It is an understatement to say that we are living in extraordinary times. More than a year ago, disruption was a word that represented innovation, creativity and thinking out-of-the-box. The Coronavirus pandemic has locked us inside boxes and disrupted in one way or another the lives of most of the people living on this planet, the one we all share. The challenges are enormous. At the same time, the opportunities are as extraordinary as the times in which we live.
In what is called “the butterfly effect,” Edward Lorenz’s Chaos Theory gave us an understanding of how small actions can have multidimensional effects thousands of miles away. Lorenz simplified his theory by explaining that a butterfly moving its wings in the Amazon can cause a weather disruption in China. The implications of this theory in human agency, the actions that individuals can consciously take to control their surrounding reality, are extraordinary.
Small steps can create incommensurable change. Neil Armstrong, as he stepped on the moon told the world that his was “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
I would rather choose the Talmudic saying “He who saves one life, saves the entire world.” We can save lives in many ways, sometimes in simply doing the most mundane acts of compassion and caring.
I belong to Hadassah International, a global network of people who cling to their dreams of saving lives even in the darkest of times. People who choose to dedicate their time, resources, ideas, and talent to finding solutions to the seemingly unsolvable. In a world where finding answers to scientific puzzles can mean the difference between life and death, collective efforts are the name of the game.
At the crossroads between healthcare, philanthropy, and global action, Hadassah International, the international arm of the Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. (HWZOA) works hand in hand with the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem to bring healing, hope and solutions to an ailing world. I am privileged to be leading, together with prominent leaders around the world, this movement of people who care, who dream, who transform.
During the past month, I was honored to be part of Hadassah’s “butterfly effect.” Not from China to the Amazon, but from Israel to South America. I travelled all the way to Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a delegation of Hadassah’s top medical experts; extraordinary men and women who had fought the pandemic in Israel from dawn till dusk, setting standards of care, inventing protocols and new treatments, saving lives as they created knowledge. We left the secure space of a country that has almost won the battle with the deadly virus; and flew thousands of miles to immerse ourselves in a country that day by day reaches higher peaks of coronavirus infections and deaths.
Motivated by the basic humanitarian mission of Hadassah, this group of doctors spent a week meeting hundreds of healthcare professionals, nurses, scientist and policy makers in a country struggling to make progress in the fight against COVID-19. The message we brought to Argentina, a country that is yet many months away from the successful vaccination levels of Israel, was one of hope. Not simply hope, but rather hope linked to actual tools, resources, ideas, experience. They felt as if we had arrived from the future, enabling them to see what the end of the crisis would look like, and how they could get there. They didn’t need to be taught how to do medicine, their medical and scientific level is second to none. But their resources are scarce and vaccine access and vaccinations are moving slowly, leaving them with the challenge of riding the storm while striving to prepare a way out of the abyss.
There she was, Senior ICU Nurse Claudia Poggi, addressing nurses from remote villages in the country through a video conference organized by the Argentinean Minister of Health, sharing the despair she felt while fighting for the life of each acute patient on respiratory support inside the Hadassah hospital COVID ICU units. Besides her recommendations, the most important message that she repeated again and again, was that there is light at the end of darkness.
A similar message was shared by Prof. Sigal Sviri, Director of the COVID-19 ICU Unit at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem. As director, she not only had to care for each case of acute and severe COVID-19 entering the sterile protected Coronavirus units, but she also had to learn to become a builder and transform a hospital ward into a fully equipped COVID ICU in a matter of hours. When visiting hospitals in Buenos Aires, her experience was a light unto the nation we were visiting.
Led by Prof. Yoram Weiss, Director of Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, the clinical researchers that were part of the delegation explored opportunities for technology transfer and clinical trials for drugs against COVID-19 and the Israel vaccine BriLife, developed by the Israel Institute of Biological Research. Prof. Yoseph Caraco, Director of the Pharmacology Clinical Unit at Hadassah and Prof. Dror Mevorach, Director of Internal Medicine at Hadassah Ein Kerem, opened opportunities for the next phase of BriLife trials to take place in Argentina, and created bridges of collaboration that would bring healing to the sick in Argentina and beyond.
This medical aid mission was much bigger than the effect of the moving wings of a butterfly, and we still can’t be certain of how large an impact it created. But we can be certain that we stood true to Hadassah’s raison d’etre, its basic DNA, a movement of women and men who care about bringing healing to the world. If at least one of the dialogues, conversations, consultations and projects discussed will save one life, then “Dayeinu,” it was enough.
This column won’t aim to tell stories or showcase Hadassah’s work. Many others know how to do that much better than I can. I hope this blog can add to the global dialogue among those who care about healing the world, both in its literal meaning of health and its meaning of healing the wounds created by hatred, selfishness and divides.
Because one who can save a life is as if she is saving all humankind, but saving humankind is the work of much more than one.