A two-year-old Palestinian boy who had a life-saving operation in Israel is set to return home after weeks spent recovering without his parents.
Hamza Ali Mohammed, who was born with potentially fatal congenital heart disease, had open-heart surgery at a hospital in Holon in February, while his parents waited anxiously in Ramallah, unable to travel due to the coronavirus lockdown.
The youngster was only kept alive with the help of a breathing machine as a medical team from the charity Save a Child’s Heart fought to save his life, and this week was finally set to return home after more than two months in critical condition.
While his mother and father had initially travelled to Israel with Hamza, they had returned to the Palestinian city for a short visit to see family and friends when strict lockdown conditions came into effect, rendering them unable to return to Holon.
“We all became his family,” said Dr Ahmed Amer, a paediatrician at Wolfson Medical Centre, where Hamza was treated in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit and in the Paediatric Cardiology Unit.
“The whole medical team became his parents. The nurses did shifts to hold him and play with him. We did not leave him alone for a minute. A child his age and in his condition needs to be hugged and loved in order to recover and get stronger. That’s exactly what we gave him”.
Senior physician Dr Racheli Sion Sarid said the operation was extremely complicated.
“We tried to extubate Hamza a few times after surgery, but he had a hard time breathing by himself. We had to connect him to an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine. It kept him alive for a few weeks.”
Only after another operation in one of his lungs was Hamza able to begin breathing by himself again, and his parents were able to “see” his recovery with Amer sending them photos and updates daily.
“The first few times he saw them on video he began crying and it took us a long time to calm him down”, said Amer. “But he got used to it and we even celebrated his birthday a couple of weeks ago together with his parents on video. We brought a cake and balloons, and he was very happy.”
The toddler is now walking, laughing and playing, and soon he will be ready to return home to his family in the West Bank, prompting an emotional goodbye from the medics. “His story is amazing in many aspects” says Sarid. “It is a story of people, of human beings, helping each other regardless of their origin and religion.”