I have just started my work here at the Wolfson Medical Center this past week and just this one week has already brought me such memorable experiences. Patient after patient, all with various heart issues, some the surgeries fixed and some they didn’t. One patient lying on the bed required an additional operation, little did I realize that I was headed into the OR with that patient. After speaking with Dr. Houri, Director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, he informed me that I should head downstairs and scrub up for surgery. Next thing I knew I was in the OR observing a mitral valve repair. As I stared in disbelief, a small heart was beating before my eyes, then the bypass machine was turned on and the heart was brought to an eerie stop. I saw the surgeons working with precision as each incision was done as if an artist was sculpting a statue. Once the operation was finished I headed home, not realizing it was already 5 pm.
When I returned to the Save a Child’s Heart house I was surrounded by dozens of smiling children. All with such hardship, yet so happy. It was this at the end of my day which made it all sink in, these are the lives they are saving.
Part of SACH’s mission is to train doctors and nurses from abroad so that they can go back to their countries and perform the life-saving heart surgeries that SACH performs in Israel. I witnessed the repairing of an ASD (two atria with a hole in between). The operation was performed by the Ethiopian Surgical resident, Dr. Yayu, who will become Ethiopians first pediatric cardiac surgeon. The operation was meticulous, with each beep of the monitor reminding me of the intensity in the room. Soon enough the operation was finished, with was seemed to be an almost flawless procedure.
One child from Gaza has many heart issues including VSD and high pressure on the left portion of the heart due to the left atrium being split into two compartments. On another bed I saw a Palestinian mother feeding her baby, visibly so grateful for treatment her baby son was given. She had a smile as she looked at me, to which I smiled back.
Following lunch one day I spent an hour discussing rheumatic heart disease with Dr. Houri. I find it shocking how a preventable disease results in 25% of Save a Child’s Heart surgeries. If these countries had access to the antibiotics to treat strep throat quickly, this disease would be eradicated.
Following this I observed an ASD and VSD repair on a baby with Down Syndrome. During the operation Dr. Lior Sassoon sat down with me and we had a long chat. We talked about the qualities necessary to be a surgeon, how it wasn’t just about steady hands, but an instinct to know when not to cut and how much. About the legacy of SACH and how he views himself. Even about what goes through his head as he thinks at night about each patient. The sleepless nights in which he thinks of a Plan B and B if Plan A doesn’t work. We talked about the SACH event I hosted in the states, and Lior even sent an email to Dr. Bove to reconnect with his mentor. Having the chance to sit down and truly get to know such an inspirational man was a privilege and an amazing way to end my final surgery at the Wolfson hospital, at least for now.