President’s Column: Extraordinary as Normal
It was an extraordinary time, it was a normal time. During a 48-hour period last July, surgical teams at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem performed five organ transplants. The most dramatic case was that of a 42-year-old mother of six from a moshav near Beit Shemesh. A year before, she had arrived at our doors with heart failure so severe that doctors gave her an artificial heart to buy time. Now, finally, she had a human donor.
Within two days of the woman’s receiving a human heart transplant, our surgeons also gave a new heart to a 49-year-old man and performed three kidney transplants. All of the surgeries were successful.
Because of you and Hadassah, our medical staff was there to perform extraordinary surgery. Because of you and Hadassah, those five people are alive and doing well.
The reputation of our medical center is such that some people go to great lengths to come to us. And sometimes our staff goes to great lengths to make sure patients get to us as well. Earlier in the year a leading cancer specialist from Russia was at a medical conference in Egypt when he started to suffer intense stomach pain and a high fever. Treatment at a local hospital did not alter his condition.
The doctor’s colleagues back in Moscow suggested he be taken to Hadassah Hospital, but because of flight restrictions he couldn’t go directly to Israel. A Jordanian air force ambulance took him to Amman, where he was transferred to an Israel-bound flight. By the time Hadassah physicians saw him he was nearly dead, suffering from an inflamed pancreas, renal failure and liver damage. But they saved his life and sent him home.
Closer to home, a Palestinian doctor from Hebron called a Hadassah colleague and said he had a 5-day-old baby with a severe heart deficiency who needed a procedure that he did not have the equipment to perform. Despite the difficulties of traveling between the West Bank and Jerusalem, Hadassah staff cut through the red tape and the baby was under our care within two hours. She was treated and is doing well.
Again, because of you and Hadassah our medical staff was there to save the lives of the doctor and the baby.
These are just a few examples of emergency treatment from among the thousands of cases and millions of staff hours that your support makes possible. When people undergo lifesaving treatment or surgery, it is common for them to talk about miracles. I wouldn’t think of contradicting anyone who interpreted their survival this way. But there is more at work in our hospitals. The essential companion of the miraculous is human will.
We are about to observe Hanukka, which also juxtaposes miracles and human will. We celebrate the miracle of the oil, but the Maccabees’ victory was very much a case of Jews who took control of their own destiny. Perhaps the holiday’s theme can be stated as “Pray for miracles but work to make things happen.”
That’s the ethos of Zionism, and that’s why our hospitals—and our other institutions—are standing and serving. Israel achieved independence because Jews took responsibility for their lives and their freedom. Hadassah was and remains a proud participant in the Zionist enterprise. Our mantra was “Don’t wait.” We didn’t wait for anyone else to create the Jewish state. We didn’t wait for Israel to be born to begin our work. Because of people like you—in many cases your mothers and grandmothers—we started building hospitals, clinics and schools, and the doors were open when the state finally arrived.
Israel’s future and Hadassah’s success still depend on you taking control of Jewish destiny and not waiting for others. As you light the Hanukka candles this year, celebrate the miracles, but don’t forget to act. Because of you and Hadassah, people in Israel and beyond find care and sustenance. Because of you and Hadassah, the extraordinary is normal. H