Top surgeons not just for prime ministers

jose cohen 298.88 (photo credit: Hadassah)
jose cohen 298.88
(photo credit: Hadassah)
I arrive at Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem on a cold and rainy Sunday night, not to join the encampment of photographers and journalists waiting for the minutest detail relating to the health of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but to accompany a relative to the emergency room. Approaching the hospital, one can be forgiven for momentarily confusing the area with a camping site, replete with tents, generators, antennae and even a trailer for journalists on watch covering the state of health of the prime minister. As I near the entrance, and although my relative was in no condition to walk, I am not allowed access by car and I have to remove my car from the area. The spot where taxis usually can be found and where drivers can park to bring patients to the hospital is crawling with journalists. The row of wheelchairs usually stationed under a roof adjacent to the security guards has been displaced and pushed further out into the rain to make room for the press corps. The chairs are now dripping wet, even though arriving patients may need them. Luckily, my wife is with me and she is able to take our relative inside, while I find a distant parking space. I am still waiting for a logical answer to the question of how a single person arriving with a patient is supposed to deal with such a situation. It is impossible to leave an elderly person to wait alone in a wet wheelchair in such an eventuality. After parking the car, I return to the hospital plaza, where for a moment I almost feel as though I am in Hollywood at the Oscars as far as the quantity of cameras goes. All that is missing is the red carpet and the tuxedos and evening gowns. Once in the emergency room, the immediate feeling is of being in good hands. The place is ultramodern, and the attention is fast and serious. This feeling is only strengthened further by the interaction with the entire team of doctors and nurses. Suddenly, I recognize a familiar face, one I have seen on the news: Dr. Jose Cohen, one of the surgeons who operated on Sharon. He is running down the hall of the emergency room, attending to other, less-famous patients. He approaches my relative with a sweet and sympathetic manner which helps relieve pain and alleviates worries. In addition, my relative is delighted to be able to converse with him in Spanish. Taking advantage of the fact that we share the same mother tongue, we begin to chat, and I recognize the special situation of sharing a doctor with the prime minister and what it symbolizes. Here everyone gets the same treatment, says Cohen, whether they are Jews or Arabs, rich or poor. The hospital imposes no limits on a patient's treatment, no matter how expensive. Procedures or treatments that cost tens of thousands of dollars are undertaken without question, and that is how it ought to be the world over, but isn't. On the continent we come from, poor and rich are not to be found in the same hospitals, nor do they receive the same treatment. Health there is measured in figures, and Cohen explains with no small pride how different things are here. My relative asks him his name and he answers simply "Jose," no titles, no last name. Right away one feels close, almost like family. We are united by our Latin-American roots, our common Uruguayan/Argentinean culture. We are also united by our understanding that the health system here works for everyone; for each and every citizen to the same extent as it does for the prime minister. And today at Hadassah-University Hospital I felt that those were not mere words.