Why
History
The Medical Team
Wolfson Medical Center
How are Children Chosen?
Our Logo
Baby from Gaza gets new lease on life (ISRAEL21c, September 2014)

Palestinian MD lauds Israel for saving children (CJN, May 2014)

Save a Child's Heart group improves cardiac care (Voice of America, March 2014)

Surgery in a Blackout: A doctor heals kids' broken hearts (CNN, November 2013)
 
Why

Congenital heart disease (CHD) causes the death of thousands of children in developing countries each year. Eight out of every 1000 live births around the world have some form of CHD. The incidence of pediatric cardiac disease from infectious diseases like rheumatic fever is even greater. While vast resources have been expended in the West to treat these children, most third world countries lack a comparable infrastructure. In Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, areas where SACH is active, hundreds of thousands of children are born each year with surgically treatable heart problems. Millions face certain death by age 20 because they do not receive proper treatment.

The only hope of coping with the needs of a population this size is to train the personnel in each country to manage their own pediatric cardiac care programs. While saving the lives of these children, Save a Child's Heart is engaged in the first sustained effort to train the medical personnel in their countries as well.

 
History
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Save a Child's Heart exists today because of the vision, passion and boundless energies of the late Dr. Ami Cohen. An excellent surgeon, an inspiring leader, and a warm and caring person, Ami was the driving force that created SACH and turned it into an important contributor to children's health worldwide. In August 2001 Ami suddenly and tragically passed away. His friends and colleagues in Save a Child's Heart sorely miss him, but continue to emulate his enthusiasm and dedication, bringing the organization to even greater achievements.

Dr. Cohen immigrated to Israel from the United States in 1992. He joined the staff of the Wolfson Medical Center and served as the Deputy Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery, and Head of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery.

In 1988, while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea, Dr. Cohen was approached by the head of an international organization, Save the Hearts. The organization was sending orphaned and indigent Korean children to western countries for medical care not available locally. Dr. Cohen was so impressed with the concept that he requested and received permission from his superiors to participate in the program. During the remainder of his time in Korea, he performed 35 pediatric cardiac operations, giving those children a new lease of life.

Save A Child's Heart came into being in 1995 when Dr. Cohen was contacted by an Ethiopian doctor referred to him by a mutual friend at the University of Massachusetts. He asked for Dr. Cohen's help with two children in desperate need of heart surgery. From this beginning, the SACH medical team of highly skilled doctors, nurses and paramedics, has now grown to 70 members, and has operated on hundreds of children, and the number is growing every day! The astounding success rate of 96% has been achieved with hardly any publicity, public relations, and little money. Our greatest achievement is that all the children, regardless of race, creed, color, sex, or religion are treated free of charge with the finest medical care at the cutting edge of technology, provided by Save A Child's Heart in co-operation with the Wolfson Medical Center.

 
The Medical Team
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Saving children's lives at SACH reflects the efforts of a team of dedicated medical specialists, who have been working together for years, with one primary goal: to improve the lives of children who were born with congenital heart problems. The founder and driving spirit behind this live-saving undertaking was Dr. Ami Cohen, whose vision, commitment and outstanding medical skills made it the largest humanitarian project of its kind in the world.

Ami's passing in August 2001, left a leadership void which was immediately filled by the project's three senior physicians. These doctors had worked with him for nearly a decade, and absorbed his enthusiasm, discipline and deep emotional commitment to helping save children who needed medical care not available in their own countries. It is their joint dedication to these ideals that makes these three individuals so uniquely suited to carry on the leadership of SACH.

Dr. Lior Sasson, trained with Ami for nine years, and recently returned from a two-year fellowship in pediatric cardiac surgery with Prof. Edward L. Bove, of Ann Arbor Michigan, one of the world's leading centers in this specialty. Lior is reserved, gentle, and unpretentious and is the chief surgeon.

Dr. Akiva Tamir, one of the founding members of the SACH project, is the chief pediatric cardiologist. The cardiologist is the member of the team who identifies the precise nature of the problem in the heart, and his diagnosis is crucial to the success of the surgeon. Akiva, whose training included a three year residency at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, has a natural proclivity to working and interacting with children. He has a particular sensitivity to the spiritual and emotional needs of his patients, which occurs despite the fact that he and the children under his care often cannot communicate in the same spoken language.

Dr. Sion Houri, the other founding member of SACH, and the chairman of the medical team, is the director of pediatric intensive care, the unit which receives the children immediately after surgery. This is where they recuperate for the first 24-48 critical hours after surgery, where the monitors and mechanical equipment offer a real time description of each child's condition. Since sudden deteriorations can occur in a patient's condition, there is a palpable sense of urgency in Dr. Houri's manner and disposition.

 
Wolfson Medical Center
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SACH is a hospital-based organization, which was founded, nurtured and developed at the Edith Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel. A large metropolitan hospital and referral center, Wolfson is also a teaching hospital affiliated with Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine. Today SACH is an important element in the growth of this hospital, making it Israel's second most active center for pediatric cardiac surgery.

The Wolfson Medical Center has 60 hospital units and 700 beds, and includes a full range of facilities found in the most advanced medical centers in Israel. SACH benefits from its state-of-the-art operating rooms, outfitted with the most advanced equipment available.

Wolfson's Cardiology Institute provides the highest level of care offered by modern medicine. Its Catheterization Unit, including the Pediatric Cath Lab, is among the most active in the country and enjoys an extremely high rate of success. The Pediatric Cardiology Unit is outfitted with the most up-to-date diagnostic equipment, having received the latest 3-Dimensional Echo Machine as a gift to SACH from donors Angela and Sami Shamoon, President of Save a Child's Heart, International.

The fully-equipped 10-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) works around the clock to provide severely ill children with excellent treatment in a warm and caring environment. Out of 450 children treated there every year, 40% are SACH patients. Children who have undergone surgery spend their first hours in the PICU and then are transferred to the Wolfson Pediatric Surgical Department. That's where children from Africa, Asia and the Palestinian Authority play happily together with Israeli children. That's where SACH's contribution to mutual understanding is clearly visible.

 
How are Children Chosen?
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Our partner in each of the various countries working with Save A Child's Heart is always a reliable medical organization. Initially, the partner prepares a pool of between 75 to 100 potential patients and forwards a full medical history of each child to our offices. After examining the material, a medical team consisting of a pediatric surgeon, assisted by a pediatric cardiologist and a member of the pediatric intensive care unit, travel to the country to examine each child personally for the final evaluation. Based on previous experience, we have found that this double examination system is the best method for selecting children for surgery.

 
Our Logo
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The Save A Child's Heart logo is a child with a whole heart lying inside a large hand.

About ten years ago, a little girl called Katya, who was then four years old, arrived from Moldova with very serious heart defects. She was near death and her body was deep blue due to the lack of oxygen.

Some five months and four highly complicated operations later, after Dr. Cohen and his team had worked their magic, Katya was ready to go home. A few days before she left, she drew a picture, as only a child of her age can, of a hand holding a little girl with a heart. When she was asked to explain her drawing, she told the following story to Dr. Cohen and the head nurse:

"I had a dream, there were many colors over my bed, then a very big hand came in the middle of the night. We flew to a far-off country and they gave me a new heart, and I could run and dance."
 
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