Active and independent, doing her own shopping and cooking along with volunteer work in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Maria, age 82, suddenly collapsed after she stopped taking her blood thinner to prepare for a dental procedure.

Maria lost consciousness and the ability to move most of her body. When the ambulance team searched for a local hospital to accept her, the reply was they lacked the capacity to help her. They then phoned the Hadassah Medical Center. “We don’t say no,” said Prof. Jose Cohen, head of the Hadassah Medical Center’s Endovascular Neurosurgery Unit. “I told them to bring her immediately.”

It had been 11:00 pm when Prof. Cohen received the call at his home. By the time the ambulance came through the gates of the Hadassah campus, Prof. Cohen was in his green scrubs and crocs and ready to operate.

“The truth is that Maria was beyond the age when most centers would try the life-saving procedure on her,” he explained. “To save lives, we bend protocols when we can. That’s a Hadassah tradition. This was a totally independent woman up to the time she went to the dentist. You know what they say—‘80 is the new 60.’ That’s not entirely true from a medical point of view, but from the description of her lifestyle, she didn’t sound old. It was clear that if we didn’t try, she was going to die–or at the best, remain in a vegetative state.”

Maria’s CT scan revealed that she had a large blood clot blocking her left artery. She would have to undergo general anesthesia and a thrombectomy to remove the clot. “We used to destroy the clots by blasting them,” Prof. Cohen explained. “Now we carefully remove the clot by grabbing it with a special stent and taking it out.”

Maria underwent the procedure at 11:30 pm; 43 minutes later, the life-saving procedure was completed. The next morning, Maria was up and walking and feeling good. She was confused, however, because she didn’t remember anything happening to her. Yet, she found herself in the hospital. “She’ll never realize how close to death she was,” Prof. Cohen noted. “Maybe that’s good. She’s as good as new–except that she hasn’t had her tooth fixed.”

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