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A Long Night at Hadassah Medical Center: Emergency Visit From Prime Minister While Hundreds of Others Are Treated

Lee Abramowitz

 A LONG NIGHT AT HADASSAH MEDICAL CENTER: EMERGENCY VISIT FROM PRIME MINISTER WHILE HUNDREDS OF OTHERS ARE TREATED

(New York, NY -- December 19, 2005) -- A little less than 24 hours ago Dr. Yuval Weiss, Deputy Director of the 700-bed Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem, ran into the office of Ron Krumer, Director of External Affairs, and said: “It's the prime minister!,” and ran outside. It took Krumer a few seconds before he realized that this wasn't just another courtesy visit. As he was running downstairs to the hospital’s trauma unit, he began to prepare himself for a very long night.

The trauma unit was quiet. Two surgeons and a nurse were in the finishing stages of treating another victim of a car accident. By all outward appearances, it was just another evening in the trauma unit. Within a few minutes, doctors, nurses and others arrived and started to prepare the unit’s “VIP suite” for the most important official in the state of Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Outside in Ben Gurion Square, the hospital’s entrance, security people were setting up the area which was still quiet, as reporters started to trickle in. It was clear the story was out.

Then, a storm arrived. Some eight cars with their sirens blaring broke into the square just like a scene from Bruce Willis’ “Die Hard.” Dozens of security people, policemen and border guards spread out as though they were about to take over the hospital. A bed from the trauma unit was waiting, as the car carrying Sharon pulled up. He was placed on the gurney and taken into the trauma unit. Within minutes the doctors diagnosed him as having experienced a mild stroke and cautiously decided to conduct further tests. In the square, some 20 TV crews, 20 still photographers and a few dozens reporters had arrived.

The demands of the reporters outside – and others from all over the world who kept calling every telephone number to the hospital – was unprecedented. To service their requests, the hospital implemented a protocol of issuing several official statements, but not giving interviews. According to Krumer, this served to focus the reporters within a time frame; in all, two statements were issued, with the next one scheduled for 6:30 the following morning.

While Prime Minister Sharon was in the capable hands of the hospital’s neurological team, the vast medical center hummed along as it always does, with hundreds of patients being treated as though the prime minister were not spending the night with them.

During the long night, the Judy and Sidney Swartz Center for Emergency Medicine was filled with kids suffering from respiratory infections. One of the hospital’s guards had brought in his 8-month-old son who was running a high fever, diagnosed and treated as bronchialitis. Another staffer greeted a woman from her synagogue, there for an urgent MRI. As always Arab men in keffiyahs waited their turn to see a doctor next to young men in hassidic garb and teenage girls in skin-tight hip-huggers. The staff itself is a mix of Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, speaking the same Babel of languages as their patients.

In short, it was a long night, but according to Krumer, no different than any other at the medical center that was nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. It was a night when patients and medical staff alike found an island of calm and sanity amidst the frequently chaotic daily life of the Middle East. That was the good news. The better news was that Prime Minister Sharon was scheduled to be released shortly.

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