Media Release – From Gaza to Melbourne for surgery that changed Hala’s life

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Seven year old Hala Dawwas will return home to Gaza on Thursday able to lead a normal life thanks to the surgical team at Cabrini and Children First Foundation.

Surgeons and staff will gather to say goodbye when Hala visits the hospital on Wednesday 17 April to thank the staff for their care.

Hala was four years old when she was crushed between a car and the wall in a garage. She suffered horrific internal injuries which shattered her pelvis and pushed her bladder out of place. She received basic treatment in Palestine but, due to limited resources and the complexity of her injuries, doctors were unable to repair the internal damage. She was discharged with her bladder emptying via her rectum: this caused severe infections making her constantly unwell, so surgeons in Palestine gave her a colostomy.

Hala’s mother, Tahane, desperately sought help for her daughter, but was rejected by hospitals in the United States, United Kingdom and even one in Australia, because Hala’s case was too complicated.

Eventually Children First was approached and Hala’s case was presented to Mr Neil McMullin, a paediatric surgeon specialising in Urology at Cabrini Malvern. Mr McMullin and Cabrini agreed to donate their services to treat her, and Children First brought Hala and Tahane to Australia in July 2012. They have been cared for at Children First Farm in Kilmore during their time in Australia.

Over several stages, Mr McMullin and the surgical team, supported by anaesthetist John Waters, determined it was not possible to return her bladder to its normal position and created a new way for the bladder to be emptied. Her appendix has been used as a conduit between her bladder and her belly button and Hala now empties her bladder by inserting a plastic tube into her belly button. The colostomy has been removed and normal bowel function restored.

Hala is the youngest of Tahane and husband Mohammad’s eight children. ‘This injury to Hala turned my family’s lives upside down,’ said Tahane. ‘but I always knew God would lead us to find help for Hala. I am so grateful to everyone at Cabrini and Children First. And as long as I live I will never forget Dr Neil.’

Hala is looking forward to getting back to school; ‘I want to study hard to become a doctor’ she said.

Hala and Tahane will return home on Thursday courtesy of flights generously donated by Emirates Airline, a major sponsor of Children First Foundation.


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