The baby, Odai Al-Kafarna was brought to Israel from Gaza by his grandmother Haniya in order to undergo open-heart surgery, according to theworld.org.
Simply put, Odai was born with a hole in his heart, causing it to work inefficiently. One side of the organ was approximately a third larger than it should have been, according to doctors, causing it to wear itself out. The surgery closed the hole using a small piece of gortex. Without surgery, Odai would not have lived long.
“In this case we caught it early,” said Godwin Jeffrey, a Tanzanian doctor on a three-year training stint with the Israeli non-profit organization, Save a Child’s Heart. “The patient will improve like any other person and he will have a very normal lifespan.”
Save a Child’s Heart is an Israeli-based group of pediatric heart surgeons who have saved more than 2,600 children with congenital heart defects from 36 countries including Iraq, Jordan, Sudan, and the Palestinian Authority. As well, Israel itself issues permits to more than 10,000 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip every year to enable them to seek medical attention at Israeli hospitals.
No hospital in Gaza has a high-tech by-pass machine, like the one Odai was hooked up to during the surgery.
'We don’t have problems with each other'
Odai and his grandmother stayed in Israel for three weeks, before leaving the hospital and returning to their home in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. Haniya, who had previously been to Israel just once, 20 years ago, said that the hospital staff treated her grandson very well.
“People are good,” she said. “Regular people are good everywhere. We don’t have problems with each other.”
Upon returning home, there was a welcome party made up of a couple dozen relatives and neighbors who waited outside, some with fireworks ready, for the arrival of the baby. Odai’s grandfather, Mahmoud Al-Kafarna said, “It’s almost as if Odai has come back from the dead.”
“Hopefully, this is a good sign for peace,” said Al-Kafarna, who expressed his gratitude towards the doctors. He fondly recalled the days before the intifada, when PA Arabs from Gaza interacted with Israelis on a daily basis.
“Maybe a family like ours one day can go visit a sick relative in an Israeli hospital. And maybe, relations between Palestinians and Israelis, eventually, will get back to normal. That’s what we wish for.”
Both Odai’s 21-year-old father, Ali Al-Kafarna and his mother, Taghreed, were thrilled to see their son return home healthy.
“These past three weeks were incredibly difficult,” said Taghreed. “But calling the hospital to hear the baby babble a little over the phone – that helped a lot.”
“I must be the happiest man in the world,” agreed Ali.
Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life
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