Ukraine-Russia War

Ukrainian Girl, 5, Gets Lifesaving Treatment for ‘Hole in Heart' in Israel

Karina was diagnosed with an atrial septal defect, a hole in the heart between the upper chambers that does not close and can cause heart failure later in life if left untreated

Israel Ukraine Surgery
Ariel Schalit/AP Photo

Five-year-old Karina Andreiko wasn't hurt in the war in Ukraine. In some ways, she was saved because of it.

Stressed by the long search for why her daughter was smaller than other kids — and by the war with Russia — Karina's mother last month sought help from an Israeli field hospital about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the family's home near the Ukrainian-Polish border. A doctor there listened to Karina's heart, heard a murmur and conducted an ultrasound. The diagnosis was a congenital defect between Karina's heart chambers treatable with a simple procedure available in Israel, but not in Ukraine, doctors said.

Save a Child's Heart, an Israeli nonprofit, agreed to transport Karina to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, near Tel Aviv, for treatment. Passports were secured, a plan was made, and on Monday, two weeks after Karina's mother approached the field hospital, doctors in Israel treated Karina with the catheterization expected to allow her to live a normal life.

“I am happy that I came to Israel for my child to have an operation here,” said Karina's mother, Iryna Andreiko. “On the one hand, I am very worried about her, but I think everything will be fine.”

Fearful of Russia, Israel has tried to strike a cautious posture toward the Russian invasion of Ukraine, even as the West lined up against President Vladimir Putin.

While Israel has not imposed sanctions on Russia or provided arms to Ukraine, it has criticized the invasion and provided humanitarian assistance to Ukraine's embattled populace, including planeloads of supplies.

With Karina's father fighting in the war, Karina's mother turned for help to Sheba Medical Center's “Shining Star” field hospital near the family's home in Hostyntseve. The central idea of the hospital, now closed, had been to treat civilian victims of Russian attacks.

Karina had not been wounded in the conflict. Still, her case has added some unexpected good to the field hospital's accomplishments, which included treating 6,000 people during the six weeks it was open. The effort is now shifting toward Israeli doctors training their Ukrainian counterparts.

Karina was diagnosed with an atrial septal defect, a hole in the heart between the upper chambers that does not close and can cause heart failure later in life if left untreated. Karina is a twin, smaller than her sibling and most other kids in kindergarten.

In the past, the condition would have been treated by open heart surgery, said Dr. Alona Raucher Sternfeld, head of pediatric cardiology at Wolfson.

During the procedure, her doctors inserted a catheter into Karina's leg and threaded it to her heart and inserted a device that plugged the hole. In time, the heart tissue would grow around the device, Karina's doctors said. The medical center performs more than 250 such procedures on children a year. Typically, patients are out of bed the next day and they go home healthy, Raucher Sternfeld said.

“The fact that there is a war going on, which is definitely a negative thing, brought her a better life,” Dr. Sagi Assa, who leads Wolfson’s Invasive Pediatric Cardiology department, told reporters.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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