22 July 2015

‘A heart for peace’ at Hadassah Hospital

Since 2005, the French association ‘A Heart for Peace” has been helping Palestinian children with congenital heart diseases to undergo heart surgery at Hadassah Hospital, in Jerusalem. A wager on life. A small step towards peace.

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Hayat is 5 months old. She underwent heart surgery last week. Her parents have spoken with several doctors before consulting Dr. Ibrahim Abu Zahir in Hebron. The diagnosis is clear: Hayat suffers from a heart defect. The child is then transferred and undergoes heart surgery at Hadassah Hospital of Jerusalem by the Israeli surgeon Eldad Erez.

At her arrival, Hayat weighed only 2.3 kilograms: nine days after the surgery she gained 600 grams and regained strength: a reason for joy for her parents and for the doctors and nurses who cared for her.

WAFA
Hayat’s mother
“The first day was hard. It was hard to see my daughter in these conditions. Thank God, we know she’s fine now. We are very happy and grateful to God.”

Hayat’s health is well now, thanks to the mission of ‘A Heart for Peace’. Since 2005, the French association helps Palestinian children with congenital heart defects, to be receive treatment free of charge at Hadassah Hospital. One half of the medical expenses are paid by the association, while the other half is covered by the hospital.

DR. MURIEL HAÏM
President of the association ‘A Heart for Peace’
“A few French doctors and I had come to see what the situation was with regard to Israeli medical system and, on that occasion, we met Professor Rein, who explained the need for a cardiac surgery department for children, because one did not exist, in the West Bank or Gaza. He informed us that he was also operating on a number of Palestinian children.
I asked him how we could help, and that’s how it all started.
He said: “I need to do one more child surgery per week.”
We went back to France and we created the association; thus we operated on the first child in September of that year. Since then, we perform more than one heart surgeries per week: we have performed over 600 heart surgeries on children with heart problems.”

The children are always accompanied by their parents. Once the diagnosis is made in either medical center, in Hebron or Ramallah, Palestinian and Israeli doctors decide together whether to transfer the child to the Hadassah Hospital, in order to proceed to the surgical intervention. It used to be a considerable challenge for these families to have to travel to a hospital in Israel.

DR. MURIEL HAÏM
President of the association ‘A Heart for Peace’
“Everything has changed very much. Ten years ago, there were mothers who were traveling to Israel for their first time. They had heard terrible things about Israel. A sick child is already a very big concern. A child with a sick heart is even more alarming, and bringing him to the so-called enemy’s hospital for treatment is very worrying. However, after their trip to Israel, finally becoming aware of their children’s recovery and also realizing that they indeed received the same care as all of the other youngsters, without any distinction, according to the physicians’ promise—these mothers feel decidedly reassured.”


DR. IBRAHIM A. ABU ZAHIRA
Pediatrician and cardiologist
“Generally, so far, I have only had positive reactions from the families, because they know me very well now and they trust me. And I can finally say that, medically speaking, there are very good relationships between the Palestinian and the Israeli doctors.”


Since its founding in 1912, the Hadassah Medical Center is designed to treat all people, regardless of their religion or nationality. In the same vein, ‘A Heart for Peace’ has the goal of developing cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian populations.


PROFESSOR AZARIA JEAN-JACQUES THÉODORE REIN
DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PEDIATRIC CARDIOLOGY UNIT, HADASSAH HOSPITAL, JERUSALEM.
“We live in the same land. We, Israelis and Palestinians, live and always have lived in the same land. Basically, we are not interested in the political and military issues: they are really beyond our lives. In reality, our common enemy is disease.”


The second component of ‘A Heart for Peace’ is educational. Since 2005,
197 Palestinians general medicine doctors have been trained on heart disease. Two consultation centers in Ramallah and Hebron also opened. At last, these children will be treated and cared for at home, in the West Bank.


Hayat and her parents will leave the hospital within a few days, once her condition stabilizes. This is the six hundred and ninth (609th) child who had heart surgery thanks to ‘A Heart for Peace’. In fact, the name Hayat means ‘life’ in Arabic.


DR. IBRAHIM A. ABU ZAHIRA
Pediatrician and cardiologist
Many beautiful stories. Much happiness to these families and this is what makes us happy.


DR. MURIEL HAÏM
President of the association ‘A Heart for Peace’
“We have seen this father smiling, and this mother, smiling as well: they’re happy.They go back home with a healthy child. They know we will continue to follow up on their child’s health. They know she’s out of danger: that’s how we build trust. And trust is what we really need in this corner of the world.”