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5 Children You Helped Save In 2012

January 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

My favorite thing about January?

It’s the only month when it just feels right to look back and to plan ahead. A backward glance helps us remember what God has done during the previous year and all that we’ve learned, while a look forward offers hope for betterment and an opportunity to grow.

And who doesn’t love a clean slate—an opportunity to jumpstart things in a new direction? I’m here to tell you, though, that you did some pretty fantastic stuff last year. If your friend is bragging about their new job or some kind of shiny new gadget, please read this part out loud: “I helped save lives last year.”

Is there someone near you right now? Grab their sleeve and say it again, “I helped save lives last year.”

In 2012, you guys raised money, hosted parties, and spread the word on behalf of Iraqi children. There are children alive now who would not be—you’re heroes!

So—in case you didn’t get to meet them all—here are a few of the children you helped save in 2012:

1) Hussain—I don’t know who came up with the “don’t play favorites with kids” rule, but they obviously haven’t met this boy. I’ve adored him since our first game of “air soccer,” and the first thing I try to plan when we return to Najaf is try to plan a visit to see him and his family. He’s a sweet, sweet child and—thanks to you and the Coalition—he is now home and fully alive. Read his whole story here.

2) Yousef—our 2012 vote for the Most Pinchable Cheeks Award, Yousef received a heart operation at our groundbreaking Remedy Mission X in Fallujah. If you haven’t seen some of his adorable facial expressions yet, do yourself a favor.

3) Zahraa—Sweet, solemn Zahraa. I tracked with her from beginning to end, right up until she carried her dollies into the hospital elevator and went home. Click here to watch our video shorts of her trip through the hospital.

4) Hassin—don’t be fooled by his drooping eye lids and ridiculous eye-lashes, Hassin is sneaky. When the doctors told him he couldn’t eat or drink anything before his surgery, he snuck past his family, out of his hospital room, and down 6 flights of stairs to demand that the snack vendor give him food. His parents found him pounding his fists and declaring, “I need to eat or I’ll die!” I’m happy to report that, after his surgery, he snacked to his healthy heart’s content. See more of Hassin here.

5) Maddy—the 300th child you’ve helped us save, this little boy is sunshine incarnate. I still stand by my claim that he’s the smiliest, most pleasant little boy you’ll ever meet. If you missed the excitement of his landmark surgery, check it out here (the video was especially fun to make!).

2012 was pretty amazing, and 2013 is looking even better. Stick with us as things get started—our 15th surgical mission is coming up in Fallujah!

As Communication Director, Matt Willingham spends most of his time trying to get the word out on PLC's work in Iraq. On the side, he likes reading stories, devouring the great food his wife cooks up, and DSLR camera work. He's also mildly obsessed with Twitter: @mehtin.

Update From The O.R.—We’re Saying Goodbye To Zahraa!

October 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Zahraa has passed the test!

Her echo went well, and now she can go home. Watch the above video to get a quick update on Remedy Mission XII and to see shots of little Zahraa heading home with a healed heart!

Stay tuned for more stories from Remedy Mission XII—and we’ve got an update on Hussain coming as well!

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalInternational Children's Heart Foundation

As Communication Director, Matt Willingham spends most of his time trying to get the word out on PLC's work in Iraq. On the side, he likes reading stories, devouring the great food his wife cooks up, and DSLR camera work. He's also mildly obsessed with Twitter: @mehtin.

Zahraa’s Post-Op Echo Went Well—She’ll Be Heading Home Soon!

October 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A photo of Zahraa getting her post-op echo.
Remember our little check-list?

Well Zahraa has checked off everything and she and her family are ready to go home! We’re going to have her stay in the hospital just a bit longer to make sure she’s fully fit to leave. We’ll have another update for you once she’s leaving the hospital.

Keep reading. We’ll have more for you soon…

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalInternational Children's Heart Foundation

As Communication Director, Matt Willingham spends most of his time trying to get the word out on PLC's work in Iraq. On the side, he likes reading stories, devouring the great food his wife cooks up, and DSLR camera work. He's also mildly obsessed with Twitter: @mehtin.

Zahraa And Her Daddy Are Almost Able To Go Home!

October 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A photo of Zahraa and her father waiting in their room at the hospital in Najaf, Iraq.
There are four major stages to a child’s trip through the hospital: Waiting in the ward, the operating room, the intensive care unit, and, lastly, back to the ward.

Thoughtful little Zahraa has been in that final stage of her hospital visit for nearly two days now, and, after a lot of hospital food and Tom & Jerry reruns, she’s really eager to go home.

But there are a few small tests that a child has to pass before they can go home. Here’s Zahraa’s score so far:

- Off the oxygen tank and breathing on her own

- Eating and drinking

- Little to no pain

- Up and walking around

X - Post-op echo screening

As you can see, Zahraa only needs to pass one more test before she and her daddy can go home, and the cardiologist plans to give her a final echo screening today.

If all goes well, she’ll be home within the next 24 hours—come back later today for an update on her progress!

A photo of sweet little Zahraa waiting in the children's ward of al-Sadr Teaching Hospital to go home.

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalInternational Children's Heart Foundation

As Communication Director, Matt Willingham spends most of his time trying to get the word out on PLC's work in Iraq. On the side, he likes reading stories, devouring the great food his wife cooks up, and DSLR camera work. He's also mildly obsessed with Twitter: @mehtin.

Update From The O.R.—Valve Shmalve, What’s Really Wrong With Zahraa’s Heart?

October 7, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve read about Zahraa, and we hope you’re following her story.

But wouldn’t you like to know what’s really going on inside her chest? What is it that poses such a lethal threat to her well-being, and what does it take to fix it?

Cardiologists can answer these questions because they spend years studying the heart in medical school, and then they’re constantly learning for the rest of their career. So, since we can’t all be savvy heart doctors, we decided to pull one into the O.R. for a quick interview!

Watch the above video (or click HERE) to get a better understanding of what’s going on inside little Zahraa’s heart!

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalInternational Children's Heart Foundation

As Communication Director, Matt Willingham spends most of his time trying to get the word out on PLC's work in Iraq. On the side, he likes reading stories, devouring the great food his wife cooks up, and DSLR camera work. He's also mildly obsessed with Twitter: @mehtin.

Zahraa Update—In Surgery, Out of Surgery!

October 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A photo of Dr. William Novick of the International Children's Heart Foundation operating with an Iraqi surgical resident on Zahraa at al-Sadr Teaching Hospital in Najaf, Iraq.
In and out—sometimes it’s just that fast!

Since our two lead Iraqi surgeons were busy, Zahraa’s operation (pictured above) was performed by Dr. Novick and one of the local surgical residents, Dr. Husam. It was a great opportunity for one of the younger doctors to get some valuable first-hand experience with “The Chief” as he likes to call Dr. Novick, and now Zahraa’s heart defect has been corrected!

Zahraa’s fix was the perfect blend for us: a life saved and a doctor trained.

And now she’s on her way to recovery in the ICU. I snapped this photo of her while she was still slightly drugged up from her surgery, but mom and dad are finally able to breathe that sigh of relief.

Now we just have to wait and see how she does in the ICU. More updates on this sweet little girl to come!

A photo of Zahraa right after surgery recovering in the ICU in Najaf, Iraq.

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalInternational Children's Heart Foundation

As Communication Director, Matt Willingham spends most of his time trying to get the word out on PLC's work in Iraq. On the side, he likes reading stories, devouring the great food his wife cooks up, and DSLR camera work. He's also mildly obsessed with Twitter: @mehtin.

Update From The O.R.—Welcome to Remedy Mission XII!

October 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

We’re back in Najaf for our 12th Remedy Mission!

If you’ve been following our work recently, you may be surprised to hear we even left the city since we just wrapped Remedy Mission XI there a couple weeks ago. Some of the local hospital staff weren’t even sure we’d left!

But the first patient for this mission was lifted onto the operating table this morning, and we’re excited to introduce her to you. She’s a little 6 year-old girl named Zahraa, and she’s getting her heart fixed now!

Watch the video above to hear more about her situation, and then come back in a few hours to find out how she’s doing.

More to come…

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalInternational Children's Heart Foundation

As Communication Director, Matt Willingham spends most of his time trying to get the word out on PLC's work in Iraq. On the side, he likes reading stories, devouring the great food his wife cooks up, and DSLR camera work. He's also mildly obsessed with Twitter: @mehtin.

Friends, Meet Zahraa!

October 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A photo of little Zahraa waiting in the children's ward of al-Sadr Teaching Hospital in Najaf, Iraq.
This little day-dreamer’s name is Zahraa. She’s 6 years old, and—you guessed it!—she really needs a heart surgery.

I only had limited time with Zahraa and her family before she was whisked away for surgery, but the parents seemed terrified for their daughter. A local doctor saw me watching them and shared, “They’re very poor. They don’t know anything at all about the outside world.”

This was a great reminder of the faith these parents have when they give their kids over to us for treatment. I’m sure it takes serious guts to pass your kid off to trained professionals whom you trust and know to be effective (and can communicate with), but to give your kid to strangers from another country? To people who dress, talk, and act in a way that is totally bizarre to you? Maybe even offensive?

I don’t envy them, but I do admire their courage.

Both daughter and her mother, as if on cue, burst into tears as Zahraa was pulled away and taken to the operating room.

Please pray that her surgery goes well, and we’ll have a video update on her progress for you in a few hours.

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalInternational Children's Heart Foundation

As Communication Director, Matt Willingham spends most of his time trying to get the word out on PLC's work in Iraq. On the side, he likes reading stories, devouring the great food his wife cooks up, and DSLR camera work. He's also mildly obsessed with Twitter: @mehtin.

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