The exciting story of ten year old Tamru, who did the whole journey from Ethiopia to Israel by himself to undergo life saving open heart surgery
Tamaru Akele Admase Ethiopia, Age 10
When exactly did the story of Tamaru begin?
Did it begin with Ami Cohen's Dream and his creating the Save a Child's Heart (SACH) Foundation?
Did it begin with a young man named Yarod Wolde from Ethiopia who had life saving cardiac surgery at SACH in May 1999 at the age of fifteen?
Did it begin with Mr. Fikru, Chairman of the “Board Love and Hope Development Association” who started the organization after returning to Ethiopia after a prolonged stay in Israel?
Did it begin with a little girl named Sada from rural Ethiopia who was in a project set up by Sandi Petersen, Projects Officer for World Families Australia, Jimma, Bonga, Liwan and Lalibela, Ethiopia and also had life saving surgery at SACH in 2007?
Perhaps it began when Tamaru's mother could no longer take care of him and left him to his fate in the city of Laibela hoping within her heart that someone would find him and give him the life she could not. For SACH it started with the letter below received on May 3 2009.
Dear Simon and Sheila,
A few years ago your organization took a young girl called Sada, from rural Ethiopia, to Israel and gave her surgery. This young girl has been – still is – supported through small charity which I volunteer in.
I had set up projects supporting children in Ethiopia after travelling there and meeting Sada and other kids in crisis living on the streets in 2003, and again in 2007/8. I was overjoyed that Sada could be helped and have followed the work of your organization since. I last visited Sada when I was there in Dec07/Jan08 and she was doing well. I could send thru some photos of her from then if you are interested in seeing them?
Anyway, the reason I am contacting you now is that I have been told that in another project I set up in Laibella (north Ethiopia) has a child who may need assessment +/- surgery. This project is to house and feed and educate the street children of the town. I have attached a photo and the description given to me by Anteneh who supervises the project in Laibella.
“Tamru: he cannot run, if he do he cannot breathe appropriately and his heartbeat is not normal. he went to hospital roughly the nurse told me his kidney and heart problems , they order anti-biotic and suggested us to take him Addis Ababa which is the only place that gives treatment for heart ailing”.
Please could you advise me how I should proceed to get this boy assessed and helped?
With kind regards,
Without a second's hesitation I forwarded Sandi's letter on to Dawn Mizrahi, SACH Medical Secretary, and from there with over three hundred plus emails going back and forth the present story of Tamaru, whose name means Miracle in English, began.
It took a cast of "thousands "and included people over three continents. But most of all it is a story of caring, cooperation, and serendipity. And when after finally overcoming many obstacles all fell in place, Tamaru's surgery became a reality.
In 2007 Tamaru's family came to Laibela from their village over 85 kilometers away because of the famine in the area and not being able to care for their sick child. Tamaru was helped by a very poor woman in the town who gave him a place to sleep.
When the rest of the family including his siblings returned home once the famine abated, Tamaru refused to go with them. He insisted that he needed an education. By staying in Laibela Tamaru was able to attend school which was not available to him in his village. Anteneh wrote:
“To your surprise he is very brave, committed and well aware of education. What ever happened he never stop attending class, after school in the opposite shift he moves home to home and place to place to beg for his daily food. He is very polite and clever. Due to this personally I used be supported him by providing school materials .when the time passed I was very impressed in him and in addition to my knowledge I gathered information regarding him ,finally we invited him to join the boys”.
In December 2008 Tamaru joined the orphaned boys in the shelter where Anteneh provides them with food, clothing and shelter. The program is sponsored through “World Families Australia” (WFA) and Sandi who is their Projects Coordinator as well as others have visited.
A new house has been purchased through the WFA Australia and Sandi and the children moved in on December 31, 2009. The new house has running water and electricity. Anteneh is himself a tour guide and along with other hotel owners and guides in Laibela have set up a little charity to assist taking the care of these orphans in addition to other life commitments.
May 3, 2009 I received the first of hundreds of Emails from Sandi. Tamaru is ill and needs immediate treatment. Anteneh desperately tried to get medical help for Tamaru who was becoming more fragile by the day. It was not available in Laibela and an appointment was made in far off Addis Abba. But his schooling was so important to him that this tiny child insisted on finishing the year before going to Addis Abba for medical help.
“ I am terribly worried about Tamaru he is really getting worse. He felt sick in his kidney in relating to this his leg is became bigger and now he cannot take walk even to toilet. Before the school close for two months there is big annual ceremony the school offer award for outstanding students so Tamara was one of them he stood second. I believe that if he was not get sick he can stood first., parents, guests and students has gathered together the principal of the school has called Tamiru to take his award,all the clever students had took a walk and got the award but Tamiru could not did this., Mulu, one of the boys, had carried in his back and took him for the award ,I was very sad. This morning we took him to the health centre”.
On July 4 Anteneh again wrote:
“I bought ticket for three of us (Tamiru and his mother). I could not make an early flight it is over booked, so I made reservation for Tuesday. Some days ago Tamiru’s mother left him for her home - it is found in the remote part of the country - because she afraid nothing she can do for her son as she thought, she is very poor and has nothing to eat if she stay here. I sent someone and she returned back. A few days ago we took him to the health centre the nurse ordered something to drink and anti pain drug, now he is much better. I hope so when he get the perfect medication he will be recover”.
Through Jacqui, from “Hope for Children” (Australian/Ethiopian charity) Sandi made contact with Yarod Worde. Yarod had surgery thru SACH in 1999. Although he had never met Tamaru, Yarod offered to look after him, and ended up being by his side day and night whilst Tamaru was in hospital for months.
Tamaru's condition was shocking. There were concerns for his life. Sandi and I frantically wrote to each other, supporting each other giving each other hope for this small child.
We drove everyone we knew crazy but in a nice way. We formed a bond despite our age difference. And when Sandi mentioned she thought she would come to Israel between programs she had set up in a trip to Ethiopia in January there was no question that she would not stay with us.
With the help, care, love and faith of Yarod and his family and Anteneh, Tamaru began to rally. He started to eat and gain weight and strength, and he began to give a glimmer of a smile. And as Tamaru improved good news arrived from Dawn, SACH Israel.
In September 2009 she wrote to Sandi and to all who were involved in Addis including Dr. Esegenet, who trained with SACH in Israel many years ago, that Tamaru is a candidate for surgery and has been accepted by the SACH Doctors.
Once again Anteneh and Yarod were faced with all the arrangements that needed to be made and specific tests to be done in order to get a visa.
Tamaru's mother was brought by Anteneh to Addis with hope that she could accompany him to Israel. Alas she was herself too ill to make the journey.
Laura, the SACH Housemother and I put our heads together and came up with a plan. I would take the responsibility of him while in hospital and somehow we would make sure between me, the volunteers, Prof Abraham - Pediatric Cardiologist and Vice Dean Jimma University Ethiopia who is doing a year specialty with SACH, Hospital staff that speaks Amharic, Hadassah our SACH Housekeeper and whoever else we could draft, Tamaru would be well cared for.
Yarod obtained Tamaru's visa, Sarah our SACH office manager ordered his ticket and on November 19, 2009 accompanied by long time SACH Volunteer Bruria Gal who had been in Kenya and was returning via Addis to Israel (another long story and many emails and phone calls on how SACH managed to track her down in Kenya), Tamaru arrived scared, bewildered, clutching Bruria's hand but managing a tremulous smile.
Bruria was invaluable in her devotion to Tamaru from the minute she met him until he boarded his flight seven weeks later to return home to Ethiopia.
Within a few days, amid many tests, Dr Akiva Tamir and his team did an additional echocardiogram on Tamaru to confirm his diagnosis and Tamaru was given the green light for surgery.
Tamaru found himself at home at the SACH Children's home. He made friends easily and learned to become a child. We were witness to his intelligence and his easy going manner. He shared easily with all the children. One of the mothers from Romania, Claudia, took him under her wing and became his SACH Mom. Her daughter, Briana, is Tamaru's special friend. Tamaru discovered Bamba Peanut Puffs and chips and chocolate.
Tamaru had life saving cardiac surgery on December 1, 2009 performed by Dr. Lior Sasson and his team.
He was personally cared for day and night in hospital by not only us volunteers, but by a family from Gaza whose baby was also in hospital for Cardiac Surgery through SACH and by an Israeli mother whose daughter also had cardiac surgery as well as the entire staff in pediatric ICU and the Children's Surgical Ward. And he made an amazing recovery.
Within a week he was back at the SACH Children's House and quickly established himself as a leader and everyone's friend. He lost any remnants of shyness and is now an outgoing, dynamic young boy who has announced to us all in surprisingly good English that he will be a Doctor in Ethiopia like Professor Abraham.
Knowing that he will need monthly medical follow up in Ethiopia Sandi arranged for Tamaru to return to live with Yarod in Addis Abba and go to a private school which will answer to his intelligence and thirst for learning. But at the same time she has also generously made a plan allowing Tamaru to return to Laibela during school holidays to visit his friends and Anteneh to whom he is so attached.
His mother and siblings will be brought down from their village to Laibela at these times to be with him too. Tamaru continued to thrive physically and emotionally. And he has become a bit of a clown enjoying being called Dr. Tamaru.
He has gone from 17 kilo in May to over 25 kilo as of December 29, 2009. And even with all the spoiling and fun he is having he is eager to return home and to school.
On Saturday January 2, 2010 Sandi arrived in Israel for a short visit accompanied by her good friend Christine Hoffman who herself is involved with projects in Africa.
On January 6, 2010 Tamaru, accompanied by Sandi and Christine, returned to Addis Abba.
Tamaru was will be met by Yarod and start his new life. As a surprise Sandi arranged for his mother to be there too.
Sandi will travel to her projects in Jimma and Bonga before returning home to Australia.
One last thing… knowing he was returning home Tamaru could not stop smiling with anticipation. At the entrance to the departure lounge I took just one more photograph and then flashing across the screen of the camera was the notice "memory card full". There was nothing more for me to do except give him one more hug and start planning my trip to Ethiopia scheduled for October 2010.
Happy New Year,