Every child and mother that arrives to Save A Child’s Heart are courageous. They leave their village or their city, most of them for the first time, arriving to a country where the language, food, culture and people are different. They turn to one another for support while they wait anxiously to be called to the hospital for surgery, often caring for one another’s children as though they are family. The language barriers and culture shock that exists when new groups and children arrive quickly disappears, as each successful surgery and return home is celebrated with joy, traditional music, and big hugs all round. Each child that returns home happy and healthy reminds us, yet again, of the incredible journeys that we are lucky to be part of.
In my six years with Save A Child’s Heart, both as a volunteer and as a paid staff member, I have shared in the experiences of children and their escorts from all around the world, each with a story and a journey of their own. In this time, however, I don’t think I am yet to come across a pair as courageous and inspiring as Muquadam and his mother, Zena.
Muquadam is a bright, bubbly and curious two and a half year old toddler, who, accompanied by his mother, arrived to Israel from Tanzania in mid-May for life-saving heart surgery through Save A Child’s Heart. Muquadam has had a difficult time in his short two and a half years; at one year old he had a stroke, leaving the left side of his body paralysed (without movement in either his hand or leg). The day after arrival in Israel, on his second birthday, his saturation level (blood-oxygen level) dropped worryingly low, and he was rushed down to the operating room for emergency heart surgery to close the hole in his heart. While the surgery to correct his heart condition was successful, it was at this time that the doctor’s discovered that Muquadam had another potentially life-threatening problem – the hole in his trachea (windpipe) was obstructed, making it very difficult for him to breathe. The medical team decided to perform a very complicated tracheostomy on Muquadam (whereby they inserted a tube into his windpipe to help him breathe), which now means that he is unable to speak or make sounds. Following this procedure, Muquadam spent a number of weeks in an induced coma, and the following number of months in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit under high-level care. However, thanks to the incredible dedication, efforts and care of the doctors and nurses at Wolfson Medical Centre, after seven long months, Muquadam recently returned back to the Save A Child’s Heart Children’s Home in Holon, to the embrace and joy of everyone here. He is doted on by every child, mother, nurse and volunteer at the Children’s Home, while his mother happily takes her turn cooking and cleaning, relieved to be back in the comfort of Tanzanian food, Swahili, and her Save A Child’s Heart family.
When meeting Muquadam and his mother one cannot comprehend the incredibly long and difficult journey that they have undergone over the past seven months. Muquadam charms every single person that meets him with his big smile and infectious personality, while his mother,Zena, cares to his every need with calmness and not a word of complaint. The love that Zena has for her son is strong and unwavering, despite all that they have endured over Muquadam’s short two and a half years.
As part of my role as an occupational therapist at Save A Child’s Heart, I have been lucky to spend a significant amount of time with Muquadam and his mother during their time with us. From being with them at the hospital on their first day, the day that Muquadam was rushed down for emergency surgery, having visited him in the Intensive Care Unit and Surgical Department over a number of months, to finally seeing him back at the Save A Child’s Heart House, active and engaged, I feel like I have been a part of their whole journey here. I often think that it is I, and not Mama Muquadam, that got the most out of our time together. Watching her care for her son, often having not slept more than a couple of hours or having not eaten a full meal since the previous day, Zena never once wavered in her strong beliefs and faith, or her optimism that Muquadam would pull through his tough times.
Muquadam’s journey with us at Save A Child’s Heart is almost complete. Today, we were lucky to have been granted the donation of a brand new, child-size wheelchair, which Muquadam will be able to take back to Tanzania with him, thus enabling him to share in the experience of those around him. Once he is strong enough, Muquadam will be returning to Tanzania, to his awaiting father and older sister. Finally, after months of waiting and seeing children come and go, we will be able to celebrate his return to health and his return home. We cannot wait to see what amazing things he, together with his mother’s love and support, will accomplish.