Growing up, my dream jobs were a little ridiculous, but that’s a part of what made them dreams. And they were mine.
But what if someone had actually approached 8 year-old me and said, “We’re bringing you some of the the best primatologists in the world to train you for an entire year because we want you to be excellent—we’re going to help you achieve your dream.”
Put mildly, I would’ve been very excited.
But that’s monkey business (sorry) when compared with the gift YOU’ve given to Iraqi doctors like Dr. Akeel and his team: an entire year of hands-on training from some of the best cardiac doctors and nurses in the world.
Dr. Akeel’s dream is to become the kind of heart surgeon who can save the lives of thousands and help eradicate The Backlog, and you’re making that possible. This isn’t some silly child-hood fantasy, this is the realization of something incredibly valuable, and it will bless countless lives.
Since we started this year of doctor-training and life-saving down in Nasiriyah nearly four months ago, there has been a constant stream of hands-on training for the doctors and nurses there. The pace of a year-long program like this is much different from our fast-paced, packed Remedy Missions.
As of today, an average of 12 children have received heart operations per month and countless thousands of hours of training have been logged. The International Children’s Heart Foundation team members are creating protocols and teaching the locals how to follow them, the local ICU staff are getting the kind of in-depth training they need, and Dr. Novick is personally there now doing diagnostics, providing operations, and leading training sessions.
But that’s not the best part. The most exciting news is that the people of Nasiriyah and the Thi-Qar province finally have an ongoing source of hope for their children. They don’t have to batter down the hospital doors, begging for a remedy.
Now, the Remedy is there to stay. The doctors aren’t leaving, and they can breathe a little easier knowing the team is working through a long list, getting closer and closer to saving their child’s life, and you helped give that to them. Thank you!
Stay tuned, we’ll have more real-time updates for you from Remedy Fellowship very soon.
And what about you? If you had access to a group of experts who were willing to train you toward excellence in a field, what would it be? Comment below or send me an email here, I’d love to hear from you! Just don’t say Jedi…if they come to train someone, it’ll definitely be me.
It seems fitting that all of this starts with a little boy named Haydar.
Haydar means “lion” in Arabic and when the local doctors in Nasiriyah, Iraq sent us a list of 500 children that they wanted to save during the Remedy Fellowship, Haydar was sitting at the top of the list.
And so the #1 surgical training program in all of Iraq—Remedy Fellowship—is set to begin in just a few hours with a lifesaving operation for Haydar!
Haydar will be followed by hundreds more in the coming months as the Remedy Fellowship provides 47 weeks of lifesaving surgery and training to doctors and nurses from all over Iraq.
But before we begin by saving Haydar, I want to thank you, because I know that all of this began with you.
It began with us telling you how we have the incredible opportunity to partner with Iraq and save hundreds of lives while giving the Nasiriyah Heart Center their best chance at becoming a sustainable and enduring local solution for children all over Iraq who have been born with heart defects.
Then you joined us. You donated your hard-earned money and you used your voice to ensure that the people of Iraq were given this opportunity.
And it worked—you’ve given us everything we need to launch the Fellowship today!
It’s made all the difference for Haydar.
April 10, 2012 by Jeremy · Comments Off
When you intend to be in the “business” of saving lives, facing up to death can be a difficult thing.
For my part, in leading the Preemptive Love Coalition, knowing how to admit “failure,” when to acknowledge death without assigning fault, and when to let a death go unreported can be very difficult. The inherent difficulties are compounded by my responsibilities to various constituencies, including (but not limited to) the parents, local health care professionals, local political realities, coalition partners, national political realities, and international donors. At any given time, any one of these entities could be pushing for more or less reporting on a specific item; on a specific death and data set that would include a specific death.
In our January Remedy Mission VIII, a little boy named Yousef that we had grown to really love died in surgery. We held him up as a beacon of hope for the future of all Iraqi children facing congenital heart disease. We told his story and proudly proclaimed his desire to be the next world-famous soccer player. And then we asked you to give your money so that he could be saved by a team of international doctors and nurses. We also promised that his surgery would be an occasion for still more training for Iraqi doctors and nurses in our Nasiriyah program in southern Iraq during the mission (which was to be our sixth mission to the center in just 13 months).
Suffice it to say that a local trainee made a mistake that cost Yousef his life.
Because Yousef was the first child in line for treatment that mission, we questioned what the psychological impact would be in widely reporting his death. Again, our considerations involved our international volunteers, local politics, coalition partners and international donors most specifically.
Remedy Mission VIII also featured two first-time nurses from the International Children’s Heart Foundation, both of which provided excellent insights into the local situation and helpful critique about the lack of success and development in the Nasiriyah program.
As we struggled to understand the death (the first mortality in 2-3 missions), our focus was on program development and responses to the conditions that led to the fatal error. Once the mission was over, a few more children had died and reporting on any single one of them was basically more than any of us could stand to emphasize at the time.
A typical response from a surgeon might be “Children have to die in order to build a heart surgery program.” And it’s true. But we are not surgeons. We are just a few normal people who have not held the human heart in our hands and who have not trained for this.
I’m writing to apologize for not reporting on Yousef’s death. We sent a private email to all who donated to Yousef’s account and let them know. But we did not endeavor anything more public.
After the mission a close friend who was still praying for Yousef contacted me without knowing he had died. It was then that I realized how many friends Yousef had and realized that it is not donations alone that tie us each to these children we seek to help. We are drawn in by their eyes, their stories and the hope they exude.
I wish now I would have allowed you to mourn Yousef’s death with us. They are not always easy decisions when juggling the preferences of so many stake holders. But somewhere along the way I gave up trying to push the message out because I did not want to come face to face with the story of his death again.
When you’re in the business of saving lives, “almost” doesn’t count.
We miss Yousef. He was a bright light!
And there are many other children out there who need our help; who are likely to survive; who can greatly benefit from surgical intervention. And there are hundreds of doctors and nurses who desperately need to be trained so they can serve these children on their own.
Thank you for continuing to stand with us…
Please feel free to email me with any questions or concerns.
January 22, 2012 by Cody · Comments Off
As I write this, I’m driving away from Remedy Mission VIII. Just hours ago, we were in the hospital waiting for our 16th child to come out of the operating room.
This mission’s last child was a little baby boy named Younis.
Younis came 400 miles to get to Remedy, but the drive took it’s toll and Younis—just 2 months old—came down with a fever. Every day we put him on the schedule for surgery, but every day we had to cancel because his fever wouldn’t break. Some days it would break in the middle of the night, but by the time we could rush to the hospital to operate the fever had returned. This continued until the very last day of the mission. This time his fever broke for good, giving us just enough time to give Younis the lifesaving surgery for which he had traveled so far.
These are the stories of Remedy.
I also had the privilege of telling Ali’s story this mission, but it wasn’t just Ali who you helped us save this mission. You saved Amjed, Zainab, Alawi, Zain, and so many more.
This past week I’ve been reflecting more on the lives of these children and the life and vision of Martin Luther King Jr. In between surgical days I re-listened to some of his sermons, trying to once again stir my heart for the things that stirred his.
I was humbled by the devotion and the vision that he carried throughout his life, right up until his assassination. He maintained an astounding vision of God and his fellow man, one that led to his unparalleled passion for justice and peace.
King reminded me once again that there comes a point when silence is betrayal.
And so he shouted out for justice, equality and love. He spoke up for the broken, the poor, the ones affected by unjust war and the ones who had no voice of their own.
And people listened. We’re still listening.
This week I’m profoundly grateful for the life of Martin Luther King Jr. And I’m also profoundly grateful for you.
You see, these Remedy Missions can’t happen without you. In our writings we use the word “I” and “we” a lot but truth-be-told, I can’t think of one thing “I’ or “we” have done apart from you.
Because of that, together we’re breaking the silence. You’re bringing Remedy Missions to cities all over Iraq and because of that you’re saying to the people of Iraq “You are not alone. We are in this together.”
And they’re listening.
Thank you for not reducing the vision and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to a yearly quote, but for committing to live it out by saving the lives of children like Ali and Younis. Thank you for Remedy Mission VIII!
We’re just two weeks away from our next Remedy Mission….stick with us!
January 19, 2012 by Cody · Comments Off
Ali was just brought out of the operating theater and into the ICU—with a mended heart!
The next 24 hours will be absolutely crucial for Ali, though. The operation was a complete success, but now we have to wait to see how his heart and the rest of his body will respond.
I ran into the ICU so I could take the above photo of Ali and show it to his mother. She was ecstatic to see her little boy!
Who knows what will happen next—Ali could be up walking around as soon as tomorrow!
January 18, 2012 by Cody · Comments Off
I got to the hospital this morning only to find out Ali had just been wheeled into the operating room for surgery.
I went to see how Ali’s mother was doing and she was surrounded by a group of women—all with enormous smiles on their faces. I asked why they were all smiling and they said it’s because Ali is getting his heart fixed!
12 years of waiting for a lifesaving heart surgery…I’d be all smiles too!
Ali should be coming out of the operating room within the next few hours. We’ll let you know how it goes!
December 24, 2011 by matt · Comments Off
We had an unexpected visit the other day from one of our biggest supporters, Iraq’s former Vice President!
With all the recent bad press about Iraqi politics, we’re encouraged by Dr. Adel Abdul Mahdi’s devotion to saving the lives of Iraqi children. He made our first Remedy Missions in southern Iraq possible, and even though his political role has changed, he continues to support our work by visiting children, encouraging doctors and advocating on our behalf.
Mohammed – quite possibly one of the cutest kids in southern Iraq – is currently resting after his successful surgery!
On our last day at the hospital we found out that Mohammed has suffered through much more than a failing heart; just before he was born his father left their family, and his mother was left to raise him alone.
That’s a big deal in a region like southern Iraq. It’s not easy for a woman to take on that kind of responsibility alone, which is why I feel such respect for Mohammed’s mother.
Like so many single mothers, she worked hard to raise an amazing kid, and she helped get him to the place where his life could be saved.
So, as we near the end of Remedy Mission VI, we’re celebrating Mohammed’s successful surgery, but we can’t really celebrate his life without acknowledging the hero who has always stood behind him.
We’re excited that Mohammed’s heart is healing, and he can now grow into a man capable of caring for the woman who sacrificed so much for him.
So from Mohammed, his mother, and all of us – thanks for saving his life!
It’s official. We’re overrun. And it’s all your fault. (But we’re not complaining.)
When we first started doing this back in 2007, we were around a lot of sick children and very few healthy ones. Because Remedy Missions are spreading across Iraq, we’re still coming across more and more sick children in more communities, but thanks to you guys we’re starting to spend a lot more time with children who USED to have heart defects. Last week you helped us provide our 163rd heart surgery. Tomorrow, we’ll give our 175th! See how fast it’s all happening?!
It was easy to reach the point where we felt overwhelmed by the thousands of sick children in Iraq, but I never thought we would reach the point where we became overwhelmed by the healthy ones.
Thanks to you, we have.
This Remedy Mission, I’ve had the chance to catch up with the local doctors and scroll through all the photos of children from the past missions. We talk about how they’re doing and often they just pick up the phone right there and call them. We’re constantly coming up with ways where we can see them all in person again, too. Recently, we found a way to see Ali Raad from our third Remedy Mission and he’s doing GREAT!
When I asked his family about the biggest change since Ali’s surgery, they smiled and threw their hands in the air and said, “He just doesn’t stop playing!”
Ali’s journey isn’t quite over yet though. Like a lot of children born with heart defects, he was born with a cleft pallet as well. It’s a simple fix but because of his heart defect, doctors couldn’t operate on his cleft pallet unless his heart was fixed. Now that his heart is strong, they just have to wait a few more months to fix his cleft pallet!
If you never gave Ali his heart surgery, he would never have been able to get surgery on his cleft pallet and as a result he never would have had the opportunity to go to school or eat the foods he needs to be eating to grow.
But that’s not the case. Your generosity saved his life and put him back on track to enroll in school next year!
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…