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Hila Refael, PA Student & Edward Guiliano Scholarship Recipient, Interns at Wolfson Hospital, Israel
This past January I travelled to Israel as an Edward Guiliano Global Fellow. For two weeks I had the pleasure of being a medical intern with Save A Child’s Heart at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel.
Save A Child’s Heart (SACH) is an Israeli based international humanitarian project founded by the late Dr. Ami Cohen. SACH brings children with congenital heart defects and acquired heart disease from developing countries to Israel for life saving surgery. Congenital heart defects and rheumatic heart disease are issues that are addressed early on in the developed world. In countries where these services aren’t available because the medical team is not trained to handle these conditions, a child will go untreated. SACH trains doctors, surgeons, and nurses from developing countries worldwide who will then return home and offer these services within their communities. The SACH team also travels to lead surgical and teaching missions within these partner countries, where they screen children and provide therapeutic procedures.
I am in awe of the SACH team and the humanitarian goodness they fill their day to day with. As a medical intern I spent time with the incredible team of doctors, surgeons, perfusionists, nurses, techs, and the international team training in Israel, currently from Africa. I observed several open-heart surgeries, catheterizations and countless echocardiograms. From start to finish, I was constantly inspired by the entire medical team and their devotion to this project – to offer life saving care to children regardless of race, religion or nationality.
SACH hosts the children and African training medical team at the SACH Legacy Heritage home in Holon. As an intern, I had the opportunity to live with the children and medical team from Zambia, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Everyday I’d set my alarm for 5:45am and head out to the hospital with Dr. Osano from Kenya, along with Happy and Jacqueline, nurses from Tanzania. At the hospital, in between surgeries or procedures, I’d walk through the wards and check in with children who were awaiting surgery, healing post-op or visiting for echocardiograms. Everyday when I’d return exhausted from the hospital, the children and nurses greeted me with hugs and kisses and their energy would refill me. After quickly falling in love with these kids, my time with SACH was transformed into so much more than an internship. It was special to interact with them throughout their treatment process and watch in on the surgeries that would inevitably change the course of their lives. It was gratifying to follow them through ICU recovery and onto their return home soon after to dance and play carefree.
The people I met at SACH gifted me incredible memories. My African SACH family shared their beautiful culture with me, they taught me Swahili, Nyanja and Amharic; but most importantly they taught me a lesson that I couldn’t learn from a textbook, they taught me how to communicate and connect with people even if we don’t share the same spoken language. The Israeli medical team showed me that it’s possible to fill your days with meaning and the value in unboundedly supporting a project that initially seemed unattainable.
Here are a few memories from my trip. If you’d like to learn more about SACH’s mission visit saveachildsheart.com.
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