The loudspeaker announced the arrival of the bride. Guests rushed outside to the chuppah (wedding canopy) under the clear night sky in the Judean Hills at the Neve Ilan wedding venue. Every wedding is exciting, but tonight’s is thrilling because 13 years ago, the young woman being married– Adi Houdja–was on the verge of death in the trauma center at Hadassah University Hospital.
Thirteen years ago, Adi was scheduled to have her leg amputated. Now, she is walking easily down the aisle. Guests are applauding.
“Did you ever think you’d see her walking like this down the aisle?” whispers Barbara Sofer, Hadassah’s Israel Director of Public Relations, to the man standing to her left.
He can’t speak; he shakes his head “no.” This is Prof. Iri Liebergall, the head of Orthopedics at Hadassah, who saved her leg.
Standing closer to the chuppah is Prof. Avi Rivkind, head of the Trauma Unit. “Her cousin said I promised I’d dance with Adi at her wedding,” he says with wonder. Prof. Rivkind saved her life.
December 1, 2001 was a cold, clear winter night in Jerusalem. After Shabbat, Adi, then 13, and two cousins went downtown to Ben Yehudah Street for some fun. Just as they were about to return home, one of the cousins decided to get ice cream. Adi and cousin Racheli were waiting for her to return when a suicide bomber exploded next to Adi. That night, two terrorists and a car bomb exploded downtown killing 13 people, wounding hundreds.
Racheli was lightly injured. Adi had devastating injuries–shrapnel throughout her body, but mostly in her legs. She was rushed to Hadassah. The bleeding was so profuse that no matter how much blood she was given, she seemed to be bleeding to death. Doctors speculated that the nuts and bolts that had penetrated her skinny body had been soaked in rat poison or a similar substance to increase the amount of bleeding.
Her body temperature was dropping. That’s when Trauma Surgeon Prof. Rivkind decided to try the very expensive experimental drug, Nova 7. It had been developed for hemophiliacs, and it wasn’t supposed to be used for trauma victims.
But thanks to the Nova 7, the bleeding slowed. He gave her another dose.
The bleeding stopped.
Prof. Liebergall had been in Europe at a conference when he heard about the blast in Jerusalem. He headed for the airport to come home. When he landed early Sunday morning, he went straight to the hospital. He examined Adi. His staff thought she needed to have a leg amputated in order to save her life. Her mother had given her consent with a heavy heart. ”Anything to save my daughter,” she said.
“This was a dilemma for me,” said Prof Liebergall. “A dilemma means that you don’t know if you have the correct answer, but I felt we could save the limb and her life.”
And so, Adi began a long series of operations. The last was only a few months ago.
Articles in medical journals and text books tell the story of her miraculous recovery. But everyone knows that miracles do not happen in a vacuum. It takes a special team and a special hospital.
It took Adi a while to get her life organized after so much surgery, but she is now a university student, majoring in communications.
The night of her wedding, however, she is pure bride, as her dark hair frames her delicate features above the white dress. Her tall, handsome groom, Eliran Peretz, is waiting to put a ring on her finger.
A venerable Sephardic Rabbi pronounces the blessings. Her mother, Mali Houdja, is wiping her eyes.
The groom breaks the glass and recites:
“If I forget thee Jerusalem….”
Tonight, Jerusalem is in no danger of being forgotten.
Cheers and laugher prevail. In the line-up to hug the bride, Adi’s cousins begin to shout: “Adi! Here’s Prof. Rivkind. Here’s Prof. Liebergall.”
The crowd parts for these precious hugs.
“I hug Adi, too,” relates Mrs. Sofer. And I say, ”This is the hug from the hundreds of thousands of women and men of Hadassah. We’re all here with you tonight.”