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Israeli Heart Specialists Provide Life-Saving Treatment to Ukrainian Girl

Karina Andreiko, a 5-year-old Ukrainian girl, is prepped for heart surgery by a team led by Dr. Sagi Assa, head of invasive pediatric cardiology. (AP Photo)
Karina Andreiko, a 5-year-old Ukrainian girl, is prepped for heart surgery by a team led by Dr. Sagi Assa, head of invasive pediatric cardiology. (AP Photo)

An Israeli group known for treating children with heart defects is helping a little girl from Ukraine to live free from heart disease.

Five-year-old Karina Andreiko came to Israel with her mother Iryina and just received lifesaving heart treatment here.

“Karina was born with a defect inside the heart between the two atriums, and this defect makes a lot of blood to shunt from the left side of the heart to the right and makes the right side of the heart big,” said Dr. Sagi Assa, Head of Invasive Pediatric Cardiology at Wolfson Medical Center inear Tel Aviv in Israel.

“If we leave this situation as it is, when she's going to be a 20 [or] 30-year-old woman, she's going to have arrhythmia and lots of problems with the heart. So, in order to prevent it, we need to close this defect,” Assa said. 

Iryina sought help for her daughter from Israel’s field hospital just three miles from their home in Ukraine near the Polish border.  There doctors diagnosed Karina with a congenital defect, treatable with a procedure available in Israel but not Ukraine.

That’s when “Save a Child’s Heart” stepped in to help.

“We immediately said that we would be happy to help and a very fast operation began to start the logistics of bringing the girl from a war zone to Israel and issuing passports, entry permits, vaccinations, examinations,” said Tamar Shapira, Director of International and Public Relations at Save a Child’s Heart.  

Based at the Wolfson Medical Center, Save a Child’s Heart has saved the lives of more than 5,000 children from 59 countries since it started more than 25 years ago. 

“For us at Save a Child's Heart, it doesn't matter where the child comes from. It could be a Ukrainian child. It could be a child from Gaza. It could be a child from Iraq, from Syria, from Africa. We are here to help them and to save their lives,” Shapira said.

According Shapira, Karina has a twin back in Ukraine and the family lives in an area heavily damaged by the war.

“The mother is not working. The girls are not going to kindergarten. The father was recruited to fight with the forces of Ukraine and their condition is very bad,” she said.

Dr. Alona Raucher Sternfeld, Head of Pediatric Cardiology at the Wolfson Medical Center, Save a Child’s Heart said Israelis can relate to Karina’s situation.

“We are a country that underwent many wars, and we are also raising our children in a war zone, in essence,” Sternfeld said.

“So, although we can relate to her anxiousness and stress because we know how she feels – we had missiles thrown on my house and my children like she had on her. So, we understand her, and my grandparents were refugees from Europe, so we can relate. But again, I think we are lucky and we felt that we need to help her all we can,” Sternfeld added.

Karina’s mom said she has many emotions.

“I am happy that I came to Israel for my child to have an operation here. On the one hand, I am very worried about her, but I think everything will be fine,” she said.

Doctors say Karina’s prognosis is good and she should have a completely normal life.

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