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Jerusalem Netletter: Holiday Wishes and a Request

Barbara Sofer


“Thank you,” said David Fintzi to the supporters around the world who prayed for him over Yom Kippur.

He has moved from the Intensive Care Unit to a beautiful single room in the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower, on the 7th floor department of plastic surgery. The room is set up for patients who must be isolated from chance infections.

“The room is so wonderful,” said his father Andre Fintzi. “It enables us to be with him around the clock, to help in the care, and to give him comfort.”

Just last night, Fintzi regained his ability to speak when Prof. David Linton inserted a speech valve. His first words to his emotional parents Andre and Manuela Fintzi were questions about where he was and why he wasn’t in medical school in Romania. They have explained to him about his injury, his flight to Israel, and the first steps of his recovery at Hadassah.

Said Andre,” I realize even more now that Hadassah was the bridge from death to life for my son. I can’t thank you enough.”


David Fintzi was taking advantage of his first vacation time since entering the prestigious medical school in in Bucharest last year.

The handsome, dark-haired and unpretentious 19-year-old had lots of friends in the Jewish community. He had studied at the Lauder Day School and was hoping to complete training as a youth movement counselor. He had tickets for a trip to Israel later in the summer. In the meantime he decided to visit his friend R. who lived in the historic city of Iasi, Moldavia 400 miles away.

The Fintzi parents.

Iasi has a long Jewish history with a pioneering Yiddish newspaper and theater, an active Hassidic movement. Most of the Jews had moved away or like his friend, were connected to the Jewish community in Bucharest.

In Iasi, he and R. boarded the electric train to sightsee. No one knows exactly what happened next. David leaned out the open window-whether to take a photo or not-and somehow touched the electric cable. It all happened so fast, R. wasn't able to reconstruct the event.

27,000 volts of electricity ran through David's lean body. He collapsed.

There is no advanced medical facility in Iasi. A helicopter crew flew David to Bucharest.

There he hovered between life and death for 72 hours. The Jewish community rallied around his distraught parents Andre and Manuela Fintzi.

"I'm not sure when the idea of moving him to Israel came up," says Andre, a movie and stage actor. "But over and over, the idea was floated that Israel had enormous experience in burns because of all the wars. First we decided on Israel, and then on Hadassah. I'd heard of Hadassah, with its international reputation and experience."

In 1923, Tzvi Neuman, a young doctor from Germany, had moved to preState Israel. He became a surgeon at Hadassah Hospital, with a particular interest in burns. To acquire additional experience, he went to South Africa and the United States for additional training. On October 15, 1973 Dr. Neuman was in Geneva where he'd attended a medical conference. It was Yom Kippur. When he heard about the attack on Israel he immediately boarded a plane home.

So did his son Abraham, whom everyone calls Rami. He was studying medicine in Italy.

The two Neumans arrived in Israel.Rami hurried to join his unit as a tankist.

Dr. Neuman hurried to Hadassah Hospital as the first casualties arrived. The Yom Kippur War was fought in tanks. Israel was outnumbered and had inferior weaponry. The soldiers fought valiantly to turn back the enemy. Many sustained severe burns.

At Hadassah Hospital, Dr. Neuman and his team worked around the clock. Jewish surgeons arrived from the Diaspora to bolster Hadassah's staff. They all grew, and with it Hadassah's reputation as a world leader in treating burns.

"Each plastic surgeon contributed his own knowledge and experience, and by the end of the war, everyone knew a lot more," said Dr. Rami Neuman.

When the war ended, tankist Rami Neuman never went back to Italy. He continued his medical studies at Hadassah Hospital. Today he heads the Plastic Surgeon and Burns Unit that his late father pioneered.

Electric burns differ from thermal or chemical burns because they cause more damage deep underneath the skin. They're more difficult to diagnose. They can cause shock and strain to the heart, kidneys and other organs.

David had severe burns. In addition to the shock, he'd also caught on fire. In Romania, he had initial surgery that might have been a source of lethal infection. He was close to death. The Jewish Agency got involved. The air ambulance service created by Hadassah's South African pilot/physician David Linton picked him up. On board were Hadassah doctor internist Marc Romaine and Hadassah nurse Kyrill Grozovsky as well as David's parents Andre and Manuela Fintzi. They huddled near their only child.

As they took off to reach the height of 37,000 feet David's oxygen saturation fell, and bells started to ring. "We had d to take him off the respirator at intervals and manually provide oxygen,"said Dr. Romaine.

For Andre Fintzi that was the most frightening part of the journey.

"I am sensitive to facial expression, and three times I could see Dr. Romaine look very worried when the bells rang," he said. "I was terrified that we were losing him."

Two and a half hours after they took off, they made a bumpy landing in the small plane. Outside was hot and humid. They sped in an ambulance to Jerusalem.

There are many beeps in Hadassah's Intensive Care unit. "Too many," says Andre Fintzi, who often calls the staff to reassure him when he visits his son Marc. "I'm afraid I'm given to panicking, but can you blame me?"

Hadassah has the only Skin Bank in the country. Recovery from severe burns is slow and complex. Vital functions need to be further maintained, infection defeated, and the process of skin grafts which has begun needs to continue. In the month that David Fintzi has been a patient at Hadassah he is making good progress, both in stabilizing his overall condition, and in treating the burns. All of his doctors-those in the Intensive Care Unit and Dr. Neuman's staff are optimistic.

Nonetheless, while the medical team uses all its expertise, Manuela and Andre Fintzi have asked to send a message to the women and men of Hadassah.

"You do fantastic work," said Andre Fintzi. "That's why the Jewish people exist now. Where is such a hospital in any of the neighboring countries who want to destroy Israel.

"Your doctors and nurses are doing their best to cure our son, our only son. We can't thank you enough. But I would like to ask the supporters of Hadassah to add their prayers this Yom Kippur for his full recovery."

So, my friends, when we read this year-"who by fire and who by water," in the Unetanne Tokef prayer, let us please send aour own heartful entreaty for our patient David, son of Andre and Manuala, for extra help from the Healer above for Refuah Shleima, a complete recovery.

Wishing you a wonderful New Year. May we all be privileged to continue lifesaving work.

L'Shana Tova and Gmar Hatima Tova,
From Jerusalem, Hadassah Offices in Israel
Audrey Shimron, Executive Director
Barbara Goldstein, Deputy Director
And me,
Barbara Sofer
Israel Director of Public Relations
Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America

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