A 10-day-old Syrian baby who underwent emergency heart surgery in Israel is currently recuperating from the first of three necessary procedures. The surgery was considered successful, and his Sheba doctors expressed cautious optimism about his prognosis. The infant was accompanied by his father, a Syrian refugee who currently lives in Cyprus, who asserts that he has “complete faith” in the Israeli medical team.
The baby was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart does not develop properly. As a result, there is poor blood circulation, and when left untreated, the condition is fatal.
A total of three surgeries are required to fix hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The first of these operations, called the Norwood procedure, was already performed on the Syrian baby by Prof. Alain Sarraf, head of the International Congenital Heart Center at the Edmond Safra Children’s Hospital at Sheba. The Norwood procedure involves placing a shunt in the heart to connect the pulmonary artery to the aorta, so that oxygen-rich blood can be carried in and pumped throughout the body.
Prof. Serraf said, “We will be watching him carefully over the next 2 days. But I can say that the procedure went well and we are guardedly optimistic that the child will be okay as we slowly wean him off the various machines,” Serraf said. “The first procedure is always the most difficult. We have experience in doing the Norwood procedure on a number of children who come from throughout the region.”
Over the weeks to come, the infant will recover in Israel from the first surgery, and then he will return to Cyprus. In about six months, he will return to Sheba for the second surgery, and then again for the third and final procedure that will be performed once he is two years old.
“If everything goes according to plan, the child can have a normal lifestyle,” Prof. Serraf said.
The boy’s father communicated through Sheba’s spokesperson to thank the governments of Cyprus and Israel for organizing the emergency heart surgery.
“I feel much more relieved and have complete faith in Sheba’s medical staff for all of the help they are giving my child,” the Syrian national said, according to the spokesman.
Sammy Revel, Israel’s ambassador to Cyprus, explained how “special approval” from Jerusalem and complex coordination by Cyprus’s health ministry came together to accomplish bringing the Syrian boy to Sheba.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Sheba commonly treated emergency medical cases from abroad – both from allies of Israel and from countries without diplomatic connections, such as Syria. However, this is the first time Sheba has received such a patient from overseas since the outbreak of Covid-19.