Twelve-year-old Israeli girl Samah Gadban lay in bed at Schneider Children's Medical Centre in the Israeli town of Petah Tikvah, her mother seated by her bed holding her hand. Samah got a new heart last week, a heart that once belonged to a Palestinian boy.
At the same age as Samah, Ahmed al-Khatib was fatally shot during clashes in the west Bank city of Jenin last Thursday when Israeli troops mistook the toy gun he carried for a real rifle.
AdvertisementAhmed was transferred from a Palestinian hospital to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel. He died of his wound only after 48 hours, leaving the parents in unbearable agony.
Soon after they heard the news of Ahmed's death, the parents made a surprising decision: to donate his organs to sick people, "no matter Israelis or Arabs".
A few hours later, Ahmed's heart, liver, kidneys and lungs were sent to many hospitals with the help of the national transplant centre. Besides the heart, the boy's liver was given to a six-month-old baby and a 56-year-old woman; his lungs were given to a 14-year-old girl; and his kidneys were given to a five-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.
The transplant surgeries proceeded as quickly as possible and the life of Ahmed continued in six Israelis. Riad Gadban, the father of the heart receiver, told Israel Radio that when the hospital phoned him Saturday evening, he did not know anything about Ahmed.
"I only knew that the doctors said they had a heart." Riad said the family had waited for the heart for five years.
Riad heard Ahmed's story while his daughter was in surgery. "I don't know what to say. It is such a gesture of love...I would like (Ahmed's parents) to think that my daughter is their daughter."
When asked why to donate organs, Jamal al-Khatib, father of the boy, said: "I had an older brother who suffered from kidney failure and there were no transplants available. When the doctor told me that my boy was clinically dead, I remembered my brother."
"I don't mind seeing the organs in an Israeli or a Palestinian. In our religion, god allows us to give organs to another person and it doesn't matter who the person is," he told Israeli channel Two TV.
Tzvi Ben-Ishai, the deputy director of Rambam hospital, said the uncle of Ahmed, who lives in an Israeli Arab village, is a member of a nongovernmental organisation that seeks to improve the understanding and dialogue between Israelis and Arabs. It was he who helped the desperate parents make such a difficult and great decision.
Ben-Ishai added that the boy's parents decided to donate his organs "to bring hearts closer and bring peace closer".
When leaving the hospital, Jamal al-Khatib expressed his only wish: to meet the recipients of his son's organs to ensure that they were healthy. "The most important thing is that I see the person who received the organs, to see him alive," said the father.