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December 26, 2010

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Israeli surgeon helps kids

IT was the 10th working visit to Hebei Children's Hospital for Israeli heart surgeon Dr Lior Sasson. This time, he received China's highest honor accorded to a foreign expert.

Sasson was awarded the National Friendship Medal, which he accepted on behalf of the Israel-based medical charity that he heads, Save a Child's Heart (SACH).

The award cites SACH's outstanding contributions to improve treatment of pediatric heart problems in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei Province in northern China.

For the past decade or so, Sasson and his medical team have visited Hebei Children's Hospital every year, providing free life-saving surgeries and other treatment.

Born in Israel in 1960, Sasson studied medicine at the University of the Negev in Beersheba, then the University of Michigan. He joined the Pediatric Cardiac Unit at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel. In 2000 he became assistant of Dr Ami Cohen who founded Save a Child's Heart and after Cohen's death in 2001, Sasson headed the organization and the entire cardiac department.

Q: Congratulations. How does it feel?

A: We appreciated it very much. We're motivated to do even better and treat more children suffering from heart disease.

Q: Please describe your work.

A: Every year for two weeks we send cardiologists to give free treatment and perform free surgeries. Around 100 kids have received life-saving surgery. We sent another 23 to Israel for complicated operations.

Q: What else has SACH done?

A: We train doctors and nurses in the hospital. So far, we have trained five doctors in surgery, two in intensive care, one in anesthesiology and 10 staff in nursing. One doctor and one nurse are training in Israel.

Q: Is there a special case?

A: Five years ago, a young woman waited anxiously in the hospital corridor, holding her little girl's hand, a familiar scene. I examined the girl, but then found the young mother was suffering serious heart disease. They came a long way. It was my first surgery on an adult in China in many years and it was very successful. Today, every time we go to Hebei, the mother and daughter welcome us with flowers.

Q: Why choose medicine?

A: At first because of my mother. Every Jewish mother wants her child to be a doctor or lawyer. I chose medicine because doctors can make a difference. They save lives. I want to be useful.

Q: Future plans?

A: Expand cooperation in Hebei and give long-term help elsewhere, like Harbin, Heilongjiang Province. Next year 20 kids from Harbin will get free surgery in Israel.


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