and they were thrilled!

Meanwhile, a friend told me about Preemptive Love—a group that helped provide heart surgery for their Kurdish child several years ago. So I contacted Preemptive Love, who gave us a few surgical options we could pursue (though there was no guarantee Aland would be accepted for surgery).We had our church, our friends and family and prayer group praying through all of this.

Meanwhile, Aland weakened by the day.

It took all his energy to walk from couch to couch in the living room, and he leaned on his parents or siblings shoulders while sitting. His mom let Aland sleep in her arms every night, for fear he would die. One day, we saw his sisters pulling him on a wagon across the street—he had become too weak to walk.

Then, Aland met Dr. Kirk for his appointment, which is when things began to get a little complicated.


Aland’s story will pick back up next week with what happened during his appointment. Check back here to find out!

About Danielle Courson Overholt

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"How I Met Aland"—Danielle's Story
"How I Met Aland"—Danielle's Story
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