(Al Jazeera Net article by Assil Jundi – 14/3/2015)
The two children Uday and Habiba have been granted a new lease of life following the successful surgeries performed on them at Makassed Islamic Charitable Hospital to repair a rare condition known as “Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome” (HLHS), where the left ventricle of the heart is severely underdeveloped, and which afflicts one out of every 50,000 children worldwide.
Habiba’s grandmother, Samira Hamad, said that the condition of her four-year-old granddaughter appeared one week after her birth, adding that the doctors in Gaza were not able to accurately diagnose her illness which led her to be referred to Makassed Hospital.
Samira noted that Habiba underwent her first surgery at the age of seven months; two years later doctors performed another surgery on her; and finally the third phase of the operation was completed recently, adding that “all the credit goes to Makassed’s medical team without whom she would have lost her life”.
Not far from where Habiba is recovering, lies eighteen-months-old Selena after having successfully undergone the second phase of the operation. Ten days after her birth, Selena underwent her first surgery, the second phase which has just recently been completed, a year and a half later, is considered a triumph, while the final stage of this procedure is scheduled to take place two years from now.
The Giessen Hybrid Procedure
Dr. Nizar Hijjeh, Head of the Department of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Makassed Hospital, pointed out that, in the past, certain death would have been the fate of young babies and children suffering from this rare congenital heart defect or condition, however, this is no longer the case after the success of the first surgery carried out at the University Hospital of Giessen in Germany.
Dr. Hijjeh noted that Makassed is the first hospital in the Middle East to perform this surgery known as the Giessen Hybrid Procedure, in reference to the German city it was performed in for the first time in the year 2000. He said that this procedure was carried out in the past in one stage, adding however that its success rate did not exceed 25% because the bodies of children on which it was performed could not withstand such a complex surgery, consequently “this is how the idea was born to conduct this operation in three stages or phases”.
According to Dr. Hijjeh, the success rate of the procedure currently stands at 90%, and the children are able to lead normal lives afterwards. He added however that they will not be able to become athletes in the future and it will be difficult for them to climb high altitudes, still they will be able to get married and have healthy children.
The Children from Gaza:
Dr. Hijjeh noted that the proportion of children in Gaza who are born with congenital heart deformities is severalfold higher than those who hail from the West Bank and Jerusalem.
According to the data at Makassed Hospital’s Department of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery, 421 open-heart surgeries have been performed between March 2013 and mid-February 2015, 48% of which were conducted on children from Gaza while 52% of them on West Bank and Jerusalem kids. The nature of the cases admitted to Makassed varied and ranged between cases of children with an opening or hole between the walls of the heart’s ventricles, those requiring the tying of the pulmonary artery, and Tetralogy of Fallot cases. Fourty-eight percent of these cases are complex and critical, 23% are moderate and 29% are relatively simple.