Zeinab's parents waited 13 years for a child. Then they found out she was born with a life-threatening heart condition.
Zeinab is the first child of Iman and Kone. Her parents waited 13 years for Zeinab and when she was born they were thrilled to welcome their daughter into the world. Unfortunately, by three months old, they knew something was wrong. Zeinab was short of breath, had a rapid heartbeat, and she wasn’t gaining weight. Kone brought her daughter to the hospital in Abidjan, on the Ivory Coast, where they are from. There, the cardiologist identified Zeinab’s heart condition. She was born with several holes in her heart. More than that it was clear that Zeinab would require surgery to survive. The family was told to consider options in Europe because of lack of access to care locally.
With both of his parents passing when he was only six, Yared lived on the streets scrounging for food and basic existence in Ethiopia.
When doctors discovered he had Rheumatic Heart Disease, he was referred to Save a Child’s Heart by Dr. Etsegenet, a former SACH trainee in cardiology, and arrived in Israel in 1999. He was treated by the founder of Save a Child’s Heart, the late Dr. Ami Cohen. Following his return to Ethiopia, Yared finished his schooling and pursued a career in the field of education. He founded The School of St Yared in 2009. The school now provides classes, educational materials and daily meals to 200 kindergarten and primary-aged children who live in poverty, each year.
Sarah came to SACH in 2006 at the age of 15 months for a one-time treatment that provided her freedom to live a happy and healthy life.
Sarah was born with tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), a condition which impacts the flow of blood to the lungs and across the heart. We first met Sarah in March of 2006, when she arrived in Israel for her surgery at the age of 15 months. Now 16 years old, Sarah visits the hospital twice a year for checkups but has never had another issue with her heart. Back home in Trinidad, she holds a double blue belt in mixed martial arts, loves art and hiking and is shining in her academic studies.
Following two procedures with Save a Child’s Heart, newly-married Noura now lives an established life in Banî Na‘îm in the Palestinian Authority.
Noura was referred to Save a Child’s Heart by a partner cardiologist in the Palestinian Authority. She underwent her first life-saving operation with SACH at the age of two months old and a replacement procedure more recently in 2020. Now 19, and newlywed, Noura is currently studying makeup. She hopes to live a healthy life and one day have children of her own. Noura’s father, Ali, shared that, at SACH, “I am at home. They treat our children as if they are their own.”
Meron is a 28-year-old woman from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She came to Save a Child's Heart first when she was a teenager and again in September of 2018 for a repair.
Meron was diagnosed with her heart condition with no symptoms many years ago. The kind of heart disease is a type of defect or malformation in one or more structures of the heart or blood vessels that occurs before birth. When Meron returned to SACH she was an adult who was studying medicine in Ethiopia. She functioned as a huge support to the younger children from Ethiopia and other countries as she has been through the experience herself. Volunteers got extremely close with her as well. Now a doctor who is married and has a child of her own on the way, we are grateful to have stayed connected to her and her care, and are impressed with the amazing work she is doing as a doctor in Ethiopia.
Mahmad is a 16-year-old boy from Jericho, first evaluated at our pediatric cardiology clinic in 2005.
Mahmad was first treated by Save a Child's Heart at just ten months old. He continued to be followed up with, attending the clinic for Palestinian families on an ongoing basis. Requiring subsequent treatment, Mahmad was admitted for cardiac catheterization in 2019 and in 2021, returned for another life-saving surgery. Now 17, Mahmad loves to play soccer. In his city, Jericho, he volunteers with the elderly population. He also helps an environmental group with urban cleanup. After graduating high school, Mahmad looks forward to attending university.
We first met Khayrat in 2016 as a sweet and smiley two-and-a-half-year-old in need of life-saving cardiac care.
Following her procedure in Israel, she returned home to Zanzibar, where she continued to be followed up with locally and by visiting SACH missions. But many children, like Khayrat, require more than one cardiac intervention to survive into adulthood. That's why at SACH we say, "Once a SACH child, always a SACH child." In 2020, Khayrat returned to Israel once again for repair of her condition and we're happy to say is doing well after two life-saving cardiac catheterization procedures.
The search to find Julius may have taken place recently, but this journey really began years ago...
We first met Julius in 2011. Due to his heart condition, he couldn't run or play and although when our doctors first met him they weren't sure that it would be possible to save his life, they took on the challenge. Julius stole our hearts as the main character of the documentary 'A Heartbeat Away,' which followed his remarkable journey from Tanzania to Israel. After his successful surgery, we stayed in touch with Julius and watched him grow. Today, he is 15. He has just finished his Grade 7 National Exam and received the 2020 award for disciplined student of the year at his school.
Jarusha from St. Vincent came to Israel at two years old in need of a congenital heart defect repair. She was one of the last patients that Dr. Ami Cohen treated before his tragic passing.
Jerusha's journey was the first of many that would be made possible by the support of Save a Child's Heart's affiliate office in Canada. Her story inspired the late Eph Diamond, a Canadian philanthropist, to fund the start of one child’s journey to a healthy life. And after that request was filled, its impact was multiplied many times over once he established the Canadian office for Save a Child’s Heart.
“A child his age and in his condition needs to be hugged and loved in order to recover and get stronger, and that's exactly what we did." – Dr. Ahmed
Hamza, a two-year-old from Ramallah who received life-saving heart surgery by SACH in February, was separated from his mother after she returned home briefly and had to remain there due to COVID-19 lockdown measures. Hamza became like an adoptive child to the entire Israeli medical team in charge of his care.
Ferdinand is a 22-year-old from Tanzania, treated three times by Save a Child’s Heart for his life-threatening heart condition.
In 2001, Ferdinand was diagnosed with a heart condition, when his family members noticed he was showing symptoms including shortness of breath and weakness. Following a screening by SACH in Tanzania, Ferdinand traveled to Israel where he was successfully operated on at Wolfson Medical Center. He returned to Israel for a second surgery in 2016 and then again in 2020. Now 22, Ferdinand lives in Tanzania with his parents and two siblings. He loves to read, take photos with his friends and hopes to study to become a doctor. He will continue follow-up appointments at the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute, Tanzania’s only cardiac center and a SACH partner site.
“I owe my own life to this incredible NGO, and now they saved my baby. I owe them my happiness.” Balkis said.
Fatma is a one-year-old toddler from Masingini, Zanzibar who became the 5,000th child treated by Save a Child’s Heart. Her mother, Balkis, received treatment from SACH for the same condition 20 years earlier.
"If she had not come here for the procedure, she wouldn’t have survived."
Elhme was diagnosed with a life-threatening congenital heart defect at only a few months old. After spending many days in the hospital, Elhme was eventually referred to SACH by Dr. Yayu Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s first pediatric cardiac surgeon trained by SACH, where she was then able to receive life-saving heart treatment.
Didier arrived in Israel at the age of nine years and eight months old from Kigali, Rwanda, for a life-saving heart operation after developing rheumatic heart disease.
He is one of the four of the very first group of children from Rwanda to be treated by Save a Child's Heart, and the first child treated from the country. Because of his cardiac condition, Didier suffered from breathlessness and difficulty at mild physical activities. In his referral letter to Save a Child’s Heart, Didier’s cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Mucumbitsi, wrote: “He is progressively deteriorating...[and] requires an urgent referral abroad...before irreversible myocardial failure.” After arriving in Israel, Didier underwent successful surgical repair on September 5, 2007. Didier is now 23 years old and studying Computer Engineering at the University of Rwanda.
David from Romania came to Israel twice in his young life. He was treated in Israel in 2016 as one year old and then again in 2017.
Congenital heart disease is responsible for more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defect. His procedures were successful, but David still needs to be followed up closely to ensure he is healing properly as he continues to grow. As an energetic seven-year-old, he is growing well and has also developed well for his age. His mother tells us that he loves to play video games with his older brother, loves to play and run around, and is in school now. She expressed her appreciation for SACH and is hopeful that he will not need future treatments but knows that we will always be there for David and his cardiac needs. His mother is expecting another child as we wish the best for her and her family.
Clarence underwent a life-saving cardiac catheterization procedure in Israel 11 years ago on March 18, 2010.
Then, five years old, Clarence enjoyed writing, drawing and listening to music. Now an eleventh-grader, Clarence excels in Math, physics and chemistry. He dreams of becoming a pediatric cardiologist so that he can help other children like him receive the access to care that they need.
A friendly face at the SACH home since 1997, Christina has encouraged other patients through her kindness and joy, even while receiving treatments herself.
Christina arrived in Israel from Moldova to be treated by Save a Child’s Heart at just 3 months old. This marked her first of three interventions supported by Save a Child’s Heart. Requiring subsequent interventions to survive into adulthood, Christina then returned to Israel at 12 years old in 2007 and once more at 18 years old in 2013. Now, 25, Christina is married to the love of her life and has a thriving fashion business.
"We were told constantly to lose hope for Avita's life due to many problematic symptoms and her critical conditions. When even the doctors had lost hope for Avita's life, we found SACH, who not only provided us with hope, but also cured my daughter's heart problem." - Avita's Father
Avita was our first child treated from Nepal, marking the organization's 59th country. Born with a congenital heart defect, Avita spent her first four months in intensive care at a hospital in Nepal. Without the necessary equipment in Nepal and financial means, Avita would not have had hope without Save a Child's Heart.
“When your child is sick you think about it day and night. Here, I know they work from the heart and I am so grateful for the care my daughter has finally received.” - Annas, Arena's father.
Arena was diagnosed after birth at Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem. Following the diagnosis, which appeared to require medical intervention, Arena’s father, Annas, confided in a Jewish friend who knew of Save a Child’s Heart. He connected Annas to the coordinator for Palestinian familes, Fatma, and Arena was invited to the SACH pediatric cardiology clinic for Palestinian families, to be screened.
At just 10 days old, Alexia underwent her first procedure. Now, she is winning school contests for her artistic talent and participating in a variety of recreational activities.
Alexia arrived in Israel at 14 months old to undergo her procedure with SACH. Traveling from the Philippines, she remained joyful and never lost her smile throughout treatment and recovery. Now in grade 5, Alexia is an active student with a love for art and dance. One day, Alexia and her family hope to travel back to Israel to meet and thank the medical team who gave her a new life.
A 16-year-old from Nablus, Ahmed underwent operations with Save a Child’s Heart in 2006 and 2013.
At the age of 7 months old, Ahmed was diagnosed with a large ventricular septal defect, also known as a hole in the heart. He underwent a life-saving heart operation in 2006, requiring the implementation of a pacemaker, replaced by SACH in 2013. Now 16, Ahmed attends high school where he enjoys studying science, playing sports and scrolling through TikTok. He dreams of becoming a cardiologist or a businessman.