Israeli doctors save life of Birthright participant

Doctors save life of 22-year-old Birthright participant after she suffers massive brain hemorrhage.

Hadassah Medical Center (photo credit: WWW.HADASSAH.ORG.IL)
Hadassah Medical Center
(photo credit: WWW.HADASSAH.ORG.IL)
The life of a 22-year-old industrial-engineering student from Minnesota who was taking part in the Birthright program has been saved at Hadassah University Medical Center, after she suffered a massive brain aneurysm during her stay in Jerusalem.
Kimberly Winkler is now recovering after undergoing several brain operations and has been discharged from the hospital.
Her father, an eye doctor, said that if she had been swimming in the Sea of Galilee or climbing Masada or had been at home, she would not have survived.
She was in Jerusalem for celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the reunification of the capital and felt unwell at a hotel.
“My friend Hunter, who also participated in Birthright, stayed with me, but the pain just got worse,” Kimberly said.
Hunter called Kimberly’s father, an ophthalmologist in the Dominican Republic.
“Get help right now,” he pleaded as she started to go into convulsions.
A Magen David Adom ambulance was called, and within minutes she was on her way to Hadassah in Ein Kerem. Dr. Kim Rosenthal, director of the neurosurgery department’s intensive care unit and a senior neurosurgeon, recalled: “She suffered from an intractable, massive hemorrhage that definitely endangered her life.”
An exploding aneurysm is very rare at such a young age, but it is a life-threatening stroke. The treatment focuses on stopping the bleeding by cuffing, stent or bypass.
Prof. Jose Cohen, a senior surgeon in the department, inserted steel stents into her brain in order to stop the bleeding. This is a sensitive task, as damage to the brain tissue must be avoided.
“Her CT scans were so bad that everyone was surprised that she was still alive,” said Cohen, who was able to speak Spanish because he is a native of Argentina.
In distant Santo Domingo, her parents and two sisters flew immediately to Israel to say good-bye to Kimberly.
“I was shocked when I saw her,” said her mother, Miriam. “All these pipes, and she was really still and motionless, I was not sure she was the same girl who played volleyball and danced jazz.”
She was operated on three times, when blood was drained from her brain and coils inserted to close the aneurysm. She had ups and downs, but the general trend was of improvement. During the weeks she spent at Hadassah, with the intensive work of the departmental staff, Kimberley slowly returned to walking, and then spoke. Now she has been discharged and will return home.
“We can never thank Hadassah enough for giving us back our daughter,” said her father, who is well aware of the long period of rehabilitation before her. “Faith and medicine are factors that work here in a perfect combination.”