An American family celebrating their daughter’s bat mitzvah at a private event on the Golan Heights last week played an integral role in saving the life of a critically wounded Syrian girl.
Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, director-general of Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, was on his way to the Golan on Thursday to participate in the celebration when he received an urgent phone call from the IDF.
The army told him about a severely wounded 10-year-old Syrian girl who was the victim of an aerial bombing raid by the Syrian Air Force in Dera’a in southwestern Syria. The girl’s sister was killed in the raid, while her brother was also wounded and taken to another medical facility somewhere in Syria.
She and her mother were driven to the border with Israel, where an IDF medical team quickly performed an operation to stabilize her. The girl’s multiple wounds were life-threatening and she needed to be immediately airlifted to the Sheba hospital.
Kreiss, a former brigadier-general who served as the military’s surgeon-general prior to assuming his position at Sheba, was directly responsible for setting up the IDF field hospital along the Syrian border.
He left the bat mitzvah for a nearby airfield on the Golan, where a helicopter from the air force’s elite 669 Combat Search & Rescue Unit took off to fly the girl and her mother to Tel Hashomer. Kreiss checked the girl’s condition in an IDF ambulance before she was placed on the helicopter, and then alerted Sheba’s emergency room staff in the Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital about her pending arrival.
After a battery of tests and intensive treatments, the young girl, “Malik,” was moved to the pediatric intensive care unit, where she has begun to move her limbs and is awakening from her unconscious state. The prognosis for her recovery is “good” according to Dr. Itai Pessach, Sheba’s senior pediatric critical care physician, who is tending to her wounds.
“She is suffering from multiple injuries, including head and chest trauma, burns, cuts and bruises,” Pessach said. “Though she remains in critical condition, we believe that she will live but face a long road to recovery.”
Malik’s mother, who came with only the clothes on her back to Sheba, has been overwhelmed by what she has seen and heard in her first experience with Israel’s Jewish and Arab doctors and nurses.
“This has been an emotional journey for me, Malik and my family. I am very happy, and pleased with the way we have been treated by everyone in the hospital and with G-d’s help, I will be able to bring Malik back to our family in Dera’a, where my husband is waiting for us with our son,” she said.
Kreiss said this wasn’t Sheba’s first experience in dealing with casualties of the Syrian civil war.
“And the way things are developing on the border, I’m afraid it won’t be the last,” he said. “It was an ironic twist of fate that I happened to be on the Golan Heights celebrating the happiness of a bat mitzvah girl last week, and we hope to celebrate the rebirth of Malik’s young life after our dedicated staff helps her recover. We are proud to be a hospital without borders and an oasis of peace in a turbulent region of the world.”