An Iraqi child receives emergency treatment at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.
(photo credit: DAVID SILVERMAN)
Twenty years ago, a baby girl, Balkis, was taken to Israel to undergo critical surgery. Balkis had been born with a severe congenital heart defect, and in her native Zanzibar she could not receive the proper treatment.
However, only a couple of years before, in 1995, an Israeli non-profit organization, Save a Child’s Heart, had been established precisely with the mission of providing high-quality medical care for children from developing countries.
Balkis was therefore flown to Israel and hospitalized at the Wolfson Medical center in Holon. After the surgery, she made a full recovery and returned to Zanzibar. But when her daughter Fatma, now one-year-old, was diagnosed with the same heart defect, once again the doctors in Zanzibar could not help and Save a Child’s Heart offered their assistance.
Fatma was the 5,000th patient who underwent a life-saving procedure at the hands of the organization’s doctors, the NGO announced on Wednesday.
“I never thought I would make the journey from Africa to Israel again,” Balkis said, according to a statement released by Save a Child’s Heart. “I already owe my life to this incredible NGO and now that they have saved my baby, I owe them my happiness as well. We are going back to Zanzibar soon, but a piece of our hearts will always stay in Israel.”
Save a Child’s Heart has treated children from 59 countries, including more than 2,500 Palestinian patients from the West Bank and Gaza. All patients are treated free of cost.
“There is nothing more gratifying than being part of saving a life,” Lior Sasson, the organization’s lead surgeon, said. “To be able to put aside politics and help a human being in need—a child is the miracle the doctors at Save a Child’s Heart perform every day.”
Patients are flown to Israel accompanied by family members, and they remain at the Save a Child’s Heart children’s home for all the time needed for recovery. Currently, the house hosts more than 30 children from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Iraq, Gaza and the West Bank.
In 2016, the organization made headlines all over the world after saving the life of an Afghani one-year-old after a relative of the baby, an English teacher, had turned to social media for help and had found it from a retired US State Department official living in Haifa.
In 2018 Save a Child’s Heart won the prestigious UN Population Award.
The organization is currently building an international pediatric cardiac center at the Wolfson Medical Center, where it is based.
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