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      Israel Medics Save a Child’s Heart in Tanzania

      A medical team from Israel’s Save a Child’s Heart performs the first-ever pediatric open heart surgery on the youngest child in Tanzania.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 8/7/2011, 10:41 AM

      Chaya Museri and Laurencia Simon
      Chaya Museri and Laurencia Simon
      courtesy Sheila Shalhevet

      A medical team from Israel’s 'Save a Child’s Heart' has successfully performed the first-ever pediatric open heart surgery in Mwanza, Tanzania and on the youngest child in the country.

      Laurencia Simon is four years old, the daughter of two farmers, and lives in a mud hut without electricity or running water. Two years ago she was diagnosed with congenital heart disease. 

      Due to a lack of infrastructure, finance and training, doctors in Tanzania are unable to perform open heart surgery on such young children.

      “For the past two years, Laurencia has been too sick to go to school,” said Laurencia’s mother Paulina Bujiku, 27. “We’ve been coming to the Bugando medical center once a month. But what Laurencia needs is an operation. Thanks to Save a Child’s Heart she’s about to get it.  I’m scared, but I have faith.”

      After a long surgery on Friday, Laurencia is recovering well.

      “It required incredible team work to create an operating room that could meet our needs,” said Dr. Lior Sasson, chief surgeon of Save a Child’s Heart and head of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Department at Wolfson Medical Center. “But we did it- we created an environment where we could carefully and conscientiously perform open heart surgery and we saved the life of little Laurencia. What can I say - I feel incredibly proud.”

      Save a Child’s Heart doctors and staff worked in collaboration with the staff at the Bugando hospital in Mwanza, Tanzania and Kasbian Nuriel Chirich, Honorary Consul to Israel in Tanzania.

      “There are about 200 sick Tanzanian children who will be examined by the Save a Child’s Heart team,” says Dr. Akiva Tamir, chief cardiologist at Save a Child’s Heart and the head of the Pediatric Cardiology Unit at Wolfson Medical Center. “I am checking over 20 children every day and we all are committed to doing whatever it takes to help them and save their lives.”

      Eight to 10 pediatric heart surgeries will take place this week in Tanzania. The rest of the children who need operations will be flown to Israel’s Wolfson hospital this upcoming year – with all expenses paid by Save a Child’s Heart.

      Once the surgeries are completed 13 volunteers and supporters for Save a Child's Heart will climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, to raise $1 million dollars in order to save the lives of another 100 children in Africa suffering from heart disease.

      Since its inception in 1996, the Save a Child’s Heart medical team has treated over 2,600 children from 42 countries and has examined and evaluated more than 6,000 children.