The ‘Lucky Ones’: Victims Treated at Hadassah Hospital
Michal Ohana, 27, a social media editor, just wanted to dance. She and a group of friends drove from Jerusalem to the all-night dance party near Kibbutz Re’im not far from Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. As dawn broke and they started to go home, trucks and motorcycles carrying armed terrorists pulled in front of them.
Ohana literally ran for her life, dodging automatic machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades in a nightmare chase. She took what she thought was refuge under an abandoned Israeli tank. But when many others joined her, they became a target for Hamas gunfire. She took a bullet in her leg.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” she said. “There were murdered people all around me.” Hundreds of young people attending the event were killed by the Hamas terrorists.
Ohana, hospitalized this week at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, shared her horrific experience with Hadassah National President Rhoda Smolow, who flew to Israel from New York and visited the wounded who had been transported to the Hadassah Medical Organization from the South.
“I feel privileged to be supporting a hospital that gives excellent care to the wounded civilians and soldiers,” said Smolow. She conveyed the concerns and prayers of the nearly 300,000 Hadassah members, and the men and women of Hadassah International, all of whom support Hadassah’s lifesaving work in Israel and throughout the world.
Ohana is no stranger to Hadassah Ein Kerem. Her mother, Rita Zack, is a veteran nurse there. “She texted me from under the tank and everywhere else she ran to send help. I am thankful that she survived and will get the best care possible at Hadassah Hospital,” Zack said, wiping away her tears.
To date, 65 patients, most of them soldiers, have been brought for treatment at Hadassah Medical Organization’s two hospitals, the other on Mount Scopus. The vast majority have serious injuries, often requiring multiple orthopedic, maxillofacial and neurological surgeries. One is a lone soldier from Houston who was shot in the face.
Meanwhile, thousands of Israelis have answered the call by Hadassah for blood donations, particularly Type O.
Doctors and nurses, at no extra pay, are working far beyond their shifts to provide expert care. One Hadassah doctor who lives on Kibbutz Nir Am along the border with Gaza spent a day trapped in a reinforced saferoom when the attacks began.
Dr. Sagui Gavri, head of Hadassah’s pediatric cardiology unit, usually has in his hand an electrocardiogram chart of a small patient, whether Israeli or Palestinian, including many from Gaza. But for more than 24 hours, Dr. Gavri was holding a handgun, his eyes fixed on the door of the saferoom where he, his wife, Orna, and their 9-year-old son, Timor, had barricaded themselves.
While armed and well-trained Hamas terrorists set saferooms on fire to drive out and murder families in nearby kibbutzim, that did not happen at Dr. Gavri’s kibbutz, where he is a third-generation member. According to reports, Hamas made it to the outskirts of the kibbutz but did not enter, as two Hamas terrorists were killed there by kibbutz residents.
After a day in the saferoom, Dr. Gavri and his family managed to get out and travel to Jerusalem. In the atrium of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower at Hadassah Ein Kerem in Jerusalem, a weary and tense Dr. Gavri told Smolow: “Grandparents, parents, children were murdered. This is far worse than the Yom Kippur War.”
Another kibbutznik, Baruch Cohen, 71, serves as the head of civilian security at Kibbutz Magen, also near the border with Gaza. He trained 20 kibbutzniks for armed emergency response and because of that training, he is credited with saving 300 lives on the kibbutz.
He was hit by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) in the leg. When the terrorists saw that he wasn’t dead, they shot him. Seriously wounded, he drove his own vehicle out of the kibbutz and arrived in very serious condition to the Intensive Care Unit of Hadassah Ein Kerem. “He was in very serious condition, but thankfully he is doing much better,” said Dr. Venon van Herden, head of Intensive Care.
Dr. Van Heerden, an observant Jew, was home on Shabbat when his phone rang. “I was apprised that something major was happening and went to the hospital. The sight of three helicopters in a row landing seemed unreal,” he said. “We had to move the patients in the Intensive Care Unit to take in the badly wounded. We took in 15 seriously injured patients at once. It was the worst disaster I experienced in my career, which spans South Africa, Australia and Israel.”
Cohen lost the leg that took a direct hit from the RPG, but he absorbed the news with equanimity, said Dr. Van Heerden, who quoted the patient saying he would “deal with it and is grateful to be alive.”
“Baruch came here close to death,” said his wife, Mina Cohen. “Our daughter is an ICU nurse in a different hospital, and she tells us just how hard the team here works to save every life and how professional they are.”
Mina Cohen, who was in New York’s capital of Albany last year as part of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Partnership Program, told Smolow: “I was in Albany and I know what the Hadassah organization is and the sacred work you do. I can’t thank you enough.”
Barbara Sofer, an award-winning journalist and author, is Israel director of public relations for Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America.