During the first week of February 2012, a team of Save a Child’s Heart’s Doctors and Staff traveled to Zanzibar, Tanzania for another medical mission. The team was comprised by Dr. Akiva Tamir, Head of the Pediatric Cardiology Unit at the Wolfson Medical Center, Dr. Livia Kapusta, Senior cardiologist at the Wolfson Medical Center, Yifat Brosh, Pediatric Echocardiography Technician at Wolfson Medical Center and Sara Mucznik, SACH’s Marketing Manager. Joining SACH’s team in Zanzibar were Dr. Ulrike Doll, Cardiologist and Nurse Ashtrid Koeniger, from the Klinikum Muenchen in Germany.
The team met at the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, on February 2nd, 2012 at 9pm. After traveling for 14 hours with medical equipment, they arrived in Zanzibar on February 3rd at 3pm.
Day One – February 3rd, 2012
The team was greeted in Zanzibar by Dr. Khamis Ali Abeidi and Nurse Kay, who had been in Israel before accompanying groups of children. Wasting no time, they immediately went to the hospital to survey the facilities. Many children came from all over Zanzibar to try to meet the Israeli Doctors.
Once the team got to the hotel, they met with Dr Ulrike Doll and Nurse Astrid Koeniger from Germany, who came to help the Israeli doctors. The two teams went out for dinner and got to know each other a bit better, while planning the next few days.
Day Two – February 4th, 2012
After an amazing breakfast with the sea view, the team went to the hospital to start screening the children. When they got there, there were around 100 children plus mothers and fathers waiting.
The doctors immediately started their job and after one hour they had already screened around 20 patients.
The team then took a break to go to the ministry of health for a meeting about a research project the doctors want to conduct in Zanzibar. This was a historical moment for Save a Child’s Heart and the Wolfson Medical Center. SACH 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.
It was agreed upon 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.
At the end of the meeting both sides shook hands and expressed how happy they were to start build on their partnership with this new initiative.
After a successful meeting, the doctors went back to the hospital where the number of children didn’t stop increasing until about 1pm.
In total our doctors screened 70 children. 45 of them are in need of life saving heart surgery.
Day Three – February 5th, 2012
On the third day of the mission, our doctors saw the last 20 children that were left. All the new cases had been seen. In total our doctors screened around 90 patients, 50 of whom are candidates for surgery.
Since the team finished all the new cases, and the follow ups (children who were previously treated in Israel) were only coming in the next few days, the doctors had the afternoon off and decided to visit the ‘forest of the red monkeys’. However, the team didn’t leave before making time for a cardiology exchange lesson, where the SACH team and the Zanzibarian doctors shared their knowledge.
Two Zanzibarian nurses went along to the forest and it was a fun, relaxed afternoon, where the whole team had time to relax and enjoy a bit of amazing Zanzibar!
Day Four – February 6th, 2012
Today, the Israeli and the German teams flew to Pemba, another island of Zanzibar for meetings with medical representatives about the research and facilities assessment.
The teams got to this marvelous, green, untouched island, and were received by a very nice driver who took them to the Public Health Laboratory. It was a pleasant surprise to see the lab and to meet the director, Mr. Said Mohammed and the management staff. The meetings were very positive, and after touring the labs, they went to visit one of the main hospitals in the island, the Chake Chake Hospital.
After visiting the facilities the colleagues from Pemba took our team to a delicious local restaurant. Everyone loved the meal, and with renewed energies they went to visit a village and its care unit.
On the flight back, everyone was tired but fulfilled, as the day went very well.
Day Five – February 7th, 2012
What a full day! Our doctors screened 127 patients in one day! They were in the hospital from 8 am to 9 pm and aside from taking a few breaks for short meetings they were always screening someone.
As this day was the day of follow ups, everyone remembered a lot of the children who were in Israel in the past. It was great to see them and the smiles on their faces once they recognized the team.
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 others happy and running around.
Out of the 127 children screened, 117 were follow-ups and 10 were new cases. 8 of the follow-up cases need another round of surgery and 1 of the new children needs surgery as well.
After more than 12 hours in the hospital, our team went out for a well-deserved dinner.
Day six – February 8th, 2012
On the last day of the mission, our team still had time to go to the hospital in the morning for the last goodbyes. While there, our doctors saw a few cases that came last minute.
The Zanzibarian team presented SACH team with gifts from Zanzibar, and the last goodbyes were said, hoping to see each other soon, either in Zanzibar or in Israel, when the first group of children comes.