While the country was gushing over the visit of Canadian actress Pamela
Anderson, who was in Israel this week to participate in the local version of
Dancing with the Stars, little did we know that we had a bona fide dance
champion visiting for entirely different reasons.
On Sunday, George
Exanesuis, a former dance champion and choreographer in his native Haiti, will
board a plane from Ben-Gurion Airport back to the earthquake-ravaged city of
Port-au-Prince.RELATED:3 more Haitian kids arrive at Wolfson for heart surgeryMatisyahu supports program to ease trauma in Haiti
Exanesuis, who was pulled out of the rubble of his home
three days after the earthquake shattered the city in January and had to have
his right leg amputated, was in Israel for a month undergoing complicated
surgery to restore the use of his crushed hand.
“We brought George here
because there are no operating rooms in Haiti that are equipped to perform the
type of surgery he needed,” said Dr.
Itzhak Siev-Ner, director of
orthopedic rehabilitation at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer. “Treating his
leg was a fairly straightforward procedure, but the serious damage was done to
His hand was crushed under the rubble, the pressure causing him
severe nerve damage that threatened to paralyze it completely.
Sheba we performed an operation to extend his ligaments, which had contracted,
and return movement and control to his hand. The rehabilitation process is still
long, but he will be able to receive the necessary physiotherapy treatments back
Exanesuis told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday: “I know that I
could never have received this treatment back in Haiti, where there are
thousands of people in just as bad, if not worse condition.
I wish to
express my thanks to the staff at Sheba and the generous help of the donors,” he said.
Siev-Ner met Exanesuis during
his first visit to Haiti, immediately after the earthquake that killed 230,000
people and injured hundreds of thousands more. Siev-Ner was part of an IDF
medical mission that went to Haiti to assist in the massive rescue and aid
operation, with the Israeli field hospital receiving international recognition
for its state-of-the-art equipment and the dedication of its staff.
I was there, I was approached by the manager of the hotel we were staying at and
he told me about George’s case. The manager had a son who was George’s age who
was uninjured in the earthquake and felt guilty that his son had survived
unscathed, while George was so severely injured. He introduced me to his case
and we began treating him at the local hospital,” Siev-Ner
Exanesuis was back on his legs and even back to dancing after the
doctors equipped him with a prosthetic leg at the hospital in Haiti, but his
hand would have been lost unless he was brought to Israel for the surgery, the
With the aid of Magen David Adom, the American Jewish Joint
Distribution Committee and the Friends of Sheba in the United States, funding
was raised to sponsor Exanesuis’s flight and medical expenses and last month he
arrived at Sheba for the surgery.
Siev-Ner estimated that the cost of the
flights, together with the month’s stay at one of Israel’s top rehabilitation
establishments, cost upwards of $20,000.
Exanesuis met with the Post
right after the farewell party held for him and another Haitian survivor by the
patients and staff of Sheba’s rehabilitation center. With the aid of a fellow
patient, who translated his words from French, Exanesuis told of his experience
and his gratitude to the doctors who helped give him back his quality of
“I am 29 years old. In Haiti, I studied computers and managed a
dance company. I specialize in classical dancing and teach a range of Latin
dances including rumba, chacha, salsa, tango and mambo. In the past I won
several dance competitions and was the Haitian champion,” Exanesuis
“At the time of the earthquake I was at home and the building
crashed down on me. The building contained 10 or 11 rooms and I don’t know what
happened to any of my neighbors or if anyone else was injured or died there. I
was trapped under rubble for three days and on the third day friends came and
rescued me, pulling me out. I had the luck of meeting the Israeli doctors and
receiving treatment from Dr. Siev-Ner. They equipped me with a prosthetic
leg and in the beginning of October, brought me here for the hand operation,” he
During his stay, the doctors at Sheba also shipped in a special
prosthetic leg from Germany that would give him better movement in the foot.
They decided to give him a leopard-print leg, so that he would look
“I was able to dance with my old prosthetic, so with the new one I
should have no problem. I hope to return to Haiti and resume my teaching
career,” Exanesuis said.
Exanesuis said he would have been happy to stay
in Israel longer and continue receiving the best possible treatment from the
physiotherapy and rehabilitation staff, but that he was looking forward to
returning to Haiti and his family.
Siev-Ner, who was leaving for a third
visit to Haiti on Thursday, said he would meet with Exanesuis back in
Port-au-Prince, where he would continue to receive treatment from the Sheba
“We have rotating teams in place in Haiti, continuing to care for
the earthquake victims. Conditions there are pretty bad, especially after a
hurricane struck the city in early November causing widespread flooding and the
outbreak of a cholera epidemic because of the sanitation conditions, but all of
our people I speak to say they wouldn’t give up on the opportunity for
anything,” Siev-Ner said.
“Friends have urged me not to go back because
of the cholera, but I am determined to go. We were in far worse conditions
immediately after the earthquake and it is precisely because the conditions are
bad that we are needed there,” the dedicated doctor said.