I was lucky enough to meet Professor Elhanan Bar-On At The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York last spring. When I heard about his recent work being ignored by most of the mainstream media, I knew I had to introduce or reacquainte you with the work at Sheba Medical Center.
Wherever There is Trouble, Sheba Medical Center is Ready to Help
In early June, Prof. Elhanan Bar-On, a renowned Israeli orthopedist, got an urgent call. He and his emergency response team at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, the largest and most comprehensive hospital in Israel and the Middle East, were needed immediately. The request came from the highest levels. The President of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales Cabrera, had sent a desperate plea for help to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I was lucky enough to attend the Guatemala Embassy Opening in Jerusalem in May.
On June 3rd, the Fuego volcano had erupted in Guatemala – creating one of the most horrific natural disasters in the country’s history. More than 100 people have died and nearly 200 others could be buried beneath the rubble.
With the scope of the tragedy just beginning to sink in, Elhanan Bar-On and his humanitarian crisis team from Sheba Medical Center were in a race against time to help save the injured. There were hundreds of injuries, from lava burns to lung damage from the volcanic dust. Within days, the Sheba team was on the ground in Guatemala, working with local hospitals to assess the most urgent needs.
“We wanted to get down there as soon as possible and start helping the people of Guatemala,” said Dr. Elhanan Bar-On, Director of the Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response at Sheba Medical Center. “Sheba Medical Center knows no borders or limits when it comes to providing cutting edge emergency care. Emergency response is what we do all over the globe.”
In fact, it is not only what they do – they are the world leaders in handling the emergency response in the wake of natural disasters and other manmade calamities. Bar-On and his team are often the first emergency responders on the ground – from earthquakes in Haiti to the typhoon in the Philippines to cholera outbreaks in Zambia. They are constantly embarking on new missions that save lives and bring desperately needed hope to beleaguered regions.
In Haiti, Bar-On treated a young Haitian woman who was rescued from beneath the earthquake rubble. Her leg was crushed and had to be amputated. Many months later, Bar-On returned to the impoverished nation to be by her side as she took her first steps on her prosthetic leg.
Bar-On and his Sheba Medical Center team also spent two weeks in Zambia helping to contain a cholera outbreak. The disease claimed 74 lives and affected thousands of people. The Israeli delegation joined a local medical team on the ground and built a lab within the field hospital. This allowed clinicians to get results in real time instead of depending upon outside labs and losing precious time in transferring medical samples. The epidemic was halted within a week of the Sheba team’s arrival.
And back in February of this year, the Sheba team completed its second successful humanitarian medical mission to Papua New Guinea, where their medical experts performed over 80 life-transforming eye surgeries that restored vision to the blind.
Sheba’s medical experts performed the surgeries in an operating theater while sailing aboard an Australian Youth with a Mission (YWAM) ship that traveled the coast in an effort to reach as many villages as possible. The team screened patients, most of whom were blind in both eyes caused by simple cataracts that had been neglected for years, and the surgeries gave them back their sight. Two surgeons and three nurses from Sheba Medical Center were part of a ten-member Israeli team aboard the ship.
Sheba Medical Center Director General Yitzhak Kreiss says it is a core priority of Sheba to respond to humanitarian crises effectively with the highest standards of medical care and leadership skills.
“For us, saving lives and making a positive global impact are at the core of Sheba’s mission,” said Professor Kreiss. “Sheba brings help to people when they have lost all hope and feel forgotten by the rest of the world. In people’s darkest hours, we are there.”
Humanitarian aid has been a part of Sheba Medical Center’s mission since its establishment in 1948. Over the years, Sheba Medical Center has initiated successful projects in all fields of medicine and has collaborated with national and international organizations in underserved regions. These projects include improving patient care, bringing complex patients for treatment back to Sheba and training local staff in emergency care. This kind of training helps save lives and reduce injuries and improves the quality of life during large-scale emergencies.
Back on the ground in Guatemala, Sheba doctors continue to do all they can to help those who have survived the devastating volcano. Prof. Elhanan Bar-On, along with Sheba’s Director of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Prof. Joseph Haik, Senior Anesthesiologist of the Burn Center Dr. Gregory Trodler, plastic surgeon Dr. Moti Harats and nurse Aviva Yona are all on the ground tending to patients, with help from other Israeli lung experts.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the medical team’s quick response. “We are all proud of our mission and of our doctors.” Just like Israel has a mission to improve the world, so does Sheba. One patient at a time. No matter who they are. No matter what it takes. No matter where it the world.