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Gazan girl saved by Israel's innovative pacemaker treatment

Device similar to one Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received in July

Dr. Michael Geist, director of the Electrophysiology and Pacemakers Unit and Dr. Alona Raucher, head of Pediatric Cardiology at Wolfson Medical Center, with patient Shahad and her mother, Sept. 2023. (Photo: courtesy of Save a Child’s Heart)

An 18-year-old girl from Gaza received a new pacemaker as part of an innovative operation performed by doctors in Israel’s Wolfson Medical Center in the coastal city of Holon.

Shahad was born with a heart malformation and has been receiving medical treatment at the Israeli hospital since she was a little girl. The doctors have repeatedly exchanged her pacemaker, but her body kept rejecting them. She now has a new pacemaker, similar to the one Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received in July.

The pacemaker was implanted using an innovative method of catheterization through the neck, which was necessary because Shahad was born without the major vein connecting her lower body to her heart, the vein normally used to implant the pacemaker in a heart patient.

Shahad’s operation was sponsored by the Israeli humanitarian organization Save a Child’s Heart, founded by the Wolfson Medical Center in 1995. Some 7,000 children from 70 countries have been saved by the work of the organization, in addition to training more than 150 healthcare professionals in Israel.

Save a Child's Heart provides life-saving care to children around the world, especially in places where there is little or no access to pediatric cardiac care, including a large number of children from African countries, Asia and Ukraine.

Dr. Sagi Assa, senior pediatric cardiologist at Save a Child’s Heart and Head of the Pediatric Interventional Cardiology Unit at Wolfson, admitted that Shahad's operation was not without risk.

“We would obviously prefer to go through the groin, especially in children, but in Shahad’s case we had to go through the neck, which is risky,” Assa explained.

“We had to bring both the pediatric cardiology and electrophysiology team together to do this. The procedure itself is short, but it has to be planned carefully,”

Despite the risk, the operation was almost non-invasive, as it required no cutting but only a small puncture in the neck.

“You don’t need to have any cut. There is no need for a knife. The recovery and everything is much better, especially for this child. This meant nothing external to the heart and no material below the skin, which had led to complications for her in the past,” said Assa.

After the procedure, Shahad recovered in the Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital and the International Pediatric Cardiac Center of Save a Child’s Heart at Wolfson before being sent back home to Gaza, where she is now studying technology and graphic design at a university in Gaza after successfully passing her high school exams.

Shahad’s mother thanks the Israeli doctors for saving her daughter’s life.

“I was very scared for Shahad, and I thank Save a Child’s Heart and the medical team for the help and life-saving care they provided to my daughter,” she said.

Israeli hospitals regularly provide medical care for the Arab population in the West Bank and in Gaza, including senior members of the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and family members of Hamas operatives.

In 2013, Israel treated the granddaughter of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel treated the late PLO official Saeb Erekat and reportedly administered life-saving medical treatment to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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