On October 9, 2007, after months of planning and complicated arrangements Dr. Akiva Tamir, Chief Pediatric Cardiologist, Dr. Sion Houri, Director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Alona Raucher, all from the Wolfson Medical Center, Rachel Lassry Zahavi, Public Relations Coordinator of SACH and Sheila Shalhevet, SACH photographer and board member boarded the mini van at 5:30 in the morning, craving a hot cup of coffee after loading the portable echo cardiac machines generously lent to us by General Electric Company.
We were on our way to Jordan, to screen 38 children who had been brought to Amman by our partner organization, Shevet Achim from Iraq. Dr. Mohamed Al-Hadid and his team from the Red Crescent hospital in Amman are our esteemed Jordanian partners. This is our 3rd mission that they are hosting.
The goal of this Medical Mission was to diagnose and hopefully bring as many of these children as possible to Israel now and in the near future for life saving heart surgery.
The hall was filled with parents and children when we arrived. Emotions were running high with hope, expectation and anxiety. Could the Israeli doctors save my child? The parents and children had traveled from afar in Iraq to a foreign country to meet a group of physicians who in turn had also traveled a large distance to the same third country. When it comes to children we cannot have borders, and must put our differences aside. This is the miracle that occurred in Jordan this day. Parents want healthy children and our doctors want to make them healthy.
Shevet had done a fine job organizing the day down to the very last detail even including crafts and activities for the children to keep them busy. For the little ones and even the not so little ones it was almost a fun day. The 38 children and their parents had been divided into three groups to make it more comfortable for everyone and as one group was finished another arrived.
As the children entered and left the examining rooms emotions ran high. Some parents were overcome and cried even before the painless procedure of the echo cardiographs their children underwent by Dr. Tamir and Dr. Raucher. They in turn together with Dr. Houri consulted on each case in order to make a firm diagnosis and a decision. Other parents stood by anxiously and others amazingly were relaxed. What stood out was the love each parent had for their child and the empathy and compassion our staff had for each child. It was a day of emotional roller coasters. For some the news was excellent. The child did not need surgery and would live a long and healthy life. For others, the answer was yes the child would go to Israel. Emerging from the examination room the parents were relieved and smiling knowing their child now had a chance. And we too were relieved and smiling knowing that these parents and children whom we met only a few hours ago, but had already formed a common bond with would have the best of cardiac care. The most difficult moments occurred when one of our doctors had to inform a parent that his child could not be helped. It was utterly devastating to see hope shattered and know that a young life was going to end. And so we bonded together as a large family does to help relieve the pain and give comfort. There were no dry eyes.
The day was long, the work arduous. Many photographs later we had to head home to Israel arriving well after midnight. One child returned with us, another was to follow the next day. Two emergency cases of literally life and death were handled heroically with many late night phone calls back and forth between Rachel in Jordan and the SACH Staff in Israel who were able to arrange emergency visas for the two children and their mothers. They arrived at the Wolfson Medical Center on Thursday and both have had surgery.
In the volatile Middle East there are some corners of sanity and caring. SACH is one of them. A child is a child and a parent is a parent. At SACH we close our eyes to politics and governments and concentrate on the important things….the children.
The SACH medical team was joined by a team from the Associate Press who filmed and photographed the journey from Israel to Jordan and back. The story was immediately picked up around the world and several unique stories of children are still being followed by various media agencies, including ABC news, Sky and Reuters.