When three-month-old Zeinab, born to French-speaking, Christian parents from Africa’s Ivory Coast, was diagnosed with a heart defect local doctors weren’t able to treat, the Israeli humanitarian organization Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) stepped in to cure her.
The Ivory Coast, bordering Ghana in West Africa, is thousands of kilometers away from Israel and its population suffers from extremely high levels of poverty.
Ivory Coast citizens Iman and Kone were married for 13 years before their first child, Zeinab, was born. Three months after her birth, shortness of breath, a rapid heartbeat, and failure to gain weight caused her mother Kone to bring her to the hospital in the urban city of Abidjan. Doctors there were able to diagnose Zeinab with a serious heart condition, but the help they offered was painfully limited.
“When I found out my daughter had a heart condition, I fell apart. I burst into tears, asking myself how she could be treated,” Kone related about her initial reaction to the difficult news. “Thanks to God we went to the hospital where they gave us medicine but informed us that she could not have surgery in our country. Europe was the only option for her to be treated.”
Zeinab is exactly the kind of case for which Israel’s Save A Child’s Heart was created. Worldwide, more than 350,000 children died in 2020 because they did not have access to appropriate cardiac care.
Zeinab is one of the lucky ones. Save A Child’s Heart flew her and her mother to Israel so she could get the heart surgery she desperately needed to survive.
There was some concern about how COVID-19 would impact Zeinab’s treatment. Her parents were concerned that the virus would require them to cancel their trip, putting Zeinab’s life at risk. In an interview earlier this month, Zeinab’s mother Kone revealed herself to be a deeply God-conscious woman. “We prayed to God to ease the situation and let us fly to Israel. Thanks to God, all went well, and we came to Israel despite the fact that the virus was still present, and here we are.”
Founded in 1995 by Dr. Ami Cohen, Save a Child’s Heart has treated over 5,000 children like Zeinab. Of those, about half are from Arab families in the Palestinian Authority, Gaza, Iraq and Morocco. More than 40%, like Zeinab, are from African countries such as Ghana and Ethiopia. The remaining cases are from countries such as Nepal in Asia, Uzbekistan in Eastern Europe and North, Central and South America. The Save A Child’s Heart team saves a child’s life approximately once a day.
While Zeinab is being treated at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, her mother is being housed at the Children’s Home. “Save A Child’s Heart really helped us since we arrived. They are taking very good care of us. They shelter us, feed us, all is going fine.
“Our story is going well. Zeinab already had surgery and by the grace of God, it went well. I am so happy, sincerely so happy, and grateful because Zeinab has been cured and healed. We are going to be able to go back home happy,” Kone shared.
“I couldn’t be more happy that my daughter is receiving surgery here in Israel. At home we couldn’t afford this life-changing surgery. Save A Child’s Heart has given us a chance to change our lives. It is a dream come true that Zeinab will have a normal life like every other child.
“Save a Child’s Heart has been, since the beginning, a strong support for all of us. We thank them again and again, even though we will never thank them enough. We will keep praying for Save A Child’s Heart so they can keep saving many more children. We pray for [the healthcare workers] to get the strength from God to continue their activities.”
Save a Child’s Heart brings children to Israel for critical medical care, regardless of the child’s race, religion, gender, nationality or financial means. In addition, the organization, considered one of Israel’s preeminent humanitarian organizations, brings medical personnel from all over the world to the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel to train them in pediatric cardiac care. These doctors and nurses are then able to return to their home countries with newly-acquired, advanced skills, allowing them to help even more children. In this way, SACH is transforming pediatric cardiac care around the world.
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