Thin Threads: My Miracle of Miracles

April 2014 Home Column List 2

Thin Threads: My Miracle of Miracles

Bonnie Juran Ullner

Hadassah. what did it mean to me prior to June 2009? It was one of the many Jewish organizations that I received mail from periodically and which, in theory, I supported. I knew my maternal grandmother, for whom I am named, was a volunteer for Hadassah, and that her cousin, Charlotte Jacobson, had been a national president. That was about the extent of my knowledge.

This was before my then-16-year-old daughter Jessa went on a Cincinnati Jewish Federation trip to Israel and fell gravely ill after about a week. She was taken to a hospital in the north and, at the insistence of my brother who lives in Jerusalem, was transported by ambulance to Hadassah–Hebrew University Medical Center in Ein Kerem. There she immediately took a turn for the worse. In addition to the apparent liver failure, there was also kidney failure, plummeting blood pressure and the need for her to be put on a ventilator as she could not breathe on her own.

Luckily, when my daughter’s asymptomatic genetic disorder, Wilson’s Disease, decided to manifest itself on July 13, 2009, she wasn’t in Poland visiting the concentration camps or backpacking in some remote area in the United States. She was in Israel, in driving distance of a state-of-the-art hospital called Hadassah, which, among other things, is a major liver center.
The doctors were able to quickly diagnose her, stabilize her, cleanse her blood to keep her alive and make contact with New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, which put her at the top of the United States regional liver donor list. Two doctors and one nurse flew with her (after 16 seats were taken out of an El Al jet in order to set up a mini-ICU) to New York. Columbia-Presbyterian, meanwhile, had located a possible donor liver in Tennessee, and flew down to harvest it soon after the Israeli team delivered Jessa to their ICU.

Within 24 hours of her arrival in New York, she was undergoing the 10-hour liver transplantation surgery that would save her life. Miracle after miracle occurred during those few days. God was watching over Jessa, our family and the staff at Hadassah Hospital. What had started as a nightmare with a bleak prognosis turned into a heroic, round-the-clock, life-saving series of divine acts that resulted in her being alive today.

So what does Hadassah mean to me today? Hadassah is a central part of my life. I am eternally grateful to them for saving Jessa’s life, and it is a priority for me to spend a significant amount of my time doing all I can to support Hadassah and let the world know about this amazing organization. I have become a Life Member as well as made my mother and both of my daughters Life Members. I speak to Hadassah chapters and I tell them that I am a Jewish mother, just like many of them, who sent her teenager on a trip to Israel to connect with our Holy Land and learn more about her people. And, unbeknownst to me when I sent her, Hadassah, their Hadassah, my Hadassah, would save this precious Jewish child’s life and treat her as if she were a member of their own family.

I tell my audiences that Jessa’s very existence is the fruit of their labors...that the countless hours volunteered and dollars raised over the 100 years of Hadassah’s existence all played a part in those crucial minutes, hours and days that gave the hospital staff the tools, knowledge and resources to save Jessa’s life.

It was nothing short of a miracle that Jessa’s life was saved in Jerusalem at Hadassah Hospital—6,000 miles away from me but in the best place on earth she could have possibly been. Hopefully, Jessa’s story will inspire others to get involved with and give to Hadassah, and thus from something so terrible will come something good, as more lives are saved through the miraculous work of Hadassah Hospital.

To order Thin Threads: Real Stories of Hadassah Life Changing Moments (Kiwi Publishing)—$29.95 or $180 for the Collector’s Edition (leather-bound and signed by National President Marcie Natan)—go to or call 203-295-0370 ext. 4. Hadassah units will also sell the books.
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