Syrian baby “Usayed” brought to Israel for lifesaving heart surgery

By David E. Kaplan

While international media covered this June an Israeli airstrike on an Iranian controlled warehouse in Syria suspected of storing weapons, there was no such global coverage of another Israel flight this month – this time saving a 10-day-old Syrian infant.

image003 - 2020-07-05T161649.044
Healing Hands. Under special care, 10-day-old Syrian baby, “Usayed” boards the flight from Cyprus to Israel for emergency surgery on June 11, 2020. (Sammy Revel/Twitter)

Suffering from a severe heart defect, a newborn son of Syrian refugees, was airlifted from Cyprus to Tel Aviv to undergo an emergency operation at Israel’s esteemed Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan. In 2020, Newsweek ranked Sheba Hospital, situated outside Tel Aviv, as the 9th-best hospital in the world.

The delicate ‘operation’ was no less diplomatic than it was surgical, involving the cooperation between the Israeli embassy in Nicosia, the Cypriot Health Ministry and Cypriot and Israeli doctors.

image004 - 2020-07-05T161853.379
Baby on Board. On route to Israel, 10-day-old Syrian “Usayed” is monitored throughout the short flight. (Sammy Revel/Twitter)

It all came as a whopping surprise to the baby’s father, Ahmad, when he was told that his son needed specialist treatment that could not be provided in Cyprus and hence led him – accompanying his child – to a country “that I never imagined I would ever see” – Israel!

A relieved daddy revealed to i24NEWS:

I don’t care about the relations between Israel and Syria. My problem is not political or religious; it is a health problem. My son’s life is the most important thing in the world to me. I said right away I will go to Israel if needed; I will go anywhere.”

According to the head of Sheba’s Congenital Heart Center, Prof. Alain Serraf, who operated on the infant:

 “The baby would not have survived more than a month without the surgery.”

Usayed was in the best of surgical hands. Apart from being Chairman of the Edmond J. Safra International Congenital Heart Center, Prof. Serraf is a leading expert in Congenital Heart Diseases, a graduate of the Medical School Paris XII, and a Visiting Professor in several universities worldwide.

Lifesaver. Dr. Alain Serraf, head of the International Congenital Heart Center at Sheba’s children’s hospital following the surgery on a 10-day-old Syrian baby on June 14, 2020. (Sheba Medical Center)

The Israeli doctors expressed cautious optimism following the complicated heart surgery which will be the first of three procedures the infant will require to address the rare congenital defect. Known as ‘hypoplastic left heart syndrome’, the defect means that the left side of the heart fails to develop properly, leading to poor blood circulation.

Following the first operation, the second will be performed in six months’ time, and the third when Usayed is two years old.

I can say that the procedure went well,” said Serraf, “and we are guardedly optimistic that the child will be okay as we slowly wean him off the various machines.” Serraf performed what is known as the Norwood procedure. This involves placing a shunt in the heart to connect the pulmonary artery, which carries oxygen-rich blood, to the aorta, from which it is pumped throughout the body.

The first procedure is always the most difficult,” said Serraf. “We have experience in doing the Norwood procedure on a number of children who come from throughout the region.”

Over the coming weeks, the baby will recover from this first surgery and then return to Cyprus. In six months, he will return to Israel for the second procedure and then again a year and a half later for the final one.

If everything goes according to plan, the child can have a normal lifestyle,” Serraf said.

Speaking through the hospital’s spokesperson, the jubilant father and Syrian national thanked the governments of Cyprus and Israel for coordinating the emergency surgery.

I feel much more relieved and have complete faith in Sheba’s medical staff for all of the help they are giving my child.”

image008 (66)
Father and Son. Syrian refugee Ahmad with his baby son Usayed at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan. (Photo: Screenshot)

While according to a hospital spokesman this was the first such case from abroad for Sheba since the outbreak of Coved-19, emergency situations were not uncommon before the Coronavirus pandemic. What is more, they involved not only countries that Israel has friendly relations with but also such countries like Syria and Iraq that Israel has no diplomatic ties.

Israel’s ambassador to Cyprus, Sammy Revel, said the effort to bring baby Usayed to Sheba required “special approval” from Jerusalem, which was pleased and proud to provide. Israeli medics have a long and impressive history of treating critically ill children from hostile countries. From 2013 to 2018, Israel maintained a programme along the Syrian border allowing residents of the area in Syria, who were affected by the country’s civil war, to enter Israel for medical treatment. Unfortunately, politics intervened! Israel’s lifesaving programme of Syrians formally ended in the summer of 2018 when Syrian dictator Bashar Assad retook control of southern Syria.

image009 (55)
In Safe Hands. Despite hostilities in the region, parents in neighbouring Arab countries know that their children receive the best care at Israeli hospitals like  this baby from Gaza being treated for a heart defect at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. (Photo: Save a Child’s Heart)

In the meantime and away from politics, Israel’s envoy to Cyprus Sami Rabel, is calling for all to pray for Usayed’s speedy recovery.

Solidarity during the coronavirus epidemic and the special bond between Israel and Cyprus, granted the special permission for the baby to be operated at Sheba Medical Center,” he said.

Long live Usayed. LeChaim – “to life”!






While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs




Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.