If you'd have been in Iraq this week, you would have been invited to this feast. It was a feast celebrating another healthy heart from our most recent Remedy Mission in northern Iraq.
Parzheen and her family invited us to come for a medical checkup and to see the rest of the family, including Parzheen's grandparents and to spend a day with them in their village. All of this was to thank YOU for saving the life of their daughter! It was a perfect day.
As a new member of the PLC team, there's always something to learn. One of the first things on the to-learn list was how to answer the question, “What’s your job?” in Kurdish. I usually use the term 'social worker' to describe what I do, so I asked my language tutor how to say that in Kurdish and she explained that there isn’t a word for it because there isn’t really a job like that in our city.
Because women tend to stay home, the need for a family advocate/social worker to come to them is huge. Unfortunately the need isn't widely seen, and in many homes even basic healthcare knowledge is lacking.
People had a lot of questions when my wife and I said we wanted to move to Iraq. Family and friends were (understandably) concerned, and we had to be ready with a response about our work, our safety, and pretty much everything else involved in moving to a war-torn country. Most questions weren't difficult to answer. Some were difficult for people to hear, for sure, but we knew our responses.
But there was one question that took some thinking.
Cedarville University is starting off the month of April by hosting their sixth annual Baseball Classic in Ohio where they hope to fund four heart surgeries by the ninth inning! Cedarville continues to be one of our most loyal partners in doing good in Iraq. In 2008 their student body raised $30,000, making this a total of nine Iraqi children they've helped save!
We're all about providing surgeries to children - I think we've made that pretty clear - but we're also passionate about getting the rest of the family involved. That means we aren't standing by an entire generation of children with CHD but also the communities, the support groups, and the leaders who play a crucial role in improving local healthcare throughout the country.
Without a doubt, some of Iraq's strongest leaders are the mothers.
In preparing for my 2nd internship with PLC this summer I came across an article written by two well-known global health advocates and physicians (a prof at Harvard and the current president of Dartmouth, if you're into credentials) on the topic of surgery in the global health movement. [Paul E. Farmer and Jim Y. Kim. 2008. "Surgery and Global Health: a View from Beyond the OR." World Journal of Surgery 32:533-536].
After discussing this article with one of the directors and thinking about our current model for surgical aid in Iraq, a few points stood out: The authors' first argument is that surgery is the "neglected stepchild of global healthcare."
This week we're joining Kurds around the world in celebrating Newroz (now-rose), or Kurdish (and Persian) New Year.
I'm only a few weeks into life in Iraq, but it didn't take long to see why people say Newroz is a great time to live and work among the Kurds. These people know how to celebrate!
We're just now wrapping up our fourth Remedy Mission in Iraq and we have 17 heart felt thank you's to send your way from the families who got the chance to see their children receive the heart surgery they've been waiting for!
(Go ahead, you can stand up and celebrate. We did!)
Now what? Now we do it all over again! All over Iraq. Until every heart is mended!
Parzheen barely had time to get comfortable in the Intensive Care Unit before they told her she was well enough to go down to the hospital ward!
The nurses asked her if she wanted her father to carry her down to the hospital ward and she said "NO!" She wanted to walk downstairs on her own. She just couldn't wait to put her new heart to the test.
It’s all hands on deck for us at the hospital as we not only continue to follow children into surgery but now out the door, as children are beginning to go home each day!
Today we said goodbye to little Yasna (pictured above) as her family was learning from the nurses and cardiologists how to best take care of her once she’s at home. After that, her bags were packed and they walked through the hospital ward saying goodbye to all the friends that were made over the past few days. The lucky ones got a smile out of her!
Parzheen went in yesterday for a total correction of four different heart problems and came through with spectacular results!
She had her breathing tube removed within a few hours and her chest tube removed just shortly after that. She will likely be sent out of the critical care unit tomorrow where we will have a few more days in the ward to enjoy her amazing smile thanks to you!
This Morning, Our First Two Children Checked Out Of The Hospital With Healthy Hearts Thanks To Mending Kids International!
We exist to be an alliance for good.
Every heart surgery, every relationship, and every step we take towards developing the health care of Iraq is only made possible because of those standing alongside us.
Yahya passed away early this morning after an all-night surgery. It was a surprise to everyone. When he was admitted to the ICU there seemed to be plenty of confidence that he would be just fine. But within just 30 minutes of admission his heart gave out and all efforts to revive him failed.
I still remember the first time I was introduced to Yahya. It was over a year ago. His uncle called my cell phone and said, "I'm at your office, I need to talk to you about a sick kid."
Remember this boy?
When we first met Yahya he was five years old and we were trying to send him overseas for his lifesaving operation.
The doctors told us that he needed a valved conduit - so we went in search for the piece that could save his life. We found it. The only problem was that the Turkish government was revising their import laws and the local supplier was out of stock.
Because we couldn’t bring Yahya and the device together to Turkey, we were forced to cancel his surgery.
She’s four and a half years old and was born with a congenital heart defect that wasn’t discovered until she was three years old.
If you ran into this beautiful girl outside of the hospital, you probably wouldn’t even notice that she had a heart defect.
Today I had the chance to sit down and chat with Ajeen and Haymen, two young ICU nurses in Northern Iraq.
Haymen is living his dream. After his father died in 1991 from heart disease, he dedicated his life and career to taking care of others with the same condition.
It wasn’t until 2005, when the nursing college began to accept males due to the huge demand for nurses in Iraq, that he actually got to do what we had wanted to do all along...mend hearts.