HIZME CHECKPOINT, West Bank (Reuters) - Heart surgery is a trial for anyone, and especially for a young child. It was even harder for Hamza Ali Mohammad, as the two-year-old Palestinian had to undergo the procedure in Israel while his family was kept away by coronavirus closures.
He was reunited on Thursday with his mother, who whisked him into her arms after he arrived in a van, escorted by medical personnel, at a checkpoint on the boundary between Israel and the occupied West Bank.
With tears in her eyes she hugged him close and kissed his cheeks.
A resident of the Palestinian hub city Ramallah, Mohammad was born with life-threatening congenital heart disease that required he be operated on as a baby.
Follow-up surgery was performed in February under Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli-based volunteer organisation that seeks to improve paediatric care in developing countries.
But whereas normally such a patient’s parents would be on hand, Khetam and Issam Dar Ali Mohammad were cut off from their son.
Looking in on his siblings in Ramallah, they were unable to travel back to the hospital as Israeli and Palestinian authorities sealed the boundary to prevent a coronavirus spread.
“The whole medical team ... became his parents,” Dr Ahmed Amer, a paediatric resident at Wolfson Medical Center, where Mohammad’s open-heart surgery took place, said in a statement.
Amer, a member of Israel’s Arab minority, took the lead in communicating with the boy and updating his parents by phone.
“We did not keep him alone for a minute. A child his age and in his condition needs to be hugged and loved in order to recover and get stronger, and that’s exactly what we all gave him.”
Reporting by Dedi Hayoun, Saed Hawari and Lee Marzel; Editing by Hugh Lawson