Jordan's experience during his medical internship at SACH
As part of my final year of medical school I had the opportunity to undertake an elective rotation with SACH for 6 weeks. For the first 2 weeks of my stay I also had the bonus of staying in the SACH home, where I was immediately welcomed by smiling faces and bubbling personalities upon my arrival. Sharing the home with me were more than 20 children from the African continent (some with their mothers, some without) and a host of African nurses and doctors in training with SACH. Given a tour of the home, I quickly had my hunger pains cured thanks to the lovely nurses from TanzaJ1nia who offered me some of their local cuisine. Whilst such hospitality was never expected, I was often offered samples of Africa’s different tastes to supplement my own poor cooking efforts.
On day 1 at the Wolfson Medical Center I was given a tour before being quickly thrown into action, sitting in on open heart surgery within half an hour of my arrival. This morning’s heart belonged to Jones, a 3-year old boy from Zambia with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). As part of TOF, children have a hole between the two major chambers of the heart, which in Jones’ case was as large as his surgeon had ever seen. Between operations I took the opportunity to meet some of the other clinical staff in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and the general surgical ward. As I have now become accustomed to, the PICU was completely full, with both sad and happy cases keeping the doctors and nursing staff busy at all times. After orienting myself to the wards, I returned to the operating theater for the afternoon, where an interesting and quite unusual operation was being carried out. Mohammed, a 6-week old Palestinian boy was having his second operation, this time to correct a complication that had developed following his first open heart procedure (partial paralysis of his diaphragm, causing him great difficulty in breathing). Thankfully this second operation was far less invasive than the first, and was deemed successful.
Returning to the SACH home I began what would become somewhat of a daily routine. After jogging through the streets of Holon, several of the children would join me outside and copy as I progressed through a series of stretches to complete my workout. Despite the significant language barrier, this shared activity proved a means of connection between us and always ended in smiles and laughter. Thereafter we would begin our nightly game of Uno and informal Swahili lessons, before I would settle down for the evening and ready myself for the next day.
Back at the hospital I also had the opportunity to spend time with the PICU team, taking care of the post-surgical SACH children as well as other unwell kids. The PICU is a fast paced environment where children are assisted in adjusting to life with their ‘new’ hearts post-surgery. Often this time entails several complications, each of which must be diagnosed and managed quickly and efficiently to prevent further decline. Usually children are placed on a ventilator (breathing machine), which sometimes must remain in operation for some days or even longer. Whilst children in the PICU are often temporarily in need of major medical support, it is also a place of joy and relief as children begin to progress in their recovery. Only two days after his operation, I was excited to see Jones, my first patient, no longer require breathing support and recovering well enough to be discharged from the PICU to the main pediatric ward.
A blog post about my time in Israel would not be complete without some recognition of the amazing and diverse SACH team. At the Wolfson Medical Center neither religion nor race matters as doctors, nurses and students from Israel, Tanzania, Kenya, the Unites States, and more work collaboratively to save children in need from the middle east (both Israel and Palestine) and Africa. Language is no barrier, as diversity is the name of the game and quite often three or more languages can be heard spoken in the one room! The care given to each child is the same, as is the support provided to visiting family and friends who often harbor nervousness and fear of what might be in store for their loved ones. SACH truly is an all-welcoming and unique organization that is paving a pathway for peace and acceptance in a part of the world still marred by conflict.