Following my first year of medical school at the George Washington School of Medicine
and Health Sciences I decided to travel to Israel and work at Save A Child’s Heart (SACH) as a medical intern, a decision and opportunity I will forever be grateful for. SACH is unlike any clinical environment I have ever experienced. The amount of cultures and languages you encounter in one hospital and one house is not only extremely unique but provides an incredible opportunity to learn about other cultures and practice cultural competency. As a medical intern, we were able to observe catheterizations, open heart surgeries, echocardiograms, etc., while also having the unique opportunity to observe those same patients through follow-up as they went through their recovery process.
Peter, a young child from Tanzania, came to Save a Child’s Heart at the age of 11. Peter
was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot which is ideally fixed within the first year of a newborns life. During his first visit, the systemic effects of this defect were difficult to miss; the clubbing of his fingernails and the cyanosis of his oral cavity were what you would find in a textbook. What amazed me most, was his consistent smile regardless of his condition. After his first visit, he was scheduled immediately for surgery that I was luckily able to observe. The color of his blood was so dark, unlike anything I could have imagined. I watched as the surgeons repaired the VSD and the pulmonic valve stenosis. I watched as they revived the heart and allowed blood flow to continue. I watched as the color of Peter’s blood turned to a bright red as it was finally being properly oxygenated. This was an experience I will never forget. SACH likes to remind its visitors and volunteers that the kids are the true heroes in this situation.
They are the ones that leave their home countries, sometimes alone, to come
to a new country with people speaking a new language to undergo something as terrifying as open heart surgery. In my eyes, Peter was a hero, his resilience and bravery was unlike anything I could have imagined for myself, let alone an 11-year-old boy.
SACH is made up of selfless and incredible people who are committed to providing
care to children all over the world. They work endlessly and tirelessly for this cause. It was a true honor to be able to observe these physicians and served as a reminder as to why I chose medicine. It is places like SACH that show the good in humankind, that transcends politics or any other distracting factor, to do the most incredible act of saving a child’s heart.
For more infomation on how to become a medical intern check it out on the Save a Child’s Heart Website!