On our recent Remedy Mission X in Fallujah, we were privileged to work alongside Drs. Kirk and Kim Milhoan. Dr. Kirk, one of the most traveled and experienced cardiologists in the world, brought a team of 6 Americans to Fallujah last week and provided 12 Iraqi children with an operation—it was an incredible success!
We had such a great time working with the team that we’ve asked them to share a little about their experience, and Dr. Kim Milhoan has graciously obliged. Keep reading below…
So, I’d be absolutely lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about this trip. Everyone who reads my writing prior to this trip knows that I spent the week really asking God for what He is trying to teach me. And often I find the lesson is very different from what I thought it would be.
By the time I arrived in Fallujah, I was actually excited for the honor and opportunity to step out in faith. In my mind, this had never been required of me to this level, where I truly thought my personal security and safely could be at risk. Here comes the part where I absolutely praise our Fallujan hosts: they have gone out of their way to protect us with constant armed guards, armored vehicles, etc. I never felt unsafe.
I believe that all of man’s defenses are ultimately penetrable, but they did everything in their power to keep us safe. They were gracious, welcoming, generous, and concerned for our every need and comfort. I could relax. And, as strange as it might seem, this confused me. I was actually looking forward to a difficult week of utter reliance on God. I realized how quickly I can revert to reliance on man.
The same is true in our care for the children. We’ve done this a lot. We’ve gotten good at making the best of less-than-ideal-circumstances. Once again, I began to rely on my skills or supplies rather than on God’s provision. So if I wasn’t exercising utter reliance on the Lord for safety or for patient outcomes, I was at least being a good witness for the Lord in whom I believe. It’s like the bible says, “they will know we are Christians by our love.”
We can laugh as a team because we’ve been doing this together so long that we know each other’s idiosyncrasies, weaknesses, and hot buttons. I’m sure mine are quite evident to my teammates. After we finished our five days of twelve caths and all the children were doing well, we were treated to a trip to the province Governor’s house late one evening. What an amazing caravan we were part of, absolutely impossible to describe! On the way home I was reflecting on all these things. I was disappointed in myself for not relying on the Lord like I wanted, for not praying without ceasing like I thought I should, and for failing to let His light shine through me. Then one of my favorite verses in the Bible (Injil) came to mind:
But we have this treasure in plain, earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.
It brought tears to my eyes. It’s not about me. I’m so “earthen” and limited, and so I fail. But the power to heal and love is God’s, not mine—thank God!
Once again I’m astounded by the freedoms I enjoy. No one chooses the country they’re born in. I was born into opportunity and choice. I’ve been given the gift of privilege and position. I can choose to be courageous and go and visit and hopefully help, serve, love, and encourage those who find themselves in completely different circumstances not of their choosing.
I pray we have the opportunity to bless and be blessed by the Fallujan people many more times to come.
We just need 25 more suture packs for our upcoming Remedy Fellowship training program! Help us save lives, and cut it to 24 today!
Nearly two years ago, we began our first Remedy Mission with the International Children’s Heart Foundation and Living Light International. For us it was a great risk to take. We had only sent children out of the country and, all-in-all, that model was proven. It was safe.
But thanks to your support, we were able to begin training doctors and treating children inside Iraq. And we were able to serve a little girl named Iman (along with 23 other children). Now, just under two years later, here she is:
Iman is from Dohuk where our partner doctor, Dr. Kirk Milhoan, and his team screened newborns for heart defects. Now Iman is happy and healthy, able to enjoy playing games with her friends, learning in school, and spending time with her family.
Safe at last from her childhood disease, Iman’s life is full of potential. Thank you for giving these children a future!
March 29, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
On our last Remedy Mission, we met a little boy named Hussain.
Hussain’s unabashedly playful approach to everything makes him a lot of fun to be around. In fact, this kid proved difficult not to be around. Even as Hussain waited his turn to meet with the cardiologist, it wasn’t long before a crowd of hospital staff had stopped what they were doing (i.e., stopped working), and gathered around Hussain to enjoy a game or a laugh.
Play-time abruptly ended and things got serious after a supervisor broke things up and got people back to work (though not before he himself had also played a game of catch with Hussain).
It wasn’t long before the boy was in the operating room for a more in-depth look at his heart problem. The cardiologist (pictured below) informed us that Hussain needed surgery, but that he wouldn’t be able to get it until the next Remedy Mission since the current one was all booked up. They had run out of room, but—with your help—we have the opportunity to bring the team back!
That is why we’re campaigning to save Hussain. You have already given $1,505 for Hussain’s upcoming surgery, but we still need your help to reach our goal of $5,000. Please visit this page to help provide Hussain the lifesaving heart surgery he needs, and be sure to come back next Thursday for another Hussain update!
March 13, 2012 by Cody · Comments Off
On our last Remedy Mission inside Iraq, we were able to save the lives of seventeen Iraqi children! We also gave thousands of hours of training to Iraqi heart surgeons and nurses. But we ran out of time to save Hussain.
According to Iraqi doctors, it was illegal to help children with Down Syndrome under Saddam Hussein’s regime. Saddam viewed children like Hussain as a “waste of resources.”
But Downs children are God’s children, and they are important members of society. Today Iraqi doctors are ready to help save Hussain and so many more beautiful children with Down Syndrome. And we’re ready to help give them the training they need to do exactly that.
By giving Hussain his shot at lifesaving heart surgery, you will be telling him and so many others that they matter; telling them that we value them and that we’re in this together; telling them we care.
So, in honor of World Down Syndrome Day on March 21st, will you help us save Hussain and his friends by giving to our next Remedy Mission today?
Hussain is waiting! Give today to show that he and other Downs children aren’t a “waste of resources.”
January 20, 2012 by Cody · Comments Off
Does this look like a boy who just had an open heart surgery 26 hours ago? I didn’t think so!
I got a phone call from Ali early this morning telling me not to bother looking for him in the ICU anymore. I walked into the hospital to find him walking around in the ward!
Not only that, but he was already asking me when he can go home. Ali still really wants to be a doctor, so maybe one day he’ll understand how important this time is in the hospital.
But I love that he’s still a 12 year-old boy who can’t wait to go home and play soccer with his friends. At this rate, who knows, he could even be home by tomorrow!
January 4, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
Did you know that in 2011 you helped save 96 lives?
Take a second to think about that. Ignore all the other open tabs and digital noise on your screen, and consider that fact: you helped keep nearly one hundred children from death.
These are kids who, at some point, would have been rushed to the emergency room of some dilapidated hospital by terrified parents who would have had to sit and watch as their child slipped away, knowing that the problem was totally correctable, but now it’s too late—can you even imagine it?
Thankfully, you don’t have to. And neither do the families of those 96 children.
But don’t forget training!
Along with all the lives saved, 2011 also held an incredible amount of training for Iraqis! Local doctors, nurses and technicians took part in five in-country surgical missions during which they got their hands dirty and gained invaluable experience. And our hospitals are now performing operations that they were incapable of just a year ago.
We’ve identified several factors that led to Iraq’s current healthcare conundrum, but the most valuable solution is training. By conservative estimates, each Remedy Mission provides hospital staff with a combined total of 5,000 hours of hands-on learning, which means in 2011 you helped provide 25,000 hours of training!
In a country where most charities are giving fish away, you supported our transition to giving fishing lessons instead—thank you! It’s this kind of long-term development that’s going to eradicate the backlog!
Transitions like this are difficult, though. Where equipment and experience are lacking, the mortality risk is always greater. We lost some incredible children in 2011, and we will never forget them.
And there’s so much more to tell! Our director spoke at TEDxBagdad (click the link and skip to minute 58), we launched several new video projects, and, after various trips to new cities in Iraq, we’ve been asked by eight different hospitals to return with teams in 2012.
You’ve also changed Iraq’s story this past year.
In the midst of thousands of headlines about troop withdrawal, the erosion of Iraq’s government, and the continued violence across the country, you’ve provided a different story. One of hope. One of cooperation for the common good. These are the stories that prove things in Iraq can get better, and we’ll continue to tell them throughout 2012.
And the bottom line is that we’re thankful; thankful for you, for our partners, and for everyone who made 2011 such a success. I can’t wait to see what we’re able to do together in 2012!
A year ago today, you helped us wrap up our first Remedy Mission in Iraq!
When we started PLC back in 2007, Remedy Missions were beyond our wildest dreams. We were content to send children out of Iraq for surgery.
But when it became apparent that there was a better model, you joined us in doing something unheard of in Iraq–bringing recurring teams of doctors into Iraq to provide surgical training.
With your help, we’ve saved more lives in the last year than in the rest of our existence combined! And thanks to your compassion, local Iraqi doctors and nurses are on their way to complete competency.
The last 12 months have been amazing, but they’re just the beginning. We expect 2012 to be our biggest, most exciting year of surgeries and training to date, and we want you in on it!
You’ve brought us this far, help keep us going! We’re 27% away from funding our biggest year of surgeries ever. Would you give $27 today?
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!
Remember Jenga? That crazy game where you pull blocks out of the wooden tower, hoping it doesn’t tumble over? Making plans often feels like a game of Jenga. You build a tower of ideas piece-by-piece, then life pulls at pieces of your plan, and sometimes our tower of plans comes crumbling down…
About a month ago, we received some disappointing news, and the PLC staff had to make a difficult decision. The Remedy Mission we all hoped to experience in our city, was canceled. For many of the interns, this Remedy Mission was the biggest reason we fought so hard to get the PLC internship. From the start of our internship process, we wanted to meet the families and kids who would be on the receiving end of lifesaving surgeries. Some of the intern’s assigned work even revolved around there being a Remedy Mission.
To make a complicated situation simple, the hospital and a local nonprofit partner didn’t prepare enough for the impending surgical mission. The hospital wasn’t as equipped to handle these complex surgeries as it should have been and funding was withheld. Surgical missions always have some risk involved, but PLC won’t dive into a Remedy Mission with unnecessary risks that could cost children their lives.
PLC could have provided more funds to make the surgical mission happen and just hoped the hospital’s current equipment was sufficient, but this is about long term solutions over short term gain. The problem could have been temporarily fixed with a handout, but we would much rather empower local organizations and hospitals to take ownership and responsibility for their community–for saving the lives of their children.
We don’t ram solutions down people’s throats. We’re here to aid local desires and local initiatives. So when local preparations fall or local enthusiasm wanes, we don’t force it. Part of creating long term solutions lies in ensuring that this is something local doctors, government officials and parents of sick babies really want–without our patronage.
Thankfully, PLC was still able to host a Remedy Mission, but it was relocated to a partnering city which was better-prepared, in a place most interns were unable to go.
When the rug is pulled out from under us, we can’t help but feel disappointment. However, we must come to the realization that GOD will reconcile our plans. Even when our Jenga tower crumbles to the floor, GOD is still in control.
Now Remedy VI is finished in southern Iraq, and we can praise GOD for each of the 18 kids who received a successful heart surgery and for zero fatalities!
The internship is now over and–Remedy Mission or not–each of us experienced so many valuable events and lessons. Our plans never really work out quite how we anticipate, but we’ve seen that GOD is trustworthy and will work everything out for the best.
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!