The day before ISIS overtook the city of Mosul in Iraq, I was sitting in a small village with a family whose son, Aland, we had recently provided with a lifesaving surgery.
We came into the picture very late in Aland’s journey, after his mother and father had searched for years and knocked on the doors of every imaginable organization out there looking for help. So Aland’s mother didn’t know me. I wasn’t on the team of visiting doctors who had originally told them to take Aland home and enjoy their last days with him. I wasn’t around when other PLC staff stepped in and suggested that we could help.
So there was a little bit of trepidation as they welcomed us into their home. They knew I had somehow helped. But my role in the whole thing wasn’t quite clear. Still, they were eager to show their gratitude for our efforts (and yours) to help their child receive a surgery that was eleven years overdue.
We were welcomed inside from the hot sun and enjoyed a cup of cold water before giving her son a soccer ball to celebrate his healthy heart. But it wasn’t long before this dear mother launched into a set of questions to find out exactly who we were and why it took us so long to help her child. We had only known Aland’s family for about 10 minutes before we intervened and offered to send them to see our friend and partner, Dr. Novick. We were very pleased with ourselves—we thought we’d provided him the surgery he needed rather quickly! But our conversation broke my heart: she has been urgently seeking a solution for her son for eleven years, since he was 40 days old.
Can you imagine? I don’t think I have ever waited longer than 24 hours for medical care (and that waiting was of my own choosing). But this mother has worried and prayed over her son for eleven years. She continued explaining that he has been on every list with every children’s organization they could find.
Aland has been scheduled for surgery three times in that eleven years and was pushed off the list each time due to the complexity of his surgery. She couldn’t understand how we’ve been working here seven years and didn’t know about their child sooner.
In fact, the day before we referred them to our Remedy Fellowship program in Nasiriyah, the family was told that the surgery was too risky and they should just take him home and enjoy the time left. As that devastating news was sinking in, Matt (our communications director) had the presence of mind to put his camera down and offer one last chance: our Remedy Fellowship, just a few hours away.
Today, she is thrilled that her son’s surgery was successful and that he is running outside, playing soccer for the first time in years. Her heartfelt thanks shone through her smile and laughter. As we shared lunch and talked about the future for her son and for Iraq, we shared a hope that one day children will not have to wait years for urgent surgeries.
But for today, there are just too many children and too few surgeons and nurses who are equipped to help. As I explained to Aland’s mother how we are doing all we can to help as many children as possible, it seemed our good intentions were of little consolation. Too many in her village who have missed their chance. Others are too sick now for any hope of surgery. She knows her family should count themselves blessed that PLC was able to help their son and save his life. But she is heartbroken for her friends whose children are too far gone.
We have done so much good together, you and PLC. Because of you, a life was saved and a family whose hopes were gone is now re-made. But there is so much farther to go. Every 22 hours we add another child to the list of lives saved. I’ve grown tired of seeing the list of sick children. Now I get to rejoice each day as we grow the number of children who are made well in a country where violence is trying to unmake the world. Preemptive love unmakes violence and remakes the world through healing.