Not long after 15-month-old Dorice from Tanzania went into the operating room for lifesaving heart surgery at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel, her mom, Elieth, told the accompanying Tanzanian nurse that she was having terrible stomach pains.

The nurse immediately called Laura Kafif, the house mother for all the foreign children and parents staying in Holon for free treatment through Israel’s Save A Child’s Heart  nonprofit organization.

“She had told us when she arrived that she was at the beginning of pregnancy, so I thought her stomach pains were from a virus and advised the nurse to take her to the emergency room,” Kafif tells ISRAEL21c.

Little did she know that two hours later, Elieth would give birth to a healthy full-term girl and would name her Laura in honor of the SACH house mother.

“As soon I heard the news, I came right over to the recovery room and saw the baby all wrapped up and the mother looking good. We were all laughing because of the shock of it,” says Kafif.

Elieth and baby Laura, flanked by nurse Limor Cooper-Sasson and Dr. Michal Kobo in the maternity department at Wolfson. Photo by Batak Nuna
Elieth and baby Laura, flanked by nurse Limor Cooper-Sasson and Dr. Michal Kobo in the maternity department at Wolfson. Photo by Batak Nuna

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Elieth received two gifts of life that day – Sunday, November 29 — as her older child’s surgery for a congenital heart malformation was a success.

Dr. Sion Houri, one of the cofounders of SACH and head of Wolfson’s pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), tells ISRAEL21c that Dorice arrived in Holon with her mother at 14 months old, weighing just five kilos (11 pounds) due to truncus arteriosus, a rare condition.

“The surgery should be done much earlier in life but we took a chance and operated on her at 15 months,” he says.
Three days later, Dorice was out of the PICU and is expected to recuperate in the SACH house for another month or two before returning to Tanzania.

“Dorice looks very good, and I expect her to start gaining weight now because she has a new job as a big sister to a baby who already weighs more than 3 kilos,” says Houri.

Dr. Sion Houri, head of the pediatric intensive care unit at Wolfson Medical Center, and head nurse Irena Nosel, tending to Dorice. Photo by Rachel Werner
Dr. Sion Houri, head of the pediatric intensive care unit at Wolfson Medical Center, and head nurse Irena Nosel, tending to Dorice. Photo by Rachel Werner

Newborn Laura, the fifth child in her family, was welcomed enthusiastically at the SACH house by the other mothers and 30 pediatric patients from countries including Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Zanzibar, Romania, Kosovo and Uganda.

Houri explains that SACH sends its volunteer medical teams three times a year to Tanzania, where they perform cardiac surgery together with Tanzanian doctors  trained by SACH in Israel, and they do checkups at a SACH clinic on former and potential patients.

“We bring in teams from Australia, Italy and Los Angeles to operate there as well and keep the program active,” says Houri.

Various private and governmental sources from Israel, North America and Europe cover the approximately $15,000 expense of bringing each child to Israel for treatment. All the medical personnel donate their time.

Construction on an international pediatric cardiac center will begin soon at Wolfson, in order to better serve Israeli patients as well as those coming to Israel through SACH.

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