An Afghan baby boy named Yehia born with multiple heart defects, received life-saving surgery in Israel from Save A Child’s Heart, thanks to a long distance Facebook friendship and a covert operation that traversed hostile borders and diplomatic lines.
Yehia, now 14 months old, had been born with his two main arteries reversed and two holes in his heart. His parents, are Afghans living in Peshawar in Pakistan, and on a trip to Afghanistan for a family wedding in April, they sought out a relative, Farhad Zaheer, a teacher in Jalalabad who speaks English and is active on social media.
Among the people he contacted was Anna Mussman, aged 69, who has both American and Israeli citizenship. Together, the two digital acquaintances collaborated to save Yehia.
Anna Mussman, a daughter of Holocaust survivors living in Israel, and Mr. Zaheer became connected on Facebook in 2012 after he worked on a project training teachers in Nouristan Province, which Ms. Mussman was overseeing for the State Department.
Anna Mussman contacted Simon Fisher, Executive Director of the Israeli charity Save a Child’s Heart. She emailed him, stating: “I realise helping a child from a country which Israel has no diplomatic relations is not easy, but perhaps possible”.
After careful negotiation the charity was able to bring Yehia to Holon’s Wolfson Medical Centre, and was operated on in an eight-hour surgery.
Yehia is the first Afghan to have been treated by Save a Child’s Heart, joining children from over 50 other countries that have been saved by the organisation including several African countries, Iraq and China. Half of the children saved by the charity come from Gaza and the West Bank.