The parents of preterm babies in Israel

One in 10 babies in Israel is born prematurely.

 EITAN AND Hallel Mirzayib. (photo credit: Family Photo)
EITAN AND Hallel Mirzayib.
(photo credit: Family Photo)

Lenny Bahamotovsky, Tel Aviv, born July 17, 2018 at 28 weeks (plus five days) at Ichilov Hospital, weighing 945 gr.

“I began bleeding in the afternoon, and by that evening, I was already undergoing an emergency caesarean section,” recalls Yasmin Schneider, Lenny’s mother. 

“Lenny remained in the Neonatal intensive care unit [NICU] for three and a half months. This was a very traumatic time in our lives. It was like we were stuck on a roller coaster, going forward one day, and then backward the next. It was very unsettling. 

“When Lenny was five days old, he underwent an emergency operation, and from that moment on, I realized life was not ever going to be boring. I tried really hard to remain optimistic, but I never knew what was going to happen, and every night I worried we’d receive an urgent call from the NICU.”

Lenny is currently three years and four months old and goes to pre-kindergarten. “He’s such a strong fighter, and he really pushes for everything that he wants, and does not take ‘no’ for an answer easily,” Schneider explains. “He’s extremely assertive and even a little bullheaded. 

“We’re still in touch with the NICU staff, and we go visit the unit with a cake every year on Lenny’s birthday.”

 ARIEL AND Hilla Sason-Malka. (credit: Family Photo) ARIEL AND Hilla Sason-Malka. (credit: Family Photo)
Ariel Malka, from Rishon Lezion, born June 21, 2018 at 26 weeks (plus five days) at Ichilov Hospital, weighing 940 gr. 

“My pregnancy was high risk, and I’d already been in the hospital for two weeks,” recalls Hilla Sason-Malka, Ariel’s mother. “I started having contractions, and the medical staff kept telling me that I was not in active labor, but then the baby just slipped out. 

“They kept Ariel in the NICU for almost four months. I’m a special education kindergarten teacher specializing in cerebral palsy, and my husband is a paramedic, so obviously we knew more than most parents how serious the situation was, and to say we were very worried is an understatement. Because we both had experience with such situations, we truly understood what we were dealing with. 

“While Ariel was in the NICU, he underwent heart surgery, and at one point his kidneys began to fail, and he began experiencing breathing problems, too. This was such a tumultuous period in our lives,” she recalls.

Ariel is currently three and half years old and is in pre-kindergarten. “He’s an extremely intelligent child, happy, social and really enjoys life,” his mother explains. “I still recall those days we spent in the hospital, and we have a photo album of pictures we took of him from that period. 

“It’s hard to believe that he was really that small and went through such difficult experiences. The other families with premie babies we met in the NICU became like family for us.”

Lior Dvir, from Mitzpeh Tal-El in the Galilee, born December 23, 2013 at 31 weeks (plus 4 days) at Carmel Hospital in Haifa, weighing 1.895 gr.

“Lior is my eldest child,” explains Uri Dvir, “and he was kept in the NICU for 25 days. [My wife] Karine’s entire pregnancy progressed without any complications, and then suddenly one day out of the blue her water broke, so we went straight to the hospital, and she gave birth soon after. 

“Karine stayed with Lior in the NICU, and I would come for short periods during the day, and then straight from work at the end of the day. The NICU staff was amazing, and we felt like Lior was getting the best possible medical care,” he says. 

“At first, we were beyond scared about what was happening, but then we saw that Lior’s condition was improving, and that it would just be a matter of time until he was big and strong enough to go home. 

“Thankfully, our experience at the NICU was ‘boring.’ We became extremely close friends with the other parents, and we would get together with them even after our babies went home.”

Lior is now seven and is in the second grade. “He’s actually really tall for his age – 1.4 m. – and is a well-adjusted and smart kid,” his father says with a big smile. “We both love soccer and we go together to watch as many soccer matches as we can. 

“A few years ago, when we figured he was old enough to understand, we told him about how he had been kept in an incubator when he was born. We showed him pictures, and even took him there to show him the NICU where he had been kept, and to introduce him to the incredible nurses and doctors who work there.”

Hallel Mirzayib, from Sderot, born November 17, 2020 at 25 weeks (plus six days) at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, weighing 600 gr. 

“Hallel was born on World Prematurity Day,” recalls Eitan Mirzayib, Hallel’s dad. “Hallel spent 104 days in the NICU. Yasmin, Hallel’s mom, had been hospitalized due to complications, but just before she was to be discharged to go home, her water broke and they decided to do an emergency C-section. 

“The first time we saw her in the NICU, I was absolutely shocked at how little she was. Each day, one of us would go spend time with her in the NICU. The first few days were fraught with uncertainty, and the situation felt so overwhelming and surreal. 

“We got a call from the hospital one morning at 5 a.m., telling us that the baby wasn’t doing well, and we should come straight away, which we did.”

Hallel is now one year old and goes to daycare. “She’s a great kid, and we appreciate every single smile and laugh so much,” her father describes. “It was a miracle that she survived.

“It’s just not logical that she’s now this incredible normal kid after going through what she went through her first few months of life. It’s really impossible to explain in words what a surrealistic experience it was.”

Gali Talmor, from Ramat Efal, born June 25, 2018 at 29 weeks at Sheba Tel Hashomer Hospital, weighing 1.2 gr.

“It all happened out of the blue one day,” says Oz Talmor, Gali’s father. “My wife, Dana, called me frantically and told me I needed to come take her to the hospital right away. Within 10 minutes, she was already undergoing an emergency C-section. Both she and the baby were in critical condition due to placental abruption. 

“The two months Gali spent in the NICU were like a roller-coaster for us. Her condition was so unstable, and for weeks the doctors weren’t sure she’d make it. The entire NICU was amazingly helpful and helped keep us optimistic. 

“Gali remained intubated for over a week, with the machine breathing for her, and there were many crises along the way. It’s a complete miracle that Gali survived.”

Gali is currently three years and four months old and goes to pre-kindergarten. “She’s a happy, active child and has lots of friends. Luckily, she does not have any lasting signs of having been born premature,” Talmor states. “The one word that best describes our experience is surrealistic.”

IN HONOR of World Prematurity Day, which takes place on November 17 each year, Lahav, the Society for Premature Infants in Israel joined forces with Pampers and SuperPharm in an effort to raise awareness for the one in 10 babies in Israel who are born prematurely. 

Pampers has committed to donating 250,000 diapers to premature babies, to contribute NIS 40,000 to Lahav, and NIS 120,000 to MDA’s Mother’s Milk Bank. Lahav supports families of preterm babies all year. Donations to Lahav support tens of thousands of families with preterm babies each year.  ■

Translated by Hannah Hochner.