Health Scan: Organization offers to hold patients’ hands before surgery

Touch has been found to be very beneficial in calming people and easing recovery from medical procedures

Elderly couple (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Elderly couple (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Lonely and elderly people who need compassion and sympathy before undergoing surgery can now get someone to hold their hand. Volunteers from the Lev Naomi organization, which has launched a pilot program, will come to comfort them if they are nervous about an operation, as well as anxious close relatives waiting for the patient to be taken to the recovery room and wake up from the anesthesia.
Touch has been found to be very beneficial in calming people and easing recovery from medical procedures, says Lev Naomi, which can be contracted via or calling (03) 677-1111. One can send a photo of the patient and provide information about when and where the operation will take place. The hospital may also initiate the contact. A volunteer will come to the hospital and make contact, even without the patient knowing he or she comes from the organization.
How long the volunteer will remain depends on the time of the surgery, how long it lasts and the complexity.
A growing number of families are taking care of chronically ill patients in their homes, if possible, due to the current overcrowding of hospitals and risk of contracting nosocomial (in-house) infections in the hospitals, according to the Yad Sarah organization. The rate of borrowing hospital beds for home use rose 17% in 2016 compared to the previous year. A total of 4,100 such beds were lent to families in 2016.
The voluntary organization with more than 100 branches around the country lend out 338,000 medical devices to Israelis that year, a 5% increase over 2015. These included walkers, walking sticks, wheelchairs, bathing chairs and other devices, all at no cost. More than half a million residents benefited from Yad Sarah services – extending even to visits to the elderly at their homes and laundry services for the bedridden.
Despite decades of research into malaria, the disease still afflicts hundreds of millions and kills around half a million people each year – most of them children in tropical regions.
Part of the problem is that the malaria parasite is a “shape shifter,” making it difficult to target. Another part of the problem is that even the parasite’s proteins, which could be used as vaccines, are unstable at tropical temperatures and require complicated, expensive cellular systems to produce them in large quantities. Unfortunately, the vaccines are most needed in areas where refrigeration is lacking and funds to buy vaccines are scarce.
A new approach developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science recently reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), could lead to an inexpensive malaria vaccine that can be stored at room temperature.
The RH5 protein is one of the malaria proteins tested for use as a vaccine. This protein is used by the parasite to anchor itself to the red blood cells it infects. Using the protein as a vaccine alerts the immune system to the threat without causing disease, thus enabling it to mount a rapid response when the disease strikes and to disrupt the parasite’s cycle of infection. Research student Adi Goldenzweig and Dr. Sarel Fleishman of the institute’s biomolecular sciences department used the computer-based protein design tools they have been developing in the lab to improve the protein’s usefulness.
Based on software they have been creating for stabilizing protein structures, Goldenzweig developed a new program for “programming” proteins used in vaccines against infectious diseases. Such proteins, because they are under constant attack by the immune system, tend to mutate from generation to generation.
“The parasite deceives the immune system by mutating its surface proteins. Paradoxically, the better the parasite is at evading the immune system, the more clues it leaves for us to use in designing a successful artificial protein,” she said.
The researchers sent the programmed artificial protein to a group in Oxford that specializes in developing a malaria vaccine. This group, led by Prof. Matthew Higgins and Simon Draper, soon had good news: The results showed that, in contrast with the natural ones, the programmed protein can be produced in simple, inexpensive cell cultures, and in large quantities. This could significantly lower production costs. In addition, it is stable at temperatures of up to 50º degrees Celsius, so it won’t need refrigeration. Best of all, in animal trials, the proteins provoked a protective immune response.
The method “has succeeded where others have failed, and because it is so easy to use, it might be applied to emerging infectious diseases like Zika or Ebola, when quick action can stop an epidemic from developing.”