On the frontlines against a silent enemy - coronavirus

How Sheba International engaged in global outreach during the height of the pandemic

 (photo credit: SHEBA'S COURTESY)
(photo credit: SHEBA'S COURTESY)
It began in January 2020, with ominous reports about a mysterious virus dubbed “CORONA/COVID-19” that germinated in Wuhan, China and started to work its way across the globe. Sheba Medical Center Director General, Professor Yitshak Kreiss, along with his senior medical staff and hospital infrastructure professionals, sprang into action, girding for the inevitable. An emergency drill was conducted and plans were set in motion to create a singular off-campus unit to house quarantined corona patients.

In the midst of gearing up to engage this viral “silent enemy” that was about to invade Israel, Sheba quietly hosted a member of the royal family from a Gulf Arab nation. He was able to witness first-hand how we use innovative medical technologies to treat Palestinian children in need of life-saving cancer regimens, as well as Israelis in need of routine medical care. It was a harbinger of things to come.

But back to the nascent days of COVID…Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to Sheba to personally inspect the newly constructed off-campus corona quarantine and treatment unit, along with the first-of-its-kind telemedicine tent helmed by Dr. Galia Barkai, where staff could monitor corona patients from a distance without exposing themselves unnecessarily. Days later, in the wee hours of February 21, in answer to a request by the Israeli government to Prof. Kreiss, the Israeli passengers from the SS Diamond Princess arrived at Sheba, greeted by a medical team led by Prof. Elhanan-Bar On and Dr. Gadi Segal. Thus began the Jewish State’s battle against this horrific disease.

In March, as the numbers of COVID-19 stricken patients began to rise precipitously, Sheba’s infrastructure staff combined military precision with outside-the-box flexibility and ingenuity to meet the challenge. In record time, they converted an underground parking facility into a Critical Care Corona Unit, transformed a portion of the Geriatric Care building into a Corona Care Unit for moderate and lightly ill patients, and created a designated corona maternity and psychiatric unit to accommodate COVID patients with distinctive needs.  

Whether it was the New York Times or the Times of Israel, the Jakarta Post or the Jerusalem Post, the global media trained their inquiring eyes on these first-of-their-kind operations, which also integrated telemedicine applications.

Hope without boundaries….

In July, just when we thought the pandemic was “under control,” and where we could provide our dedicated but very tired staff a well-deserved respite, the so-called "second wave" began to take shape.

As of this writing, the non-stop global pandemic rollercoaster continues in its different configurations. But just in time for Chanukah, there appears to be more than one bright light at the end of the tunnel, serving to kindle new "hope without boundaries."

From “day one” of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sheba has been working with numerous start-up companies to develop game-changing technologies – from rapid corona testing to predicting patient deterioration using artificial intelligence (AI). In fact, several of these technologies are currently being deployed in various facilities around the globe.

 Sheba has also collaborated with America’s NIH (National Institute of Health) to assist in the research to find the right treatments, as well as the keys to an effective vaccine that will end this global plague once and for all.  In November, Sheba began vaccine trials on dozens of patients, using the BriLife formula created by Israel’s Institute of Biological Research. By Spring 2021, we will know if the Israeli vaccine is the "magic potion" that offers true hope for the future.

This article was written in cooperation with Sheba Medical Center.