There are people in my life whom I haven’t seen in months and probably won’t see but once a year. When we meet again, we’ll spend most of our time discussing what’s happened since the last time we talked, trading stories and catching up on all the details. But when it comes to this particular Kurdish girl, it’s all different.
As an intern last summer I connected deeply with 8-year-old Nivar. Her sweet personality won all of us over, and her striking eyes captivated many of you. Her case was urgent and her parents’ money tight, but after a few pictures and stories, the donations poured in. You made it possible for Nivar to get surgery in Turkey last July.
I went with her, and I spent most of my free time in her room playing hand-clap games and learning the Kurdish names for colors. Without any language we became fast friends. I was there during her operation, and the photo below is the last I saw of her before leaving Istanbul for America. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.
But this morning, after 10 months, I got to see Nivar again. I was both nervous and excited. I couldn’t remember any of my Kurdish colors, the names of animals, or the rhyme we’d used in our hand-clapping games. We were greeted at the door and ushered into the house by Nivar’s parents. Just then, Nivar came running in from a back room, healthier than I’ve ever seen her. She seemed shy at first, very quiet and polite. After a few minutes I went out to the car for something and Nivar followed me. She threw her arms around my neck and kissed my cheeks, then started laughing and speaking Kurdish.
Not understanding a word, I quickly grabbed what I needed and let her pull me by the hand back into the house where she led me past all of the grown ups and into her room. First thing? Hand clapping games. We played with her doll, a toy piano keyboard and a story book written in English.
When her dad came in to call us to lunch she spoke hurriedly to him in Kurdish. He laughed and pointed at Nivar, then at me, and said carefully, “I love you”. My heart smiled. I remembered in the hospital in Turkey when Nivar had sent the same message through her (non-English speaking) father to me the morning of her heart surgery.
After lunch Nivar brought out her parent’s point-and-shoot to take pictures of me, her favorite way to tease me for the millions of pictures I’ve taken of her. It was so great to watch this little girl run around the room laughing; its hard to believe its the very same girl who could hardly catch her breath the last time I saw her.
As we got ready to leave, Nivar smiled and said something shyly to one of the Kurdish-speaking PLC staff. “She wants you to be her sister,” they translated.
My friendship with Nivar ranks high on my list of PLC Summer 2010 memories. Watching her grow more and more sick as her surgery approached, then actually standing at the foot of her operating table while doctors worked to correct her heart condition created an unforgettable bond between me and this little girl. 10 months later, I’m ready to start another summer of memories with Nivar and others like her.
July 18, 2010 by Jeremy · Comments Off
Her purple dress could not have matched her skin tone any better. As Nivar disembarked the airplane after arriving safely in Istanbul, I was more than a little scared that all our efforts were going to amount to a movement from the frying pan to the fire.
The oxygen in a crowded airplane cabin at cruising altitude is not the ideal environment for a child with a heart defect that inhibits the flow of oxygen throughout her body. And when I saw Nivar crouching down in the airport after going through the first round of security, I was really afraid that we might lose her right then and there.
In GOD’s kindness she worked through her breathing difficulty with the determination of someone who has never known any better. While I was worried about her, she seemed to hardly know anything was wrong. This shortness of breath, clubbed hands and toes, and deep blue skin is all she’s ever known.
Upon arriving at the hospital it was more of the same. She preferred to crouch on the floor to sit in her beautiful private bed. In fact, she preferred to crouch on the floor to pretty much any thing else at all.
But she’s here. She survived the flight and the travel across town – two things that we are constantly concerned about with children who are as sick as Nivar. Now she is in the capable hands of the medical staff at the Anadolu Medical Center. In a few days’ time, she will have had her heart surgery and, with great likelihood, will be on her way to a totally new life of long walks and intense soccer matches with her brother.
Stay tuned for more…
From the day I first met her in our office, what I remember most are her eyes. In the land of dark skin and eyes to match, Nivar and her hopeful, green eyes separate themselves from the rest.
Nivar is a young girl who feels the effects of her heart defects, a girl who is reminded daily of her need for surgery. Unlike some of our kids, who can live lives without many outward signs of their inward battle, the results of her defect is evident.
I went to visit Nivar and her family in the volatile Iraqi city of Chamchamal and was again reminded how I hate seeing the innocent suffer. While some stayed inside to talk, I was outside with Nivar and her brother, playing with their futbol, as has become the norm.
We started to kick it around, allowing the futbol to distract us from the pain of this situation. We forgot about thoughts of her failing heart; that she was different from me and her brother. We forgot this until Nivar walked away from us and lied down on their swing.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of this. Did she just not like futbol? Did she not like me?! What was it? I asked her to come back and play with us, and she quietly replied, “Natwanim, helakim” (I can’t. I’m tired).
Then it hit me. She really couldn’t keep playing. Her heart couldn’t handle it. She had no choice but to sit and rest.
And this is when I again started to grieve. What did Nivar do wrong? I long for restoration, when bodies no longer fail; when children no longer fear their hearts; when all is made right. I look into Nivar’s strikingly green, innocent eyes and need someone to blame.
This isn’t fair; it isn’t right. I am weary of child after child being brought to us by hopeful parents, praying to God we can save their son or daughter. Today, I just need someone to blame.
Is this Saddam’s fault, like so many claim? The chemical attacks, the gassing of thousands, the testing of primitive nerve gas agents on abducted Kurds − is this all his fault?
Those bombs he dropped; those slow-falling bombs filled with chemicals designed to savagely destroy all things living − what about those? Can I blame them? Are they the root of these issues? Did those weapons ever realize their deadly poison would be seeping their way into the heart of a little girl named Nivar years later?
Could Saddam have looked into these green eyes and continued to follow through with his attacks?
Many say it’s his fault. There’s no way to say it conclusively. Today, needing someone to blame, I blame Saddam. But even this is not complete.
No, we must go further than Saddam. For even he was driven by something. I can blame only sin. As a follower of GOD, I grieve the effects of our rebellion. I acknowledge these things also break GOD’s heart, and I long for things to be restored. I come to GOD hopeful, believing his promises that he loves his children, like Nivar, far more than I am ever able to.
And so, I hope.
SEND NIVAR TO SURGERY! Nivar has a four-fold set of heart defects known as Tetralogy of Fallot. At eight years old her growth has been stunted by lack of oxygen in her blood and subsequent lack of energy, activity, etc. But a total corrective surgery can still free her up for on-time development as she moves into her ninth birthday in September. Her father has gathered $3,500 from savings, friends, and family to help send Nivar to surgery! We need less than $2,000 to send her in July! Donate the amount of your choice below to get her on her way!