An emotional – and a bit macabre – reunion

Together with terror victims they saved, Shaare Zedek Medical Center staffers cry, laugh and sing.

TOMER MEZAMER plays the mini-organ as Arik Davidoff accompanies him at the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center on Thursday. (photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
TOMER MEZAMER plays the mini-organ as Arik Davidoff accompanies him at the capital’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center on Thursday.
Every one of the 200 people who came to the auditorium of Shaare Zedek Medical Center last Thursday knew that the event did not signify the end of the current wave of terrorism.
But the Jerusalem hospital’s management wanted to create a “breather,” with survivors whose lives were saved entering the building through the main entrance instead of by ambulances to the emergency department and trauma rooms; and the doctors, nurses, social workers and technical staff wanted to see them coming in on their own two feet, even though a few came using crutches. There were also Magen David Adom and United Hatzalah paramedics and medics who had treated them at the scene and rushed them to the hospital.
“An Evening of Appreciation for the Trauma Teams,” it was called, and it was a touching but sometimes macabre reunion. The survivors and their families showed their appreciation and were waved to and even hugged by their rescuers in return.
The medical center has, in the last six months, treated 250 terrorism victims from Jerusalem and its environs, 15 percent of them seriously or critically wounded, 25% of them moderately hurt and 60% of mildly hurt physically or having suffered emotional trauma.
According to the latest Magen David Adom statistics, 33 people have been killed and 325 wounded since the current wave of violence started.
“A large number of the very serious and even critically wounded had been brought to Shaare Zedek because of its easy accessibility off Herzl Boulevard at the foot of the Bayit Vegan neighborhood between two and 10 kilometers or so from where most of the terrorism victims had been knifed, run over or shot,” said Shaare Zedek Medical Center director-general Prof. Jonathan Halevy.
“It is so good to see them, most having returned to their routines,” he added, “even if some of them still have signs of the damage.”
“We fight for the life of everyone who was wounded,” said Dr. Ofer Merin, veteran surgeon and head of the hospital’s trauma department who operated on many of them and spoke to reporters when the results were in. “It is clear that we are not at the end of the wave but in the middle.
We look at our cellphones with anxiety about whether there will be another. We have lived through it as if it were a movie. I go around town looking behind my back.”
The surgeon added: “I will never forget watching a pregnant woman whose husband, Tuvia Yannai Weissman, was murdered, asking to say farewell to his body. I recall Meir, who arrived with his intestines outside his body,” said Merin, who admitted going to the side and allowing his tears to flow more than once. “What we saw left a stamp on all of us.”
Sarah Goldberg, Merin’s right hand in the trauma department, introduced one recovered trauma victim after another. Some climbed the stairs to the stage. Gilad Mezamer, who had been rushed to the trauma department nearly dead and whose scar from his right ear to his throat was still prominent, played the guitar, along with his father, Tomer, on the mini-organ. Gilad’s brother, Nadav, who had been seriously wounded two years ago in Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, also strummed his guitar in the trio. Before the audience, they played the wellknown traditional Hebrew songs “Who is the man who wants life?” and “All the world is a narrow bridge.”
Singer Gadi Raveh sang more, and Arik Davidoff – who used a long and twisted shofar to actually play tunes – wowed the audience.
But sadly, not all the parents at the event arrived with their children. Sarah Rosenfeld took the microphone with a smile to thank the hospital staff even though her son Malachi died of severe stab wounds despite 18 hours of intensive efforts by the doctors and nurses.
For her and her husband, Eliezer, it was not the first loss; 13 years ago, Malachi’s older brother Yitzhaki, an Air Force pilot, died on a trek in the Judean Desert when a flash flood surprised him.
Prof. Muli Lahad, a veteran psychologist and psychotrauma specialist and director of the Institute of Dramatherapy and the International Stress Prevention Center at Tel Hai College in Kiryat Shmona, offered tips to hospital staffers who inevitably suffer burnout and trauma when they go home from their jobs. Many take their work with them, he said, describing the risks of “compassion fatigue.” This is “the price paid by people who help other people in trouble,” he concluded, but steps can be taken to reduce it.