April 12, 2012 by matt · Comments Off
“If we live skeptically and only by the principles of risk-management, I fear we’ll miss the opportunity to remake the world around us.”
On a recent trans-atlantic trip, Jeremy Courtney was invited to share about the concept of preemptive love at TEDxAustin’s 4th annual conference.
This talk differed from his TEDxBaghdad talk as he shared new stories and invited attendees to consider how they personally might “do preemptive love.” And the video presents the same question to you: what can you do—small or large—to remake the world today?
After watching the video, would you share it? Your ‘shares’ and support help make our work possible—they can help save lives!
It’s interesting how my perspectives on people who are different than me have changed since the run-up to the Iraq war in 2002. I remember sitting rapt in front of the television watching Hans Blix look for weapons of mass destruction. I remember skipping class one Tuesday afternoon and watching coverage of the war, the fall of Baghdad, and the subsequent “Mission Accomplished” speech. I distinctly remember the Sunday night that news of Saddam Hussein’s capture interrupted my weekly viewing of Alias – a spy show that no doubt fed my ambivalence toward the very real people of Iraq.
But when I visited Iraq for the first time three years into the war, at the height of the sectarian violence, I was entirely unprepared for how much I would actually care about the people of Iraq; how much I would be moved and changed by their story.
The single greatest change in my life between that night when we saw Saddam groveling in a hole and the night that I wept bitterly in Kirkuk over nemesis neighbors bent on killing one another was the birth of my little girl, Emma.
I wasn’t ready to be a dad. I loved my young-married life with my wife. She was all I had dreamed about and I loved our freedom. We traveled the world together, listened to music that was actually cool, read books with big words, and enjoyed many long walks and talks without interruption each week. All of that was severely threatened when we found out we were pregnant.
I was excited, but certainly scared – mostly about what bearing this new child would have on our marriage. I wasn’t ready to give up freedom and travel for monosyllabic books like See Spot Run.
But that first day in Dr. Hidayet’s office when we heard Emma’s heartbeat… that was a life-changing moment! And as they wheeled my wife away a few months later on a gurney beyond those double doors in Istanbul, Turkey I was terrified that something would go wrong in this foreign country. I was actually in the room for my daughter’s birth. I held her within seconds of her first breath. And one of the most amazing moments of my life was the first minutes we had alone together in a Turkish corridor as all the chaos of the hospital disappeared and I watched my daughter look at me for the first time.
I guess my point is this: becoming a father changed me.
So when I arrived in Iraq with my daughter and my wife in 2007, I was not the same person who had watched the news on Iraq with disconnected interested years prior. I was a father now. And with that came a special code of conduct – a code that transcends culture.
I didn’t see “Iraqis” or even “Muslims”. Arabs weren’t “rag heads” like some of my friends and family had suggested. Kurds were not these disempowered mountain Turks that I had grown up seeing with Klashnikovs on CBS News in 1990.
I mostly just saw fathers. Most of the media coverage of our work in Iraq suggests that we are caring for the children of Iraq, healing their hearts, and creating a better future for them. I certainly agree. But I have a slightly broader agenda: I see myself as caring for the fathers of Iraq.
I’ve sat by too many dads as they’ve tried to choke back tears in hopes of remaining strong and faithful to the belief that God is in control. I hate that sound – the sound of grief chokin
g.So I work each day to care – not only for the children in Iraq – but for the fathers in Iraq, as well. Because I am one. And my caring has actually made me a better father for my own children. As I consider each day how many of my father-friends have lost their little boys and girls, it helps me value every minute I have with my children more deeply. Caring for the fathers of Iraq helps me remember what a blessing my children are to me. I came home from work a little late last Thursday night and spent an extra hour laying in bed with my son telling stories, tickling, and dreaming up imaginary exploits that Batman and Superman together would be afraid to touch – but not us! I spent this extra time with my son because I had a need that only he could fill for me. I didn’t think I was doing him a favor. I was keenly aware that he was making me whole, filling up what was lacking in me after a long day of working for other fathers and their little boys.
The bio sketches of our organization and my role in it will probably continue to talk about the way we’ve changed Iraq by establishing lifesaving heart hospitals across the country through our Remedy Missions. But the truth is even more profound. I am now connected to the people of Iraq as a father and a friend; as a big brother and an uncle that works joyfully in hopes that other people from around the world will come to love them as I do.
I’m not sure yet what my legacy in Iraq will be – if anything. But Iraq’s legacy in the life of my family is clear. This Father’s Day we celebrate how the dads of Iraq have shaped our family and how loving them has brought us closer.
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!|
You need to.
This just may be the cutest and most adorable boy in Iraq.
Alawi Hussein is just under three and a half years old and he was born with a congenital heart defect.
At 9 months old, instead of taking bets on what his first word was going to be, his parents were coping with the devastating news that Alawi had a heart problem. It was a heart problem, like most heart problems in Iraq, that could only be fixed outside of Iraq.
The list of countries that could help him was long.
Basically – many other countries except the one he was born in.
While the list of opportunities was long, the list of actual possibilities for Alawi was short.
Hearing about all the doctors overseas that can heal your son is simply cruel if you don’t have the money – or even a passport – to pursue the option.
His family had to learn to enjoy the time they had with Alawi and just hope for a remedy the doctors might have somehow missed.
That surprise came this month when they were called by their local cardiologist here in southern Iraq and told that Alawi no longer needs to go overseas to be saved, because of a team of doctors and nurses that was being brought in to save his life at the hospital just fifteen minutes from their home
It was thirty-two months later than they were hoping but remedy finally came to southern Iraq.
We still hope that Alawi’s family will visit foreign countries someday, but not as last chance medical tourists!
You are the Remedy.
You bring in medical teams every time you give. Our medical teams teach Iraqi doctors and nurses. Our medical teams save lives. So Iraqi doctors and nurses learn how to save lives. Our medical team goes home. The Iraqi’s keep saving lives.
It’s one beautiful domino affect!
We hope we can save Alawi’s life this week… and not just because he’s one of the cutest boys in Iraq! Follow Alawi’s story this week on the blog and on our Facebook page (<-- link) to see what comes next...
Meet Baby Bakir (pronounced bah-ker). Thanks to the combined efforts of Nahoko Takato, the talented doctors and nurses at Anadolu Medical Center, and the Preemptive Love Coalition, this beautiful little boy is now recovering after receiving a lifesaving heart surgery in Istanbul, Turkey.
This is actually an exciting week for Bakir’s hometown of Fallujah as it’s the first annual Remember Fallujah Week. US veteran Ross Caputi launched the Justice for Fallujah Project to decry the atrocities committed against the citizens of Fallujah during the Iraq War.
US officials report that more than half of the city’s 39,000 homes were either damaged or destroyed in Operation Phantom Fury in 2004, and, like Bakir, many of the city’s children have continued to experience the lingering effects of chemical weapons in the form deadly heart defects.
Yet in the midst of so much destruction, we’re eager to offer you stories like Bakir’s. In a city of rubble, his is a bright story of hope and future.
August 26, 2010 by Jeremy · Comments Off
Photos by Heber Vega; Lydia Bullock
It was around lunch time in the heat of June in Iraq when Abdulkareem’s father came into my office. He told me that his son was very sick, that he was very poor, and that he needed our help and was willing to do whatever he could to make it happen. We were preparing our July group for surgery in Turkey and one of the children had just withdrawn from the group. It looked like we might be able to squeeze Abdulkareem in at the last minute if all the right pieces fell into place quickly.
Abdulkareem’s father worked especially hard for his little boy. He traveled from his home in Diyala to Baghdad to get passports for the family. He came to the office and called regularly to see what our status was with regards to funding for his son’s place on the Turkey surgery list.
There are two days in the duration of my journey with this family that I am unlikely to forget. The first was the day that Abdulkareem’s father – Hafez Bey – looked into my eyes and, with all the passion of a protective but powerless father, said, “Just help my little boy; just do something to save my little boy.“
Unfortunately, it did not work out to take Abdulkareem to Turkey with us for various reasons and we began the race against the clock to provide Abdulkareem surgery before his condition deteriorated any further. Our as-of-yet untested next option was our first Remedy Mission in August 2010. We gave Abdulkareem a priority spot on the Remedy Mission list.
The day our surgical team arrived Hafez Bey must have seen us on the news because he called me 10 times: “Is my boy going to surgery? Mr Jeremy, just do something to help my little boy!”
Photo by Heber Vega
There is one other day in the life of this family that I won’t forget – the day Abdulkareem had surgery earlier this week. I remember it so distinctly because after the surgery Hafez Bey grabbed me and kissed me and gave me an emotional “thank you” for making good on our commitment to his family.
One of the things we always try to explain to families is the presence of hundreds of people in the States and Europe – people like you – who work together to make every surgery possible. Of course, parents appreciate the ability to personalize their gratitude, but we talk about you frequently because we could not have saved Abdulkareem’s life without your many gifts to our Remedy Mission.
If you like what you’ve been able to be a part of this week with us (and there seem to be hundreds of you viewing the website and videos each day), please take two minutes to give toward the next Remedy Mission, the next Abdulkareem, and to the next father who is eagerly waiting for someone to help his little child. Please donate any amount of your choice below.
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.
August 15, 2010 by Jeremy · Comments Off
There is no sound on this video… but you will hear the impact of your giving loud and clear by the end of next week.
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.
July 20, 2010 by Jeremy · Comments Off
On July 18th four Iraqi kids arriving in Istanbul, Turkey in need of lifesaving heart surgery. They have entered a country about which they have mostly heard negative stories.
This week will change their perspectives and change their lives forever…
July 19, 2010 by Jeremy · Comments Off
As many mothers of sick children know, outward behavior does not always accurately convey the gravity of an internal illness. Such is the case with Chro and Leah, who are settled into their room and already beginning to attract strangers with their smiling faces. Having been born with defective hearts and yet to discover what life could be like with a healthy body, these young girls have no choice but to enjoy life as they know it. While Leah prefers being held or playing with her rattle, Chro’s favorite activity to pass the time is getting her toenails painted…again and again and again. But when the first words out of her mother’s mouth in the morning are, “when is my child’s surgery?” the immediacy of these beautiful little girls’ situation is unavoidable.
We can’t help but smile at the contrasts present in the hospital room these two mothers and their children share. One woman is a mother of eight, while the other is perhaps twenty years younger, fighting for the life of her first child and five months pregnant with her second.
What the two mothers share in common, however, is concern.
As of two days ago, these women had never traveled without their husbands, flown on an airplane or left their country. Yet they have now experienced an overnight flight to a country they have been taught to fear and a long bus ride through one of the largest cities in the world, all on their own. Surrounded by foreign languages and customs, these mothers now await their child’s first opportunity at a full life, sharing a hospital room with perhaps the only other person in the world that just might understand how they feel.
Surgeries here at Anadolu Medical Center begin tomorrow, and we hope these two mothers will soon have the joy of receiving the news that they may return to their families with healthy children and renewed hope. Then there will be four smiling faces when they leave their hospital room, instead of only two.
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…
Meet Jeen Mustafa. Jeen is currently living with Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), which affects the two upper chambers of the heart. Her disease creates a hole between the two upper chambers of the heart, mixing the blood going to the lungs with the blood going to the rest of the body. Because of your financial help, Jeen is leaving for surgery on July 18 along with 4 other children with congenital heart disease. Jeen will be receiving a non-invasive surgery through catheter, which also significantly reduces the danger of the procedure.