2 young Gambians who had heart surgery in Israel return home after 2-month delay

Omar, 15, and Amadou, 21, brought to the country by the Save A Child’s Heart group, had been unable to fly back due to coronavirus restrictions on international travel

Illustrative: Surgery at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, September 12, 2011. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: Surgery at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, September 12, 2011. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Two young patients from The Gambia who underwent heart surgery in Israel were finally able to return home to their families after being delayed for nearly two months due to travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Omar, 15, and Amadou, 21 arrived in Israel in January through the Save A Child’s Heart charity organization, which brings young people from around the world to Israel for life-saving heart surgery.

“Both boys have big dreams — Amadou wants to be a teacher and Omar, a footballer — and we can’t wait to see what they do next,” SACH said in a statement last week after they left the country.

The pair were treated at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. After their successful surgery, they stayed at the nearby Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital, funded by the philanthropist of the same name, which is part of the center.

Lior Sasson, director of the children’s heart surgery unit at Wolfson, told Channel 12 that Omar had serious rheumatic heart disease that had damaged his valves, which were treated with successful surgery. Amadou, suffering the same ailment, was in a more serious condition and required valve replacement surgery.

After months in Israel awaiting the opportunity to travel home, Omar and Amadou from the Gambia left the Children's Home…

Posted by Save A Child's Heart on Wednesday, March 31, 2021

“Amadou and Omar were given a new life in Israel,” Save A Child’s Heart executive director Simon Fisher told the station on the day they left for their small West African country.

“Despite the challenge of the coronavirus period, we are working all the time with an ambition to give every child around the world optimal medical care, regardless of religion, race and gender,” Fisher said.

He said that since SACH was founded in 2019 it has saved 5,7000 children from 62 countries. SACH is the only Israeli group or person to receive the UN’s Population Award, which it received in 2018.

Of those treated under the auspices of the charity, 49% come from the West Bank and Gaza, 40% from Africa, and the rest from other countries.

Omar and Amadou’s return to Gambia came after Israel relaxed travel restrictions, which had almost entirely shut down Ben Gurion International Airport. Coronavirus infection rates in Israel have plummeted following a national lockdown and as a result of a mass inoculation program that has already vaccinated over half the population.

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