The story of how Israel came to the aid of a newborn Iraqi baby with a defective heart riveted the world at the end of November. Representatives of Iraq, Jordan, Israel, the U.S. and the organizations Brothers Together and the Israel-based Save a Child’s Heart all cooperated to airlift the baby and his parents to Israel for a complicated operation. ISRAEL21c alerted ABC News to this emotional story, and the network ran a piece on November 28. A print version followed on the ABC website on December 6.
Americans, Israelis Help to Save Iraqi Infant With Deadly Heart Defect
By Hilary Brown
TEL AVIV, Israel, Dec. 6 – In the intensive care ward of the Wolfson Medical Center, a tiny Iraqi child is fighting for her life.
She is less than two weeks old. And she would almost certainly be dead today, without the help of an American humanitarian, a U.S. Army doctor, and an Israeli charity called Save a Child’s Heart.
Bayan Jassem was born in Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, with a heart condition known as “transposition of the great arteries.” It’s fatal, without surgery – surgery that is not available in her country.
“The only thing that keeps them alive is a little duct,” says Jonathan Miles, of the Christian group, Brothers Together. “But it starts closing and pfft! After two weeks, basically, you’re done.”
Palestinians and Iraqis
Miles’ organization is based in the Gaza Strip and for the last seven years has been sending Palestinian children into Israel for life-saving operations. Now Miles wants to help children in Iraq.
Bayan’s condition was spotted by a U.S. Army cardiologist who runs a weekly clinic for children in Kirkuk. He contacted Miles, who managed to arrange travel for the baby and her parents out of Iraq, through Jordan, and into Israel, to the Wolfson Medican Center south of Tel Aviv.
Iraqi doctors talked directly to Israeli surgeons using Miles’ satellite phone for guidance on how to prepare the baby for the trip. On arrival, the Israeli group, Save a Child’s Heart, took over.
It took 21 hours to complete the delicate open-heart surgery.
The doctors, nurses and anesthetists all offer their services for free. One of the doctors is himself the son of Iraqi Jewish immigrants here.
Of course, the baby’s parents are overwhelmed by the kindness they have found in a country that used to be their country’s enemy. They spend their days and most of their nights at the hospital, praying for their baby’s recovery.
Miles, who is from Colorado, says that whatever happens, he takes comfort in one thought.
“The family will know that everything humanly possible was done,” Miles says. “And that’s a lot better than knowing that something could have been done, but wasn’t.”
Save a Child’s Heart has been doing just that since 1996, performing life-saving heart surgery on children from all over the world – not just the West Bank and Gaza, but from African countries, eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine, even Vietnam and China. Its doctors have treated more than 900 children.
Save a Child’s Heart is a non-profit organization, so it’s chronically short of money. Anyone who would like to help them can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit its Website: www.saveachildsheart.com.
In the meantime, surgeons said early this week that little Bayan was still in critical but stable condition. They’re confident that another child’s life has been saved, thanks to a remarkable, shared commitment across three borders – by Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
This report originally aired on World News Tonight on Nov. 28.