Our girl Zahraa was sent up from the ICU to the ward today. She’s the first child from this mission to make it out of the ICU, and she’s almost certain to be the first to go home.
We’re now halfway through Remedy Mission XIII, and today is our midway break day. Last mission we visited Babylon and one of Saddam’s old palaces, but today the team is just relaxing around the hotel and getting some rest.
It’s this halfway point, though, when the ICU begins getting full, and we have to wait for children like Zahraa to get well enough to leave the ICU before the team performs more surgery. If there aren’t available beds, the children can’t be cared for after their heart is fixed. In short, please pray for the children who are recovering. Right now there are four in the ICU, and they’re all doing fairly well.
Thanks for your support and encouragement during these missions. You’ve helped us get so far, so keep tracking with us and we’ll have more updates for you when surgeries begin again tomorrow!
These were just a few of the positive reactions we got after our first surgical mission to Najaf, and we’re finally going back! Developing heart surgery centers—and development in general—takes a lot of investment, time, and effort. One two-week mission, while good, just wasn’t enough. We’ll need many more if we’re going to bring these centers fully online. We’re in this for the long-haul.
So this will be our second surgical mission to the Holy City of Najaf, and we’re eager to meet the children and their families.
There is one child we’ve already met, though: do you remember Hussain? This sweet little boy missed his chance at a lifesaving surgery over the summer, but he’s getting another shot soon!
In fact, he’s #3 on our ‘to-save’ list. Meet him (and say hello by posting a note or photo) HERE, and stay tuned for more updates on Hussain and his friends in Najaf.
The mission starts the second week of September!
During my internship, I learned a lot about the local food, language, and the overall culture of Iraqi Kurdistan. I expected to learn all these things while living in a new country, but here are a few things I never expected I would learn during my time there:
1) How to write professionally—I finished my college English courses as a first semester freshmen, not because I was good at English, but because it was my least favorite subject and I wanted to finish it as soon as possible. Since being accepted to the summer internship, I’ve written a lot for PLC and I really enjoyed it, much to my surprise.
I was dubbed the “press intern,” which involves writing press releases for the intern’s home town papers and networking with other larger publications. I saw a lot of rejection, but I also had some successes, which made all my effort worthwhile. All-in-all, I really enjoyed writing about PLC because I think what they do is amazing, so if writing is a great way to tell others about the amazing things going on here in Iraq, I’m all for it!
2) How to use Insta.gram for good—Insta.gram is a mobile application used to share photos. The PLC staff started using it this year to offer you a glimpse of life here in Iraq and to give you a picture of where all your support is going. Across the board, people are more likely to share, like, and comment on photos over links or pure text, and Insta.gram is a great platform to help us get you involved.
When the PLC staff aren’t in their office working to get children heart surgeries, they’re out in the community and spending time with locals. We use the Insta.gram platform to show people what it’s like to live in this culture in hopes of humanizing the people here. I was fortunate to be able to take over this task for the summer, and I even got to help mobilize the other interns and their camera phones so I was not the only person taking photos of our experience in Iraq. To see the photos we grabbed over the summer, click here.
3) How to write HTML—HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is an online language that is used to build web pages. I was expecting to write a little before I came to Iraq, but I was definitely NOT expecting to learn how to build web pages. Within a few weeks of living here I was learning not one but two new languages: Kurdish and HTML. I learned HTML to build landing pages for the Preemptive Love Facebook page in order to engage our Facebook supporters by inviting them to fund children’s medical supplies. It has been fun to learn these two new languages, and I hope to continue to learn and use them in the future! So, using both languages, I’ll bid you a farewell:
<center><span style=”font-family: Helvetica, Arial, Tahoma, Verdana; color:#7F7F7F; font-size: 20px”><b><i> ﺧﻮا حافیز </b></i></span></center>
The summer of 2012 will always be a memorable experience for all of us interns who were fortunate enough to go to Iraq. We learned and sharpened valuable skills, we built long-lasting relationships, and we’ve had experiences that will continue to shape us for the rest of our lives. To read more about our experiences in places like Fallujah, Sulaymaniyah, and Dohuk, click here.
April 24, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
Over the last few months we’ve seen an incredible influx of new readers and supporters, so it seemed good to put our most informative and successful video to-date back on the blog.
Whether you’re brand new or if you’ve been here a hundred times, watch it and let me know your reaction. Is it naive? Spot-on? Over-the-top? Email me!
March 23, 2012 by Behar Godani · Comments Off
For millions of immigrants in America,
a sense of belonging and successfully handling their dual cultural identity is one of the most difficult and challenging of tasks. On the one hand, your heart is tied back to a land that was once your home—as is the case with my parents—or at least a place that feels a lot like home—as is the case with my siblings and I.
Yet no matter how many times we go back there or insist that we want to spend the rest of our days here, there never seems to be a perfect fit. There moved right past my parents and the memories they could have made had they not been forced to leave thirty years ago, and here feels much more familiar.
As a result, we’re stuck between here and there, never completely belonging anywhere.
But perhaps the beauty in the limbo that so many immigrant families find themselves in is that they are able to understand and exist in both places at once.
And perhaps that’s where the secret to truly co-existing beside one another lies as well.
There are immigrants who have walked in our shoes, but there are plenty more back there—in Iraq—who, like my parents, were forced to leave and if they survived were likely to be internally displaced. And that’s where so much of the current resentment lies. It was never truly an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality in the sense that entire groups of people became alienated from one another. No matter how bad things became in Iraq, there was always a recognition that the majority of its citizens were good people.
Now, many wonder if the country and its people—in light of recent political developments—will ever live up to the potential that so many of its own politicians boast about and so many in the West had initially hoped for.
The key lies not in government policies, per se—which I yield, can at times favor one group over another and further disenfranchise other groups who already don’t feel welcome in the political system—but in all-natural and real human connections. When people can put a face on families affected by violence, when a doctor from a different faith or ethnicity saves a child’s life, when a Muslim breaks bread with a Christian who’s just as Iraqi as anyone else, the concept of “preemptive strikes” and bombings will become just as foreign and distant a concept as they were all those years ago. Then “preemptive love” and a true sense of commitment to the success and prosperity of the Iraqi state for the sake of its people will begin to emerge.
No more will bureaucrats, insurgencies, or fringe groups attempt to dominate the hearts and minds of the people as much as they have in the past because the people, like my parents, will come to learn the importance of existing in the now. They’ll learn that yes, you may have been displaced and you may have lost loved ones like so many innocent Iraqis have, but our humanity and our hopes for a better future must transcend the easy way out which often involves blaming an entire people or religious group for why things are currently the way they are.
Most immigrants face the challenge of simply reconciling their ethnic identities with their American ones, but families who hail from conflict zones—both those who had an opportunity to escape and those who were forced to stay behind—face the added difficulty of not only staying true to the identity that various groups have tried to wipe out, but also of keeping the anger and sadness in their hearts from ultimately skewing how they view “the other.” That of course can only happen with social projects and movements that focus on bringing different groups together so that individuals can begin to put a face on “that religion” or “that ethnic group.”
Eventually, they’ll come to find—as we all eventually must come to find as human beings—that religion, ethnic identity, the types of clothes a person wears, or the color they choose to dye their hair quickly falls away once that connection is made and “that” person becomes a friend.
February 3, 2012 by Jeremy · Comments Off
I remember those early, heady days when we founded the Preemptive Love Coalition and we envisioned—for the first time—an Iraq free of the burdensome backlog of children waiting in line for heart surgery. I remember calling families to alert them that we could finally send their child to heart surgery, only to hear on the other end of the line a polite-but-devastated, “It’s too late. My child died yesterday.”
I’ve sat in different waiting rooms across the country where children were waiting to be seen by the doctor, and I’ve seen children die before my eyes—literally while waiting in line.
We’ve said from the beginning that our mission is to “eradicate the backlog.” But our vision, stated more positively, is that every Iraqi child would have access to the surgical intervention they require to thrive.
Since 2003 and the start of the war, an estimated 50,000 children have been born into The Backlog. There is no way of knowing how many were already alive and waiting in line before that time; nor do we know how many we have lost during that period nationwide.
In that time, while seeking to serve these children, we have faced bombings, death threats, the imprisonment of our staff, armed conflict in the cities where we’ve worked, political roils, funding crises, and partnerships that have turned predatory.
The minefields you will have to endure while pursuing your vision are complex. All the easy stuff has been accomplished already! The things that remain are usually fraught with risk and even danger. Depending on your context, it will become impossible at times to move forward with your vision at all.
So what do you do when you are placed in a holding pattern? Like these Iraqi children I’ve sat with and held, the “waiting room” is where many a vision has died. Visions need activity. They need momentum. They need progress.
Below are three things I’ve consistently done to nurture vision while stuck, for reasons beyond my control, in the waiting room.
1) Plan. Whether the vision you are nurturing is one for your marriage, your children, your business, or some social issue across the world, nothing gets done well without planning. When you start to become dissatisfied with the world (marriage, business, etc) as it is; when you start to envision a better way to live or a solution to one of the world’s intractable problems, you must begin to plan.
Planning means different things relative to the vision in question. It might mean quiet research on the problem itself. It might require a lot of info gathering about proposed and enacted solutions currently in the marketplace. If the problem is really so bad, why has no one else tackled it yet? What are the obstacles to success? Is the space crowded with solutions already? What would you need to do in order to bring something new to the field? What will it cost if it all goes well? What will it cost if it all goes terribly?
Woe to the visionary who jumps in without planning. The waiting room is one of the most important places for a vision to begin, as it gives us time to make our missteps on paper before ever spending a dime or wasting the time of others in the real world.
2) Position. I’ve met many people along this journey who want to eradicate poverty, provide clean water, transform social problems across Iraq and the Middle East, etc. Among the worst things I’ve seen passionate visionaries do is a chronic failure to become well-positioned in the field of choice so that expertise and solutions might flow more naturally.
A well-intentioned twenty-something starts a new non-profit organization out of Idaho to help Darfur. A well-to-do family from the suburbs launches a ministry to the homeless downtown. A businessman seeks to change industries and launch a new venture at the invitation of a friend.
Sometimes these things work well enough. But if you are pursuing a vision for the future as it should be, and not merely as it is, you must position yourself for the desired change.
Whenever possible, I advocate networking and proximity. Trying to engineer a vision for another part of the world from the comfort of your living room in America is usually a bad idea. A reliance on internet material instead of diverse, first-hand accounts from your customers or constituents just won’t cut it. Whether you are in business or in international development—indeed even as a parent or a spouse—vision is about meeting the needs of others. We must be in a position to accurately understand the needs of those for whom we are pursuing our vision.
When the waiting room keeps you from fully acting upon your desired vision, sometimes the best thing you can do is move your body; get closer to the action; and hold more meetings with all relevant parties to ensure that you deeply understand the issues affecting them.
3) Pray. I won’t spend my time on a vision that I can accomplish on my own. Anything small enough to be accomplished by me, without the intervention of God, is a task that I am happy to forgo and leave for someone else.
When I pursue vision, I choose to work on things that overwhelm me and cause me to go to God in prayerful dependence. In fact, one of the greatest things for me about pursuing vision is the act of worship that it can become; not worship of the vision itself, but worship of the God who alone can sovereignly work through human freedom to bring about a better future.
I realize not all readers and visionaries will agree with me on this point. But when I am sitting in the waiting room of vision (or riding the wave of visionary success, for that matter), I commit myself again and again to God who hears, who cares, and who proactively works in this world to set all wrongs to right.
The snares that lay in wait for you on your journey to fulfill your vision are beyond number. The delays and unexpected detours have caused the death of countless visions and visionaries. Planning, positioning and prayer are neither exhaustive nor fool-proof, but without these disciplines, my vision that every Iraqi child would have access to the cardiac surgical intervention they require to thrive in childhood and become fully-contributing members of society would have long-since died in the many waiting rooms that have beset us along the way.
Are you in a holding pattern? Are you waiting on details to be clarified? Is your how still taking shape now that you’ve defined the what of your vision?
Keep planning, get positioned, and by all means I commend to you the God Who Cares.
These things are not passing. They are still a part of the active pursuit of your vision. Do you see it differently? Do you have other disciplines you use when stuck in one of life’s waiting rooms? I would love to hear about it. Send me an email by clicking this link.
January 27, 2012 by Jeremy · Comments Off
I have a hard time accepting things as they are. I’m more of a “how they should be” kind of guy. I’d rather vacation in Iraq, Yemen or Libya than Paris, London or Tokyo. I see discrepancies and obsess over them. My team says I’m “persnickety”—I prefer to think of myself as “particular” or “exacting.” To-may-to, to-mah-to.
In any case, I operate daily according to a vision of the future that is not yet reality.
I prefer the word “vision” to the word “dream” because dreams are so often associated with “dreaming”, “dreamy” and “dreamers.” “Dream” has connotations of other-worldliness. Apart from Martin Luther King’s wonderful speech, most “I have a dream” talk that I’ve encountered reeks of non-action, an assumption that dreaming alone is enough to spark the desired change.
Think of the spate of status updates and tweets on New Year’s Eve in which people dreamed (and invoked Dreaming’s close cousins, “Hope” and “Wish”) for world peace, an eradication of poverty, and global sing-alongs. At the risk of sounding cynical, much of our dreaming is just socially conscious enough to sound engaged and just vague enough to require zero effort of our own.
Therefore, I prefer to have vision over dreams. In the way I use the word, vision requires much of me. I work on vision. I plan for vision. I submit my vision to the critique of others so that it will be refined and strengthened. I seek partnerships to bring the vision into reality. And I pray while waiting for the correct timing to pursue vision.
This post marks the launch of a series on vision – how to define it, nurture it, pursue it and succeed in it. Ultimately I want to encourage others out there who have a hard time accepting things as they are. I want to ignite more passion in the hearts of those of you who insist on returning things to how they should be.
In the process, you will get a clearer picture of what it has required for us to get to this point as an organization. I will be honest about our failures and I will paint a picture of a future Iraq—and a future world—that I hope you will find compelling and inspiring.
We are not just out here in Iraq cranking out heart surgeries. There is a much more sweeping vision, and I feel I’ve failed to bring that to the fore regularly enough.
As you read, if there is anything you feel you’d like to ask or any way in which I might spur you on in your vision, don’t hesitate to send me an email by clicking this link.
January 17, 2012 by Cody · Comments Off
Ali’s days in the hospital got a whole lot more exciting once the doctors told him that tomorrow’s his turn to get his heart fixed!
What’s the first thing he did when he heard that? He grabbed the phone and called Dad.
Ali is just hours away from getting his heart mended—get ready!
January 15, 2012 by Cody · Comments Off
A lot of you met Ali already, when he welcomed you to Remedy.
Whether he’ll admit it or not, he’s the ringleader and the brains behind The Fantastic Five. When Ali and The Fantastic Five aren’t by my side, it usually means I’m in the OR or in a meeting, in which case Ali will patiently sit right outside the door separating us. Just last night he called me over a dozen times on my phone, asking how I was doing and exhausting all of the Arabic I know.
What excites me the most about my friend Ali, though, is what he wants to be when he grows up. He wants to become a heart surgeon.
Yesterday we sat down and talked about his heart defect and I asked him why he wanted to become a heart surgeon. He responded, “I want to save others like me.”
If all goes well, Ali is just days away from his lifesaving heart surgery, where he’ll be saved by a heart surgeon and his team. I asked Ali if he’s excited for his surgery and he gave me a thumbs up and said “Yes – Yes!”
Ali is one day closer to being saved and getting the chance to save others…stay tuned!
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!