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'Save a Child's Heart' Project Reaches Out to All Countries

Israel is a small country with a big heart, especially for the world's children.
By Prof. Joav Merrick, Jerusalem
First Publish: 4/16/2013, 12:43 AM

Danish Amb. at Save a Child's Heart
Danish Amb. at Save a Child's Heart
INN Sheila Shalhevet

The most recent distinguished visitor to the Edith Wolfson Medical Center in Holon and the project “Save a Child’s Heart” (SACH), was Danish Ambassador  Liselotte Kjærsgaard Plesner, thrilled at her special visit to the project on Sunday.

She was especially pleased to see co-existence in action, children from all over the world and children and their families from places that normally would not want to even come to Israel. Arab Palestinian children, children from Angola, Tanzania, Iraq, Haiti, China and Russia are just a few examples of more than 3,000 children from 44 countries, who since 1995 have been saved by cardiac surgery at this center.

Save a Child's Heart (SACH) was created by the late Amram (Ami) Cohen, a pediatric cardiac surgeon, who immigrated to Israel from the United States in 1992, where he joined the staff of the Wolfson Medical Center and served as the Deputy Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery, and Head of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery until his untimely death climbing the Kilimanjaro Mountain in 2001.

He got the idea for this project in 1988, when serving in the US Armed Forces in Korea, put it was only put in action when he came to Israel and in 1995 when an Ethiopian doctor asked him for help with two children in desperate need of heart surgery.

Yitzhak Berlovitz, pediatrician and also the director of Edith Wolfson Medical Center explained to the Danish Ambassador that all operations are done free of charge to the families in order to save children, who would otherwise have died. Just in 2012 this center saved 280 childrenand support and could double this number, judging by requess. The SACH is now trying to raise 25 million dollars in order to make this a reality.

Ambassador Liselotte Kjærsgaard Plesner was shown the small pediatic intensive care unit by the director Sion Houri and explained the history of each specific case. Afterwards the Ambassador talked to the children and their families, who are recuperating in the pediatric department. Here she only found great smiles and happiness that the children could soon go home to play and attend school.

After the visit to the hospital the Ambassador was shown the newly established Legacy Heritage Children’s Home in Holon by the executive director of SACH, Simon Fisher. This new home is able to accommodate up to 250 children annually with a total of about 60 beds, so that at any one time 30 children and their families can be provided room and board and also one floor for volunteers and visiting physicians.

It also includes a separate indoor playroom for the children and an outdoor playground as well as a room for the movement and dance therapist working with the children.

Israel: a small country with a big heart.

Joav Merrick, who made aliyah from Copenhagen, Denmark in 1989, is professor of child health and human development affiliated with Kentucky Children’s Hospital, University of Kentucky, Lexington, United States and the Division of Pediatrics, Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center, Mt Scopus Campus, Jerusalem, Israel and since 1991 the medical director of the Health Services of the Division for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services, Jerusalem and also the founder and director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Israel. Received the Peter Sabroe Child Award for outstanding work on behalf of Danish Children in 1985 and the International LEGO-Prize (“The Children’s Nobel Prize”) for an extraordinary contribution towards improvement in child welfare and well-being in 1987.