Ahmad, however, was born in Iraq, where the facilities do not exist for open heart surgery.
Last fall, the Israeli Christian organization Shevet Achim heard about Ahmad. And in March, Dr. Stephen Plantholt, a cardiologist at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, took the boy’s case to nurse Vicki Coombs, executive director of Mid-Atlantic Cardiovascular Foundation Inc. She presented it to the board of directors.
The foundation funded Ahmad’s case, a positive experience “in light of things going on in the world,” Coombs said.
The surgery cost $3,500 U.S. dollars, but in the Iraqi dinar, Plantholt suspects the surgery would cost $25,000 to $30,000.
With the funding in place, Shevet Achim arranged for Ahmad to get open heart surgery at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel, in April, according to a statement by the group. Ahmad left Iraq for Amman, Jordan and eventually Israel. While traveling to Israel, Jews from Iraq traveled with Ahmad and his family to maintain cultural contacts, Plantholt said. They “do a great job of making families feel comfortable,” Plantholt said.
“It’s incredible what people are willing to do to help others,” Plantholt said. It’s a “great way to get people of different faiths working together” for one cause, to help children who would otherwise die. “Why not go beyond the local community and make a statement?” he said
Shevet Achim was founded in 1994 to help non-Israeli children receive lifesaving medical care in Israel.
Ahmad’s heart condition, tetralogy of fallot, occurs when a newborn’s heart has a hole between the ventricles, allowing oxygenated blood to mix with unoxygenated blood, according to information provided by Mid-Atlantic Cardiovascular.
Each year, approximately 40,000 babies are born with cardiovascular defects, with tetralogy of fallot the second-most commonly reported, stated the American Heart Association. In fact, 9 percent to 14 percent of babies born have Ahmad’s disease.
On April 4, Ahmad’s surgery was successful, Plantholt said. He was in and out of ICU due to internal bleeding, but after four weeks, he left the hospital for Iraq.
The surgery repaired his heart defect so he can “lead a much more normal life [and] should live a very long life,” he said.