Every new life is a miracle, but sometimes the miracle is unmistakable. Six months after the birth of their son, Tamar (Tami) and Yehudah Dror still can’t believe they have a healthy baby. But they do know exactly who to thank.
The story began during Tami’s 17th week of pregnancy. She and Yehudah were at a routine ultrasound when they heard the first piece of distressing news. Their gynecologist told them that the baby had a heart defect and referred them to a pediatric cardiologist. After examining the heart of the fetus, the cardiologist delivered a shattering diagnosis. The defect was very serious, he said. If the baby went to term, it would be impossible to treat. The couple was advised to terminate the pregnancy.
“We were devastated,” Tami said. “We’d been trying to have a baby for two-and-a-half years. But he said it would be too difficult to treat a baby with this condition. He left no room for doubt – he recommended ending the pregnancy.” The cardiologist said that the baby had a hole in his heart – a common and treatable condition – but that the serious complication was the absence of pulmonary arteries. After hearing the same opinion from two other medical professionals, Tami and Yehudah gave up on their baby. The religious couple – who live on Kibbutz Sa’ad in the south of Israel - began researching where and how to induce abortion.
During this dark time the couple consulted their friends for support and also their Rabbi. Both the Rabbi and a friend – as well as their gynecologist – told them to seek yet another opinion. All three referred them to the head of the Department of Pediatric Cardiology at Hadassah Hospital, Professor Azaria Rein.
“We made the appointment,” Tami said. “At the very least, we would know that we’d done everything, and perhaps we could feel more peaceful about what we were about to do."
After an extensive examination, Prof. Rein told Tammy and Yehudah that he disagreed with all the previous diagnoses. He told them the defect was treatable, and advised them to go ahead with the pregnancy.
“I saw heart disease that could be completely repaired after birth,” he said. “I showed them what would need to be done.” The couple was stunned. After hearing the opposite diagnosis from more than one medical professional, they weren’t sure what or who to believe. They’d been told that the baby – if it survived - would suffer greatly after it was born. They didn’t want to bring a suffering baby into the world, but neither did they want to give up on the pregnancy.
Prof. Rein offered to monitor the baby’s development and to show the couple how the fetus was developing. So Tami and Yehudah came to Jerusalem every week for an ultrasound, and sure enough, they saw the fetus develop the pulmonary arteries the previous doctors had said would never grow.
After the third follow-up ultrasound, Tami and Yehuda disregarded the advice they’d received to abort and instead started to believe in the hope Professor Rein was offering. They kept the pregnancy and the baby’s heart continued to develop as Prof. Rein had predicted. It did have a congenital heart defect – a rare condition called Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) – but it was treatable with corrective surgery.
At 32 weeks, Tami delivered the baby – he weighed 4 pounds and 13 ounces and was admitted into the Neonatal Intensive Care and put on a respirator. His condition improved and the couple prepared to take him home – they were told that the corrective surgery would come later - but shortly before his release, the baby developed another complication. His blood oxygen-level dropped to dangerous levels.
“Usually a baby with this condition undergoes two surgeries,” said Dr. Eldad Erez, Hadassah’s Director of the Congenital Heart Surgery Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery. “In the first one, a Blalock–Taussig shunt would be inserted, and then later, after three or six months, there is another surgery to repair the defect.”
But Dr. Erez had a different approach. “In my experience, the risk is less with one surgery. A second surgery can carry the risk of brain damage or even death.” Dr Erez. decided to perform the entire corrective procedure on the three-week old baby. Tami remembers her newborn going into the five hour surgery. The couple sat outside the operating room and prayed. “The staff was amazing,” she said. “They called us every hour to explain what had been done and what was going to happen.” The baby came through the surgery and the procedure was successful. The heart defect was completely repaired. Two weeks later, Tami and Yehudah finally took their baby home. They named him Hallel – the name for the prayer of thanksgiving said on Jewish holidays. The word means “praise”.
“The experience was extremely difficult,” Tami remembers. “But the staff at Hadassah was outstanding. Everyone – the midwives, the doctors, the nurses – one after the other. They treated us with kindness and compassion. During our entire ordeal, the treatment we received was above and beyond. They were incredible.”
The couple came home shortly before the war in Gaza and then had to cope with the barrage of missiles fired into the south, where their Kibbutz is located, but they have since settled into a routine with their healthy baby.“We are so happy,” said Tami. “There are no words to describe it.”