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Monday, September 22, 2014

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SACH cardiologist addresses fundraiser

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Dr. Livia Kapusta [Howard Sandler Photography]

OTTAWA — Dr. Livia Kapusta, a senior pediatric cardiologist with Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), which save the lives of critically ill children, recently spoke at a Jewish Federation of Ottawa (JFO) fundraiser.

Kapusta, the keynote speaker at the sixth annual Choices dinner, organized by the Women’s Campaign of the JFO, recalled the many choices she has made in her life.

Born in Israel, where she graduated from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine, Kapusta furthered her medical career and specialization in pediatric cardiology in the Netherlands.

“I met a nice Jewish Dutch guy… and I decided to follow my heart and went to the Netherlands,” she said. “My second choice, to combine motherhood with a profession. Only two women were practising pediatricians in the hospital, and both were unmarried and without children.”

Kapusta made another life-altering choice when she and her husband met representatives from Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) at a dinner party. “My husband and I made a choice to join the organization,” she said.

After several years of working with children from around the world who are brought to Israel for lifesaving cardiac surgery, Kapusta decided, in 2010, to return to her country of birth. “I followed my heart when my family made aliyah,” she said. “I chose to work full time at the Wolfson Medical Center [in Holon, Israel] where SACH is based.”

The SACH team performs lifesaving cardiac operations mainly in Israel, but also in various other countries where they are needed. The SACH team takes along its own equipment and portable machines. SACH also offers medical training programs “to build a new generation of doctors and nurses,” said Kapusta. “We have 73 people coming [to train in Israel] from China, Tanzania, the Palestinian Authority, all working together to save children’s lives.”

Following Kapusta’s lecture, she was interviewed by Canadian Press reporter Stephanie Levitz. Asked by Levitz if she would find it difficult to choose which child to operate on, in the case of a choice of a Jewish child or a Palestinian child, Kapusta replied that it is not an “either, or” situation, that children are chosen based on a variety of medical criteria and not on political terms.

“We have operated on more than 3,000 children – half of them from the Palestinian Authority, but also from China, Zanzibar and other countries… if we think they can be operated on, we do it.”

The Choices event, chaired for the third year in a row by Sandra Zagon, was held at Congregation Agudath Israel on Oct. 24. In order to attend Choices, women had to make a minimum donation of $150 to the annual JFO campaign. This year’s dinner attracted nearly 300 women, many of whom were attending for the first time.

For more information about SACH, visit saveachildsheart.ca.

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