Op-ed: The Israeli Medical Foundation saves children's lives, they saved my baby cousin

Yael Shamouilian asks us to look at Israel’s message of “human kindness”

Op-ed: The Israeli Medical Foundation saves children's lives, they saved my baby cousin

The young child that I am holding is named Yael. Yael was born six weeks prematurely, alongside her twin sister Chana, in 2015. Premature births always bring health risks, and unfortunately, little Yael has fallen victim to this plight, born with a severe heart defect called ventricular septal defect (VSD).

A normally functioning heart has two chambers that pump oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the lungs and the rest of the body, separating out the blood that is not oxygen-enriched. However, victims of VSD have a hole in the septum of the heart, causing the oxygen-enriched blood and poor blood to become mixed. This forces the heart to work twice as hard to pump the oxygen-filled blood to the rest of the body to keep it running, leading to heart failure if it is not addressed, as well as growth failure and arrhythmias.  

To fix this potentially life threatening problem, Yael, who is only one year old, went into open heart surgery to repair the hole in her septum in June. Although this is a terrible issue to endure, Yael is not the only child to be cursed with this crippling defect and is lucky compared to most. All around the world, especially in developing countries which do not have proper medical facilities, thousands of children die because they are unable to receive the proper medical treatment they need in order to survive: treatment that Yael was privileged enough to receive.

In an attempt to alleviate these concerns, a severely overlooked organization named "Save a Child's Heart" (SACH) was founded in Israel in 1996, with a goal to create more advanced medical facilities capable of performing this surgery in the Global South. For over 20 years, SACH has successfully recruited medical volunteers from Israel and around the world to train local personnel in these developing countries, leaving the trainees fully capable of doing the job without assistance. SACH has also trained over 80 physicians and nurses to spread quality cardiac care around the globe.

Since SACH's creation, more than 3,500 children have been given successful operations, both at SACH's headquarters in Israel and in 48 countries. Due to the quality and innovative care provided by Israeli surgeons, Yael, as well as thousands of other children, have been given the best gift that they could ever receive: the gift of life.

But despite this beautiful act of kindness displayed by SACH and the people of Israel, their hard work is hardly ever spoken about, chronically being overshadowed by the news of the violence and political unrest that exists in Israel today. This frustrates me because these constant little miracles of human kindness should be properly recognized, but the media tends to only zoom in on everything that is wrong instead of focusing on what Israel is doing right. Israel is more than just its problems; Israel is a constant inspiration to people like me to be more involved in spreading its message of human kindness. I try to play whatever part I can by being active with AmeriPAC, including the AIPAC-trained pro-Israel group here on campus, whose ultimate goal is to show the world what the true Israel looks like.

Although I can only dream that the media will stop focusing on the political unrest, Israel will continue to be an active and valuable player on the world’s stage, with, or without, the proper recognition.

Yael Shamouilian is a sophomore in the School of International Service.


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