Stephanie Ann arrived in Israel from Haiti together with 2-year-old Jacqueline Santos and 3-year-old Jean Francois Drensky. All three came to Israel with their mothers in order to undergo heart surgeries for their various birth defects as part of a project organized by the Save a Child's Heart foundation.
The first Haitian boy to arrive in Israel was 6-year-old Woodley Elysee who came directly after the devastating earthquake that hit the Caribbean country. Since then, Woodley has been treated and returned to Haiti.
"Had we not operated on him he would have died soon after," Dr. Sion Houri, head of Pediatric ICU in Wolfson, said Thursday. Today Woodley is a healthy, full functioning little boy.
Kids and their mothers at Wolfson Hospital (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Meanwhile, Lydia, Stephanie Ann's mother still awaits her daughter's operation.
"All those years they told us it was impossible for her to exercise or ride a bike," she says. "Now, we're supposed to stay here for three months and we have high hopes." Stephanie Ann says shyly that she's a 7th grader in a Port-au-Prince high school, that she does not have many friends and that her dream is to play volleyball.
Lydia says that she heard little about Israel before coming. "We looked Israel up on the internet and I saw there were religious people wearing black here," she relates. "In Haiti people wear black when someone dies."
The family were very fortunate during the earthquake, the mother says. "No one was hurt and the house wasn't ruined either. My workplace was completely destroyed. I have a good friend who lost her husband and her leg. Haiti will never be the same. Many homes are still in rubbles," she says.
Jean Francois on his mother's lap (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Dr. Huri explains the importance of the procedures the three kids will undergo in Israel. "I hope we can operate on some of them next week and on the rest after Sukkot," he says. "Because of their heart defects they can't run or play any kind of sport. They're fine as long as they don't exert themselves.
"Their condition is dynamic and would have deteriorated had we not treated them," he said, adding that the children are in risk of developing neurological problems but that he hoped they would return to form within 90 days.
The Save a Child's Heart foundation was established 15 years ago and has since arranged surgeries in Israel for more than 2,400 kids, half of whom were Palestinians and the rest from third-world countries like Iraq, Morocco, Angola, Zanzibar and Romania.
The foundation receives funds from the European Union and Israel's Ministry of Regional Development and hopes to facilitate the operations of 250 children this year.
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