sharon serious 88.
(photo credit: )
While conceding that the chances of Ariel Sharon's waking up from his nearly five-month-long coma are small and getting less likely as time passes, doctors who have taken over his treatment at Sheba Medical Center say they hope at least to wean the former prime minister off his respirator so that he could eventually be moved to his Negev ranch. But hospital director-general Prof. Zeev Rothstein said at a press conference on Sunday that its department for respiratory care and rehabilitation will nevertheless try its own techniques to wake him up.
Saying that the patient's age was not the overriding factor in whether a comatose patient could be restored to consciousness, Rothstein said some patients at the 18-bed center have indeed woken up after months in a coma. But he admitted that Sharon's brain damage made this eventuality very unlikely.
High secrecy and security were in place when Sharon, accompanied by his sons Omri and Gilad and a medical team, was transferred by ambulance from Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem to Sheba. Reporters were told at the beginning of the press conference at 11:30 a.m. that Sharon had "not yet arrived" and near its end an hour later that "he is now in his room," but the exact time was not given, and no one was allowed even to get close to the department's entrance.
The "strategic plan" worked out by Sheba experts Dr. Arie Wollner, who heads the department, Dr. Genia Agranov of the head injury unit and others in consultation with Hadassah doctors would be carried out "over a period of several months," said Rothstein, who was the only Sheba doctor allowed to speak to the press. "We are not talking about a week," said the director-general, who noted that Sharon underwent several brain and skull operations and abdominal surgery since his first stroke on January 4. "Arik is a precious patient. He is a symbol for us," said Rothstein, "and we will give him maximal care."
The hospital is not considering passive euthanasia, meaning the withholding of care that would lead to his death, he added, saying: "It is not on the agenda."
Asked what Sheba could do for Sharon that Hadassah apparently could not, Rothstein praised the Hadassah staff for saving his life and stabilizing him, but added that his hospital had accumulated experience and developed various techniques for weaning people from respirators and even arousing them from comas which worked in some cases but not all. Being disconnected from a respirator reduced the risk of complications even in a comatose patient who isn't aware of what is happening to him, he said.
Sharon will be treated like any other patient, said Rothstein, except that he will be given a two-bed, private room and have an extra nurse on duty 24 hours a day in addition to the other nurses who care for several patients at once. The state will pay the NIS 1,600-a-day fee plus the extra cost of the special nurses, he said. The hospital spokeswoman said that although all 18 beds were full last week, "two beds became vacant as patients were discharged," so there was now room for Sharon.
After several months of treatment, the staff and Sharon's sons will decide what to do beyond that. If he improves significantly, he could undergo more therapy and then be moved to the ranch, and if he does not improve, he could be prepared for chronic nursing care at his Negev home or elsewhere.
Rothstein said that Sharon was not transferred in the middle of the night, or by helicopter, even though that would minimize traffic jams and security problems, because it was safer by ambulance and during the day.
Sheba will drop into "the shadow of anonymity" during the next few months of Sharon's treatment and not issue regular bulletins unless something dramatic, for good or bad, needs to be announced, Rothstein said, obviously hoping to avoid the media hysteria that plagued Hadassah during the first few weeks after Sharon was admitted.
Hadassah was not allowed to heave a sigh of relief on Sunday, as even after the former prime minister left, some journalists demanded to interview doctors who treated him and photograph his room. Both requests were turned down.
The unanswered questions
Although Sheba Medical Center director-general Prof. Zeev Rothstein invited the dozen-or-so local and foreign journalists at the press conference to ask as many questions as they wished, in Hebrew and English, he did not answer all of them.
Asked whether Ariel Sharon's sons Omri and Gilad gave explicit instructions on whether to resuscitate him if his situation deteriorated or to withhold treatment that kept him alive, Rothstein avoided answering. The sons, he said, are privy to the hospital's strategy for rehabilitation, he said.
Rothstein also declined to say how Sharon looked and whether he has, as had been rumored, lost a great deal of weight.
Sheba has not criticized Hadassah's initial treatment of Sharon's first, ischemic stroke or commented on whether its cardiologists and neurologists would have treated him any differently.
It was only with great reluctance, after repeated questioning, that Rothstein would say how much Sharon's treatment would cost. He did not give details on why Sharon was not helicoptered from one hospital to another except to say that it was "safer." The Magen David Adom spokesman said he "didn't know" whether an MDA intensive care ambulance was used or whether a decoy was sent to elude photographers or others.