Save a Child's Heart Marketing Manager, Sara Mucznik, is taking part in the SACH medical mission in Zanzibar and is updating us every day
I am writing from my bed at the 'Tembo Hotel' in Zanzibar. This was a long day… It started yesterday at 9pm at the airport in Tel Aviv, when I met with a team of medical staff from the Wolfson Medical Center. Dr. Akiva Tamir, Dr. Livia Kapusta and Ifat Brosh, who all volunteer their time and skills to Save a Child's Heart, were travelling to Zanzibar to screen children in need of heart surgery, so that they can go on waiting lists to come to Israel. Being at SACH for around 9 months and having met the children who came to Israel for heart surgery during this period, it is amazing to be able to come to where it all starts…
We were greeted in Zanzibar by Dr, Ali Amour and Nurse Kay, who has been in Israel before accompanying groups of children. As soon as we arrived in Zanzibar (after 14 hours of flights), there was no time to lose, and we immediately went to the hospital to check out the facilities.Many children came from all over Zanzibar to try and meet the 'Israeli doctors'.
Once we got to the hotel, we met with Dr Ulrike Doll and nurse Astrid Koeniger from Germany, who came to help the Israeli doctors. We all went out for dinner and got to know each other a bit better, while planning the next few days.
I am very excited to be a part of such an amazing mission, see firsthand where the children come from and how do they get to Israel, see this beautiful country and get to know our doctors.
Tomorrow we have a big day ahead, with a meeting with the ministry of health and the beginning of the medical mission!
After an amazing breakfast with the sea view, we immediately went to the hospital to start screening the children. When we got there, there were children absolutely everywhere.
At every corner we could see a child, a mother or a father. The doctors started their job and after one hour they had already screened around 20 patients!
We then went to the ministry of health for a meeting about a research the doctors want to conduct in Zanzibar. This was an historical moment for Save a Child's Heart and the Wolfson Medical Center; we have received a green light from the Zanzibar Ministry of Health to start a research aimed to create a rheumatic fever prevention program in Zanzibar to reduce the number of children with heart problems caused by rheumatic fever.
We have agreed to start the research in the near future with both sides committed to give their best for one common goal – to provide better care for the children of Zanzibar.
As part of the planning of the research, the Israeli team will visit the existent laboratories in the island, and will hold meetings with the relevant people.
At the end of the meeting both sides shook hands and expressed how happy they were to start one more cooperation in Zanzibar.
We came back to the hospital where the number of children didn't stop increasing until about 1pm. It is now 4pm and the number started to decrease a bit, but the corridors are still full. I wonder how our doctors have energy to stand for hours, seeing hundreds of children. But I guess when you see their little faces, looking at you with sad, tired eyes, you will do just about anything for them.
This has been a crazy experience for me, to be here, in a hospital full of children in desperate need of heart surgery, and knowing that us being here actually really makes a difference.
A mother just came to me and asked me to take a picture of her sweet son, so I guess I will go back and continue documenting this amazing mission.
Today we saw the last 12 children that were left. All the new cases have been seen. In total our doctors screened around 80 patients, 45 of whom are candidates for surgery.
As we finished all the new cases, and the follow ups (children who were previously treated in Israel) are only coming in the next few days, we had the afternoon off and decided to visit the 'forest of the red monkeys'.
Two Zanzibarian nurses came along and it was a fun, relaxed afternoon, where the whole team had time to relax and enjoy a bit this amazing Zanzibar!
Today started in a very interesting way:
We were going to fly to Pemba, the other island of Zanzibar, and when we got to the airport at 7.30 am, discovered that they had overbooked the flight. One passenger too many. Solution? The co-pilot doesn't fly, and I take his place instead!
We got to this marvelous, green, untouched island, and were received by a very nice driver who took us to the Public Health Laboratory. It was a pleasant surprise to see the lab and to meet the director and management staff. The meetings about the research went very well, and after touring the labs, we went to visit one of the main hospitals in the island. Unfortunately there is only 1 pediatrician, 1 surgeon, 1… where many more are needed!
After visiting the facilities our colleagues from Pemba took us to a delicious local restaurant, where we had the best fish since we got here (we had fish every single day, so that's a really good fish!)!
Everyone loved the meal, and with renewed energies we went to visit a village and its care unit. On the flight back, we were all tired but fulfilled, as the day went great!
Back in the hotel we had time to enjoy the sunset while swimming in the sea. At night we went for pizza instead of fish as we were afraid we would start creating gills…
What a full day! Our doctors screened 127 patients today! We were in the hospital from 8 am to 9 pm and besides a few breaks for short meetings they were ALWAYS screening someone!
As today was the day of follow ups, I remembered a lot of children who were in Israel this past year. It was great to see them, play with them, see them and the smiles on their faces once they recognized us!
The most amazing thing was to see the children running around, playing and jumping… At this moment I realized how amazing SACH is: to give back the life that these children deserve, to give them their childhood back.
It is really great to see the two sides: the children before and after surgery. The difference in their attitude is gigantic. Ones are sad and tired, and the other happy and running around.
After more than 12 hours in the hospital, our team went out for a deserved dinner.
Tomorrow we will go back to the hospital for the goodbyes and a lunch with the Zanzibarian team. I will for sure miss everyone. My views of the world are now different and I think, a bit richer.