Hey guys! I want to tell you a story…
My cousin’s daughter, Madi, was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD). Seeing my cousin suffer wasn’t the only reason I chose to work with PLC this summer, but it was a major one.
Madi’s fight for her life began the day she was born, and it serves as a constant reminder of how important my work is here in Iraq.
Madi (short for ‘Madison’) spent the past 9 months in the world-renowned Texas Children’s Hospital receiving constant care and, for the past 4 months, she has been kept alive by a “Berlin heart,” an artificial device that pumps blood for her heart until she can get a transplant, technology that does not even exist in Iraq. Since Madi began treatment with the Berlin Heart, her name has been at the top of the heart transplant list in Houston. Through all that has happened, I have seen the complexity of CHD and the importance of having a well-trained medical staff.
I’m happy to report that, on May 29th, Madi received a NEW HEART! And this past week, after over 220 days in the hospital, Madi is now at home and ready to start the life she is supposed to live.
Our family spent months in prayer for Madi, and now we’re rejoicing, grieving, and praying through all that has happened. Although God has brought Madi and her family far, their journey is by no means over.
I hope you can join me in the celebration of a saved life, realizing that this is how families all across Iraq are affected when their child is saved. To date, PLC has saved hundreds of lives and will continue to save more. But each child has their own story and their own friends and family who are deeply involved in their battle with CHD.
So, wherever you are, try to enter into their story; see, feel, and think as they do, and then thank God if you have healthy children and great healthcare! You can also join us in our battle to fund surgeries, build infrastructure, and raise awareness for Iraqi families who aren’t as fortunate as my own by giving toward our brand new Remedy Fellowship campaign—help us save 300 little lives!
“No longer will she have to struggle to catch her breath every hour of the day or feel like she can’t stand and play with her toys because she’s too tired. Our baby girl will get to experience what life is meant to be, not what it has had to be for the past 22 months.”
—Tabitha Fleak, Madi’s mom
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…
Photo credit: AFP
A hospital in Iraq is back up on its feet after years of getting knocked down and now it’s better and bigger than ever!
Rebuilt after many years of violence in Iraq, the Ibn al-Bitar Hospital for Cardiac Surgery in Baghdad is beginning a new program to teach its doctors how to better operate on children who need heart surgery.
“”Until now, we have not been able to conduct heart surgery on infants,’ said Doctor Hussein Ali al-Hilli, director of the Ibn Bitar Hospital for Cardiac Surgery in Baghdad.
‘We receive 80 children a day with various heart-related birth defects that we cannot treat. We need three years to learn because such procedures are complicated,’ he added.”
Want to know more about this amazing project? Check out the full story here and tell us what you think in the comments section below!
I’m in an Iraqi hospital room, surrounded by five conservative, Muslim women, discussing Michael Jackson. Wait–what?
During our last Remedy Mission in southern Iraq I became curious about what these families think when they see me. When they meet a young, white, American girl do they take me for who I am, or do stereotypes and reality TV characters precede me? What kind of reputational baggage have American media, troops or aid workers left in Iraq that I don’t even know I’m up against?
Needing to get to the bottom of this, I grabbed a translator and headed to the hospital ward to ask these mothers, “Who or what represents ‘America’ to you?”
The first few answers were easy– “democracy”, “freedom”, “independence.” But these were not the answers I was looking for. I wanted to hone in on who was the singular “face” of America. So we started asking just that, “Which single person represents the United States to you?”
The most popular answer? Michael Jackson. I couldn’t help laughing out loud. Really? Michael Jackson? I was expecting Lady Gaga, Brad Pitt or perhaps Katy Perry (or President Obama, at the very least). But MJ? And I got this answer from not one but several Iraqi families. Pretty interesting, right?
But the resounding response I also kept hearing was….Dr. Novick! Our very own, world-renowned, rockstar heart surgeon from Memphis is revolutionizing the way Iraqis see Americans.
Many of the women agreed that this ICHF team had completely exceeded their expectations on the kindness of the West. I guess saving their child’s life leaves a stronger impression than “American Idol.”
Dr. Novick–Michael Jackson’s got nothing on you!
The doctors fully repaired Noor’s heart!
She’s thriving in the hospital ward right now as she shows us a side of her that we’ve never seen before. The difference between the Noor before the surgery and the Noor now is unmistakable. Before, we could barely get photos of her awake and active, but now we can’t catch her holding still.
Little Noor has left her mark on all of us…including our hospital equipment! We admit that this is NOT how you show the doctors how well you’re breathing after your surgery. But her teethmarks are another good sign that Noor can’t wait to get out of the hospital and back to being a kid!
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…
June 29, 2011 by Alex · Comments Off
Today, I hesitated outside the entrance of the hospital ward in southern Iraq. Kids spend most of the day waiting for surgery in this room.
Mothers and their children filled the room, and I didn’t want to barge into a room that these families might have thought were off-limits to outsiders.
But as I stood there, recognizing that I was the outsider, looking confused and out-of-place, a 6-year-old boy named Mohammed walked up, smiled, and took my hand as if he knew exactly what I was going through.
He safely escorted me to the back of the room so I could meet the family I had come to see.
Mohammed never left my side, but just kept holding my hand and making me feel more at-ease until he felt that his duty had been completed.
We couldn’t speak to each other and even though we interacted for only a few minutes, I can’t help but to look forward to spending more time with Mohammed.
What makes me more excited is that Mohammed isn’t just here to help out this goofy foreigner; he’s here to have his failing heart restored.
He’s here for the Remedy.
The doctors are still unclear as to how complicated Mohammed’s heart condition is, but they’re beginning the tests that will help them know what needs to be done to reclaim his heart.
In the meantime, we’ll just keep waiting.
Stay tuned for more updates on Mohammed.
While you wait check out Rokya’s Mom documenting her daughter’s Remedy in Iraq on our Facebook page.
June 27, 2011 by Cody · Comments Off
Today was our first day in the hospital, but it felt more like the first day of school. The hallways were filled with families and their children, deliveries were made, rooms were assigned, tours were given, and in the midst of all that we were looking for little four-year-old Noor.
While we were on the hunt for Noor, her family was looking for the lost and found in search of all their belongings that they left behind from the last Remedy Mission.
Noor was scheduled to receive surgery last Remedy, but on the last day her family received news that there wasn’t any more time left to operate on their child. It would have to happen the next mission. Heartbroken that their daughter wouldn’t be given a chance this time around, they held Noor close and returned home – forgetting all of their belongings on the hospital floor.
Today, they returned for all that was theirs to claim: their belongings and a second chance.
Noor’s on the schedule again for what we all hope will be a lifesaving surgery. Until then, we’re enjoying another opportunity to love on Noor!
Join us this week as we follow her second chance.
June 15, 2011 by Jeremy · Comments Off
At exactly this time last year, Hafez (pictured above) was facing down the worst Father’s Day of his life as he desperately worked against the clock to save his son’s life.
At exactly this time last year, we asked for your help… and you came through in a huge way, raising more than $30,000 in just a few weeks so we could launch our first-of-its-kind Remedy Mission inside Iraq.
At exactly this time last year, you made this father’s day and helped secure for him a happier life than the one he was facing without you.
Meet Abdul Kareem – the son of my friend, Hafez. When I met them, they did not have the money to pursue surgery outside of Iraq like all the rich people, people with political clout, or the lottery winners.
I’ll never forget Hafez’s plea to me – certainly the same plea I would make on behalf of my son – “Just do something for him. He’s just a little boy.” He got so emotional that he excused himself from my office. This father, having done all he could for his son, walked away from the office crying. Abdul Kareem needed heart surgery before his first birthday or he was likely to become entirely inoperable – “a lost cause.”
But you weren’t about to let that happen!
The day our surgical team arrived from all over the world for Remedy Mission I, Hafez must have seen us on the news because he called me ten times: “Is my boy going to surgery? Mr. Jeremy, just do something to help my little boy!”
His boy was going to surgery, thanks to those of you who gave in response to our request last year’s for Father’s Day and our Remedy Mission launch!
There is another moment with my friend Hafez that I won’t forget – the day his son Abdul Kareem had surgery. I remember it so distinctly because after the surgery Hafez grabbed me, kissed me, and gave me an
tearful “thank you” for keeping our word; for saving his son’s life.
tearful “thank you” for keeping our word; for saving his son’s life.
Once Abdul Kareem was discharged to return home, Hafez sent me a message from the road. The message said something like, “Thank you so much for your organization and for helping my little boy. We will not forget you.“ With tears running down his face, he wanted to thank you each by name. You made a father’s dream come true. And you prevented his big brother, Abbas, from growing up without a soccer-buddy.
Dad, I love all the great memories we’ve made together. This year, I wanted to add, “saving a child’s life in Iraq” to the list, so that another child and his father can make great memories together too.
|We want to make it easy for you to honor your dad this Father's Day and help save the life of baby Ghazel. A simple $10 donation will help us save her life and cover the cost of two hours of hands-on training with local Iraqi surgeons! A $25 donation will accomplish that and add hours of training in Iraq for an additional three Iraqi doctors and nurses! If you like, we'll even provide you with a free downloadable card that you can print and give to your dad this Father's Day!|
June 10, 2011 by Adam · Comments Off
Yusuf is a brave 1-year-old who underwent heart surgery this past March. When his family brought him to the hospital, Yusuf blood had low levels of oxygen that had already tainted his skin blue. The surgeon needed to fix four heart defects for Yusuf to survive.
But thanks to caring donors and local support, Yusuf is very much alive!
You helped Yusuf receive a heart surgery, and, because of you, I was able to visit and make sure his recovery is going well. This is what we call Followthrough. CLICK HERE to learn more on the importance of Followthrough.
As we sat down with Yusuf and his family I was overwhelmed with all the cultural differences around me, but there was a strange sense of familiarity as well.
Shortly after we sat and talked in Yusuf’s living room, his family rolled out a giant feast for us. We ate until we were full, and there was still enough left to feed us for dinner! Then we drank tea, and the refills seemed to be endless.
As we drank tea and took photos of Yusuf, his older sister played with him and entertained us with her hilarious faces. Yusuf’s grandfather would toss his phone across the living room floor while Yusuf would scoot across the room to return it again and again.
The familiarity I recognized during my visit was the same warm family dynamic and rejoicing I experience with my own family.
Even though we ate sitting down on a concrete floor, followed a completely different set of manners, and understood very little of the words spoken, the joy and relationship between these family members was the same as many American families I know.
We laughed and enjoyed the fact that their son’s life had been rescued. At this point in the visit I began to see these faces as my family and friends rather than as distant strangers.
This family was so grateful for us, for their son, for his surgery, and for a community willing to come together to provide a solution for their needs. I felt the warmth in their home through photos of Yusuf, endless cups of tea, a floor full of food, and a room bursting with smiles.
No matter how great the cultural barriers there are some values and moments humanity can rejoice in and enjoy together. These shared moments and values are the most significant puzzle pieces of our own identity.