Israeli doctors treat Iranian boy with brain tumor

“This is our job.” Prof. Zeev Rotstein, CEO of Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv.Iran may be an enemy state of Israel, and relations between the two countries tense, to say the least, but this hasn’t stopped an Israeli hospital …

“This is our job.” Prof. Zeev Rotstein, CEO of Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv.Iran may be an enemy state of Israel, and relations between the two countries tense, to say the least, but this hasn’t stopped an Israeli hospital from agreeing to treat a 12-year-old Iranian boy with an aggressive brain tumor – glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

There was nothing more that Iranian or Turkish doctors could do for him, says David Weinberg, a spokesperson for the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, where the boy identified only as “Guy” is being treated. His real name is being kept secret so that his family will not be put in harm’s way after returning to Iran.

He arrived Friday at Sheba’s Safra Children’s Hospital, one of the top 10 children’s hospitals in the world – with his father and grandmother – after flying into Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, from Turkey.

Sheba’s CEO Prof. Zeev Rotstein agreed to take the patient from Tehran on as a charity case.

“The father of the young patient called Prof. Rotstein – doctors in Iran told him there is nothing more they can do for them in Iran and to try the Safra Children’s Hospital at Sheba because they do outstanding pediatric work in brain cancer,” Weinberg tells ISRAEL21c.

Weinberg believes that doctors in Iran probably read about Dr. Amos Toren – head of Sheba’s Pediatric Hemato-Oncology Department – in scientific literature, and recommended him as the best person to treat the boy.

Israeli doctors just doing their job

“Today we’re repeating tests – conducting genetic typing tests to better match the treatment,” says Weinberg, optimistic but only too aware of the gravity of the boy’s condition. “He’s got a very tough battle,” Weinberg notes.

As Toren assesses and administers treatment, he will also make sure the boy feels no pain in the process. This is one of the specialties of the Safra Hospital, which employs a small team of doctors to prescribe special anti-pain medications to children, even to the smallest charges who cannot yet speak for themselves.

This is not the first time Israeli doctors have treated children from adversarial states. The Israeli charity, Save a Child’s Heart, helps bring Iraqi children to Israel for life-saving heart treatment. Palestinians from Gaza and the Palestinian Authority are also regularly treated at Israeli hospitals.

While citizens from enemy states are usually banned from entering Israel, in unusual cases – like this one – special permission is granted to allow them to enter.

In this case, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit gave a personal ex-gratia authorization to allow the child and family members into the country. “We are the light upon the nations, and when a child’s life is at stake religion and origin play no part,” said Minister Sheetrit. “If we can help, we are more than willing to do so.”

“We hope that with the love and affection we give these kids we are paving the way for at least some understanding between people,” Rotstein added in an article in the International Herald Tribune. “We can’t change the politics. We are not politicians. We do this because we feel it is our job,” he continued.

Limited chances, but special hope in Israel

It is no secret in the medical community that Israel is home to some of the world’s best doctors and facilities. All too aware of the complicated reality in the Middle East, Israeli doctors hope that by treating patients from countries hostile to Israel, they can break down barriers and create better prospects for peace.

As for the boy’s progress, he is conscious and can smile, although it’s difficult for him. He has had operations in the past, and may need another one in Israel. “There are very limited things you can do,” said Rotstein, “But if this kid has any chance, it is here.”

About Karin Kloosterman

Karin Kloosterman lives in Jaffa, Israel. She is a journalist, writer and blogger who focuses on the environment and clean technology from Israel and the Middle East. Published in hundreds of newspapers around the world, Karin also writes for the Huffington Post and Green Prophet.