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Coming Full-Circle—How You’re Helping Us Serve The Children Of Halabja Again!

November 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

It all started with a little boy named Aras.

Nearly seven years ago, we helped this boy travel from his hometown of Halabja to a team of doctors who saved his life.

Last week we came full circle, serving in Halabja once again. You enabled our partner doctors to screen over 50 children, document their defects and help parents and grandparents better understand their child’s need.

It is a beautiful thing to watch, when parents finally understand what their child needs. I’ve met more families than I can count who seemed afraid at how completely in the dark they were about their child’s needs—that lack of knowledge leaves room for anxiety and hopelessness.

But expert diagnosticians like Dr. Kirk and his team are shedding a hopeful light on these children. Once parents know what their child needs, they can get to work finding it.

And, with your help, we plan to make sure they find it. Help us return for more lifesaving Remedy Missions by giving below!

DONATE HERE!

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalFor Hearts and Souls logo

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.

The Value of Diagnostics—How You Helped 50+ Families Understand Their Child’s Needs

November 18, 2013 by · Comments Off 

A collage of children being screened at the Sulaymaniyah Heart Center.

There can be no success against The Backlog if we don’t even know what we’re up against. Too often, people charge in, guns-a-blazin’ without making sure everyone involved—parents included—clearly understands the problem at hand.

But when it comes to serving children in Iraq, blowing through the diagnostics phase and cutting too soon can have tragic results, but that’s one of the most exciting things about this 21st Remedy Mission—this mission, we’ll focus on diagnostics.

A collage of children being screened at the Sulaymaniyah Heart Center.

This team’s collective compassion and experience in diagnostics makes them extremely helpful to families here. They were recently able to look at the hearts of 17 children in Sulaymaniyah, and then the next day we drove to Halabja and looked at the hearts of nearly 40 more children.

In both cases, they gave detailed explanations to the parents, were patient to answer each of their questions, and made their recommendations for moving forward—go, stay, pursue surgery immediately, wait, medicate, send them back to school, etc.

A collage of children being screened at the Sulaymaniyah Heart Center.

By the end of this mission, the team will have a better understanding of the treatment children in this region need, and, with your help, we’ll be able to help them get it soon!

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalFor Hearts and Souls logo

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.

“We Tell Them What Is Medically-Proven, Then We Prove It To Them.”

November 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

2013.11.13.RMXXI.Sulaymaniyah.Screening.Day_7
I’ve been on a lot of Remedy Missions, but today was unique.

The team taught for several hours at the heart hospital about post-operative care to a group of young physicians and nurses. Dr. Kirk began the lectures by saying something exciting:

“We aren’t here to teach you American or German medicine, or medicine from the U.K. We are here to teach what is proven to work.

The team then lectured on pain assessment and management, communication in the ICU, and when/how to administer medication. I was a little uncertain about how the locals would respond, but that didn’t last—they interrupted with questions and feedback at almost every slide!

After the lectures, Dr. Kirk shared this insight into the training process:

“Changing a country’s medical culture is a long process, and as a doctor you have to know the difference between your personal style and what is medically-proven. Then you will often have to prove it to your students in the hospital—show them why you do it the way you do.”

It’s exciting to be a part of the pediatric cardiac development here in Sulaymaniyah. They have come so far, and there is even more left for them to learn.

The best part of the morning, though, was Dr. Kirk’s final challenge:

“Whenever you care for children, ask yourself this: how would I care for them if they were my own child? How would I attend to them if they were my own family? If I were in this bed, how would I want the nurse to care for me?

2013.11.13.RMXXI.Sulaymaniyah.Screening.Day_27

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalFor Hearts and Souls logo

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.

“A Child Who Needs Help,” First & Foremost—Meet Yaghmoor

November 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A photo of Yaghmoor on the cath table.
This is Yaghmoor.

Hailing from the disputed city of Kirkuk, Yaghmoor and her family are Turkmen, Iraq’s 3rd largest ethnicity and a group often at odds with their Arab and Kurdish neighbors.

But Yaghmoor’s recent heart procedure wasn’t marked by tension between neighbors. In fact, her parents were bombarded with something they didn’t seem to expect: kindness.

Despite their own regional backlog of children in need, the Kurdish heart team here in Sulaymaniyah didn’t discriminate or deny the family treatment. The head cardiologist, Dr. Aso, just shrugged when I asked him about serving other ethnicities:

“We just see a child who needs help. This is what is important for us.”

Yaghmoor received her procedure and was discharged with a clean bill of health this morning. Her family left looking groggy but grateful to a group of people who could have ignored them but chose to lean in and help.

But the same could be said for you. You’re here, reading about a random child in some (probably) faraway country. You may have even once considered Yaghmoor’s people to be your ‘enemy,’ or at least not worth your time. But here you are, and you “just see a child who needs help.” This is what’s important for you.

Thank you. There are more Yaghmoors out there, and we can’t wait to serve them with you!

A photo of the doctors adjusting Yaghmoor on the cath table.

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalFor Hearts and Souls logo

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.

Back To Sulaymaniyah For Remedy Mission XXI!

November 11, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

2013.11.11.RMXXI.Sulaymaniyah.Cath.Lab_8
We are back in Sulaymaniyah!

It has been years since we last worked in the Heart Center here, and it’s a joy to return. Since our last mission back in March of 2011, surgical training teams from Italy, America, and several other places have partnered with Sulaymaniyah’s pediatric cardiac team to further develop this heart center.

Twenty-one missions ago, this site became the birthplace of our Remedy Mission programs. This place and these people symbolize a defining change in our work that grew out of your support—you changed the the way we do pediatric cardiac care!

It’s exciting to see how Dr. Aso (pictured below) and his team have grown, and we are proud to work alongside them again.

Come back tomorrow to read more!

2013.11.11.RMXXI.Sulaymaniyah.Cath.Lab_22-2

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalFor Hearts and Souls logo

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.

The Language of Compassion—What Translation and Heart Surgery Have in Common

August 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

After a week spent with Dr. Kirk’s team, observing countless ECHO screenings of small hearts, I can’t think of anything more terrifying than parenthood.

Sometime through the first morning of exams, I realized I didn’t need medical imaging technology to see the love in one young mother’s eyes. Her 2-year-old son’s heart wasn’t pumping enough oxygen to his body. She wanted to give her son more life than his tired heart could provide, to turn his fingers from blue to healthy pink.

Despite the intensity of her love, it was unable to repair her son’s heart.

A parent’s love alone can’t correct arteries and valves. But a surgeon’s hands can. A heart surgeon can translate the love of a parent into something life-changing in the heart of a sick child, like a translator communicating everything the speaker wants to say into a different language. Good intentions have no power without a translator who can turn that intention into reality.

I want to be a “translator.”

Most of us don’t have the skill necessary to translate the depth of our love into the medical expertise that saves lives. But we can each translate our compassion into countless actions that remake the world.

I believe God is remaking the world: small hearts, parents’ pain, and Iraq. If you’re reading this blog, chances are we share a common desire for the world to be remade.

Whether a surgeon or a songwriter, homemaker or a horticulturalist, we can use our work to remake the world.

What kind of “translator” do you aspire to be? How do you communicate love to those around you? Tell me about it in the comments section!

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This post continues a series of intern reflection posts from the summer 2013 internship. Interested in interning with us? Click here to visit our internship page!

Acadia Osborne is a Minnesota-born giraffe connoisseur with an interest in osteopathic medicine and running long distances in a single setting. A biology student at Pepperdine University, Acadia hopes to consume loquats and increase her heat tolerance this summer while researching and composing PLC’s annual report.

From Korea to Iraq—Yunus Comes Home for Surgery

June 11, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Three months in a Korean ICU.

That’s what Yunus faced last year when he traveled abroad looking for a lifesaving heart surgery.

As a one-year-old with Down syndrome, Yunus journeyed to South Korea with his daddy, four complex heart defects, and the hope that their nearly 5,000-mile quest would end in healing.

But then his Korean doctor described the length of the post-op recovery period.

Unwilling to remain so far away for so long, Yunus and his dad turned around and flew back home—without surgery.

But as a little boy with a dying heart, Yunus’s opportunities for medical care in Iraq were also scarce.

That is, until his family discovered the Remedy Fellowship program in Nasiriyah.

This program, which began in August 2012, is the result of a collaboration between us, Dr. Novick’s team from the International Children’s Heart Foundation, Living Light International, and local surgeon Dr. Akeel.

The 48-week-long training course instructs Iraqi doctors so children like Yunus can receive care from local, well-equipped surgical teams.

And in February, he did. Yunus and his family traveled south to Nasiriyah, where he received the lifesaving medical care he needed and drove home to recover.

We saw him again two weeks ago in northern Iraq, visiting Dr. Kirk’s team from For Hearts and Souls for a follow-up screening—his local doctor had noticed a dangerous amount of fluid filling in around Yunus’ heart and advised his family to see the international team. Dr. Kirk confirmed that the fluid needed to be drained, so he sent Yunus and his family down to Nasiriyah—back to Remedy Fellowship—to receive care once more.

Yunus is back home now, and doing well.

He won’t need to travel across the world for surgery or checkups anymore—no one will ever ask him to spend three months in an ICU thousands of miles from home—because heart surgery shouldn’t require world travel.

The Remedy Fellowship program gives Iraqi children like Yunus the gift of high-quality medical care in their own country—so when they get sick, they won’t have to travel the world in search for healing.

Alex Allison is an almond-butter-lovin’ writing enthusiast with a penchant for allegories, Ray Bradbury, and studying Mandarin Chinese. Originally a farm girl from Amarillo, Texas, she recently graduated with a creative writing degree from Pepperdine University, and her current adventure involves her second summer spent collecting and sharing stories as PLC’s copywriting intern.

Committed to Care—Dr. Kirk Returns to Iraq

June 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Author’s note: Last week, our partners at For Hearts and Souls—the medical organization founded by Dr. Kirk Milhoan and his wife—came independently of PLC to screen children at the Fountain of Love center in Chamchamal, Iraq. The team graciously allowed me, as well as other members of PLC, to accompany them in their work, and I received my first glimpse into developmental pediatric cardiology in this country.

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Last Tuesday, a family brought their 21-day-old son to Dr. Kirk’s medical team, fearful. A local doctor had told them earlier in the day that their baby’s heart was sick, but they didn’t know how to help him.

The mother, father, and aunt knew they didn’t have enough money to send him out of the country for surgery. They needed another option to save their baby.

The family found Dr. Kirk in Shoresh, in the middle of screening nearly 1,000 children in just five days. He and his team had recently arrived from the US to check the hearts of children like this tiny boy.

But then the doctors confirmed the news: their baby had a complex heart defect that would require surgery.

The family’s options were limited, expensive, and only available abroad, until one of our staff heard the story and offered a more accessible location: a hospital inside Iraq associated with this year’s Remedy Fellowship program.

When we heard the news, we celebrated; this opportunity wouldn’t have been possible two years ago.

The next day, the baby and his family drove to receive help.

But then the phone call to our office came. Fifteen minutes after they had arrived at the hospital, the baby’s heart stopped. He passed away before he could receive medical care.

We—Dr. Kirk’s team, our team, local doctors, Fountain of Love, and our medical partners at the International Children’s Heart Foundation—did everything we could, but his little heart still stopped.

In the office that afternoon, processing how a family who had been given hope had just as quickly lost it, we were confronted with this reality:

Not every child’s story results in healing. Some end too quickly, too painfully. And when we see hurt, it can be difficult to press onward.

But even so, Dr. Kirk and his teams keep coming to Iraq.

Knowing they can’t save everyone, knowing that some stories don’t turn out the way we hope they would, they keep coming.

They practice disciplined love—committing to return to this place and these people in the hope that these kids might receive the best medical care possible, and that their stories might include healing.

Such faithfulness encourages us—and give us reason to be thankful—as Dr. Kirk and his teams continue to serve families across the country.

Alex Allison is an almond-butter-lovin’ writing enthusiast with a penchant for allegories, Ray Bradbury, and studying Mandarin Chinese. Originally a farm girl from Amarillo, Texas, she recently graduated with a creative writing degree from Pepperdine University, and her current adventure involves her second summer spent collecting and sharing stories as PLC’s copywriting intern.

It’s Working!

May 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, and look around you.”
—Leo Tolstoy

We’ve spent a lot of time looking ahead, casting vision. And for good reason, because we’re working for the day when The Backlog is just a memory and local doctors are saving lives all on their own.

But during our trek toward that day, we often look straight down at our feet, and we forget to enjoy the trip. So let’s take a minute to do so!

Developmentally speaking, last April’s Remedy Mission to Fallujah went over like a dream.

Dr. Firas, whom you’ve met before, had everything lined up for our team when we arrived. The initial echo screening process was the best kind of uneventful, the operations were all successful, and—the best part—the team performed 16 operations in just three days!

On our first mission to Fallujah, the team worked with Dr. Firas and his staff to perform 12 procedures in four days.

On the second mission, they did 16 procedures in five days.

And now 16 kids in just three days?

That, my friends, is progress!

Ask any teacher—tracking a student’s progress can be difficult. Is the information in one ear and out the other, only useful for an exam and then promptly forgotten? Or is the student learning and actually applying newfound knowledge to his life?

Thankfully, Dr. Firas and his team are the latter. They’re helping more children in less time with fewer complications. Of course, they still have a lot to learn, but they’re learning—and that’s something to celebrate!

To everyone who has donated to make these three missions possible in Fallujah: thank you!

We are doing this because of your generosity—onward!

A photo of a child's scar after a lifesaving heart surgery. Invest in these doctors by making a donation!

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalFor Hearts and Souls logo

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.

New Beginnings For Fallujah!

May 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

We’re pleased to announce that our most recent Remedy Mission in Fallujah went extremely well!

This was our third mission to Fallujah, and spirits are still high. Doctors and nurses are learning, children are being treated, and there’s a lot of optimism among our partners about this program.

But most importantly: we’ve seen calculable growth.

On our first mission to the city, the team worked with Dr. Firas and his staff to perform 12 procedures in 4 days. On the second mission, they did 16 procedures in 5 days. And now 16 kids in just 3 days!

That means our children-to-day ration climbed from 3 kids per day to 3.2 kids per day to now 5.3 kids per day, and that kind of progress means everything to those who have been waiting years for their chance at a lifesaving operation.

Thank you for making this kind of progress possible—maybe next mission will see 6 children saved per day!

Our Partners:
Living Light InternationalFor Hearts and Souls logo

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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