My son Veniamin was born with a congenital heart defect called tetralogy of Fallot, and when he was only three months old he underwent his first open heart surgery, followed shortly by another. After his second surgery, the doctors in Kyiv told me that due to his condition, Veniamin will have to undergo surgeries on a regular basis throughout his life, and I was devastated.
Ten years went by, and it seemed like Veniamin’s condition was completely normal – he was living the life of an ordinary boy. However, in September of 2020, after a scheduled MRI, the doctors told me that a valve in his heart needs to be replaced. I was heartbroken and surprised because Veniamin appeared to be completely fine, but the doctors explained that my son’s heart defect is such that by the time symptoms begin, it would be too late.
I was worried about my son and didn’t want his chest to be opened again (and again in the future), so even though he could undergo procedures in Ukraine for free, I decided to look for treatment options in Israel, where Veniamin could potentially undergo a minimally invasive surgery instead of a regular one.
After charitable foundations refused to help us because our son could get a regular cardiac surgery in Ukraine for free, I started collecting money through social media. It was difficult, because I had to raise the money while also raising two children by myself, and many of my friends did not believe I would succeed. However, I managed to collect the necessary funds and started exploring treatment options in Israel.
I eventually decided to bring my son to Sheba Medical Center for treatment, and after only 24 hours the hospital obtained permission from the Israeli Ministry of Health to treat Veniamin.
By the next day, we took the last flight to Israel before the skies closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am very grateful to Rimma, our Medical Coordinator, who took my son’s case very seriously and gathered all the necessary documents quickly so we could enter the country.
I hoped Veniamin could undergo a minimally invasive surgery in Israel, but the doctors said that due to his particular condition, it was not possible. At first, I was upset, but when I found out that he was going to receive a human tissue valve transplantation, I was incredibly happy. As opposed to the valves made from pig tissue used in Ukraine, which must be replaced every few years through repeated open-heart surgeries, the large human tissue valve transplanted will serve my son for many years, and enable him to live a full, healthy life. Even if he does need another surgery eventually, his physicians at Sheba took the required steps during the procedure to make sure that a future surgery could be done endoscopically – Veniamin would never have to go through another open-heart surgery!
To anyone facing a similar situation, I would like to say that the most important thing is maintaining your belief and never giving up: Believe in people, believe in yourself, and believe that everything will turn out for the best. It is also very important not to panic and tackle any hardship with a clear mind.
From my experiences, I can say that choosing the right hospital that offers quality treatment can be crucial, and am extremely thankful for the care Veniamin received at Sheba, as well as for all the staff and doctors who treated him with utmost professionalism and devotion. Three weeks have passed since my son’s surgery, and we are ready to go home to Ukraine to live a normal life. Thank God we came to Sheba!