Zum Seiteninhalt springen

It is with great sorrow that we announce the death of 18-year-old Khalid a few days after having undergone another round of surgery in the Iranian capital Tehran. Khalid had a special place in our hearts: Due to his heart defect he had been to Germany twice and, with his cheerful nature, had left a lasting impression on all who knew him.

In the winter of 2012, the then seven-year-old Afghan came to Hamburg for the first time. Small and lanky, but full of joie de vivre and with a good sense of humor, he took his host family – the Rieß family – by storm. The little boy's operation at the Albertinen Heart and Vascular Center was successful: Khalid's host father, heart surgeon Prof. F.-Christian Rieß, was able to completely correct his congenital heart defect. But even then it was clear that Khalid’s atrophied pulmonary valve would have to be replaced in adulthood.

In the following years, thanks to friends and supporters of the Bridge of Hearts, Khalid was allowed to attend school in Afghanistan, where he turned out to be one of the best students. In 2016, the boy came to Hamburg once again to check the condition of the valve. Here he attended elementary school, learned new German words every day and made many friends – they later delivered a loving video message to him in the moving RTL feature on the Heart Bridge of Hearts that aired before Christmas 2017.

On this second visit, however, Khalid was still very small, so another surgery didn't make sense at that point. Instead, we held out the prospect of welcoming him back to Hamburg another four years later. Unfortunately, things turned out differently. First Covid, then the takeover of the Taliban ruined plans for a third trip to Hamburg in 2020/21.

In accordance with our credo "once a child of the Bridge of Hearts, always a child of the Bridge of Hearts", we nevertheless made the greatest efforts for Khalid to receive the increasingly urgent treatment. Unfortunately, our local cooperation partner, the French Medical Institute in Kabul, was not suitable for this procedure, as the necessary medical material was and is not available in Afghanistan. An attempt to bring Khalid to Pakistan also failed: after a cursory glance, a border guard decided that the boy "didn't look sick enough" and denied him entry.

It was not until the summer of 2023 that we finally saw a silver lining: a doctor from Tehran offered to treat Khalid. So we pulled out all the stops to get the boy there: with success. In mid-September, Khalid traveled to Iran accompanied by our Afghan project coordinator, full of hope that he would soon finally be healthy again. Unfortunately, there were serious complications during surgery. Khalid did not wake up from the anesthesia afterwards. He was 18.

The Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees of the Albertinen Foundation and all companions who knew and loved Khalid mourn with his family. May he rest in peace!