by Elizabeth Novick
I am reading about these kids in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. The kids the International Children’s Heart Foundation is operating on. We all saw the “before” pictures of the kids posted to help raise money and awareness for the trip. We all noted their blue lips and sad faces. We all hoped for them they could be repaired, become pink and play like normal kids.
One little boy, Mohammed got to me. There is always one.
In all the years I spent with the ICHF traveling and taking care of kids after their heart surgery in the ICU, there would almost always be one kid that grabbed me. I don’t travel with the team anymore because Bill and I now have two beautiful boys together that I find very hard to leave.
The kids on the mission trips don’t grab me as much anymore because I’m not there to touch, hold, and comfort them. A picture isn’t the same. Except for this one.
I’ve been keeping up with the progress of the trip. Talking to Bill on Skype, seeing Facebook posts and e-mails. All the time waiting to hear about Mohammed. The posts talked about how his surgery got pushed back several times, the parents becoming more and more nervous as the end of the mission approached. This is a phenomenon that occurs with every trip. The first schedule is put out at the beginning of the trip. It’s not posted for all to see, but word travels very fast through the parental community. Who made it on?
What the parents don’t know is that list can change at a moment’s notice. If someone gets a fever, if a newborn comes and needs an emergency intervention, if a child’s blood isn’t ready before surgery, so many things can happen. The joy and hope that a parent felt to know that their child would be operated on, finally, after these weeks, months, years of waiting for a miracle is taken away to make room for another lucky child and his parents.
The child that is bumped is not forgotten, however. The team puts him in a new slot or makes a new slot. The fear and uncertainty that I felt for Mohammed, the crushing loss of hope the parents felt was relieved.
Mohammed got that slot. Yesterday, he got his operation. I read it in a post on Facebook. I could see him in my mind: pink lips, newfound energy, and an early, much delayed growth spurt on the way. Until moments later I read the next Facebook post.
Mohammed is not enjoying a breezy recovery. My heart sank. I know the rollercoaster of the intensive care unit very well. It’s not easy for anyone. Hope is still there, strong, but so is uncertainty. It’s a fine, fine line we all walk. The parents, all of them, the ones in the next bed with the child that is drinking tea post op day one, the parents in the waiting room with children still to be operated on all hold hope and uncertainty together in their minds strung between them like a giant spider web, strong, but so delicate. The medical team holds the same feelings together, between them. They have more power over the uncertainty through their knowledge and skills, but it’s still there.
So this morning when I read the post about Mohammed’s set back in his recovery, hope won out. I pray for the ICHF team to have the knowledge and skill to bring Mohammed through. After all, he’s a big brother now. His mom just had a baby boy this morning at a hospital across town.