Nationality, religion and ethnicity are irrelevant when it comes to saving the heart of a sick child, who might die unless an urgent operation is performed. The physicians who are part of the Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) team at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, are not interested in the political outlook of the parents of such children, even when they come from countries which are sworn enemies of Israel.
To these dedicated physicians, the welfare of the child is paramount.
It is also important to the ambassadors of these countries, which is why they work closely with Save a Child’s Heart. Perhaps it means even more to the philanthropists associated with this project – because it’s more than helping to improve the quality of people’s lives – it’s helping to prolong their lives and give them a future.
President Reuven Rivlin visited the Save a Heart unit on Monday to personally thank all these people.
In addition to physicians, diplomats and philanthropists, he met with some of the newer child patients who are waiting for a comprehensive diagnosis of their conditions so that they can be treated. He also visited some children who have already undergone surgery and are recovering.
Among those waiting for the results of their diagnosis, were Mansour from Ramallah, and Karim from Gaza. Rivlin, armed with a box of cuddly toys, greeted them in Arabic.
Of the more than 5,000 children from 57 countries who owe their lives to Save a Child’s Heart since its establishment in 1995, some hailed from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, the African states, the United States, South America, Europe, Asia and the Palestinian Authority. Many of them come from countries riddled with poverty, strife and conflict, not to mention inadequate medical facilities.
The Wolfson Medical Center is undergoing a new era of growth and is currently in the process of building a new pediatric center to double the intake of children with congenital heart disease. It will also serve to train more cardiologists and medical personnel from developing countries, said Wolfson Director Dr. Anat Engel. She noted that SACH’s efforts would be impossible without the cooperation and support of Israel’s Foreign and Health Ministries, as well as the ambassadors from those countries who work to bring children and doctors-in-training to Wolfson, and the philanthropists who support SACH’s endeavors.
The new facility will bear the name of Canadian immigrant and mega philanthropist Sylvan Adams, who is best known to the public for his influence in bringing Giro Italy to Israel and his other bicycle-related ventures. Other multi-venture philanthropists who were introduced by SACH Executive Director Simon Fisher were Morris Kahn, Dana Azrieli and Shari Arison.
Adams said that the new facility will carry his name and noted that 1% of all children born have congenital heart disease.
He believes that SACH is in line with the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam – repairing the world. “It’s the signature of the Jewish People,” he said. Noting that Holon is known as the city of children, he was pleased that it would be graced with an official children’s hospital.
Kahn has been associated with SACH since its beginning, said that he regarded it as a privilege “because SACH does such amazing things.”
Azrieli, whose late father was a Holocaust survivor, noted that Holon has the largest concentration of Holocaust survivors in Israel. She was glad that they are being served by a caring hospital such as Wolfson.
As for SACH, she described its medical team as “ambassadors for a country that saves other children’s lives,” adding that this reflects greatly on Israel. She pledged that the Azrieli Foundation will continue to partner with SACH “all the way.”
Arison said that she was very proud to be associated with something so worthwhile.
SACH President Prof. Arie Schachner, said of the children whose hearts are saved: “These are future citizens. The world will look at how they continue to live. If you save one life – you save the world.”
He also took pride in the fact that the SACH team not only operates, but also teaches. He paid tribute to SACH founder Dr. Ami Cohen, who he described as “an example of what a doctor should be.”
When the SACH teams go to other countries to examine children, they treat them in their own countries when possible, and bring them to Israel only when the vital treatments required are not available.
Rivlin emphasized that even when Israel was a developing country with many challenges of its own, it was always ready to help and share knowledge in any area in which it held expertise. It continues to assist countries in water management and agriculture, but he was convinced that Israel – along with the cooperation of other countries – could do more for the world.
“I know that what we can do much better
, we will do together,” he said. He was aware that approximately half the number of children brought to Wolfson are from neighboring countries, and that he was glad that Israel could help create better lives for them.” Looking around at the people in the meeting room, he said: “We are a community of united nations. We have people from all over the world.”
As he was leaving, Rivlin declared that he was glad and said: “We are all together – and that’s important. God bless every child. God bless all of you.”
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