A week ago, 8 year old Abdulrazak of Ethiopia, accompanied by his father, Allawi, arrived to the Western Galilee Medical Center of Nahariya. The child is Muslim from a remote village in Ethiopia who was attacked five months ago by a wild hyena and seriously wounded in the head. The child miraculously survived and was hospitalized in a Christian hospital that wasn’t able to handle his severe wounds.
Hospital contacts created through the active Jewish community in Dallas, met Dr. Rick Hodes, a physician of the Joint Distribution Committee in Addis Ababa who had met the boy and his father in the hospital there. Upon hearing of the horrifying ordeal, Dr. Masad Barhoum, General Director of Western Galilee Medical Center, immediately gave the “green light” to investigate the option to bring the boy for this desperately needed care to Israel. Following medical consultation and cooperation with the Foreign Ministry, in particular the Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia, Belaynesh Zevadia and London based Diplomat Ismail Khaldi, the family was approved to be flown immediately to Israel for care. Met by the hospital’s team at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, the young patient was taken immediately to the north for close observation and medical evaluation. Meanwhile, the Friends of Western Galilee Hospital began a fundraising campaign worldwide to pay for the medical treatment for Abdulrazak. The tale of his journey to Israel was extensively covered in the Israeli press and a number of English speaking media outlets as well.
Hospital examination found that Abdulrazak was in urgent need of major skin grafting across his skull and that due to the complex condition of his injury he would also loose his right eye. There is extensive external damage to his right ear as well, but luckily it seems much of his hearing is in tact. In addition, major damage was caused to his jaw bone which will require complex maxillofacial surgery to replace the missing fragments. The child was hospitalized in the Department of Plastic Surgery under the supervision of the Department Director, Dr. Kogan. In our operation room last Thursday, the open wounds to Abdulrazak’s head was closed with large skin grafts, while the wound to his eye was repaired and covered permanently. These procedures were performed in tandem with physicians from the areas of plastic surgery, ENT and Ophthalmology. After preliminary examination it seems that the skin grafts have been successfully accepted by his body and later this week the medical staff will evaluate the boy’s physical ability to continue with the difficult surgical procedures ahead of him. The detailed evaluation of his current condition suggest between 1-1.5 months will be required for healing and more procedures before he and his father will be able to make the journey back home to Ethiopia.
In addition to his medical treatment, it became clear the complex nature of the mission to treat Abdulrazak. The child speaks only a local language which is probably unknown throughout all of the Ethiopian community in Israel. Luckily, his father speaks Amharic and is the only link to the child’s medical team and the supporters who have gathered to help him in his long road to recovery. The hospital is fortunate to have some Amharic-speaking staff who are able to assist on a daily basis with the needs of the pair, additionally, the Ministry of Health is currently piloting a simultaneous translation system that operates 24 hours a day and is available throughout the hospital campus. As a partial solution to the obstacles of language, and to create a direct connection between the child and another influential figure here at the hospital, the medical clowns who are employed in the medical center have become cheerful visitors who are able to connect beyond spoken language. Their laughter which inspires healing was brought to his bedside, and indeed, the connection has managed to raise the first smiles on this young patient’s face.
Additionally, media coverage locally and nationally is mobilizing to help spread this remarkable story: Ethiopian residents of Nahariya came to visit and sat with the father and child after reading their story in a local paper, and the Muslim community of Akko has been enlisted to support with clothing and small expenses that they are able to assist in providing. In addition donations have been received in the form of clothes and games from various organizations and members of the hospital staff. The Jewish Agency has responded to our appeal and will provide an apartment in Nahariya’s absorption center when the child is released from the hospital and will only require testing and monitoring. The absorption center will be a chance for the family to live with Ethiopian Israelis who speak Amharic and might ease the transition from the hospital to the outside community.
We continue to raise funds to complete the project. At this point we have raised about $30,000 from private donors, organizations, communities abroad and medical equipment companies. Contributions have been received through the Friends of Western Galilee Hospital (www.friendswgh.org.il) and it’s American affiliate (https://afgmc.org/). All donations are earmarked and used solely for the benefit of Abdul-Razek’s care, without no overhead costs as a tax-free entity. Currently it is estimated that we will require another $ 10,000 to $20,000 to fully cover the medical care being provided.
Amir Yarchi, CEO
Friends of Western Galilee Hospital, Naharyia