May 9, 2023

Meet Julius, a Tanzanian boy with a rare heart condition, defies the odds with successful second surgery in Israel

We first met Julius when he was 6 years old in 2011 on a mission in Tanzania.

Julius’s parents noticed he was having great difficulty performing regular activities. One day his father found him sitting on a path on his way home from school because he was too exhausted to make it home and his heart was beating rapidly. Julius was always smaller and less developed than other children his age. Julius has 3 older siblings who are in school, but he had been out of school since October 2011 because of his heart condition. Julius is very close with his father, he enjoys playing with his siblings and when we first spoke to him in 2012 (his first time in Israel) he was looking forward to being healthy again so he can play soccer, ride his bike and help his mother carry water up the hill where his home is.

A Heartbeat Away is a documentary about Julius’s story created by Tal Barda and Noam Pinchas inspired by the Save a Child’s Heart doctors and Julius’ story. The documentary follows Julius’s journey with Save a Child’s Heart in 2011 when he was first seen by our medical team all the way through the first procedure and when he returned home. Julius had a very rare heart condition and the doctors were not sure it would be possible to fix it at first look. Still, the medical team was determined to try to save Julius’s life. Julius was brought to Israel with his father in 2012 to be treated. After a difficult procedure, the doctors were eventually successful in correcting the difficult problem Julius presented. Even after the first procedure, the team was convinced that Julius would need to return in a few years for another procedure. 

While on a follow-up checkup with our team during a mission in Tanzania, Julius came to see our doctors to see when he’d need to return for another procedure. Here, Julius’s father explained to the doctors that one day Julius started rejecting his medication when his father tried to give him the medication, he would throw up. His father stopped giving him the medication at this point. To their surprise, when the doctors looked at Julius’s heart, they saw that he was actually doing very well, despite not taking the medication. The numbers they were witnessing they did not have a medical explanation for. It turned out that at this point Julius wouldn’t need another procedure.

Julius continued to grow up and go to school. Almost 10 years later, when Julius was 17 years old he started to experience symptoms that were affecting his day-to-day life. He could no longer play with his friends, everyday activities became harder and harder. Julius came to meet the Israeli medical team as they were on a mission in Tanzania in 2021. After his screening, doctors determined he should come back to Israel for a follow-up cardiac procedure to mend his heart one last time.

In January 2023, Julius returned to Israel for a second life-saving surgery, this time with his mother. On February 12, 2023, Julius successfully underwent life-saving cardiac surgery at the Ida Cabakoff International Pediatric Cardiac Center for Save a Child’s Heart at Wolfson Medical Center in Israel. 

As Julius slowly recovered at our Children’s Home, we learned he loves hanging out with friends eating pizza, reading books, video games, and playing cards. Julius tells us back at home is at the top of his class, loves biology, and hopes to graduate high school next year to go to medical school so he can help other kids in the country who need care, just like he did.

Julius told us he stopped going to school for a while due to his condition. He said his social life was affected because of his disease as well. Julius looks forward to going back to playing and learning with his friends at home.

We caught up with Julius once he returned home in April and he proudly told us he was going back to school to finish his studies. He said he feels great and is happy to be back home with his family. 

We’d like to thank Alan Franco, who has sponsored Julius’s second surgery and also sponsored Julius education throughout the years since his first surgery in Israel. Julius attends a boarding school in which Alan supports him financially, ensuring Julius can get the best education and care. While in Israel, Alan and Julius met up again for a heartwarming reunion.

If you're interested in hosting a viewing party or want to learn more about the documentary, A Heartbeat Away, please contact!