6,000th child’s heart repaired by Israeli org. is from Gaza

Although Save a Child’s Heart operates on children from around the world, half of its patients are Palestinians.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

An Israeli organization that performs life-saving surgery by repairing children’s hearts for free has just operated on its 6,000th patient, 11-year-old Mazen from the Gaza Strip.

Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) has been working in Israel for the last 25 years, treating Israeli children but also from around the world whose home countries either do not have the necessary cardiac facilities or specialists who can fix their medical conditions. Fully half of their patient pool comes from the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria, which has relations with Israel, and from the Gaza Strip, which does not.

Mazen was born with a complex heart condition that eventually did not allow him to breathe properly. His doctors, who work extensively with SACH, arranged for his emergency passage to the organization’s International Pediatric Cardiac Care Center at the new Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.

The Interventional Pediatric Cardiac Care Unit, headed by Dr. Sagi Assa, used a ground-breaking technique to close a hole in Mazen’s heart without needing to perform open heart surgery, which by its very nature is a very serious operation with a long recovery period. The two related Holon medical centers are the only ones in the Middle East using this technique for such medical cases.

In addition to its surgical arm, SACH has run a weekly clinic for the last two decades at Wolfson specifically for Palestinians. Over this time its doctors have cared for thousands of children, and the organization believes that its work has an impact beyond improving the physical health of its patients. As SACH’s website notes, the clinic “is not just about mending hearts but building bridges.”

Read  'We're here to help' - Israeli doctors treat Brazilians in Amazon, slums

“After so many years of conflict, of course people get frightened,” Palestinian clinic coordinator Fatma Sarsour notes there. “They don’t know the other side. So they get here, they see how much Save a Child’s Heart cares about them and they get the help they need and the fear disappears. At the end of the day they see we are all people and all human beings.”

SACH has saved the lives of children from 63 countries, and among them there are others that do not have diplomatic ties with Israel, such as Iraq. One that now does, as of last year, is eager to establish a relationship with the humanitarian group. Last week, barely three months after arriving in the country, Bahrain’s first ambassador to Israel, Khaled Yusuf Al Jalahma, visited SACH’s children’s home in Holon where the young patients recover with the help of their mothers.

He met with Sylvan Adams, who funded the recent building of the group’s state-of-the-art hospital, and discussed how his country’s children could be brought to Israel to take advantage of the SACH doctors’ expertise and thereby save their lives.