Emek, Coexistence and a Beacon of Light
As the only hospital and emergency facility in our volatile region, Emek’s reputation as a health provider grew — while never wavering from our guiding philosophy of Coexistence Through Medicine .
When man’s inhumanity to man wreaked havoc on our local population, Emek’s mixed ethnic medical staff of Jews and Arabs heroically worked shoulder to shoulder saving lives and proving that we are capable of looking after one another.
While the media cameras were focusing on the carnage, unnoticed women from neighboring Jenin with their ill and dying children streamed to Emek for salvation.
Their untold stories and treatments could fill a medical journal. Nobody was ever turned away and the humanitarian aid mostly went unpaid.
Emek Medical Center has proven that peaceful coexistence is not as difficult as the extremists would have us believe.
An Untold Story
A premature baby boy, born in Jenin was brought to Emek near certain death.
Today the child is alive and well and his father, Muhamed Abu Siham, says:
“May God bless the doctors of Emek who saved my son.”
A Viper, Salaam and Hope
One evening in June a deadly viper struck three times into the right palm of thirteen-year-old Salaam (Arabic for Peace). She and her mother (Bahiya) came from Jenin, a Palestinian West Bank town. They were living in a tent provided for them so that they could be nearer to their work in the fields of the Bedouin village of Shibli that neighbors Emek Medical Center. Salaam was first taken to an Arab hospital in Nazareth that was not equipped to deal with her quickly deteriorating condition. The Nazareth hospital referred them to Emek Medical Center in Afula. Salaam’s condition was critical and the Pediatric Emergency room was their only hope of saving her. Bahiya had heard frightening rumors about the Jews, but on arrival she was greeted with compassion, professionalism and humanity that soon melted away all her fears.
Her daughter, now near death, was rushed into surgery where her arm was opened from palm to shoulder in order to drain and cleanse the poison from her body. She spent the next few days on life support in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
We spoke in the Pediatric Surgery Department where Salaam is now recovering. I asked Bahiya how she feels here among the Arab and Jewish professionals of this hospital. She said, “God bless you all. I never would have believed such a thing was possible.” I then asked her if she would tell her story to her friends back in Jenin.
Her first response was that she did not want to go back there. Then her dark eyes grew wide and she nodded before the words left her mouth, “Yes … they must be told the truth.”
Little Salaam – a young girl named Peace. Maybe her story together with so many others like it could be the threads of a fabric that might one day cover and smother all the hatred in this land.
Coexistence in Pediatric Oncology
As I walked across the hospital campus, I breathed deep a heavy freshness in the air - a promise of blessed rain for our parched and thirsty land. Before the rain comes my spirit experiences an uplifting and I know that something in the air is good.
I entered the Pediatric Oncology Ambulatory Clinic that is garnished outside with colorful playground toys that hint of health and happiness. Inside I was introduced to a Palestinian mother, Samira, and her five year old son, Haled, who is suffering from Abdominal Cancer. They are residents of neighboring Jenin. An Israeli Arab man also happened to be there with his child who was receiving chemo-therapy and he volunteered to act as translator. We sat in a small, comfortable office and I asked the woman how she and her son ended up in Emek.
'In Jenin they could do no more for my son. So, we were sent to an Arab hospital in Nazareth. His disease was so advanced that they too could do nothing. That is when I was told I could bring him to Emek in Afula.' She was dressed in traditional Arab Muslim woman clothing; head covered and a floor-length embroidered dress. She looked down and around the room as she spoke. Her hands were calm.
'What did you feel when you realized you could come here with your son?' I looked deep into her dark brown eyes as I asked this question.
Then, she stared back into me and answered, 'I was afraid. Because of the Intifada and what had happened in Jenin I thought the Israelis would take revenge on us. I was afraid and confused but I had no choice. My son was dying.' She had left her husband and three other children in Jenin and stepped into the void.
'How were you received when you arrived here?'
'I could not believe what happened.' Her stare went from me, to the ceiling to our interpreter and back to me. 'I was warmly welcomed, offered tea and coffee and unexpectedly surrounded by caring concerned people. I felt safe.'
Haled was in critical condition, admitted to the hospital and spent 12 days in the Children's Cancer Ward. During that crucial period he underwent his first operation to perform a biopsy on a very large tumor in his stomach and he received emergency chemo-therapy.
Dr. Hertzl, the head of Pediatric Oncology, reassured her. One of Emek's social workers, an Arab woman from a nearby village, took her under her wing and arranged for housing and necessities in neighboring Nazareth. 'How long has Haled been receiving treatment here now?' I asked.
'Five months.' She looked to the department's nurse and they smiled at one another. A smile that transcended borders and politics. A smile of mothers in which I saw hope for both Palestinians and Israelis.
After the tumor had been reduced in size by months of chemo-therapy, most of it was removed surgically last month and he now continues his chemo-therapy as an ambulatory patient. The boy still has a long way to go.
Knowing that other residents of Jenin have been treated in Ha'Emek yet were afraid to speak openly of their experience, I asked, 'Do your family and friends in Jenin know about Haled's treatment here?'
'Yes. And not only them. Because I am grateful for all that has been done for me and my son, I volunteered to tell my story to an Israeli Arab language newspaper. My people need to hear the truth in their own language.' She hugged little Haled who stood close to her while connected to his intravenous drip.
Our translator asked the boy, 'Do you like Dr. Hertzl?' He shook his head yes. 'Do you know that the Doctor is a Jew?'
The boy shyly nodded and whispered, 'He is a good man.'
And the truth is being told. The Arabic daily, Al Sinara, ran a full-page story with pictures.
The story of Samira, Haled, Dr. Hertzl, the loving staff in Pediatric Oncology and Emek Medical Center is another example of Coexistence Through Medicine. It's another story of coexistence at eye-level & beneath the media (to use an expression from an American journalist friend).
I walked back across the campus, breathing deep the fresh air of hope.
Director of Development
Emek Medical Center
Premature and Doing Well
Emek’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is renowned as a life-preserving unit with impressive achievements to its credit over the past several years. Our NICU cares for pre-term babies and for newborn infants born at term who are in need of specialized monitoring and treatment. Out of 4,700 annual births, approximately 400 premature and full-term infants are admitted to the NICU. Most babies are in our care for about one month and the more serious cases stay as long as four months.
Babies born even as early as the 24th or 25th week of pregnancies (500 – 750 grams) have an impressive survival rate and pre-term births of the 30th week and beyond (1250 – 1500 grams) have an exceptionally high survival rate.
Officially, follow up on the development and growth of each premature child continues for the first three years of their lives, while many families and the children themselves maintain close contact with our unit for many years thereafter. A young man who was born prematurely in 1985 just visited us to celebrate his 18th birthday (as he has done every year of his life) and we wished him well on his upcoming induction into the Israel Defense Forces.
Our Unit has a unique Pre-Discharge Family Room with home like furnishings for mothers with children who will require special home-treatment needs to be used during the days prior to their babies release. This facility includes all the specialized medical equipment that the mother will need to use at home and is overseen by our staff to provide guidance.
Emek’s NICU is another living example of Coexistence Through Medicine, as 50% of the newborns treated are Jewish and the other half are Arab, including infants from neighboring Jenin. Consistently on the rise are the number of pre-term births among the Russian and Ethiopian immigrant population.
A special note of thanks goes out to our old friends in the Ealing Community of London for donating the funds for a much-needed Ultrasound device.