Monday, August 30, 2010

Yet another Rambam hospital success

In the western world, cataract operations are considered routine procedures. In Israel alone, some 40,000 such operations are performed yearly. Just a few hours’ flight from here, however, thousands of people suffer from cataracts and blindness. Two Rambam ophthalmologists, returned from a mission to Yaounde, capital of the Republic of Cameroon in Africa, where they restored vision to tens of patients, and instructed local medical teams performing the same procedures.

The mission was sponsored by MASHAV, the Center for International Cooperation of Israel’s foreign ministry. For two weeks, the doctors diagnosed and operated on patients with different eye ailments in the city’s main medical center, Centre H'ospitalier D'Essos. Some of the operations were performed using a phacoemulsifiaction machine, a device for cataract procedures that was brought specially from Israel for the mission. The Israeli doctors also supervised local teams in treating glaucoma patients by laser.

News of the Israeli doctors’ arrival drew patients seeking treatment and advice. Hospitals in Cameroon attend only to insured or paying patients and those without adequate means remain untreated. During their short stay, Drs. Berger and Socea conducted 55 cataract and glaucoma operations primarily for patients in need , ranging in age from five to over 80. Putting this in perspective, the local department carries out only 100 operations yearly.

The procedures were performed with help of the hospital’s staff, along with teams from other cities who arrived to take part in the operation and to learn from the Israeli doctors.

“One of the most moving cases involved a 15-year old boy,” recalls Dr. Berger. “At a young age, this boy had received treatment that left him with cataracts in both eyes and with reversible blindness. We operated on his eyes and he recovered his sight.” Another case involved an elderly man who had been blinded in both eyes as the result of traditional methods of cataract surgery . The RHCC doctors also succeeded in restoring his vision. “This is an ailment that can be treated effectively, ” says Dr. Berger. “Only the absence of proper diagnosis and treatment allows so many people to remain blind.”

The farewell ceremony for the Rambam doctors took place in the presence of Israel’s ambassador to Cameroon, the director and deputy-director of Cameroon’s social security program (CNPS) ,representatives of the Israel foreign ministry, hospital staff and treated patients.

The Department of Ophthalmology, under the direction of Prof. Benjamin Miller, has a tradition of assistance in Africa. “In Israel, medical care is taken for granted, but in Africa you feel you are helping people who live with great difficulties. The results are quick and exciting,” says Dr. Berger. “The operations and guidance we provided are a contribution of Israel to Cameroon. This is part of a long-term, successful Israeli initiative in developing countries, especially Africa.”

For a video presentation see

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Making Peace with the Pacemakers

From the Rambam hospital in my home town of Haifa comes another innovation to help those who have had pacemakers fitted as a consequence of their heart problems

New cutting-edge technology allows patients with pacemakers to safely undergo full MRI scans. In addition, this innovative device offers more functions than previous pacemakers. Lately, Rambam doctors implanted the device in the first Israeli patient

Rambam Health Care Campus (RHCC) doctors have implanted – in the first Israeli patient – a new improved pacemaker. This novel device, an updated version of the EnRythm MRI, is the first pacemaker developed that can be use safely during full body scans in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines. The device also offers more functions, particularly in the detection and treatment of arrythmias.

As part of a multi-national trial, the pacemaker was implanted in an Israeli patient by Dr Mahmud Suleiman, Dr Monder Boulos and Dr Yuval Goldschmidt of Rambam’s Cardiology Department.

While the first generation of the pacemaker, EnRythm MRI, implanted in a patient at Rambam last year, allowed for partial MRI scanning, the new device enables imaging of the entire body. EnRythm was developed by the company Medtronic, an international leader in medical technologies for chronic diseases that received the European CE Mark approval.

MRI has many advantages, including its unparalleled ability to discriminate between different soft tissues and the fact that it does not involve radiation. A sophisticated medical imaging device, MRI uses a powerful magnetic field to visualize the internal structure and function of the body for diagnostic purposes. To this point, patients with pacemakers could not undergo MRI testing since the device is sensitive to the MRI stimulus, which may cause life-threatening malfunctions.

It is estimated that some 50-75% of patients with heart implants worldwide will require MRI imaging tests during their lifetimes. In Europe alone, there are roughly two million patients with pacemakers who cannot undergo MRI imaging due to the high health risks involved.

"While the use of MRI testing has grown tremendously over the years and has become routine, it has also become a serious obstacle for heart implant patients due to incompatibility of the pacemaker with the powerful magnetic field of the imaging technology,” says Dr. Boulos. “The innovative pacemaker by Medtronic, allows heart implant patients to safely undergo MRI testing without risks to the functioning of the device"

“MRI is the best imaging modality available for neurology, rheumatology and orthopedics patients, since it has the best soft tissue characteristics,” says Dr. Ariel Roguin, head of Rambam’s Interventional Cardiology Laboratory, who wrote the European guidelines for this trial. “In the past, many patients who have pacemakers and neurology-related problems were denied this examination, which is crucial for accurate diagnosis. Now, with this new device, they can undergo the MRI procedure safely.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Signs of Hope?

Israel is not a perfect society, it is still developing after 62 years BUT the functioning universal health care system and its ability to separate the conflict from medicine earns praise.

Aziz Abu Sarah, a Palestinian, reports his experiences in an Israel hospital in terms of "hope" in an article to be found at

There many reasons to be pessimistic and at times to despair about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet even when things look hopeless, hope has a way of appearing, offering a vision of what can be rather than what is. Recently, I caught a glimpse of this hope in an unlikely place – the Israeli health care system.In December, I went for a routine checkup with my family doctor in east
Jerusalem and received the news everyone fears – I had cancer. What had seemed like a small lump in my neck was in fact thyroid cancer – devastating news for someone in his late 20s. I was quickly scheduled for surgery and given a date of May 17.

I immediately called my close friend Dr. Adel Misk, a Palestinian neurologist from east Jerusalem. Misk works in both Israeli and Palestinian hospitals, treating Palestinians and Israelis alike. He referred me to his colleague, Dr. Shila Nagar, a Jewish Israeli endocrinologist.When Misk referred me to Nagar, he was not thinking in the terms of Palestinians and Israelis, but rather in terms of which specialist could best treat me. He was not concerned about her religious practices or political opinions. He was only concerned about her track record as a doctor.In the waiting room outside Nagar’s office, I could not help but notice how many Palestinians were there. It did not bother them that she was Jewish, just like Misk’s Jewish patients do not mind that he is Palestinian. All the stereotypes and fences of nationalist fervor were replaced with basic survival instincts.

I SHARED my thoughts about Israeli-Palestinian medical cooperation with Nagar, who told me a story of a Jewish friend of hers who had prostate problems. One night he was suffering from a painful blockage and went to the emergency room. The doctor on duty was an Arab woman. He was not pleased: It is doubly bad, he thought, an Arab and a woman. At first he refused to let her treat him; however, as the pain increased he changed his mind and called her in. Years later, this Arab woman is his permanent doctor and a close friend. This personal experience was Nagar’s example of how humanity (and physical necessity!) can overcome nationalism.Fast forward to the day of my surgery.

In an ironic twist of fate, here I was, a Palestinian journalist, draped in a hospital gown covered in Stars of David. I was stressed and fearful. Yet none of these emotions had to do with the nationality of my doctors or the pattern on my hospital gown. I was afraid of the surgery, and the possibility of not waking up again. However, when I was brought to the operating room, I was again given another dose of hope.I had two surgeons, a Palestinian Arab and an Israeli Jew. The anesthesiologist was an extremely experienced and competent Russian who joked with me until I fell asleep. My life was in the hands of an ideal team. Meanwhile, my family waited outside. My wife and mother were both in tears, and later told me that a Jewish woman waiting for news of her relative’s surgery comforted them.In the midst of the hatred, anger and bitterness of the conflict, you can still find glimpses of goodness. Unfortunately, this light often passes unnoticed. Yet it offers a practical example of the dream we all share, of a future where we can live safe and full lives without fear of injury.

My surgery went extremely well, and I recovered quickly. Moreover, through this painful experience I caught a glimmer of hope in what seems like a hopeless environment. I have many criticisms of Israeli policies and politics, but the functioning universal health care system in Israel and its ability to separate politics from medicine earns my praise.This is not to say that the system is perfect. Like any future Israel and Palestine might share, there is the possibility of getting distracted by issues of insurance and bureaucracy. However, when it matters most, Israeli and Palestinian doctors share a commitment to human life regardless of ethnicity, religion or nationality. Moreover, when it comes time to choose doctors, we base our choice on who is mostly likely to promote human life. If only we voted on the same basis!

Unfortunately, I had to experience the health care system personally before being able to appreciate this example of what Israelis and Palestinians can achieve. Despite the pain and suffering, I am grateful to have discovered such a hidden treasure of humanity at its best.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And More Good News to Feel Good About

We should enjoy this while we can. The good news just keeps coming. With most sectors doing well here in Israel, we have plenty of positive thins to think about

Israel economic growth unexpectedly rose to an annualized 4.7% in the 2nd quarter of 2010 [compared with 4.1% in the Euro Bloc, 2.4% - USA and 0.4% - Japan].

It is the fastest pace in more than two years, as exports [19% industrial exports surge in the 2nd quarter] and consumer spending [8.7% in the 2nd quarter] increased [as well as 11% rise of investment in fixed assets]... rising from 3.6% in the 1st quarter [and 4.3% in the 4th quarter of 2009]…"

This is really an economy running on all pistons… The Israeli economy’s rebound from the global financial crisis has been powered by exports, which make up almost half of gross domestic product. Sales abroad increased in July to $3.8BN, the most in two years… Europe’s economy expanded 1% in the 2nd quarter of 2010 from the previous three month.

Israel’s unemployment is likely to drop to 7.3% this year, from 7.6% in 2009 and continue falling to 6.8% next year.

According to Israel’s Ministry of Finance…Inflation eased in July to an annual 1.8%, its slowest pace in more than 2.5 years.

All this seems to give the average citizen a good feeling about life in spite of the dangers around us.

Gallup’s Global Wellbeing or life satisfaction Study of 155 countries (March, 2010) ranks Israel as number 8, Switzerland 9, Canada 10 and Australia 11 at a level of 62% following New Zealand (63%), Netherlands & Sweden (68%), Norway (69%), Finland (85%), Denmark (82%), ahead of the USA (57%), Brazil (58%), most of Europe, etc.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Let's Cheer Some Good News !!

The conflict takes up so much of the media space, that there is never enough room for talkking about the REAL Israel

Here are just a few of the ongoing activities that you may not ahave heard about:

1. Scientists in Israel found that the brackish water, drilled from underground desert aquifers hundreds of feet deep, could be used to raise warm-water fish. The geothermal water, less than one-tenth as saline as sea water, free of pollutants, and a toasty 98 degrees on average, proves an ideal environment. Now that can help the food chain in harsh climates.

2. When Stephen Hawkins recently visited Israel , he shared his wisdom with scientists, students, and even the Prime Minister. But the world's most renowned victim of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, also learned something, due to the Israeli Association for ALS' advanced work in both embryonic and adult stem cell research, as well as its proven track record with neurodegenerative diseases. The Israeli research community is well on its way to finding a treatment for this fatal disease, which affects 30,000 Americans.

3. Israeli start -up, Veterix, has developed an innovative new electronic capsule that sits in the stomach of a cow, sheep, or goat, sending out real-time information on the health of the herd, to the farmer via email or cell phone. The e-capsule, which also sends out alerts if animals are distressed, injured, or lost is now being tested on a herd of cows, in the hopes that the device will lead to tastier and healthier meat and milk supplies. (I could think of a few uses if it was in my stomach!!)

4. Beating cardiac tissue has been created in a lab from human embryonic stem cells by researchers at the Rappaport Medical Faculty and the Technion - Israeli institute of Technology 's biomedical Engineering facility. The work of Dr. Shulamit Levenberg and Prof. Lior Gepstein, has also led to the creation of tiny blood vessels within the tissue, making possible its implantation in a human heart. (And I thought my stents where up-to-date technology!)

5. It is common knowledge that dogs have better night vision than humans and a vastly superior sense of smell and hearing. Israel 's Bio-Sense Technologies recently delved further and electronically analyzed 350 different barks. Finding that dogs of all breeds and sizes, bark the same alarm when they sense a threat, the firm has designed the dog bark-reader, a sensor that can pick up a dog's alarm bark, and alert the human operators. This is just one of a batch of innovative security systems to emerge from Israel which Forbes calls 'the go-to country for anti-terrorism technologies.' (Is there a bark to warn a husband that the wife is about to arrive home??)

6. Israeli company, BioControl Medical, sold its first electrical stimulator to treat urinary incontinence to a US company for $50 Million. Now, it is working on CardioFit, which uses electrical nerve stimulation to treat congestive heart failure. With nearly five million Americans presently affected by heart failure, and more than 400,000 new cases diagnosed yearly, the CardioFit is already generating a great deal of excitement as the first device with the potential to halt this deadly disease.

7. One year after Norway 's Socialist Left Party launched its Boycott Israel campaign, the importing of Israeli goods has increased by 15%, the strongest increase in many years, statistics Norway reports. In contrast to the efforts of tiny Israel to make contributions to the world so as to better mankind, one has to ask what have those who have strived to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth done other than to create hate and bloodshed???

Friday, August 13, 2010

Do Journalists Have A "Great Pub" in the Sky?

It has often been said the journalists today are not interested in investigative journalism since their stories have to meet deadlines. Many times the stories are written to a pre determined agenda which bears no relation to reality.

This is clearly evident when a person's actual experiences in Israel are written about and many self styled "experts" cannot accept the version as it conflicts with their agenda and thus, they resort to name bashing and hysterical outbursts.

Michael Totten is a reader-funded foreign correspondent and foreign policy analyst who has reported from the Middle East, the Balkans, and the Caucasus. He is now in Israel after a stint in Lebanon and reported on a meeting he had over coffee.

The whole interview can be read at but what is important is that when he asked his Israeli companion what’s it like to read about Israel in the foreign press? The reply was "Surreal".

When asked to expand on this comment, the respondent replied that "It rarely bears any resemblance to the country I live in, mainly because it either deals only with the conflict or because the news is produced by people who live in the English-speaking Jerusalem bubble."

"There’s a large population of English speakers in Jerusalem. The people who speak English tend to gather around each other, especially if they’re in the higher reaches of government or the media. They tend to hang out with other English-speaking people. They go to the places where such people congregate, they read English-language newspapers, and they watch English-language television. They have very little contact with the rest of Israel, which is predominantly Hebrew-speaking."

"Tel Aviv is quite cosmopolitan, but if you go to the development towns in the south or to the towns in the north and in the Galilee, there are Hebrew-speaking and Arabic-speaking populations there. Journalists have almost no contact with this world. What they portray as Israeli is a corner of a corner of a corner of this country."

"It is clear that journalists hang out with each other and with other foreigners. This affects their opinions, it affects their view of the world, and it affects how they write about it."

Even today we in Israel are suffering the effects of the Mohammad Al Dura case (the young boy "apparently shot" by Israeli soldiers. Yet 7 years after the event we know with absolute certainty that the young boy in the film was not killed and the body buried under the name of Mohammad Al Dura was NOT Mohammad Al Dura.

Thus we continue to suffer from the poor quality of reporting. A reader found THE SAME PICTURE with two different captions from TWO DIFFERENT locations. One picture was defined as "A Lebanese father holding his child" dated Dec 25th 2009 (taken from google images) It accompanies a poem called ‘A Soldier’s Christmas Poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’

And the SAME photo (maybe his twin brother!!) in Iraq holding a "twin" child March 25th 2010 also taken from google images. Here the article with it is entitled ‘The Scent of weakness’ from True Journalism.
Sick, sick, sick. where are the true professionals? In the great pub in the sky?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Now from the North

Today's unprovoked attack by the Lebanese army against the IDF, took place in Israeli territory along Israeli's Northern border. In some areas, there is a gap between the IDF security fence and the actual border, which is where this attack took place. IDF soldiers were conducting routine maintentce work including clearing bushes from the area. This sort of activity is crucial to keep an open line of sight, to prevent attacks and kidnappings, like the one in the summer of 2006, which was in a similar location.
And isn't it strange that reporters where on hand to film everything? - talk about a put up job!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

And More!!!

If Israel fires a rocket at the weapons smuggling tunnels, it get widespread coverage in the media. I wonder how much of this report will make the world's media?

On Monday morning (Aug 2), explosions were reported in the southern port city of Eilat. No damage or injuries were reported but the explosions were heard throughout the popular resort city.

The Israel Army (IDF) and Israel Police are currently searching the area to assess the situation and examine the source of these explosions, and the Spokesman for the Israel Police has confirmed that the explosions were caused by rockets fired to the area.

A press release issued by the IDF Spokesperson moments after receiving initial reports of the explosions states that the IDF maintains ongoing contact with the Jordanian and Egyptian militaries. Jordanian press is reporting that a rocket landed in Aqaba, injuring several people, but those reports have not yet been confirmed by Israeli security sources.

While attacks to this area are rare, they are not unheard of. Earlier this year, on two separate occasions in April, three rockets were fired at the Eilat beach and an additional Katyusha rocket detonated in Aqaba.

Last Friday (July 30) a Grad rocker exploded in the city of Ashqelon, causing damage, and on Saturday (July 31) a Kassam rocket was fired towards the area of the Negev Regional Council. In response the Israeli Air Force targeted a weapons manufacturing facility and weapons smuggling tunnels in the Gaza Strip.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Rockets Galore

As we approach a total of 400 attacks launched from Gaza since the cease fire that halted Israel's Cast Lead' military operation in Gaza on January 19, 2009, on Saturday nigthhtn upgraded Qassam rocket scored a direct hit on the children's hydrotherapy rehabilitation center, located in the heart of Sderot's Sapir College. Thus reports the Sderot Media Center.

The Saturday night Qassam attack followed the explosion of a Iranian Grad missile that hit the city of Ashkelon on Friday morning, July 30th. Hamas controlled Gaza has targeted Ashkelon, with a population of 125,000 Israelis, since March 2008.

The children's hydrotherapy rehabilitation center at Sderot's Sapir College provides therapy and workshops for special-needs children who live in the Western Negev and is
used by children from the entire country. The facility was decimated.

For the full story with photos and a video see