On September 4, 2009 a Save a Child’s Heart medical mission left to Zanzibar. The mission was comprised of Dr. Akiva Tamir, Head of the Pediatric Cardiology Unit at the Wolfson Medical Center (WMC), Holon, Israel and head of the medical mission to Zanzibar; Laura Kafif, SACH Housemother; Prof. Eli Someach, Immunologist and Specialist in Contagious Diseases at WMC; his wife Hanni and Sheila Shalhevet, SACH Board member and photographer who documented the mission.
Dr. Omar Suleiman, Director and Coordinator of Pediatric Cardiology at Mnazi Mmoja Hospital in Zanzibar who trained in Israel this past year, Dr. Ali Amour, Pediatric Cardiologist and over fifty children and their parents were waiting for the SACH mission at the hospital. They were loudly and happily greeted by nurses Khadija, Aziza, Agnes, Ashura, Fatma and Halija who had either previously accompanied groups of children from Zanzibar to SACH in Israel or had assisted in previous medical missions. Also waiting for the mission were two final year medical students from Wales, Verity and Rheahanna who were doing an elective in Zanzibar, and Dr. Ulrika Doll, an exceptional pediatric cardiologist from the Kinderhilfe Sansibar Foundation in Germany who shared the involved task of doing the diagnostic echocardiograms. She was accompanied by her partner Stefan Fuchs who helped and assisted the doctors throughout the entire mission.
Upon arrival Dr. Tamir quickly set up the room and within an hour of their arrival the team were all at work.
This mission was three fold: to screen new children in order to decide who will benefit from treatment and will come to Israel for life saving cardiac surgery; to follow-up children who have been to SACH and have had surgery in the past and to conduct a research project to determine the physical condition and quality of life of the many children from Zanzibar who have undergone surgery in Israel.
Prof. Someach, who joined the mission, was investigating the feasibility of a two-fold joint project in Zanzibar to (1) identify, diagnose and provide early treatment for strep throat and (2) to arouse community and public awareness of the available treatment in order to eradicate the occurrence of Rheumatic Heart Disease.
The first two days were dedicated to examining new cases, 150 in total. The team worked from early in the morning until late into the night. The children were all photographed and named and the entire team did all possible to make everyone feel comfortable and assured.
On September 5, the second day of the mission, a meeting was held at the Ministry of Health. In attendance were Dr. Akiva Tamir, Professor Eli Somech, Dr. Somech’s wife Hanni, Laura Kafif, Sheila Shalhevet, Nurse Aziza, Dr. Ali Amour, Dr. Ulrike Doll, Dr. Omar Suliman, Dr. Mohammed Jiddawi, Urologist and Principal Secretary, Zanzibar Ministry of Health who has been to Israel and visited the Wolfson Medical Center several years ago and Dr. Malick A. Juma, M.D., Director General Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Zanzibar. The physicians discussed the feasibility of a joint program to study and possibly eradicate the devastating effects of Rheumatic Heart Disease. Dr. Somech’s ideas were enthusiastically welcomed; everyone seemed eager to begin a project and the meeting was successful.
After the meeting the group returned to the hospital and worked until very late. The two medical students were very helpful with keeping the forms and medical records. Laura and Sheila went over the social profiles that had been done by Dr. Suleiman and SACH volunteer Netta Beer, a PhD student from Karolinska Institute, doing Malaria research in Zanzibar, and working with the ZMCP (Zanzibar Malaria Control Program). When the occasion arose, Laura made sure that one was filled out for children who did not already have one
Mywini Ali Omar who had surgery at SACH over two years ago arrived on the first day and became Sheila’s right hand man. Mywini who is now 18 is in school making fine grades and keeps almost daily contact with Nurse Aziza who is his mentor. Mywini stayed with the team the entire mission and helped Laura and Sheila write all the names of the children and translated as best he could.
September 6 and 7 were dedicated for follow up of the SACH Children. Some of the children are no longer children, but rather young adults in their twenties. Some of them are in University and others are working. The team was excited to see the children who were healthy and appeared to thrive and grow so much since their treatment in Israel.
The morning of September 8, before their flight, the team discovered that a few more children had arrived wanting to meet the experts. There were three new cases and four more follow ups. Drs. Tamir and Ulrike once again plunged in doing an additional seven echoes.
After the last examinations the team met with Dr. Jamilla, Director of Mnazi Mmoja Hospital and the mission was summed up in a short discussion.
The statistics’ are as follows:245 children seen in total150 new cases95 follow ups Since 1999, SACH has been working in cooperation with Kinderhilfe Sansibar founded by Dr. Nicole Haeffner, diagnosing, treating and following up children from the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. Kinderhilfe Sansibar has participated in the funding for 230 children from Zanzibar who have already come to Israel for life saving cardiac treatment.
During this mission SACH has started a socially oriented program to follow the progress of children treated by SACH in the past. The program will focus on how the children have developed and continued their lives in Zanzibar after treatment at SACH Israel. The program is sponsored by Kids Rights Holland and will eventually include every child were treated by SACH worldwide.