A tsunami love affair

The survivor and the doctor who treated him are engaged a year later.

tsunami wedding 298 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
tsunami wedding 298 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Last year's tsunami was the beginning of a love affair for a volunteer Israeli doctor and the Israeli patient she treated at a hospital in Thailand. On Tuesday, a day after the anniversary of the tsunami, the two were engaged to be married in the hospital's emergency room. "I feel like I am in a movie," Dr. Dorit Nitzan, 45, told The Jerusalem Post by telephone from Bangkok Hospital in the resort town of Phuket. She flew to Thailand last year as a member of an Israeli medical team sent to help survivors and identify corpses. Exactly a year ago, she met Ron Bombiger, 49, in the emergency room of the hospital, where he was treated for serious leg injuries, and where he proposed to her Tuesday. "Dori, in front of all these people, will you marry me?" asked Bombiger, in the room filled with roses, as nurses looked on. After her acceptance, he presented her with an engagement ring. "It was such a big surprise. I didn't expect it at all," said Nitzan, who flew to Thailand on December 22 with Bombiger and his mother to attend a memorial service for the 5,395 people who died there, nearly 2,000 of them foreigners. "We met the day after the tsunami," Nitzan said. "He was really badly wounded." Bombiger was injured when the massive wave struck the shores of Phuket and shattered his hotel on Kamala Beach. He spent weeks recovering in the hospital. Thais gave Bombiger, who was visiting from Los Angeles, a blanket and rushed him to Bangkok Hospital. Nitzan visited him as he spent the next few weeks in room 432 recovering from six surgeries to his right thigh. Bombiger emigrated from Israel to the United States 21 years ago, but had grown up in the same town as Nitzan. "He was one year ahead of me in primary school," she said. Nitzan said they had stayed in touch for months after the tsunami and this summer he came to visit her in Bosnia, where she was working, and that's when they fell in love. "It's a wonderful story," she said. "The tsunami was such a devastating experience. It is amazing to see that something as beautiful as our relationship could emerge from it." "We call it the 'wave of love,' " Bombiger said of the tragedy that brought them together. "This wave came in and I found this girl I love and want to spend the rest of my life with." "My heart is with those who cannot be so happy since the tsunami," Nitzan said. Clutching a bouquet of red rose, she thanked the Thai people and hospital staff for "bringing us together. You are in our hearts forever." Bombiger was among the 1,037 tsunami survivors rushed to the private hospital from Phuket, Phi Phi Island and worst-hit Khao Lak, where most of the people died. Eight Israelis lost their lives in the tsunami. The couple plan to get married in a few months. And the honeymoon? "We are coming to Thailand," Bombiger said. News agencies contributed to this report.