Sunday, March 1, 2009

When Broken Hearts Cannot Be Mended - Feb 27 09

We received the results of Sakher's catherization (to read about this boy and our efforts to facilitate finding a way to save his life, please read earlier posts - beginning with "Bitter Tea") late on Thursday night. It is with great sadness that I must share with you that there is no surgical answer for Sakhar's condition.

Sakher was born with no pulmonary arteries leading from his heart to his lungs. Miraculously, smaller veins (called "collaterals") took over the heavy work usual accomplished by pulmonary arteries. Sometimes this rare condition can be corrected, over time and with a series of complicated surgeries. Those eligible for these surgeries must have some degree of pulmonary arteries in place that can be spliced together to form larger, more effective arteries.

The cath procedure was to let us know if Sakher was a candidate for surgical correction. Two US pediatric cardiologists and Sakher's local pediatric cardiologist examined the cath results closely and regretted telling us that Sakher does not have any degree of pulmonary arteries to work with.

For all of us who are blessed to know this sweet boy and his family and who have been invested in finding a life-saving solution for him, this is devastating news. For Sakher's mother, Nadia, it is heartbreaking.

Collateral Repair Project does not have the massive funding it would take to provide medical care for Iraqi refugees. But we did not want Sakher to miss the opportunity to be examined by this cardiologist team. So CRP used a good portion of our March assistance budget to pay for the catherization. We had to pay $800 to the hospital on the morning the cath was scheduled. At that time, we were informed that the cost could be higher - depending on how the procedure went. Dr Salameh (Sakher's cardiologist) told us later he would try to have the bill reduced a little. Additional costs were incurred because Sakher came out from the anesthesia several times during the procedure. But the increase was off-set by the reduction that Dr Salameh arranged.

The hospital had given Nadia the small amount left over from the $800 fee when Sakher was released from the hospital. She was bringing the funds to us on Friday afternoon.

We knew this would be a hard meeting. We had so hoped that we would all be looking optimistically to the next challenge of finding funding to pay for corrective surgery for Sakher. Now we could only share our grief. Additionally, Lana had spoken to Nadia the night before, after Nadia had received the bad news. Lana told me that Nadia said she understood and had somewhat expected that the result of the cath would be bad news - then, in the next breath, she told Lana that she was going to give me the CD of the cath so that I could take it with me when I returned to the US to show to other cardiologists, that perhaps one of them could repair Sakher's heart. So I especially dreaded this meeting, knowing I would have to make it clear to Nadia that it was not a case of finding the right doctor; it was that Sakher did not have anything that any doctor could work with.

Nadia came into Maha's with the receipts for the cath, a tissue and the CD clutched in her hand. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears on their surface. She brought Sakher with her, wrapped in a heavy scarf and stocking cap. He had a slight cough and looked pale. Nadia told us that he had a cold but insisted on coming with her. Nadia sat down on the sofa between Maha and I and fidgeted with the tissue.

It was very difficult to articulate the hopelessness of Sakher's case with Nadia. I plunged in rather than waiting for her to try to give me the CD, reiterating the cardiologists' conclusion and telling her how very sad and sorry we all are. I told her that we wished it was a different outcome and that there was something that we could do - but there isn't.

The tears that had been waiting in her eyes spill and ours joined them. As I suspected, Nadia had understood perfectly when the doctors had given her the sad conclusion but, like any mother hearing this kind of news, she did not want to believe it and was in a degree of initial denial. After crying, Nadia thanked us for all we have done. I told her again that we wished we could do more.

Nadia then told us that she was thanking us for our efforts to try to get Sakher to the US for treatment. She said, "All of his life, I thought that if I could just get American doctors to see him, they would be able to fix his heart. Now he has seen them and I can know that I have done all that I could to help him. I can be clear in the eyes of God that I did all I could ... al-hamdilelah (thanks to God)"

Nadia and I hugged each other long and a few more tears spilled out. I told her that we all love Sakher and that she has a group of friends in the US who will continue to be her and Sakher's friends.

This was probably the hardest day I have had since beginning our work. Usually, we provide assistance, repair. Even if it is only food to put on the table for a month, we know that things are improved for the families we visit when we leave. But this time, we provided compassionate loving support but, at the same time, we took away a mother's hope.

Because our funding is so tight right now, we need to replace the funds we used from our March assistance budget so we can provide help to those waiting for it.

The total cost of Sakher's catherization was $740. To date, we have received pledges for $400 to help us recover the funds for March assistance.

We still need to recover $340 - Will you please help?

Contributions to help pay for Sakher's catherization can be made HERE

*** if you contribute by check, please send us a note with your contribution that indicates your contribution is to help Sakher. If you contribute online, the form you use to give your credit card information includes a space for comments***

Note from CRP endorser & long-time supporter: activist and author - John Ross:

'The effort to save Sakher's life against impossible odds is truly commendable. While CRP is committed to spreading material aid to as many folks as can be accommodated, the effort to save one life speaks to the essence of CRP: that every life is worth our maximum efforts to defend it'

Thank you for your compassion & generosity!