Save a Child’s Heart strives to help wherever we can, because a child’s life means the world to us.
That’s why we work in cooperation with medical partners in countries that have children in need of life saving cardiac surgeries and/or other lifesaving procedures. These medical partners provide administrative and logistical assistance to Save a Child’s Heart in locating heart-diseased children and bringing them to Israel for treatment.
Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute , Tanzania
Tanzania has a population of over 49 million people and only one pediatric cardiac surgeon, Dr. Godwin Godfrey, Tanzania’s first pediatric heart surgeon, who in the summer of 2013 completed 5 years of training under the SACH program and returned to the Bugando Medical Center to run its pediatric cardiac center. With Dr. Godwin, returned also a fully trained pediatric cardiac team including pediatric cardiologists, anesthesiologist, a perfusionist and a nursing team. The training of the team was possible thanks to Australian Pratt foundation.
In Tanzania, SACH has partnered with the Bugando Medical Center in Mwanza, Tanzania and the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) affiliated with the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Following the return of Dr. Godwin to Tanzania, it was understood that it will not be possible to conduct pediatric heart surgery at the Bugando Medical Center. In July 2015, with full support of Save a Child’s Heart and following a visit of Dr Sagi Assa at the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) in Dar es Salaam, Dr Godwin decided to relocate from Bugando to JKCI and joined pediatric cardiologist Dr Naiz Majani, also trained by SACH in Israel. They were joined by Anesthesiologist Dr. Benard Kenemo who was trained in Israel by SACH as well.
SACH introduced the Tanzania capacity-building project to two additional international organizations: the Australian organization Open Heart International (OHI) and the American organization Mending Kids International (MKI). Both organizations sent pilot missions to the Bugando Medical Center in Tanzania to examine the medical facilities and teams and both organizations have resolved to include the Tanzania site in their work plans.
In July 2015, SACH conducted a surgery mission at the JKCI in cooperation with MKI and OHI. The 21-person SACH medical team, MKI, OHI and the local Tanzanian team which was trained at the WMC through the SACH outreach training program in the past, performed open-heart surgery on 11 children and screened dozens of children who will be treated at the WMC in Israel during 2016.
All partners of this program are interested in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), for the development of sustainable pediatric cardiac treatment and training program in Tanzania at the JKCI. The program will involve medical missions from the United States, Australia, Israel, Italy and Germany, including both on-site surgeries and training by medical expertise in each respective country. During this time, Tanzanian medical staff will continue to undergo training in Israel at the WMC through the SACH program so they can best serve Tanzanian children in their local community.
In October 2015, 3 medical personnel from Tanzania commenced training at the WMC.
One physician started training in pediatric intensive care and two nurses started training, one operating room nurse and one in pediatric intensive care.
A surgery and catheterization mission to JKCI is planned for March 2016.
Ethiopia has only three cardiologists (two out of them trained by Save a Child’s Heart) and no pediatric heart surgeons for a population of over 90 million children under the age of 18. To date, Save a Child’s Heart treated more than 500 children from Ethiopia. During 2015 there was an increase in the number of Ethiopian children treated by SACH and the focus currently is on building the country’s first pediatric cardiac team led by Dr Yayehyirad (Yayu) Mekonnen who will become in three years the first pediatric cardiac surgeon of Ethiopia.
SACH currently works with two centers in Ethiopia:
Jimma University Hospital –
The Jimma University Hospital, located in the city of Jimma, Ethiopia, is a 200-bed hospital serving a population of 10 million. The hospital has only one intensive care unit with 6 beds serving both pediatric and adult cases. The dean of the hospital, Professor Abraham Haileamlak Mitike, a pediatrician who completed one-year training in pediatric cardiology in Israel at the Wolfson Medical Center (WMC) through SACH, initiated, in cooperation with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, the construction of a new hospital which will include the first pediatric cardiac center in Jimma.
As part of this process Professor Abraham sent in 2012 Dr. Yayehyirad (Yayu) Mekonnen Ejigu for a 5-year training program in pediatric cardiac surgery in Israel at the WMC. Dr. Yayu is currently in his fourth year of training. Dr. Yayu has been accepted to a one year fellowship at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Sydney, Australia and will be travelling there in 2018, before returning to Ethiopia in 2019 at the country’s first pediatric cardiac surgeon.
As part of his training, Dr Yayu travelled twice to Ethiopia during 2015 to take part in two surgical missions; the first mission was an Indian medical mission organized by SACH partners in the Tanzania project – Medning kids International. The second mission was through SACH US board member Jeff Hoffman who connected SACH and Dr. Yayu with the medical technology company Medtronic who sponsored a US based mission to Ethiopia.
SACH is currently training a team of four physicians from Ethiopia;
• Pediatric heart surgeon Yayehyirad (Yayu) Mekonnen Ejigu
• Pediatric Intensive care specialist Dr. Habtamu Sime Gizaw
• Pediatric cardiologist Dr. Demeke Mekonnen Mengistie
• Anesthesiologist Dr. Tolesa Waktola Gemechu
The training of the Ethiopian medical team, including Dr. Yayu's 5-year training is supported by the Levin Family Foundation, David Koadlow from Autralia, the Nordia Foundation, The George and Freda Castan Families Charitable Foundation and Save a Child's Heart Canada Foundation.
In 2014 SACH hired an administrative assistant at Jimma University Hospital to assist Professor Abraham with the administrative work related to sending children for treatments in Israel. SACH’s goal is to train a full surgery team, including operating room nurses and perfusion specialist who will return to Jimma to perform pediatric cardiac surgeries independently.
Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa – SACH’s partner in Addis Ababa is Dr. Etsegenet Gedlu, a pediatric cardiologist who also trained with SACH in Israel in 2003-2004. In January 2014, as a result of the initiative of SACH US board member Jeff Hoffman, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in the presence of the Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia, between Addis Ababa University, College of Health Sciences - Black Lion Hospital (AAU-BLH) and SACH, which renewed this partnership. Over the past 17 years, over 450 Ethiopian children have received cardiac treatment in Israel thanks to the efforts of SACH.
In April 2015, a cardiology clinic was held by a SACH medical team in both of these sites in Ethiopia for children suffering from heart disease. The clinic included the examination of 155 children who will be invited for surgery in Israel during 2015-2016 as well as follow-up on children previously treated by SACH, specifically the follow-up on the first Ethiopian children treated by SACH twenty years ago.
Grigore Alexandrescu Emergency Pediatric Hospital, Romania
In Romania, SACH has partnered with the Grigore Alexandrescu Emergency Pediatric Hospital (GAH) in Bucharest. The GAH is currently building a new center of pediatric cardiac care, which is planned to be completed in the beginning of 2016.
On March 21, 2015 SACH together with GAH, Gift of Life International (GOLI), Rotary Romania and Rotary Israel have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, with the goal of improving the quality of care that children with heart disease receive in Romania and developing the capacity of GAH to provide comprehensive cardiac services to children so that eventually there will be no need for them to travel abroad for care.
Since 2013, SACH has trained the following Romanian Following Romanian pediatric cardiac team members: Dr. Cristina Sandu, an anesthesiologist, trained at WMC between July 2013 and February 2014.
• Mr. Viorel Paraschiu Romasan, a heart-lunch technician, trained at WMC between July 2013 and February 2014.
• Dr. Ioana Bejan, a pediatric cardiologist, completed a 12-month training program at WMC in November 2014.
• Dr. Victor Prisacari, a pediatric cardiac surgeon, currently in a 12-month training program at WMC as of April 2014.
2015 was mainly characterized by completion of the building of the new center of pediatric cardiac care at the Grigore Alexandrescu Emergency Pediatric Hospital (GAH) and equipping it.
In November 2015 SACH Executive Director, Simon Fisher travelled to Romania to meet Gift of Life International (GOLI) Executive Director Rob Raylman, who is currently working on a Rotary global grant to fund the medical missions to Romania. Rob and Simon also met with representative from International Children’s Heart Fund, another American organization recruited to support GAH and send medical missions to operate at the hospital with the local team.
During their stay in Romania they met with the management of GAH and with the medical team members who were trained by SACH in Israel.
With generous support from the Botnar Foundation, training of additional medical team members from GAH will be take place in 2016 and the first SACH surgical mission to Romania is planned for July 2017.
The international cooperation around creating a center of competence in Romania is led by Rotary Romania, Radu Popescu and Victor Martin from Rotary Club Bucharest and Director of GAH professor Dan Unesco.