The Shmooze

Soroka — A Preemie Oasis in the Negev

By Masha Leon

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“It took a famous baby to die pre-term — Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, son of John and Jacqueline Kennedy — to make the call to the world that babies matter,” said Dr. Agneta Golan, Director of Soroka Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to the guests at the American Friend of Soroka Medical Center Gala Benefit at the New York Palace Hotel. “I am here to speak out for my ‘Kennedys of the Negev’…. When the alarms go on, we run to shelters…. I am sure that because Israel matters to you, my babies matter to you.”

Emceed by Dan Abrams, co-anchor of ABC’s “Nightline,”—who informed he was a cancer survivor and that his mother (who was present) is “a Sabra committed to all things related to Israel, “ the speaker roster included Ido Aharoni, Israel’s consul general in New York who stated: “Whenever something happens in Israel, people in New York feel as if it happened in New York — and visa versa.” He informed: “Soroka” — Israel’s 4th largest hospital with 1,000 beds, serving one million, will eventually have to serve a population of nearly six million…provide medical service and health care to an entire region which we all agree is the future of the State of Israel.”

Karen Leon
Rear Admiral Susan Blumenthal

Citing Ben Gurion — whose statue stands in Siroka Hospital’s lobby — keynote speaker and recipient of Siroka’s “Stateswoman for Health Award,” Admiral Susan Blumenthal, said: “’In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles’ and this hospital is a miracle in the Middle East.” Answering “Why did I become a doctor?”, uber blonde, blue-eyed, pink-cheeked Blumenthal — who spoke at length about global health issues — said: “In my first year in college my mother developed breast cancer…my last year of medical school it had metastasized to her spine. She lived long enough to see her daughter become a doctor…eventually assistant surgeon general and one of the few women Jewish admirals in the service.”

With one of the busiest delivery rooms in the country, Soroka — which is also involved in bringing the best neo-natal care on a volunteer basis to developing countries [i.e. Ghana] —  had more than 16,000 births last year with the number of infants needing special attention on the rise. A pioneer in having parents actively involved in caring for their babies, the facility built in 1980 is no longer acceptable. During the war in Gaza and subsequent attacks, it became a dangerous trap. “We were forced to quickly evacuate mothers and infants from the Neo Natal department to protected quarters barely an hour before missiles fell nearby Soroka and Be’er Sheba” explained Golan as a film clip of nurses with bassinets racing to shelter underscored the urgency!

Few dry eyes and “oh’s” and “ah’s” in the room when a film montage of former preemies was shown on the screen including an 18-year old soccer player born at 28 weeks at l lb. 12 oz.; a 25-year old flight attendant born at 33 weeks at 3 lbs. 3 oz.; and a 31-year old fighter pilot born at 31.5 weeks at1 lb. 12 oz.!


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