Duvdevan is Hebrew for cherry, but with cherries out of season until the summer, when Israelis hear duvdevan they think first of an elite IDF corps rather than a small round fruit. Duvdevan is one of Israel’s elite army units. This is about one member of Duvdevan.

Yesterday, Monday, February 2nd, he went with his unit to a village near Bethlehem in pursuit of the head of the local Hamas Military Wing who Israeli Intelligence had discovered was the man behind last week’s (January 29, 2004) bus bombing in Jerusalem. The bloody toll of the bus bombing: 11 lives cut off, dozens of people severely injured.

As the Duvdevan soldiers searched his home, the Hamas head emerged from behind a false wall, gun blazing. He wounded two of the Israelis in his house and two more outside, before being gunned down himself.

These last four of his many Israeli victims were rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem. All were badly hurt, but this soldier was critical. Blood poured from his mouth and he was deteriorating by the minute.

“Speed was everything,” says Hadassah neurosurgeon Jose Cohen. “We hurried him to CT, where the scan showed metal fragments scattered through his mouth and neck. We realized that the bullet he’d taken in his mouth had destroyed his vertebral artery.” A patient doesn’t usually recover from this kind of injury, says Dr. Cohen. “But then you don’t usually have an advanced tertiary care medical center virtually on the battlefront. The patient was in our care less than a half hour after he was injured – and we have the medical technology to help him.” The soldier was rushed into Hadassah’s neurovascular angiography suite where the first priority was to seal the ruined artery and thus halt the flow of blood, still streaming from the patient’s mouth. “This isn’t a repair that can be done surgically,” says Dr. Cohen, whose subspecialty is endovascular neurology. “We decided instead to use a very expensive and sophisticated material known as an endovascular coil. We inserted it through the patient’s femoral artery in his leg and angiographically guided it up to the damaged vertebral artery. Each coil costs about $1,000. In most hospitals you must get permission to keep using this very expensive material. There’s no such rule in Hadassah; our task was to save his life and we focused on that task, inserting the 16 coils he needed to stop the bleeding.”

As the coils inched their way through the soldier’s vessels to their target and began sealing the ruptured artery, the anesthesiologist’s somber, expressionless minute-by-minute reports of rising heart rate and plummeting blood pressure took on a note of hope. “You could hear from his voice, without even listening to the words, that the young man was stabilizing,” says Dr. Cohen. When the bleeding finally stopped and the patient was declared stable, there were smiles all around the angiography suite. The news was quickly relayed to the dozens of young soldiers waiting anxiously in the coridor.

Today, less than 24 hours since he was shot, the soldier is awake and alert, with no signs of neurological damage. His pregnant wife is beside him, hopeful that within two months they will be parents together. “Ahead of him now is healing and growing strong again,” says Dr. Cohen. “We pray his path will be an easy one, without infections or other setbacks.” Not today and not tomorrow, but in time, the soldier will know that he survived an injury that is usually fatal because he was close enough to a medical center with the ability, resources, and skilled, committed physicians with the resolve to save him.