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Help from the heart for young Palestinians

Antonio Morales and Cristina Arcos, in the intensive care unit at the Materno Infantil hospital.
Antonio Morales and Cristina Arcos, in the intensive care unit at the Materno Infantil hospital. / SUR
  • An intensive care doctor and nurse from the Materno hospital went to Nablus to look after children who had heart surgery

  • The two professionals from Malaga joined a British NGO on an international cooperation mission

They went to look after Palestinian children who needed surgery for a congenital heart condition, and came back happy to have been able to help and satisfied at a job well done.

In September, pediatrician Antonio Morales and nurse Cristina Arcos, who work in the pediatric intensive care unit of the Malaga children's hospital, the Materno Infantil, travelled to the Palestinian town of Nablus, situated to the north of Jordan, as part of the team organised by HLH, a British NGO which was created to carry out international cooperation missions.

The aim of this particular project was to carry out heart operations on Palestinian children between three months and four years old, who would otherwise not have been able to have the surgery. In total, seven youngsters were operated on, for congenital cardiac conditions of different degrees of severity.

Antonio and Cristina were responsible for looking after the children once they came out of the operating theatre.

"The first 48 hours are vital after an operation of this type. At the hospital in Nablus we did what we normally do at the Materno. The results were very satisfying. Only one child suffered complications, and he managed to overcome them," says Dr Morales.

Cristina Arcos explains that in addition to caring for the children, she provided training for Palestinian staff on nursing care for critically ill patients.

"There are said to be three parts to my profession: care, teaching and research. However, I would say there is a fourth aspect as well: cooperation. I think everyone should take part in a project of this type at least once in their lives. When you have done it once, it makes you want to do it again," she says.

Interest in cooperation

Antonio Morales already knew what it was like to work on the ground with children in countries where medical help is needed. Last year he went on a mission to Nigeria. He says he has always been interested in cooperation, because it is a way of providing assistance for young patients who are really in need of it.

Antonio and Cristina both say they wouldn't hesitate to repeat the experience. They taught local staff in the hospital in Nablus but say they also learned from the people there about humanising the experience of patients in Intensive Care Units. As at the Materno Infantil hospital in Malaga, the parents were allowed to be with their children 24 hours a day.

The seven children who underwent heart surgery on this occasion would not have been able to have had their operations if the team from HLH had not travelled to Nablus, not because the doctors aren't trained but because they don't have the resources needed to carry out highly complicated operations of this type.

Antonio Morales and Cristina Arcos, and HLH in general, have also expressed their thanks to the Infancia Solidaria NGO, which helped them in the administrative processes needed so that they could participate in a humanitarian mission which none of them will ever forget.