This was a joint Canadian-Israeli-German-Tanzanian effort to save children’s lives. Representatives from SACH Canada joined the mission to assist the team and to gain greater insight and understanding of the work performed by SACH in Tanzania. During the five-day mission, the Israeli, German and Tanzanian medical teams worked together, teaching and sharing their skills, jointly treating 16 children and 1 adult and screening 46 children and one adult, including (7 follow-ups) selecting several (9-10) for further treatment locally or in Israel.
This mission was carried out by a team of eight medical personnel from Wolfson Medical Center (WMC) and four medical personnel from Germany’s Deutsches Herzzentrum in Berlin, alongside a Tanzanian medical team of more than 65 people from the JKCI. Leading the Israeli delegation was Dr. Sagi Assa, a Senior Pediatric Interventional Cardiologist from WMC. Other Israeli team members included anesthetist, Dr. Andrey Gluch, pediatrics resident, Dr. Alon Bak, Head Cath Lab Nurse, Svetlana Katsovich, and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) nurses Efim Fainstein, Irena Rubinov, Olga Erlich, and Elena Donchik.
For the fourth year, Dr. Assa worked hand-in-hand with his mentors from the Deutsches Herzzentrum in Berlin, Drs. Felix Berger and Stephan Schubert and CATH Lab nurses, Anke Skupch and Susanne Barneback. In the Cath Lab, Chinese Pediatric Interventional Cardiologist, Dr. Zhao Lijian, performed catheterizations alongside Dr. Assa. Dr. Zhao is working at JKCI as part of a friendship partnership between the government of China and the government of Tanzania. Also assisting in the Cath Lab was Dr. Deogratias Nkya, a pediatric cardiologist. Assisting the team were Dr. Alex Loth Ernest and Dr. Stella Mongella, both Tanzanian doctors currently in a SACH Canada two-year outreach training program in Pediatric Cardiac Anesthesiology and Pediatric Cardiology at the WMC. During the mission, Dr. Loth was mentored by Dr. Gluch and Dr. Stella Mongella was mentored by Dr. Assa.
Before the mission, pre-screenings were overseen by Senior Pediatric Cardiologist, Dr. Naiz Majani who completed three years of Pediatric Cardiology training in Israel with SACH and is now leading an outstanding Tanzanian pediatric team, clinic staff and nurses to successfully screen and treat children in need. During the mission, Dr. Stella Mongella, who is currently in a two-year SACH fellowship at the WMC in Pediatric Cardiology with a particular focus on Interventional Cardiology, worked alongside Dr. Assa to screen children and perform and assist in catheterizations.
One of the aims of this mission was to focus on the repair of the perimembranous VSD. The most common VSD, it’s located below the aortic and tricuspid valve and along the nerve system of the heart. This makes its closure by catheterization particularly difficult. With the introduction of the American-based Amplatzer duct occluder II and LifeTech Koner occluder, this procedure has become more tenable via catheterization. Both the German and Israeli teams are pioneers in the use of this device, having now performed more than 400 such catheterization procedures over the last eight years.
Early the next morning, on January 18th, the Israeli team was ready and eager to begin preparing for the mission ahead. Both Israeli, German and Tanzanian teams worked together to unpack and organize the medical equipment and to set up the Cath Lab, Echo Room and PICU. Once completed, Dr. Stella Mongella, a pediatrician training with SACH pediatric cardiology, as well as Dr. Assa began screening patients. Pediatric cardiologist, Dr, Deogratias Nkya also observed and SACH-trained pediatric cardiologist, Naiz Majani, supervised her team and the day’s activities. At-risk patients had been invited to the clinic by her, Stella and the Tanzanian medical team to be examined and evaluated in order to identify which children could be treated by catheterization during this mission. Also assisting in the clinic was Israeli nurse, Efim Fainstein.
Of the 45 children screened throughout the week, 16 children were found suitable for treatment during the mission.Furthermore, this mission saw the usage of a new Echo machine, generously donated by the Blidner Family. This mission and the acquiring of the Echo machine are projects led by Save a Child’s Heart Canada. Over the course of the next five days on the mission, the joint medical teams worked tirelessly together, with some procedures lasting several hours to allow for adequate training and information sharing, overall treating 16 children and one adult.
On the last day of the mission, Mrs. Regine Hess, German Ambassador to Tanzania, visited the Cath lab and PICU to congratulate the team and observe the workings of this international partnership. On the same day, a meeting was held by Prof. Janabi with the visiting ambassador, the Israeli, German, and Tanzanian medical teams and SACH Canada in attendance.
In the evening, a catered event hosted by the German Ambassador was held at her private residence. Medical team members, SACH staff and volunteers, and guests of the ambassador were in attendance. The ambassador took this opportunity to once again express her support for this project and to acknowledge its uniqueness in the global and East African context.
Following the mission, the Save a Child’s Heart team was privileged to accept a personal invitation from President John Magufuli to explore Ngorongoro on safari. It was a trip not to be forgotten!