Five days after his two baby sisters died from exposure to a powerful pesticide used in their Jerusalem home, surviving brother Michael Gross, 7, showed marked improvement Saturday, while his brother Yitzhak, 5, has been upgraded to stable condition.
According to a hospital official, Michael responded to external stimuli Saturday night during a group prayer vigil by opening his eyes and briefly moving his head and limbs before being sedated again.
Riva Shaked, Schneider Children’s Medical Center’s spokeswoman, neither confirmed nor denied the report Sunday, but said the hospital’s staff is cautiously optimistic.
“They’re still in a very difficult situation and we’re waiting for their hearts to recover, but they are in stable condition,” said Shaked. “I hope we will have some good news in a few days.”
The boys, whose hearts and lungs were ravaged by an allegedly illicit pesticide used by an exterminator in the family’s Givat Mordechai home Tuesday, were clinging to life upon being rushed to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in the capital on Wednesday.
On Thursday, after their sisters were buried at Har Hamenuhot cemetery in Jerusalem, Michael and Yitzhak were transferred to Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva, where they are being treated with advanced respirators not available in the capital.
The boys’ parents, Shimon and Michal, who survived the poisoning and buried twoyear- old Yael and her fouryear- old sister Avigail on Thursday, decided to sit shiva in the hospital by their sons’ sides.
The couple, and their immediate family, have since beseeched the public to pray for the boys’ recovery.
“Let the entire Jewish nation pray for the boys – that they be healthy, that they have the strength to deal with this.
Each person can do something in merit of the two boys,” said the children’s grandmother, Tzippora Gross, shortly after her granddaughters’ funeral.
“This sort of tragedy – where at once part of a family passes away, while the other half are in critical condition – is unimaginable,” said the children’s uncle, Shlomo Rein. “The parents ask everyone not to desist – to continue praying, as every prayer is heard and helps.”
The exterminator who treated the family’s apartment the day before they fell ill was arrested hours after the girls died and remains under house arrest, pending an ongoing police investigation. His identity is being withheld per a court gag order.
During the exterminator’s Thursday hearing, a Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge determined that the pesticide in question had been “completely prohibited for household use,” spawning multiple investigations by the Health and Environmental Protection ministries.
The exterminator is forbidden from working again for at least 60 days, and forbidden to leave the country for six months.
His attorney, Moshe Shiffman, said his client rushed to the hospital before being arrested to assist doctors, and claimed he was a professional who has responsibly handled the pesticide in question.