A Child’s Heart [SACH] says it all. When children with heart disease from
developing countries are diagnosed and treated by a team of Israeli cardiologists,
nurses and healthcare workers, they are given the chance to fulfill childhood
“I had a dream that there were many
colors over my bed. Then a very big hand came in the middle of the night;
we flew to a far-off country and they gave me a new heart, and I could run
and dance, ” said a five-year-old girl from Eastern Europe, as she explained
the picture she had drawn, which is the concept behind the organization’s
logo. This little girl, who suffered from a serious heart defect, was near
death and a deep shade of blue when she arrived in Israel. Five months and
four operations later, the little girl, now with healthy pink skin tones,
returned home — to run and dance.
The Save A Child’s Heart team provides
lifesaving pediatric heart surgeries and follow-up care to children regardless
of race, religion or financial ability. The entire team of 70 helps the children
on a pro bono basis. Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel, provides the
facility and the medical equipment.
Seeking to give a new lease on life
to children in need all over the world, SACH diagnoses and treats children
from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, China, The Democratic Republic of
the Congo, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Moldova, Ghana, Nigeria, Russia, Ukraine, the
Caribbean Island of St. Vincent, the Island of Zanzibar and Vietnam.
Katz in Zanzibar to examine children with heart problems
SACH was founded in 1995 by the late
Amiram (Ami) Cohen, then the head of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Wolfson.
Today fellow founders Dr. Sion Houri, Head of Pediatric ICU, and Dr. Akiva
Tamir, Pediatric Cardiologist, together with Dr. Lior Sasson, the lead
surgeon, continue to turn the dreams of life into reality.
Today, thanks to the high quality
of neonatal and pediatric care in Israel, children with heart disease all
receive the highest quality of care through the national insurance system.
In fact, that is one of the reasons that Dr. Amiram (Ami) Cohen chose to
open SACH in Israel.
after heart surgery, with his mother.
To date, SACH has sustained a 96%
success rate in operations performed on over 750 sick children. The largest
ethnic population of children helped are Palestinian. SACH works as both
a think tank and a lab for the cardiology team. Unusual kinds of heart disease
present themselves due to the lack of neonatal care and the fact that the
mothers and fathers of the children are often cousins.
Working together with NGOs (non governmental
organizations), the Light of Nations, and the Regional Cooperation Office,
via Ronni Milo, (former mayor of Tel Aviv), children are operated upon, treated
and given follow-up care in Wolfson Medical Center. Due to the proximity of
the Palestinian Authority, these children who are all under 2 years old,
can travel and remain with their mothers in the hospital. They can return
home as soon as they are stable, and come back to SACH for follow-up.
traveled from Russia
for heart surgery at SACH.
“After being here, the barriers begin
to break down. They (the Palestinians) begin to see us as people,” said Dr.
Debbie Cohen, whose home was the recuperation
house for children recovering from surgery relayed the story of a Palestinian
mother who is a teacher in Gaza and her child. They were in the hospital
recovering from surgery when the news of a school bus carrying Jewish children
was attacked in Gaza. The mother asked that a picture be taken with her baby
wearing Israeli hospital issue pajamas so that she could show her children
where they were at the time.
Those from countries further away
stay at the SACH house, a wonderful family home in Azur, a few minutes’ drive
from Holon. The house is lively with lots of kids playing together, their
caregivers from their home country and Laura the housemother. Interestingly,
while all of the caregivers prepare foods that the children know from home,
when it is time to play there are no cultural or language barriers.
Approximately 70 high school students
from the nearby Kugel School in Holon, and the American School in Kfar Shmaryahu,
as well as individuals, volunteer at the house every week.
But the program isn’t only local.
Its goal is to train medical professionals from developing countries to provide
SACH type programs to those in need in their home country. To that end, SACH
hosts and trains doctors and nurses in the techniques that they need to set-up
clinics. In turn these professionals can begin to train their own staffs,
thereby creating an environment where those in need can be treated at home.
Save A Child’s Heart does so much
more than rescue the lives of the children with heart disease — it mends
souls. If only it could have a ripple effect exponentially stronger than
the one it does, we would be living in a peaceful region.
Text: M. Kaplan-Green