By Joel Roffman
Special to the TJP
Four-year-old Kendra didn’t care whether her visitors from America came or went, but her mother enthusiastically shared her experience with them. Last winter, Kendra had been uncharacteristically breathless with the seemingly normal running around that small children do, but although her doctor felt that she had a significant heart issue — one that she was born with — in Tanzania, few facilities were available to treat her.
Members of Congregation Shearith Israel visited Kendra and other patients and their caregivers while on a trip to Israel in June. The visiting congregants were so impressed with what they learned and saw, they have organized a quest to help spread awareness and raise funds for a program called “Save a Child’s Heart.” This Israeli program provides care and treatment for children regardless of race, religion, gender or financial status.
Kendra’s local clinic referred her to a larger clinic in a nearby city, where Israeli doctors would be able to see her. Now, eight months later and after receiving highly sophisticated cardiac intervention, Kendra was able to run around as any normal 4-year-old would. What a lucky little girl! By the time the Texans visited her, it had been two weeks since her procedure, and she was making a rapid recovery.
Begun in 1995, the Save a Child’s Heart program was inspired by Dr. Ami Cohen. His philosophy was, “If we can, we should.” Now, through generous funding by the State of Israel and Wolfson Medical Center, and through the voluntary work of its doctors and nurses, 250 children each year from Central Africa, Asia and the Palestinian Territories are able to have cardiac procedures that are not available in their homelands. Additionally, the program is currently training medical professionals from Zambia, Ethiopia, Tanzania and the Palestinian Authority.
The actual heart procedure is just part of the care provided to the patient and the family. Naturally, the small patients need a caregiver with them at all times to help them feel secure in this very strange and frightening environment, so the program sets the family up in a facility that enables them to have all the comforts of home while they are evaluated before the procedure, and houses them afterwards as they recover before returning home — sometimes a month or two. After all, follow-up care is not so simple from, say, rural Tanzania.
During this time, the families live in a private set of rooms, in a sort of dormitory facility with other families. This arrangement enables the patient and family to socialize with other patients and families while recovering and receiving continuing care.
On Sunday, Dec. 11, Rabbi David Litwack, executive director of Save a Child’s Heart, will visit Dallas, enabling anyone interested to learn about the lifesaving work done by this organization. The event will take place at Congregation Shearith Israel, 9401 Douglas Ave., and will begin at 7 p.m. There is no admission charge, and refreshments will be served. In order to plan properly, the organizers request those attending to register at: give.classy.org/SACHdallas. This promises to be an enjoyable and informative program.
For more information about the event, please contact Nonie Schwartz at nonieschwartz@
sbcglobal.net or Joel Roffman at email@example.com.