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.”
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!
March 1, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
Remedy Mission IX is at an end, and it’s success is more proof that you’re building something amazing here in Iraq.
It started with one little boy all those years ago, and now you are empowering on-the-ground specialists to train and save hundreds (and eventually thousands) of lives—you’re making all the difference!
So we thought we’d re-introduce you to our larger team in Iraq so you can know who does what around here.
The International Children’s Heart Foundation, or ICHF for short. These are our medical partners. Each mission they draw from an outstanding collection of volunteer nurses and doctors who are willing to spend their vacation time working for free in developing countries. How ’bout that for a holiday!?
Living Light International (LLI) completes this triumvirate by acting as our cultural compass. Their guidance and know-how make these surgical missions possible, and they’re incredibly well-connected. They make expansion to new frontiers and hospitals in Iraq possible, and they’ll even teach you some Arabic if you ask nicely.
Teaming up with these two has already left hundreds of families with now-healthy children, and we’re excited to save many more down the road!
February 23, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
I got word that our pig-tailed girl in the red coat left the ICU and was resting in her hospital room up on the sixth floor. So I grabbed my translator-friend and made the climb to hear more of Zahraa’s story.
Her father welcomed me into their room and we all sat down. He jumped right in and explained that his family had looked for a surgery for 3 years and spent over 17 million Iraqi dinar (nearly $15,000) on their search.
Zahraa had even been scheduled for surgery 7 other times, but each resulted in cancelation. Sometimes Zahraa got sick, and other times the Iraqi doctors got cold feet. It was a lot of disappointment to stomach.
But the mood couldn’t stay sad, because Zahraa’s life had already been saved! Her father beamed with joy and gratitude as he shared of his daughter’s dreams: “She begs me for sewing supplies. She wants to make dolls for herself and her friends.”
He went on to explain that the recent surgery made her want to be a doctor. She still wants sewing supplies, but she can’t decide if she would rather use them to make dolls for her friends or to give her friends stitches!
Regardless, Zahraa now has this and many other choices ahead of her because of your generosity! Thank for saving the life of this precious little girl!
February 20, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
We passed the midway point of Remedy Mission IX, and, for me, everything seemed to be moving in slow-motion.
It was the best problem any hospital could hope for: boredom.
When the alternatives are problems like drama between medical staff, complications in the ICU, or even death, I’ll take boredom any day!
I had already completed my morning rounds of photos and family meet-’n-greets, and I was back dozing in the break room, debating whether or not to eat an extremely unripe banana.
Then the break room door opened and in walked the little girl in the red coat. She was hugging a doll and squeaking something at me in Arabic.
Her dad poked his head into the room, apparently glad to have found her. He seemed embarrassed by her intrusion, but we invited them to sit and share their story.
I learned that the girl’s name is Zahraa, she is 6 years old, she has a beyond-your-typical-little-girl obsession with dolls, and she needs an urgent heart surgery.
While talking with her father, Zahraa leaned toward me from her dad’s arms and whispered something to me in Arabic.
“She says she loves you,” a translator explained.
Initiating heart meltdown.
As if that wasn’t enough, she proceeded to grab my head and kiss me on the cheek and then to tell everyone else in the room that she loved them, too. Her malformed heart certainly has no trouble expressing love! But she still needs an operation and, according to her father, it is scheduled to happen soon.
Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you more about the little girl in the red coat and her (hopefully) lifesaving operation!
February 12, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
I was a little worried when Hamma had to be carried from the ICU into the children’s ward. But the doctors said he is doing well and should be able to go home in a few hours. Then, sure enough, he perked up and now he’s walking all over the place!
After a sick heart, a smashed nose, and a surgery, I finally got what seems to be a smile out of this little boy. Isn’t he cute?
And he has reason to smile! His surgery was a complete success, and he is going home. Thank you for making Hamma’s surgery possible, and thank you for putting his best days ahead of him!
February 11, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
Remember super-sad-faced Hamma?! He’s getting surgery now!
I spent much of the day running in and out of the operating room to check on him. His father kept poking his head in from the hallway and whispering, “Psst! Mister! Photo Hamma?”
I felt like an image delivery boy with all the running back-and-forth, but letting Hamma’s dad ‘watch’ his son’s progress through surgery was extremely rewarding—at one point he even side-hugged me!
Here are a few of the photos I showed dad throughout the day:
(The boy isn’t alone here, the nurse just stepped away from the window)
As you can imagine, each picture I showed them brought on strong emotions, and by the end of the day his parent’s eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep and crying. But the doctors report that the surgery is going well.
More to come…
January 14, 2012 by Cody · Comments Off
Baby Ridha was born just 19 days ago. She may not be old enough to keep up with The Fantastic Five, but she was born at the perfect time for the surgeons to save her life. By the time Remedy arrived, Ridha’s heart was at the perfect developmental stage to be fixed, making her the 2nd (and the youngest!) baby to ever receive an arterial switch in Iraq!
July 4, 2011 by Cody · Comments Off
Noor’s wait is over!
She’s made it into the operating room and the doctors are hard at work making sure that they send Noor away with a strong and healthy heart!
If they’re able to accomplish all they hope to accomplish with Noor, it will be the 9th lifesaving heart surgery this trip.
Thanks for making this possible! More news to come…
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.”
It was after hours and I was already at home. But I could hear the urgency in his voice so I invited him to my home for tea. He arrived and made an impassioned plea for Yahya – his brother’s son. I was leery of helping Yahya after reading his reports – we had seen some children with complex heart defects like him die abroad and I couldn’t stand to put a family through that drama again. I did my best to avoid commitment and send Yahya’s uncle into the night without any solid hope for his nephew.
The following weeks were filled with phone calls and followup from the family, “Please help our boy!”
Finally, I met Yahya’s mom and dad and the little cutie himself. As they sat in my office they pled with humble urgency. They weren’t forceful. They weren’t rude. But they applied enough pressure on me that I couldn’t say “no” any longer. They made it abundantly clear that they understood the risk of his surgery and that they wanted it badly enough to endure whatever might come.
One of our core values as an organization is that we give “hope to the hopeless.” What that means is that we try to balance our impulse to be “last chance” people with our instinct to be “long-term” people. We held back on Yahya, wondering if it would give him long-term viability. But we ultimately dove in with Yahya’s family because we were their last chance. No one else would take on the risk.
We solidified this core value in November 2009 when we asked you what to do about a little boy named Ramyar. We asked you if you wanted us to apply your money in a high risk surgery or save it for a “sure thing.” You overwhelming said, “We want this Coalition to be about hope for the hopeless.”
We haven’t looked back since. We are the Last Chancers.
Still, committing to Yahya was full of complications. His surgery in Turkey was canceled due to an unavailability of an expensive assistant device. In fact, there was even discussion as to whether or not he should be included in our current Remedy Mission. Ultimately, we let the family themselves decide.
Our local cardiologist, along with our American surgeon, explained the risks of surgery, the option of waiting, etc. etc. Yahya’s dad was given a 50/50 chance of survival for little Yahya. Understandably, they wanted to give it a try. They couldn’t stand the risk of feeling like they had an opportunity to try and let it slip through their hands.
What would you have done? I have two kids – 5 and 3 years old. I have no idea what I would have done.
During Yahya’s surgery our Family Services Director, Jessica, sat down in the ward with all the parents whose kids were either in surgery or in critical condition in the ICU – those families whose kids were not “out of the woods” yet. As they asked questions about our organization and how long we’ve been working here, she recounted for them our past of taking children outside the country to significantly nicer hospitals than this Iraqi version in which we currently work. She told them about excellent American-trained Turkish doctors and fancy, pristine protocols abroad. Without fail, every family was so grateful for the chance to receive surgery at home. Let the Turks have their pristine hospital. “What if our child were to die abroad?” That would be a burden far too great to bear.
You gave Yahya’s family a chance that no one else would have. He had been rejected by every other opportunity out there. They are grateful to you. They will rest knowing they gave it their all for their only child.
And this is what we find almost universally – parents who just want a chance. And that’s what Remedy Missions are all about. We could continue to export kids to world class facilities, but who would invest in the future? We could continue to select the easiest children that almost never die, but does that make us any less culpable for the kids we pretend aren’t knocking on our door?
Was this a wasted opportunity? Did we waste the $670 that it cost us to provide Yahya surgery?
I used to feel that way when a child died in Turkey or Jordan or Jordan. I don’t feel that way anymore. Yahya’s death – though a terrible loss – was still an opportunity for local doctors to learn an innovative technique that they will be able to apply in future situations. His death was almost certainly unrelated to the particular tactic used in attempting to heal his heart. Educational gains always have significant costs. Before we only had the “we gave this child a chance” platitude. It’s not untrue. But local learning is an equally deep reason why your gift for Yahya made a difference.
Thank you for your willingness to stick with us through life and death. The gains that are needed here will not be made without significant risk and vision. We deeply appreciate your demand that we be the people of the last chance. I think it’s easier to sleep knowing we tried, than knowing we played it safe just so we could publish numbers and blog posts that seem more palatable.
+1 (806) 853-9131
See One. Do One. Teach One. Remedy Mission Trains Iraqi Heart Doctors and Nurses for the Future of the Children and their Country
February 23, 2011 by Jeremy · Comments Off
Push play above for a peek into what it means for our volunteers to be here training local Iraqi heart doctors and nurses.
After you’ve viewed it, please “SHARE” below with Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc.
If you’re on Twitter this week be sure to use the #RemedyMission hashtag to describe all the good news coming out of Iraq this week via @preemptivelove.