“We can fix Hama’s Heart.”
That has to be the best thing I’ve heard all mission.
But for Hama’s parents, that’s the best thing they’ve heard in 8 years. That’s how long they’ve been waiting to find someone who could and would fix Hama’s heart defect.
What they’ve heard these past 8 years have been statements like:
“We don’t know how to fix this.”
“The only way you can save Hama is if you leave Iraq.”
“Even if we knew how to save him, there are hundreds waiting in front of him for this same surgery.”
Being able to watch 8 year-old Hama get carried into the operating room was nothing short of exhilarating for me.
But watching their son being carried into the O.R. isn’t what Hama’s parents have waited 8 years for. No, they’ve waited 8 years for their child to be carried out of the O.R.—without a heart defect.
Hamma’s 8 year wait for a surgery is over. But it’s what comes after the operation that everybody’s on pins and needles for.
Stay tuned, Hama is in surgery now.
As I write this, our 2012 interns are in the air and headed toward Iraq! So it only seemed appropriate to share a few lessons-learned by former intern Lauren Sawyer. Lauren wrote out 3 of the most beneficial things she took away from her time here in Iraq, and we’re hoping this year’s interns will also benefit personally as they help us save lives.
It’s been two full years since I boarded the first of three planes that would take me to Iraq.
Yet I still remember what I was talking about when I first landed in the desert country. Another intern, Lydia, and I were trying to rewrite the words to “Party in the U.S.A.” to fit our situation. By the end of the summer the song became “Party with the P.U.K.,” for a political group in northern Iraq. (Sophisticated conversation? Not so much.)
I have so many memories of that summer in Iraq: the places I ate, the taxi rides, the late-night chats on the roof of our house. But more than that, I have a series of life-changing realizations. Iraq changed me: it changed my perspective, it changed my behavior. Here are a few ways:
(1) People are just people wherever you go.
While in Iraq, a fellow intern Claire and I used to hum Regina Spektor’s song “The Ghost of Corporate Future” with the lyrics: “People are just people; they shouldn’t make you nervous.” I’m convinced we got that song stuck in our heads as often as we did because of that first line: “People are just people.” We found ourselves saying those words all the time, whenever we met another Iraqi we had something in common with.
The similarities between me, a young American girl, and the Iraqis I met were most clear in the English class Claire taught. I noticed how our Iraqi students watched the same TV shows as us (Vian loved “Grey’s Anatomy”) and had similar views on marriage, even, and education.
But more than that, I met people who were fundamentally like all people I knew in the States. I met fathers who loved their children, who would do anything to keep them healthy. I met children who loved games and were happy always—even when they were on their way to surgery.
Now that I’m back in the U.S., I still have opportunities to remind myself of this truth, that people are just people. I’ve spent the past two summers working for a nonprofit that advocates for people with disabilities. I’ve learned there, too, that people are just people— whether they are blind or have Down Syndrome. People are just people.
(2) We cannot accurately critique people without having truly experienced their culture.
Last semester I was sitting in my freshman-level philosophy course—as a senior—counting how many times the blonde freshman-but-sophomore-by-credits said something rude and untrue about Muslims. In that same class I heard my professor and other students make claims about how Iraq is “Worse off now that the U.S. troops are leaving”—as if these silly Midwest American civilians knew anything about life in Iraq.
My roommate and my boyfriend both told me to just say something and I did, once, without much effect. Changing someone’s mind about a culture isn’t easy.
Living in Iraq for two months taught me that you cannot critique or judge a culture without having experienced their culture like an insider. Visiting Italy for a few weeks is not the same as living like an Italian, speaking the language, shopping where they shop, eating their food, learning about their politics, their history. My two-month stint in Iraq taught me that I didn’t know enough about Iraq to critique it.
I need to keep asking questions. As soon as I stop asking questions and think I have it figured out, I’ll inevitably hurt someone or lead others to believe a lie. So when people like that freshman-but-sophomore-by-credits girl say something I know is untrue to my experience in Iraq, I need to do more than just correct them. I need to show them how to ask questions, to hunger for understanding, and to have an imagination, which leads me to my last point…
(3) We are called to be people of imagination.
I heard about the Preemptive Love Coalition when I had lost all faith in my future. I was 19 years old, and I thought that just because my life wasn’t heading in the direction I thought it should, it was over. But after reading PLC’s mission statement and then talking to Jeremy and Cody about their vision for Iraq’s future, my faith was restored. I recognized even before I boarded those planes that those working for PLC were people of imagination, and I wanted to be a part of it.
I’m convinced that you can’t do anything big and life-changing without having imagination. I doubt PLC would have ever existed without Jeremy and friends imagining a life without heart defects, without thousands of kids in line for surgery.
Before I worked for PLC that summer, I let myself live small stories that took little imagination. I expected my life to be like everyone else’s, without real risk, without adventure. But PLC showed me how to have an imagination, to dream up a better world for others and for myself.
Now, as I’m graduate-school bound (“real world” bound, as I say), I know that imagination will save me from living a self-centered life. Imagination will turn me into a person like the PLC staff and the doctors and the business people I met in Iraq, dedicated to changing the world—and able to.
You can read more musings by Lauren on her blog. Come back next week and we’ll introduce you to our new summer interns—can’t wait!
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 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.”
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?
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!
We had to say goodbye to baby Hamma and his mother.
We didn’t want to.
We didn’t want to say goodbye because his big brown eyes and his mother’s smile drew us in from the moment we met them.
Another reason we didn’t want to say goodbye is because Hamma never received the surgery he needed to patch the hole in his heart.
He was scheduled to receive surgery but was delayed three different times.On the fourth time, the Intensive Care Unit had no more beds open for children and by the time a bed opened up, there wasn’t enough time to operate on Hamma.
Remedy was already coming to a close.
So after waiting ten days in the hospital for surgery, Hamma and his mother had to go home without a remedy.
It’s eerie to walk through the hospital ward now and see entire rooms that were packed with families, now empty and vacant because once we leave, the Remedy Mission comes to an end.
That breaks our hearts.
As long as there are children with heart disease, they should be in the hospital getting treated. In southern Iraq, it doesn’t work that way because the doctors and nurses don’t have the skills they need to take care of all the children with heart disease.
One day they will. That’s what Remedy Missions are all about.
We told Hamma’s mother that we would be back in May and that Hamma is one of the first babies that the doctors want to operate on.
So we’re standing up for Hamma!
When you order our new tank, 100% of the profit goes toward bringing Remedy back to Hamma! All we have to do is sell 59 to give Hamma his life-saving surgery and to take one step closer toward not just bringing Remedy back to southern Iraq, but to LEAVING it there!
Some tanks blow holes in stuff. This tank patches the hole in a heart. Stand up for Hamma!
Order NOW by clicking HERE!
If you’re on Twitter this week be sure to use the #RemedyMission hashtag to describe all the good news coming out of Iraq this week via @preemptivelove.
August 24, 2010 by Jeremy · Comments Off
Photos by Heber Vega
I’m having a hard time today. Not that this blog is about me; or even the Preemptive Love Coalition. This blog exists to shine a light on the children and the families. Still, I’m having a hard day.
The reason I’m having a hard day is really tied to the fact that Mohammad Fwad is having a hard day. On a normal day we are able to write about these amazing children and their amazing journeys from heart break to wholeness. On a normal day we focus on smiles and avoid anything that smacks of manipulation. A normal surgery group for us comprises 3-5 kids rather than 30 children. And on a normal day kids go through surgery without incident and their stories are very predictable.
Unfortunately, today is not a normal day.
Today Mohammad Fwad – a little two year old that I first met 5 months ago – is not doing as well as we hoped. The low pressures in his heart this morning prompted the team in the Intensive Care Unit to re-open his chest in order to ensure that he was not septic and that no other complications had arisen.
Thankfully, Mohammad is doing much better now. But I’m not a doctor and I don’t really understand that. I just saw a little two year old laid bare on the table with signs all around that read “OPEN CHEST.” One of the nurses in ICU, Micah, explained to me how they purposefully “paralyzed” him. That doesn’t do anything good for my emotions!
And then I had to bring Mohammad’s dad in… because he asked! And I just couldn’t keep him away. I was terrified to let him see his child that way. But I know how I would feel if I was locked out from my only child…
Well, I think I know how I would feel.
And actually, Mohammad is not the only child as of yesterday. His mother gave birth to a healthy baby boy yesterday (though his heart has not been echoed yet for heart defects). And the presence of that little brother has changed so much in my mind. How terrible it would be to have your big brother die on the day you were born? How amazing it would be to have your big brother’s life saved on the day your life in this world began! Either way, this new little boy changes things!
As Mohammad’s dad stood by, I stood back. It wasn’t because I didn’t feel welcome at his side. It was simply because I didn’t want my tears and my emotions to send him in to an emotional tailspin. But, of course, I forgot: I’m in Iraq. His dad was a rock, at least on the outside. There I am crying about somebody else’s boy and he’s all greetings and gratitude.
After less than a minute, his father left the Unit and I went back to my make-shift office to bawl.
As I write, the dear nurse at Mohammad’s side, Amy, says that Mohammad is going to be OK – “As long as I’m working, this child is NOT dying.” But, of course, Amy and I both know that it’s never that simple.
If only it were.
Remedy Missions are international pediatric heart surgery teams that we bring to Iraq to to perform lifesaving heart surgeries and develop the infrastructure for the future. If you’re on Twitter this week be sure to use the #Remedy or #RemedyMission hashtag to describe all the good news coming out of Iraq this week via @preemptivelove and @babyheart_org. If you’re on Facebook, “Share” this story with the button below.
On Monday both girls had their final echocardiogram, revealing beautifully strong beating hearts. Shanaw and Kale have been fully released from the doctor's care and are now on their way back to homes and families in Iraq with new hearts. Besides the presence of scars on their chests, you'd never know that these energetic, expressive girls were once dying from heart problems. How incredible that we get to be part of saving these kids lives!
January 23, 2008 by Jeremy · Comments Off
On January 3rd Aras received heart surgery and has been succesfully healing and recovering since then. He has now been given a clean bill of health and was released from the hospital in Jordan on January 21st. He and his mother will be returning to their home in Iraq to begin a new phase of life- free from worry about Aras’s heart. We’re really excited to welcome him back to Iraq and to watch how much more he can enjoy life now!
Delshad is also recovering from his heart surgey that took place on December 30th. Due to some further problems he had to undergo a second surgery on January 3rd. This took quite the emotional toll on Delshad’s mother who has been at his side every step of the way. Delshad has shown great improvement however after both surgeries, giving his mother much hope! Delshad will receive his last echocardiogram on Thursday, January 24th and hopefully be released after that!