From Patient To Provider, Tamima Returns

July 11, 2018

We say there are many miracles at Save a Child’s Heart. We see children arrive in Israel, exhausted and ill. Then, after lifesaving heart surgery, time and time again we see them leave smiling, laughing, and playing. This month though, a miracle from our past came back to Israel to help us save lives in her own way.

Tamima Tahir Suleiman, a 25-year-old woman from Zanzibar, has returned to Israel as a volunteer at Save a Child’s Heart where she received life-saving heart surgery 15 years ago. Elated to come to Israel, she was especially excited to personally meet and thank the doctors who had saved her own life. These same doctors, a few weeks later, would go to New York accept the 2018 United Nations Population Award.

Each time Save a Child's Heart sends a medical mission to Zanzibar, Tamima arrives the very first day to volunteer throughout the week. Colleagues say, “She does not stop working for the whole week... assisting with the patients, with translating and with follow up examinations with past patients, all with a constant smile!”

Since her own recovery, Tamima has dedicated her life to helping others and has brought 4 Zanzibari children with her to Israel for heart surgery! She has been caring for these children, and others, as they await surgery and throughout their recovery process.

Truly understanding the children’s emotional journey, Tamima is an incredible addition to the house caretakers at Save a Child’s Heart.

In 2003, 10-year-old Tamima arrived at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel through Save a Child’s Heart. Tamima suffered from a congenital heart disease, a type of defect or malformation in the heart that occurs before birth. Responsible for more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects, this heart disease caused a continuous struggle in Tamima’s life as her desperate parents almost lost hope taking her to doctor after doctor before hearing of the Israeli organization that would save their daughter’s life.

Two weeks after she arrived in Israel for the first time, she entered the operating room and received life-saving cardiac treatment. Tamima recovered very quickly and returned to her family in Zanzibar where her life dramatically changed from a girl who was barely allowed to raise her heart rate to one who could run and play alongside other children. “I felt strong,” she said.

Save a Child’s Heart returned to Zanzibar in 2009 for a routine screening clinic and facilitated a follow-up with many former patients, including Tamima. It had been 6 years since her operation, and Tamima was now a mature 16-year old aspiring to be a lawyer. Her heart, healthy and happy, was filled with joy for the life she created after leaving Israel.

“I see so much suffering and diseases around me,” Tamima says, “ I decided to study environmental medicine and help others. Especially, I want to help and contribute to preventative medicine.”

When Tamima arrived last month, she was made aware of a young girl whose life was hanging in the balance. Mulhat, age 8 from Zanzibar, had a very complicated surgery and her health was deteriorating as she lay asleep in the intensive care unit. Tamima decided that she would stay at Mulhat’s bedside through this tough time so Mulhat would not be alone, and – much to everyne’s surprise – Mulhat's condition stabilized. We believe that the love and company that Tamima was providing helped Mulhat to pull through, and she not only survivied but, in fact, recovered!

Mulhat is now at the children’s home – a completely different child than before – and we have Tamima to thank. Her dream of helping others and returning to Israel have come true. She wanted to help save lives, and she certainly has.

If you speak Hebrew, make sure to watch our special news segment that features Tamima! Just click below: