Hadassah

Grateful Patient Returns to Thank Hadassah Hospital Personnel

Friday, Sep 7 2018

American patient Jessa Perrin middle

“Thank you for saving my life,” Jessa Perrin said, before asking if she could hug Prof. Rifaat Safadi, head of the Hadassah Medical Organization’s liver unit.

The Cincinnati resident and her mother, Bonnie Ullner, were in Israel for a cousin’s wedding and made a pilgrimage back to Hadassah, where her life was saved nine years ago, so they could personally thank the doctors and nurses.

Perrin, then 16, was on a teen summer tour when she was diagnosed with a common stomach ache. It was probably the falafel she’d eaten, said the doctor in Haifa. But when the teens got to Tiberias and were about to spend a day hiking, the tour medic vetoed Perrin’s participation and insisted she go to the local hospital, today called the Baruch Padeh Poriya Hospital. Suspecting liver involvement, the internal medicine staff phoned colleagues in Jerusalem, where they have an ongoing arrangement with the liver unit at Hadassah.

“The last thing I remember was the ambulance ride,” said Perrin, who is currently a journalism student at the University of Cincinnati. She was unconscious when she arrived two hours later in Jerusalem.

In the Intensive Care Unit, the Hadassah staff tried to figure out why a teenager with no previous symptoms had acute liver failure and was close to death. The patient couldn’t speak. The diagnostic tests included the BreathID® Testing Method, invented at Hadassah by Prof. Yaron Ilan and helpful in finding malfunctions of the liver. The hypothesis was that Perrin suffered from Wilson’s disease, a rare genetic disease in which copper builds up in the body causing liver failure.

She would need an urgent liver transplant. Chances were better in the United States. Hadassah doctors consulted with American colleagues at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Although they do not usually put in an urgent call for a liver without first examining a patient, the American physicians trusted the report of the Hadassah doctors.

Sixteen passengers gave up their seats on the next El Al flight to New York, and the Hadassah team flew with the unconscious patient. A liver was brought from Tennessee, from a seven-year-old who had just died there as Perrin’s plane approached New York.

“It was a tense and difficult flight,” recalls anesthesiologist Micha Shamir. “We had an hour to outfit a plane as an intensive care unit. Something unexpected always happens on a flight, and you have to be prepared.”

Her mother was waiting for her at the hospital in New York. As the local team hurriedly wheeled Perrin’s bed toward the operating theater, Dr. Shamir made them pause for a few seconds. “There is always time for a mother to give her daughter a kiss,” he said.

Perrin woke up in the intensive care unit in New York thinking she was still in Israel. “I remember being angry that they’d taken out my piercings,” she said. “I was a silly teen who didn’t know she’d almost lost her life. But I’m beyond that now.”

This week at Hadassah she revisited the rooms where her life was saved and thanked the staff. She was accompanied by her mom, who subsequently became President of the Cincinnati Chapter of Hadassah, the organization that founded and still supports the Hadassah Medical Organization.

As her mother explained, “We’ve all heard of the miracles at Hadassah, but when it’s your own daughter who is saved, that’s in a category of its own.”

Learn more about the Hadassah Medical Organization.

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