Inside Hadassah: Clowns, Courage and a Medical Revolution
This month heralds special Hadassah milestones: the dedication in Jerusalem of our new Center for Emergency Medicine, attended by over 600 mission participants; our “SOS: State of Stem Cells” advocacy visits to state capitals; and Hadassah’s founding at Purim.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s words at the 1975 rededication of our Hadassah–University Hospital on Mount Scopus are still apt today: “[Hadassah’s] efforts go beyond [providing] health care and healing for all in need; they contribute to human understanding and hence to our quest for peace with our neighbors.”
Support Our SOS
Hadassah is launching a major national initiative this spring to encourage state legislators across the United States to pass favorable stem cell research laws. “SOS: State of Stem Cells” was organized to educate lawmakers about the potential for stem cell research to help their constituents suffering from chronic and frequently incurable disease.
Hadassah members will be advocating in 42 state capitals; 30 visits will take place on Wednesday, March 2. For information about additional advocacy days, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-451-6267.
“The promise of stem cells to cure or alleviate chronic and catastrophic disease may be the greatest medical revolution of the 21st century and it is critically important that money is allocated for its research,” said June Walker, national president of Hadassah.
Lab Coats with Long Sleeves
Committed to providing education for students with special circumstances, Hadassah College Jerusalem opened a three-year medical laboratory science track last year to enable ultra-Orthodox Jewish women to gain a B.S. and prepare for a career. Now in its second year, 40 have registered for this unique program created in partnership with the Haredi College.
“Most women in the haredi community study teaching in seminaries after high school, leading to too many of them qualified for the same position,” said Zachi Milgrom, vice president of Hadassah College, who directs the program.
Because they prefer women-only environments, classes are taught in separate sessions, and Hadassah College laboratory facilities are used when other students are on vacation.
Dr. Esti Galili, head of the child and adolescent psychiatry unit at the Hadassah–Hebrew University Medical Center at Ein Kerem, flew to Sri Lanka on January 9 to contribute her vast expertise on the psychological care of traumatized children; thousands were orphaned by the tsunami and are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
She was one of several mental-health care professionals—and the only child psychiatrist—to participate in an Israel health ministry mission organized at the behest of Sri Lanka’s minister of health. “Our job is to empower local medical staff to begin coping with the enormous task of treating the effects of a tragedy of this magnitude,” said Dr. Galili. “Many of those giving care have themselves lost family. Even highly trained professionals are feeling overwhelmed.”
Back home, Dr. Galili is determined to maintain contact with her Sri Lankan colleagues by providing guidance via e-mail as well as books and materials.
Honors and Respect
Hadassah applauds the work of all its physicians and scientists and takes pride in the honor and prestige they bring to our hospitals and to medicine. Among those recently recognized for their accomplishments are Dr. Oded Abramsky, head of the neurology department at the Hadassah– Hebrew University Medical Center at Ein Kerem, and internationally recognized psycho-oncologist Lea Baider.
Dr. Abramsky has been elected to the prestigious American Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science for outstanding professional achievements. Members are chosen through a highly selective process for making major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences.
A Hadassah researcher, Baider was awarded the Arthur Sutherland Prize by the International Psycho-Oncology Society. She was honored for her work on the effects of cancer on the patient’s family, as well as for her research on breast cancer in Holocaust survivors and their descendants.
Yevgeni Minenko, 19, admits to his illicit past: drugs and theft on the streets of Afula.
Born in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, he came with his family to Israel eight years ago.
But he couldn’t fit into anything except street gangs. That is, until Arkady Sklier at the Hadassah-Neurim Youth Aliyah Village in Netanya came into his life.
Sklier, 58, was a talented athlete in Ukraine. He became an Olympics coach with a comfortable life, a good job, a home and free university education for his daughters. Today, he is a tough-love sports coach at the residential center.
Another student, Sivan Jean, came from a high school in Netanya because she recognized the excellence of the youth village’s athletics program. “I was always a good athlete and realized I had a talent for shot put. The best trainers were at Hadassah-Neurim,” she says.
Saga Masarwa from the Arab village of Kfar Kara is a runner. “My older brothers were talented at sports, but they didn’t get the kind of backing I’m getting here and they lost interest,” he said. Yaakov Arraro, born in Ethiopia, is a hurdles champion.
Are they headed for the Olympics? Maybe not, says Sklier. “But they’ll all be better people and better Israelis.”
Houston Hadassah rates a standing ovation for its support of this athletics program.
Bringing Comfort by Clowning Around
“I hate clowns! Go away!” shouted Gili, 13, who is hospitalized with cystic fibrosis.
“Inside was a little boy feeling helpless,” said Nimrod Eisenberg, the clown trying to cheer him up. It took four months to get Gili to open up, but now the clown is his best friend.
Eisenberg, a member of Hadassah’s clowning troupe, studied street theater in France and Italy before becoming homesick, not only for Israel, but for Hadassah. “Some of my earliest memories are at Hadassah; my father worked in internal medicine and my mother was a midwife for 40 years. I was born at Ein Kerem on my mother’s shift,” he said.
According to Eisenberg, therapeutic clowns give sick kids a feeling of control. “For example, I’ll pretend to check the doctor, then the child will check his father and then the child will allow the doctor to check him,” he said. “Clowning is just as important for parents. They, too, can be scared, worried in the unfamiliar hospital environment.”
Volunteer therapeutic clown Shelly Bazes-Bard (left), a member of Hadassah’s Nurses’ Council, came from Boston to visit her daughter on the Young Judaea Year Course. She joined forces with Eisenberg to put her funniest face forward at the chronic disease center and the pediatrics ward. These people take their clowning seriously.
Triumph in Troubled Times
On the night of January 10, a taxi was ferrying an Australian family to Ben-Gurion Airport after an Israeli vacation. The driver saw the other car careening madly toward them. Seconds later, the seven passengers of the two vehicles lay strewn across the highway amid twisted heaps of metal. Before these critically injured people even reached the Hadassah Medical Center, ambulance medics had radioed in, surgeons had scrubbed up, extra staff had assembled and the trauma and operating rooms were at the ready.
Understanding Israel’s need for emergency services, Hadassah undertook the challenge of building the most advanced trauma facility in the Middle East. “We have six surgeons constantly on call, along with a team of dedicated trauma nurses,” says trauma surgeon Alon Pikarsky. “Behind us stand the staff and expertise of the entire medical center.”
Whereas trauma care has long been provided by Hadassah, the unit to which these recent road accident victims were brought is brand new. At the time of the accident it had, in fact, been in use only 18 days, since Hadassah’s December 22 move into the new Center for Emergency Medicine.
Each of its six trauma beds is constantly ready, equipped for both intensive care and surgery. Anesthesia, resuscitators and monitors reach the patient from above, leaving space for several medical teams to work simultaneously. With speed sometimes making a literal difference between life and death, smooth teamwork and efficient systems are key.
Traumatology, explains Dr. Avi Rivkind, Hadassah’s trauma unit head, is the treatment of multiple injuries suddenly and violently produced. “It’s not an especially bad accident but a surgical disease affecting many of the body’s systems,” he says. “It’s the leading cause of death in under-forties; expert treatment, however, can reduce trauma deaths by a third.”
An experienced trauma doctor or nurse can assess injuries accurately in 10 to 15 seconds without missing a thing,” says head trauma nurse Etti Ben-Yaakov.
Hadassah opened Israel’s first trauma center in 1990 with an expertise recognized both at home and abroad. Last year, an independent Israel government survey found that although the medical center had treated more terror victims than any other Israeli hospital and although these patients consistently included the most severely injured, mortality from terror was lower at Hadassah than at any other Israeli medical facility.
Beyond Israel’s borders, dozens of institutions in the United States and Europe have turned to Hadassah since 9/11 for advice about handling terror-related mass-casualty and trauma events—among them, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the Harvard, Brandeis and Columbia Medical Schools.
On December 26, the day after the tsunami inundated Southeast Asia, Dr. Rivkind and three other senior Hadassah physicians flew to Sri Lanka, charged by Israel’s foreign ministry with assessing what help Israel could offer.
Returning to Hadassah, the team scrubbed up, ready to resume their medical miracles in Israel.