My stay in Israel will remain a cherished memory. I was a Fellow in the Cardiology Unit of the Wolfson Medical Center, in Tel Aviv, from May 2003 through April of this year as part of the Save A Child’s Heart program. During my training, under the supervision of chief pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Akiva Tamir, I was able to participate actively in the clinical evaluation of children with congenital and acquired heart diseases.
Based at the Center, the Save A Child’s Heart program provides children from Third World and developing countries with heart surgery and follow-up care. The fact that the SACH organization brings children from different part of the world – especially from the third world – who haven’t got the chance to be operated on at an early stage gave me an opportunity to see children with complex cardiac lesions at different ages. I was also able to see and participate in the work-up of these patients before surgery and follow their clinical course after the surgical treatment.
I also attended a weekly Out Patient Cardiac Clinic run for Palestinian children. There I got a chance to appreciate the effect of environmental and genetic factors on congenital heart diseases. These children suffered variety of complex heart diseases, partially as a result of the cultural influence and marriages among cousins which predisposes them to complex heart diseases and other associated anomalies. Lack of examination during early pregnancy for genetic or cardiac anomalies by doing fetal echo and of treatment option with abortion – due to religious beliefs – makes the diagnosis of complex heart diseases very frequent in this group of patients.
The Palestinian children who were operated on were then monitored at the weekly clinic which gave me the opportunity to see the progress of the children after the intervention. This improved my knowledge and gave me the experience that will enable me to monitor my patients back at home in Addis Ababa after they return following surgical correction of their congenital heart diseases in Israel.
During my stay, I learned to read and perform Echocardiography and Doppler studies. This improved my diagnostic ability and paved the way to establish a cardiac diagnostic unit in my Department. I am already applying this acquired knowledge to read reports sent from elsewhere with a critical eye that wasn’t possible before my training. I have started to do echocardiographic examinations as well.
In addition to daily rounds and discussions at the ICU, I worked actively in the ICU for one month. This helped me a lot in understanding general post operative management and the management of children with severe congestive heart failure who need preoperative intensive care. The knowledge I gained helped me care for children at my hospital with Rheumatic heart disease who were operated on for valve replacement just after I returned home.
Above all, the daily discussions among the doctors about our patients and the departmental seminars enabled me to enrich my theoretical knowledge in pediatrics in general ,and in cardiology in particular. This knowledge is a great asset for me and my students back home, where I am now able to give them a comprehensive lecture on congenital heart diseases. The residents are also benefiting from this in our daily bedside discussions on cardiac patients and the lectures I give them on how to read an electrocardiography.
The teamwork and the friendly working atmosphere at the Wolfson Center facilitated my learning because it allowed me to whole heartedly focus on my training. I am pleased to firmly state that the set up of the Save a Child’s Heart has enabled me to have a wide exposure to different types of congenital heart diseases within a period of just one year. Only now can I appreciate how much I have learned during my stay at Wolfson Medical Center.
Lastly, I would like to mention, besides my training, that the social aspect of my stay in Israel was enriched from different angles. The encounters with various people from different countries and living with them gave me the opportunity to know a lot about different cultures and ways of living.
The interaction at home level and at the hospital gave me a chance to develop a unique bonding with our patients. This was especially true for children who came from Ethiopia, both during my training and after they returned back home. When I met them in the follow up clinic after my return the feeling was special, it was like seeing one of the family members again.
Everyone at the Save a Child’s Heart contributed to make my life easier during my stay in Israel. They helped me to adjust well and experience, share and enjoy the way of life in Israel and at the same time appreciate the historical aspects of Israel. This has enriched my life and my stay in Israel will remain a cherished memory.
My stay in Israel was not only a step in my career, but I gained friends who care for me and my patients. My wish is that Save a Child’s Heart will continue to help the developing world in this noble work of capacity building and human resource development together with their mission of healing the sick hearts of children.