Anyone who’s scrolled through their Facebook feed during election season knows that the social media platform can get a bit divisive, to say the least. But every once in a while, a story comes along to prove just how amazing Facebook can be when it comes to connecting people from disparate parts of the world for a greater good–in this case, to save the life of a child.
In a story that had me crying on the subway this morning, the New York Times tells of Yehia, now 14 months old, who was born with life-threatening congenital heart problems in Pakistan. When his mother and father, who sells flour for a living, couldn’t afford the $7,000 specialty surgery, they reached out to a relative in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, an English teacher who is very active on social media.
That relative, eager to help, contacted Anna Mussman through Facebook, a dual American-Israeli citizen and retired State Department official living in Haifa, Israel. Mussman, now 69, was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany during the Holocaust–both of her parents are survivors. Mussman then contacted the Israeli charity Save a Child’s Heart, which provides free surgeries to children in developing countries.
As you can imagine, bringing a Pakistan-born Afghan child to Israel for healthcare was a bit complicated. After obtaining Israeli visas for the family, the plan was nearly derailed by the attempted coup in Turkey. They also needed to find translators to help communication between the Israeli doctors and Yehia’s father, who speaks Urdu and Pashto. But through it all, this hodge-podge group of near strangers managed to make the seemingly impossible happen: Yehia successfully underwent surgery. The Times reports:
Dr. Yahyu Mekonnen, 33, an Ethiopian surgeon, opened Yehia’s chest. Dr. Lior Sasson, who headed an operating team of nearly a dozen people, hummed an Israeli song while they stopped his tiny heart, to patch it up.
Eventually, they wheeled Yehia out, covered in bandages, even over his eyes. His father was surrounded by a makeshift family he had only just met.
The moral of the story? Facebook is not just for cat memes and your crazy uncle’s political rants. Sometimes, it can literally save a life.