Lying in the neurosurgery intensive care unit on the seventh floor of Jerusalem's Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was in serious but stable condition on Thursday night after nearly nine hours of brain surgery to stanch a severe brain hemorrhage.
He was in an induced coma and attached to a respirator, and was expected to remain so at least until Friday evening, to try to minimize the edema and resulting intracranial pressure that naturally follow such major surgery.
Also Friday he is to have a CT scan to check for any further bleeding on the brain.
Hadassah Medical Organization director-general Shlomo Mor-Yosef, who periodically went out to issue terse medical bulletins to waiting journalists and photographers at the hospital's entrance, said only that Sharon's vital signs were still stable and consistent with the parameters after such a major operation.
He did not offer any details about what permanent brain damage would remain if Sharon were to survive; this could not be known until he was allowed to return to consciousness and his mental and physical abilities tested.
The first four days after such neurosurgery for a brain hemorrhage are the most critical. But Mor-Yosef promised that the hospital would immediately report all changes either way so as not to fuel rumors that claimed earlier in the day that Sharon had already died.
The operation was performed by Hadassah neurosurgery department head Prof. Felix Umansky and neurosurgeon and stroke expert Dr. Jose Cohen through the night. Hadassah preferred not to allow journalists to speak to either of them or to any other staffers beside Mor-Yosef and his spokesmen.
After hours of trying to stop the intracranial bleeding, which was speeded by the twice-daily injection of blood-thinning heparin since his minor ischemic stroke on December 18, the surgical team stopped its work so his brain could undergo another computerized tomography (CT) scan. When it was shown that other parts of his brain were bleeding, they rushed him back for hours more of surgery.
The multifocal hemorrhages ended at around 9:30 a.m., and the prime minister was wheeled to the intensive-care unit and placed in a bed behind a partition in a ward shared by three or four other patients who recently underwent brain surgery. There is no private suite in the unit, a hospital official said, "and he is getting the same devoted care as the others."
Sharon's sons Omri and Gilad went in and out to see him, even though their father - his head bandaged and his face covered with a ventilation mask - was not conscious. Also nearby was Israel Prize winner and family friend Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman of Migdal Ha'emek, who urged people to recite psalms, especially Psalm 20, and pray for Sharon's full recovery.
Rabbi Elimelech Firer, another Israel Prize winner who is a medical referrals expert and head of the Ezra Umarpeh organization, was allowed to pray at his bedside.
The Hadassah Medical Organization's rabbi, Ya'acov Rakovsky, led a special prayer for Sharon's recovery during the afternoon (minha) service in the Chagall Windows synagogue attached to the hospital, and many people attended. The service was announced over the hospital's public address system.
Before his brain hemorrhage, Sharon was due to check into Hadassah for the implantation of a septal occluder to close the hole between his two atria that doctors thought had caused his mild stroke. But that elective procedure was canceled when doctors realized they had much more urgent work to do to save his life.
Mor-Yosef presented somewhat encouraging news about Sharon at an 8 p.m. briefing: The surgery focused on the right side of his brain. Since Sharon is right-handed, the dominant side of his brain is the left hemisphere, which controls his memory and speech. In addition, the Hadassah Medical Organization director-general said that while doctors could not test his motor reactions to see if he was paralyzed because he was put into a coma and is being respirated, the pupils of his eyes contracted and expanded properly, which is an indication of proper functioning of the brain stem.