Dr. Nizar Hijjeh, Consultant and Head of the Department of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery and Congenital Heart Defects at Makassed Islamic Charitable Hospital, announces that the Department’s medical team has successfully and without complications completed two surgeries on two children to repair a congenital heart defect created by a rare condition known as “Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome” (HLHS), where the left ventricle of the heart is severely underdeveloped. Meanwhile, the Department’s medical team has also successfully completed the first phase of the operation on a third child suffering from the same condition.
Dr. Hijjeh states that “this condition is often discovered while the fetus is in the mother’s womb or a few hours after birth”, adding that it is very rare and affects one in 50,000 children worldwide. He explains that “when a baby is born with HLHS, the left part of the heart is practically missing, and he would be living his life with half a heart. The symptoms begin to appear on the baby in the early days following his birth; his skin color is bluish as a result of lack of oxygen, leading in turn to difficulty in breathing and the inability to eat. Consequently, during the first years of his life, the child will have to undergo multiple surgeries done in several separate stages”.
Dr. Hijjeh confirms that the Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Unit at Makassed Hospital is considered a pioneer in performing the surgery needed to repair this congenital heart defect, which is called the Giessen Hybrid Procedure because it was carried out for the first time in the German city of Giessen in the year 2000. This surgery is done in three phases: the first procedure is known as the Norwood Procedure and is performed during the first weeks of a baby’s life; the second is the Bi-directional Glenn Shunt Procedure and is done when an infant is four to six months of age; then the final surgery is the Fontan Procedure which is carried out when the child is three years old.”
Dr. Hijjeh adds that “such operations had a very low success rate of between 15-20%, not to mention the loss of hope felt by the parents that their child will remain alive, but the modern Giessen Hybrid Procedure, which is being performed at Maqassed Hospital, has a success rate of up to 80%, and this was the surgery that has been carried out on the two children, Maath and Habibah”.
As for two-weeks-old baby Uday, the first surgery (the Norwood Procedure) was performed by Dr. Hijjeh and his team with overwhelming success, while the subsequent operations will be carried out in about four years.
In one of the beds at Makassed’s Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Unit, the small girl Habibah is sleeping quietly, having completed the last phase of the operation recently. She seems in good health and is breathing normally and on her own after the removal of the ventilator.
For their part, the parents of the three sick children expressed their pleasure and overwhelming joy at the success of these complex operations and at the fact that Makassed Hospital and its Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Unit and surgical team accepted and embraced their children’s cases and was able to save their lives.
These three success stories in the treatment of HLHS are the culmination of the Unit’s excellence and its pioneering work in the performance of highly qualitative and rare surgical procedures in Palestine and the Middle East, where a great number of distinct and successful stories over recent years have been recorded, such as the repair of congenital heart defects and abnormalities, and the removal of cancerous lumps, and others
Dr. Hijjeh notes that “in spite of the fiscal deficit suffered by Makassed Hospital as a result of the non-transfer of accumulated PNA dues especially after the freezing of its tax funds by the Israeli authorities, the Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Unit is characterized by the presence of a highly efficient medical staff of doctors and nurses, along with a very high level of development in its equipment and techniques, in addition to the performance of complex operations with high success rates putting it in the same league as many Israeli hospitals and medical centers, and even making it comparable to a number of worldwide centers”.
The Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Unit was established at Makassed Hospital in 2003 and was the first of its kind offering such treatment in the whole of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Unit provides surgical treatment of congenital heart defects in babies and children, and medical treatment for pediatric heart diseases, in addition to a cardiac intensive care unit with a capacity of 10 fully equipped beds, and an operating theatre to perform pediatric open-heart surgeries. The Unit has been headed by Dr. Hijjeh since his recruitment from Germany by Makassed Hospital two years ago. He is assisted by a highly competent and experienced Palestinian medical staff in order for Makassed to be able to provide the best in medical care and service to its patients.
Dr. Hijjeh notes that the Unit is still in need of further expansion in order to be able to treat more than 400 cases per year over the next three years, in addition to expanding its services to include diagnosis and electric treatment, to increasing its manpower and to performing pediatric heart transplantations.