Israeli-Palestinian cooperation saves the life of a six-month-old baby from Gaza

May 18, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Unique cooperation this week between Israeli and Palestinian doctors, as well as authorities from both sides, has saved the life of two-year-old Lama Abu Dalal from Gaza.

Lama enjoys a feed

When she was three months old, Lama had a strong cough and red eyes. In time as the cough persisted, she refused to breastfeed. Her parents brought Lama to the nearest hospital and began to understand that her daughter had a heart defect, resulting in abnormal blood flow between two of the major arteries connected to the heart, which required intervention.

Lama’s doctor in Gaza is Dr Fayez Shakalia; a pediatric cardiologist who trained in the past by Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) at Wolfson Medical center in Israel.

Dr Shakalia since then has been partnering with SACH; referring children for treatments as well as coming every week to work alongside the SACH medical team at the free weekly clinic for Palestinian children and in the Cath Lab, saving lives of children from around the world who are brought to Israel by SACH for lifesaving procedures.

Last weekend Dr Shakalia performed in Gaza a catheterization on Lama. Due to a complication during the procedure, and in consultation with the SACH team, it was decided that Lama needs to be transferred to Israel for open-heart surgery.

Within the hour, urgent requests were sent to the Israeli Authorities to accept Lima into Israel, and to the Palestinian Authorities to allow her to leave with her mother for lifesaving surgery in Israel. Both sides stepped up to the challenge and the permits were given. Lama was transferred in an ambulance to Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza, and from there in a special car directly to Wolfson Medical Center.

“After speaking with Dr Shakalia we understood that Lama needed to be operated as soon as possible” said Dr Alona Raucher Sternfeld, head of pediatric cardiology at Wolfson. “We have been working with Dr Shakalia and our other partners in Gaza for years, and thanks to this cooperation, more than 2,500 Palestinian children – both from the West Bank and from Gaza – were treated by us throughout the years”. 

Dr Fayez Shakalia said: “Our cooperation with our colleagues from Israel is a peace message for our political leaders from both sides, you have to go through this “tunnel”, to do peace for us, for our children.

Lama underwent lifesaving heart surgery on Tuesday, and she is now recovering in the Pediatric Intensive care Unit at Wolfson. “I was very nervous to come here at the beginning, it is my first time in Israel, but everything is perfect now. My baby is saved, and the doctors are taking care of everything”, said her mother after the surgery.

Sylvan Adams, one of the major donors to Save a Child’s Heart, said after the surgery; “This story perfectly describes Israel, a big-hearted country with cutting edge technology and know-how. We will continue to practice the Jewish People’s ancient commandment to practice Tikun Olam, translated literally as ‘healing the world.’”

Lama will return to Gaza with her mother after she completely recovers. Their family is anxiously waiting for them at home, and this story of unique border-crossing cooperation, a story of a medical partnership that saved the life of their little child, will stay forever in their hearts.

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