This Is What the Waiting List Looks Like

Mona was fine when she had her echocardiogram—well, fine apart from her heart.

She cried a little bit as Dr. Miriam slid the ultrasound wand over her chest, adjusting with small movements until she could capture the perfect picture of Mona’s heart on the screen. But all else seemed well.

Mona was admitted to the hospital in Libya, and she and her mom settled into the bed in the far left corner of the ward to wait until it was her turn for heart surgery.

We played peek-a-boo with shy Mona a few times. Her mother was very friendly, but Mona spent most of her time hiding her face in mom’s clothes whenever we came near. After a couple days, Mona was getting breathing treatments to try to clear up her lungs—since being admitted, she had developed some cold-like symptoms.

And then one morning we walked into the ward and Mona and her mom were gone. It was going to take a while for her lungs to clear up, so she was sent home. After waiting for her chance to receive a lifesaving heart surgery, it was a blow to see her leave without it.

Occasionally a child winds up in the ICU even though they haven’t had surgery—that was Awad’s story.

Like Mona, he came in for his echocardiogram to confirm that his heart defect could be corrected with surgery. Then was admitted into the ward.


Like Mona, Awad started to develop symptoms of sickness, He quickly got his own room so he wouldn’t infect the other children, and his family waited for Awad to get better.

Awad didn’t get better, though. In fact, he got very sick—so sick that he was admitted to the ICU. For days he received medicine and treatments. Slowly, slowly Awad regained his strength, and we began to see some of his personality return.

Awad is a ham—a ham who loves milk! Awad has the perfect, charming smile to go with his beautiful curls. Unfortunately, Awad also has a heart defect still. He needed time to fully recover from his sickness, so like Mona, he left the hospital without his heart surgery.

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Dr. Naima and Dr. Miriam sat knee to knee, sorting papers again and again. Their cell phones were beside them on the couch, at the ready. These two Libyan cardiologists were balancing a crushing weight between them—deciding who to recommend for a spot on the surgical schedule this mission.

There are so many factors to weigh…

Which child is in most urgent need?

Who got bumped from the last mission?

How can we balance the needs of critically ill children with the more straightforward cases, to make sure there are enough open beds in the ICU?

Which families had to travel across the country and would need more notice to make another trip?

How many families are on the waiting list, in case someone already admitted gets sick?

The doctors wrestled over the long lists, and wrestled again. They fully understood what was riding on their decisions. One by one, they called families and told them to come for a fresh echocardiogram, with the surgeon present.

Most families didn’t get that call. It’s a heavy reality of each surgical mission. The list of children waiting for their lifesaving heart surgery is long.

But standing next to Dr. Naima and Dr. Miriam, watching them make such difficult decisions, you were on our minds—especially each of you who made the decision to be a monthly sponsor. You provide a steady base. You allow us to say to our Libyan friends, “Yes, the list is long, but don’t worry. We’re coming back!” You allow us to go where no one else will go and love the ones no one else will love—time and time again.

You bring hope to Mona and Awad’s families—they don’t have to worry about missing out on their one and only shot at surgery.

You bring hope to the local doctors and nurses—they can look forward to more education, more training, and getting ever closer to the day when they can heal their country’s broken-hearted children on their own.

You understand that remaking the world, one heart at a time—it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a journey we walk together with our friends in countries like Libya and Iraq, not a fleeting moment.

It’s a journey you make possible when you become a monthly sponsor.