Against obstacles, Afghan baby brought to Israel for heart surgery


( In a heartwarming display of kindness, philanthropy and medical prowess, Israeli pediatric cardiologists performed a complex heart surgery on a 16-month-old Afghan baby in the wake of an arduous diplomatic process to bring the child to Israel for the medical procedure.

16-month-old "Yaya" in the hospital in Israel. Credit: YouTube screenshot.

Baby Yehia, nicknamed “Yaya,” is the child of Afghani refugees living in Pakistan. Yaya was born with severe heart defects, and the family could not afford surgery by doctors in India and Pakistan. The doctors were also too afraid to perform what they said was a dangerous operation that could kill the child.

But in a twist of fate, a friend of Yaya's family in Afghanistan contacted a Facebook friend Anna Mussman, who lives in Israel's northern city of Haifa. 

Mussman, who used to work for the U.S. State Department in Afghanistan, later became an English teacher in Israel. One of her students was Simon Fisher, now executive director of Israel’s Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) nonprofit organization, whose doctors have repaired the hearts of more than 4,000 children from 51 countries since 1995 at no cost.

Mussman contacted Fisher, who agreed to accept Yaya, and brought him to Israel for the surgery. With the help of Fary Moini, a member of the La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club in California, and overcoming many bureaucratic and diplomatic hurdles, Yaya was brought to Israel with his father.

“It took a joint effort among our Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry and Ministry of Defense because of obvious security issues involved in bringing a child from a country that doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Israel,” Fisher told Israel21c.

SACH doctors operated on Yaya for eight hours at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon on July 31. According to Moini the surgery was a success. “He’s doing fantastic. He’s running around and eating. I’m constantly trying to put weight on him so we can send him home soon," she said.

“I’m just in love with this child; he’s so vibrant and smiley. God bless Save a Child’s Heart — if they didn’t accept Yaya, he would have died," she added.

Afghan baby "Yaya" after his surgery in Israel. Credit: Yedioth Achronoth.



Posted on August 17, 2016 .