Israeli NGO saves family from Zanzibar with same heart condition

Save a Child's Heart assisted in bringing two-year-old Fahim for treatment in Israel, which included a complex operation, and he was the third family member to be helped by the NGO

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Fahim, a two-year-old boy from Zanzibar recently underwent lifesaving catheterization at the Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital in central Israel. Fahim was born in Zanzibar with a congenital heart disease that threatened his life.
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  • He was brought to Israel by Save a Child’s Heart, and is the third from his family to be saved by the Israeli-based international non-profit organization.
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    Zanzibar heary
    Zanzibar heary
    Balkis and Fatma
    (Photo: Save a Child’s Heart)
    Three and a half years ago Fahim’s mother, Balkis, came to the Save a Child’s Heart annual clinic held at the Mnazi Mmoja hospital in Stone town, Zanzibar. She brought her one-year-old baby girl Fatma, to be examined by the medical team. Fatma was very sick.
    She was connected to oxygen and had difficulty breathing. The medical team took her immediately for an echo examination and as they began speaking with Balkis they understood that Balkis herself was a past patient of Save a Child’s Heart. She was brought to Israel more than 20 years ago, as a little girl, for lifesaving heart surgery.
    Balkis’ life was saved in Israel, she returned to Zanzibar, graduated from school and got married. Her first child, Fatma, was born with a heart disease – with the exact same disease that Balkis had. Fatma was brought to Israel soon after that clinic and underwent open heart surgery in Israel in 2019, a surgery that saved her life. She was the 5,000 child to be saved by Save a Child’s Heart.
    Last month, during the Save a Child’s Heart clinic in Zanzibar, Balkis brought Fatma for a follow up examination. They came with Fatma’s little brother, Fahim, who was born two years ago.
    “Balkis and Fatma were very excited to come to our clinic in Zanzibar and meet us again” said Dr Alona Raucher Sternfeld, head of Pediatric Cardiology at Wolfson “We examined both of them and found them in excellent condition.
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    Zanzibar heary
    Zanzibar heary
    Balkis and Fahim
    (Photo: Abigail Stern)
    "As I completed the echo examination, I suggested, by chance, to examine little Fahim as well. I had no idea what will happen. I just said – since you are here, let’s see him as well. We were all shocked to see that Fahim has the exact same defect that his mother and older sister had. It is very rare that three family members suffer from the same defect," he added.
    Balkis was shocked. She was sure that she wouldn’t need to deal with life threatening conditions to her children any more. Fahim looked like a healthy boy and did not have any symptoms.
    It was decided immediately that Fahim needs lifesaving procedure and Balkis began preparing, for the third time, to the journey to Israel. This time to save her little boy.
    Last week Fahim underwent cardiac catheterization that amended his heart and saved his life.
    “Save a Child’s Heart saved my family” Balkis said after the lifesaving procedure, as Fahim recovered at the Save a Child’s Heart children’s home with more than 30 other children from around the world.
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    Zanzibar heary
    Zanzibar heary
    Balkis and her family in Israel
    (Photo: Debra Silver)
    “I don’t have enough words to thank Dr. Alona and the entire Save a Child’s Heart team that gave me, and my children, the gift of life. In my wildest dreams I could not imagine that both of my children would need to go through what I had to go through as a child. I am grateful that both now can live healthy and normal lives, like all children”.
    Save a Child’s Heart is an Israeli humanitarian organization, working internationally to save the lives of children from countries where access to pediatric cardiac care is limited or nonexistent.
    Founded at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon in 1995, Save a Child’s Heart has saved the lives of more than 6,000 children from 66 countries and has brought over 140 local healthcare professionals to Israel for training so they can treat their own children independently and create centers of excellence in their home countries.
    The core value of Save a Child’s Heart is Tikkun Olam - doing good to repair the world and believing that every child deserves the best medical care, regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality, or financial status.
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