Save a Child's Heart Endowment Fund
Ami's vision for Save a Child's Heart continues to grow. Save a Child's Heart has become the largest organization in the world caring for indigent children with heart disease.
ABOUT DR. AMI COHEN, Z"L FOUNDER OF SAVE A CHILD'S HEART
Ami was born in Washington, D.C. in 1954. He attended school at the Hebrew Academy, the Yeshiva of Greater Washington, and graduated from Kennedy High School where he played on the football team. After high school Ami went to Johns Hopkins University and played soccer for the University. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and went on to the University of Virginia where he received his medical degree. He loved sports and helped introduce American baseball to Israeli children in Israel. He took Israeli teenagers to Europe where they competed with European teams. While at the University of Virginia he joined the American army, and eventually became Chief of Pediatric Surgery at Walter Reed Hospital.
The idea for Save a Child's Heart originated in 1988 when Ami was serving in the US Military in Korea. There he met Harriet Hodges, an American women who collected money for poor Korean children who needed heart operations to live normal lives. Ami told her that if she would get permission from his superior officer he would do the operations free. Mrs. Hodges got the permission and Ami operated on the poor children. He said afterwards that he was bitten by the bug of "helping the helpless" and that was the beginning of Save a Child's Heart.
In1991 Ami, who was a Lt. Colonel in the American Army, was called to the Gulf War. Ami was sent to help set up an army hospital in the desert and he and his team operated and cared for the American soldiers. Because of his religious background he volunteered to lead services for the Jewish soldiers.
When Ami returned from the Gulf War he decided to make Aliya (live in Israel) with his family. Ami found work at the Wolfson Medical Center as a cardiac surgeon.
Two years later Ami received an urgent call from a doctor in Ethiopia about two indigent children that would die if they couldn't get immediate heart operations. Wolfson Medical Center agreed to take the children. Who would feed and care for the sick children before and after the operations? Ami's parents agreed to care for the sick children in their apartment in Netanya. The children had their life-saving operation and are now in Ethiopia with their parents who are free from fear and sadness, knowing that their children will live happy and full lives.
Every year a team of doctors and nurses from Israel travel to Ethiopia to examine the next group of children that will need heart surgery. The highlight of their trip is a soccer game that the children who have already had their surgery play for the Israeli doctors and nurses. You can imagine the pride and joy the doctors feel knowing that these children who came to Israel weak and blue from lack of oxygen were now able to play soccer and do all the things normal children do.
Ami would go to developing countries to screen potential children who required heart operations in Israel. I remember Ami saying "The hardest thing of all is to go to these developing countries knowing you have only so much money and you have to decide who you will take and who you will leave behind.. Once I see the children, I am going to operate to save them. I cannot look the child in the eye, and I cannot say to the parents 'We do not have enough money to save your child' ".
In August 2001 Ami climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. After reaching the top, Ami developed altitude sickness and passed away.
His legacy is best summed up in an article he wrote in January 2001 for The Johns Hopkins Medical Journal:
"I am convinced that for the vast majority of people who chose cardiac surgery as a profession, idealism was initially a strong factor. For those of you who are reading this and just starting out, hold fast to your 'day after vision' because, if it fades, despite all skills acquired there is something missing. For those who are searching, join us and let us make the network to help children around the world with heart disease. The task is big enough! There is work for everybody. There are no dollars and cents in it, but it is worth a fortune."
In Memory of Dr. Ami Cohen, z"l