The Human Spirit: Adi Hudja’s high heels

In 1948, 1970, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1981, 1984 and 1997 terrorists struck Ben-Yehuda Street because it is the happy heart of Jerusalem.

Tamar Ish Shalom with Adi Hujda 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Tamar Ish Shalom with Adi Hujda 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The winter rain was welcome, but on Saturday night when it cleared Jerusalem teens hurried downtown for a night on the town. For most, that meant nothing more than pizza and ice cream with friends. Adi Hudja’s two cousins called her to join them. She was 14, shy and petite.
That afternoon, Mali, Adi’s mom, had been troubled by a feeling of unease. She was a police officer in Jerusalem and knew about the warnings. She couldn’t fall asleep for her Shabbat nap. Then, for no apparent reason, the air conditioner went on, “Like a strange sign from Above,” Mali would say later.
She didn’t really want Adi to go to town, but how could she deny her a wholesome evening with her favorite cousins and ice cream? Ben-Yehuda Street, named for Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the reviver of the Hebrew language, has a long history of terror attacks.
It’s not a military or strategic site. It’s lined with souvenir shops selling shofarot, crystal jewelry and T-shirts. Cafes, shwarma stands and ice cream parlors cater to tourists and youngsters. Breslov Hassidim in white knit beanies hop and dance, while Chabad Hassidim offer a chance to say a prayer or two. Someone is always hawking good-luck red threads from Rachel’s Tomb.
Street musicians and a few brave beggars complete the cast.
In 1948, 1970, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1981, 1984 and 1997 terrorists struck Ben-Yehuda Street because it is the happy heart of Jerusalem.
On December 1, 2001, Adi and her cousins headed for Ben-Yehuda Street. Adi was waiting for them when a young Arab man blew himself up. Two minutes later, a second man pulled a cord and exploded, propelling nuts, bolts and nails through the air. Twenty minutes later, a third bomb, a booby-trapped car, went off nearby on Rabbi Kook Street. By then, the city was full of ambulances and rescue crews, as well as the devoted volunteers who remove the dead.
Eleven teenagers lay on the street, murdered.
Adi had been standing very close to one of the terrorists when the bomb blast knocked her down. Dozens of bolts and nuts embedded themselves in her body, particularly in her legs. She lost consciousness.
At home, Mali heard the sirens. She flipped on the TV, and screamed. The phone rang at the Hudja home. The cousins were weeping. “We can’t find Adi,” they told her.
More than a hundred wounded people were rushed to hospitals. Someone had seen Adi being evacuated. At first, she thought Adi was at Hadassah University Medical Center on Mount Scopus, but then she learned that her daughter was in Hadassah Ein Kerem.
“I was told she was in very bad condition. I understood that she was dying,” said Mali, unable to hold back her tears all these years later. She couldn’t recognize Adi. The pretty, dark-haired girl who had left the house was full of tubes, her body bloated.
“Adi’s case was the most serious of those who survived,” recalls Prof. Rami Mosheiff, the orthopedic trauma expert who saw her that night. “Her temperature was so low anesthesia and surgery would have been too dangerous. She needed to be stabilized.”
No matter how many blood products were infused she was still bleeding out. Professor Avi Rivkind suspected that the nuts and bolts had been soaked in rat poison to increase the bleeding. Rivkind got permission to use an expensive-as-platinum experimental medicine, NovoSeven, a clotting agent used for hemophiliacs, as yet unproven for trauma cases. Since the drug was still in trial stages, Adi’s mother also had to give the okay.
“I was willing to try anything to save my daughter,” said Mali, “I never stopped praying.”
Two doses of NovoSeven and the bleeding slowed. The orthopedists moved in to strengthen her skeleton, a necessary procedure to protect the vital organs.
IN EUROPE, at a medical conference, Prof. Meir Liebergall, the head of Hadassah’s orthopedics department, heard his cellphone ring. It was Mosheiff. He and Mosheiff aren’t just colleagues.They grew up together in Jerusalem, went to Scouts together, played basketball together.
Mosheiff described the bombing injuries, particularly Adi’s case. The staff had decided that her chances of survival, which were slim at best, would improve if her right leg was amputated.
Mali Hudja had tearfully agreed to the amputation. “Above all, I wanted my daughter to live,” she said.
Liebergall immediately quit the conference, went to the airport and took the first plane home.
Liebergall, whom everyone calls Iri, is modest and reserved. He doesn’t like to talk about his personal Israeli story, how he decided to become a doctor after recovering from his war wounds in the IDF, how his parents survived the Shoah. But how else can you explain his urgency to come home and weigh in on Adi’s case.
“By the time we got to the intensive care unit the next day, Prof. Liebergall was there,” said Mosheiff. “This is when you need everything you have ever learned as a physician, and your experience, too.”
In one of the toughest calls of his professional life, Liebergall overruled his staff.
They would fight for Adi’s leg.
Day after day, Adi survived. Two and a half weeks later, she woke up. Her mother spent every day in the hospital, not only to see her daughter, but also to give birth to Adi’s brother.
Adi was wheeled into the delivery room.
“Let’s call him Osher [joy], suggested Adi.
The joy of being alive.”
Years of therapy and dozens of surgical procedures lay ahead. She’s still a patient.
Adi’s X-rays and the lessons learned from treating her have become well-known in the global orthopedic community, according to Mosheiff, who last year was elected to head AOTrauma Europe, the large consortium of European trauma experts.
Last week, at the Centennial Celebration of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Adi Hudja walked across the stage of Binyenei Ha’uma, the Jerusalem International Convention Center.
Two thousand people in the audience rose in a spontaneous burst of applause, lauding her bravery and the skillful medicine that saved her life and limb. Mali Hudja, 10-year old Osher and two other siblings were also there, and so were professors Mosheiff and Liebergall.
A beautiful, confident young woman, Adi is about to start university studies. She was wearing an elegant long dress. But what brought tears to my eyes as she strode across the stage were her shoes: Adi Hudja was wearing high heels.The author is a Jerusalem writer who focuses on the wondrous stories of modern Israel. She serves as the Israel director of public relations for Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. The views in her columns are her own.