Amed Omar has volunteered for us for more than two years. Amed invested heavily each day into the kids, showed an eagerness to use his knowledge of English and local languages to help in the training of local nurses in the Intensive Care Unit.
As our first Remedy Mission has played out in Iraq over the last two weeks, we have been extremely encouraged by the number of people coming out, emailing, and calling in hopes of giving what they can as volunteers to assist in the effort.
This week we were able to help three children without subjecting them to the trauma of an open-heart surgery.
A procedure in which a catheter is inserted through the femoral artery, all the way into the heart, and ultimately used to correct a number of different heart defects. Recovery times from these types of procedures are considerably shorter and the procedure itself is considerably less risky for the patient. These patients don't stay "parked" in an already crowded Intensive Care Unit and typically end up going home in a much shorter period of time than even the fastest surgery patients.
Abdulkareem spent the last few days out of ICU recovering with his mother in the main ward. This little boy who captured our attention sometime in the Spring, is now a healthy little boy!
Baby Noor arrives in the Intensive Care Unit all smiles for her morning check-up. Dr. Sri Rao and Kathryn Frazier, RN from the International Children's Heart Foundation care for her tenderly and take in her joy as our time together in Iraq draws near an end. Noor doesn't yet know that the procedure to come is going to replace her smiles with tears...
It was around lunch time in the heat of June in Iraq when Abdulkareem's father came into my office. He told me that his son was very sick, that he was very poor, and that he needed our help and was willing to do whatever he could to make it happen.
We were preparing our July group for surgery in Turkey and one of the children had just withdrawn from the group. It looked like we might be able to squeeze Abdulkareem in at the last minute if all the right pieces fell into place quickly.
This morning as I walked into the hospital I almost ran right into Ahmed. He was walking around the hospital ward all by himself; something he wasn't able to do just a few days ago!
The doctors took one last echo of Ahmed's heart and found nothing but good news so they let him and his uncle head back home to Nasiriyah. We miss Ahmed and the several others that have already gone home but it's an exciting feeling to walk through the hospital and see empty beds that once held sick kids.
They are empty, thanks to you!
Ahmed is now one day closer to seeing his parents.
His days of fighting against a completely broken heart are over! What's ahead of him?
Everything! His family, his home, his friends, his school, soccer and anything else any normal four year old with a strong heart would look forward to.
I'm having a hard time today. Not that this blog is about me; or even Preemptive Love Coalition. This blog exists to shine a light on the children and the families.
Still, I'm having a hard day. The reason I'm having a hard day is really tied to the fact that Mohammad Fwad is having a hard day.
On a normal day we are able to write about these amazing children and their amazing journeys from heart break to wholeness. On a normal day we focus on smiles and avoid anything that smacks of manipulation. A normal surgery group for us comprises 3-5 kids rather than 30 children. And on a normal day kids go through surgery without incident and their stories are very predictable. Unfortunately, today is not a normal day.
Mohammad Fwad had his Surgery After Months of Waiting; Resting in ICU as Mom Gives Birth to New Baby Boy
A local surgeon - Dr. Amanj - assists in surgery in Iraq this week on cases he has been longing to learn about from Dr. William Novick of the International Children's Heart Foundation
The wait is over, Mohammad received his surgery!
His surgery was not entirely without "incident" as he bled for a little bit after surgery while local hospital staff scrambled to find the appropriate blood products to help stop his bleeding. A depleted blood bank during the month of Ramadan - when there is a decreased likelihood that people would volunteer to give blood during the daylight, fasting hours - has been only one of our confounding complications this week.
Our first Remedy Mission has literally reached the corners of Iraq as we've sought to serve and save children from every part of the country.
In our hospital ward there are Arab, Turkmen, and Kurdish families spending their days together talking, crying, and simply listening to one another. If a mother has to leave the room, the other mothers in the room quickly take up the responsibility to look after their child as if it were their own.
Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen have a complicated and painful history but this week it's becoming clear to so many that all three groups have so much in common, the biggest being their love for their children. It's a love that's driven each one of them to such great heights in order to find someone who could save their child.
Mohammad Fwad's Surgery Postponed until Monday; We Plan Future Remedy Missions to Eradicate the Backlog
On my taxi ride home tonight I thought through what needed to end up on our blog before we ended our day. Some days that's an easy question to answer because of what happened, whether it was multiple surgeries to celebrate, or the full recovery of yet another child. Today, both of those things happened and we're thrilled about it!
But what made today hard was when we heard that Mohammed's surgery was pushed back yet another day.
Ahmed is prepared for surgery with our visiting cardiologist, Dr. Sri Rao, of the International Children's Heart Foundation.
Ahmed's 5 year battle to obtain his much-needed heart surgery is now a thing of the past after a 5.5 hour surgery that successfully corrected all five major heart defects! He's now resting in ICU with his uncle who hasn't left his side since his parents were seriously injured in a car crash this past week.
If you haven't read Ahmed's story be sure to read it here.
Play time helps the long hours waiting for heart surgery go faster.
One of the things we are committed to as the Preemptive Love Coalition is our Family Services Program.
We do more than fund heart surgeries; we invest our lives in the families we serve.
It was July 13th, 2010 when we first heart about Living Light International - an organization founded by Nadwa Qaragholi as a tribute to her father to serve orphans and widows throughout Iraq.
At that time they were putting together a scouting trip to Baghdad and Basra in search of surgery centers to host surgical missions similar to the Remedy Mission we are entrenched in this week.
In fact, their time in Nasiriyah (near Basra) had local doctors begging our partners at the International Children's Heart foundation to stay a few days and operate on children before all was too late for four kids in particular. Unfortunately, Dr. Novick could not perform surgery; he had no team and he had a plane to catch.
Ahmed spent his last two days waiting patiently for his surgery, playing with film-maker Ricky Norris, racing around the hospital floor on top of the hospital rolley-carts, and watching cartoons on Heber Vega's laptop.
You may recall that Ahmed's parents were in a tragic car accident on their way to our Remedy Mission just a few days ago. His uncle actually ensured that Ahmed made it here and did not miss his chance at life.
People often ask us if we're doctors.
During the day we may be in scrubs going from bed to bed in the Intensive Care Unit checking on our kids. Other times we might be in the operating room learning more about congenital heart defects. But the obvious answer is "no" - we most definitely are not doctors. We don't know how operate a heart-and-lung bypass machine and we don't know how to repair a broken heart.
What we do know how to do - and what we're constantly striving to do better - is love.