A mercy mission and last-minute surgery arranged by the SAT-7 programme You Are Not Alone was recently able to save the life of a young Syrian refugee baby. A follow-up visit to the family reminded SAT-7 viewers that the lives of Syrians affected by a ten-year civil war remain precarious and the most vulnerable continue to suffer the most.
Baby Tayyem was born with a type of hernia that caused him breathing problems and severe pain. By the time his mother spoke to Sirene Semerdjian, producer and presenter of You Are Not Alone, two-week-old Tayyem could not eat or sleep, and his skin had started to turn blue. A doctor had advised parents Doaa and Khaled that Tayyem needed immediate surgical intervention, but in the refugee camp where they are living in Arsal, north-east Lebanon, his parents could not access surgery nor afford to travel to a hospital.
Sirene heard about Tayyem’s condition through a contact at the camp she had interviewed previously. “I couldn’t stop thinking about the baby,” she says. “I looked at my son and thought how I would do anything to cure my baby even if he only had a cold. But what could this baby’s parents do? They had no way to leave the camp.”
Hours to live
Sirene immediately made calls to find medical help, and when she described Tayyem’s symptoms to a doctor, she was told he might have only hours to live. “I arranged for the family to come immediately to Beirut for the surgery and waste no time,” she says.
During the five-hour drive from the refugee camp to the hospital, Tayyem’s mother Doaa woke him periodically to make sure he was still alive. “This was a very difficult day for me. I felt it was like a whole year. Time passed so slowly that day,” she says.
Thankfully, the surgery was successful and Tayyem was able to breathe and eat normally. Afterwards, You Are Not Alone travelled to the refugee camp to film with the family.
“We didn’t film with the family before the surgery because the boy’s life was at stake,” Sirene says. Their only goal at that time was to try to save the baby’s life, not to show the family’s agony, she explains.
Heartbreakingly, Doaa told the programme how they had already lost a son in the past. “We left Syria in 2012 and fled to Lebanon,” she said. “I have five children, and I lost one. To this day I cannot forget him. I am afraid anything might happen to any of my other children. After they come back from school, I don’t let them go out of the tent. We would give our own lives for Tayyem.”
“Syrian refugees can be very isolated,” Sirene comments. “Sometimes there is literally no one to help them.”
Her voice brightens: “God’s hand was at work in all of this. He was guiding us all the way.” She explains that the timing could not have been more crucial, as only days later, hospitals stopped admitting patients due to a healthcare crisis caused by a rise in COVID-19 cases.
“When they contacted us, all we thought about was to save the child. The programme lived up to its title, You Are Not Alone, showing how God uses us to help one another when in need,” Sirene adds.
- Give thanks for how God used SAT-7 and Beirut medical staff to save Tayyem’s life and for His perfect timing. Pray for Doaa, Khaled and their five children and thousands like them who are living so precariously in makeshift tents in Lebanon.
- Pray for good relations between refugees and host communities, for the caring ministries of many churches, and for SAT-7 programmes that show God’s love for all and encourage compassion and hospitality.
- Ask that God will bring peace to Syria and a society in which people of different views and faiths can live together in safety and freedom.
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