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The Power of A Child's Heart

A Friday Story
By Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef

Dear Friends,

Unfortunately we all know the powerful impact of a death in the family – how grief can leave loved ones angry, depressed, and unable to cope. The loss of a child can be even more devastating.

After a long and courageous battle with Cystic Fibrosis, Ruth Ettun died when she was only 11½ years old. Yet during her short lifetime, this little girl left a legacy of love and hope in the words she recorded in her diary. “The physical power in my body may be small,” she wrote a year before she died, “but the power in my heart is renewed.”

Her mother, Rachel, is a family therapist whose specialty is helping families deal with chronic illness, loss and bereavement. Yet it took her nearly ten years to turn the power in her daughter’s heart into an important and impressive project. Haverut, the organization she established, seeks to support patients by bringing the world of the spirit, culture and creative arts into the hospital. The hospital is Hadassah-Mt. Scopus where Ruth and Rachel spent many hours.

Together with Prof. Zvi Stern, Director of Hadassah-Mt. Scopus, they turned to the nearby Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, which enthusiastically embraced the idea. Every week Bezalel students dedicate several hours to bringing art into the lives of our patients. Throughout the hospital, they encourage patient creativity in departments as diverse as High Risk Pregnancy, Pediatric Cardiology and Rehabilitation – departments as dissimilar as their patient populations.

Speaking to patients, students, families, and HMO and Bezalel staff who gathered in the Hadassah-Mt. Scopus lobby to celebrate Haverut’s fifth successful year, Rachel Ettun pointed out the similarities between the lives of hospitalized patients and the lives of artists.

When patients enter the hospital, she said, their medical problems become the focal point of their lives. She knows all too well how they become caught up in the treatment routine and how they measure time by the next test or the next doctor’s visit. In many ways, she continued, a hospital is a world unto itself – an enclave removed from the world around it.

While artists enjoy considerably more freedom, when they become immersed in their work, they too enter a world of their own – intellectually, emotionally and often, physically.

“Haverut provides the opportunity to bring the two worlds together and make a change,” Ms. Ettun continued. “The activity transforms the lives of everyone involved.”

Bezalel student Yaella Wilshansky explained that she volunteered for the project because she had been hospitalized. “In a place where people don’t have many choices in their lives and little or no control over their daily routine, we give them a chance to choose,” she told the audience. “They get to decide which project to undertake, which medium to work in, which colors to use – and even not to participate. For the time we spend together, they are in control.”

Much of the artwork that adorned the walls for the occasion was a visual expression of the students’ feelings and reflections on working with the patients. Their artwork was interspersed with a photo collage showing the patients during their art sessions and some of the creative work they produced.

In response to working with patients with Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic lung disease, Bat El Sabbag titled her pen-and-ink drawings ”Breath.”

Esther Klein’s paintings reflect the feminism she experienced among the women in the High Risk Pregnancy Unit. Other drawings, paintings, sculpture and designs all convey the same reflective spirit.

Throughout the evening, as she chatted with Bezalel and Hadassah staff members, patients and their families, Rachel Ettun often spoke about her daughter, how she inspired her to create Haverut, and her pleasure in seeing how the power in Ruth’s heart inspires everyone involved.

****

Our patients most assuredly benefit from Haverut. You can see it in their faces and in the artwork they create. It is most fitting that this project is taking place at Hadassah-Mt. Scopus, not just because Ruth was a patient there, but because it is the home of our Center for Children with Chronic Diseases.

Prof. Eitan Kerem, Head of the Division of Pediatrics who established the Center, is an expert on Cystic Fibrosis. In the 14 years since Ruth passed away, he and his research team have made some important discoveries, among them a new medication that helps correct the genetic defect that causes Cystic Fibrosis. It has already been tested in early stage clinical trials. If it proves successful, it could significantly improve the quality of life for thousands afflicted with CF, which – as yet – has no cure.

Shabbat shalom,
Shlomo

Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef
Director General
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Date: 5/27/2011 12:00:00 AM

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