While we all engage in our daily routines, we know that Hadassah works around the clock – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Convention ended last week and I am still in the United States, meeting with Hadassah friends. Yet, back home at Hadassah, everything continues like clockwork. Recently Hadassah again made medical history and I wanted to share this remarkable story with you.
A few weeks ago, 33-year-old Sarah gave birth to premature but healthy twin girls at Hadassah-Mt. Scopus. Twins are no longer an unusual event in our busy maternity wards, but Sarah’s story is unique – and her daughters, a special legacy.
Sarah was the first woman in Israel to give birth after receiving a heart transplant – and only the fifth in the world to deliver twins.
When she was a year old, Sarah underwent surgery and chemotherapy to remove a cancerous kidney tumor. “When I was 14, I spoke with doctors about having children,” Sarah recalls. “Even then I asked if I would be able to give birth. When people asked me what I want to be when I grow up, I used to say ‘a mommy.’”
But the chemotherapy caused fertility problems and serious cardiac complications. Over the years, her heart continued to deteriorate. Five years ago she suffered complete heart failure and underwent heart transplant surgery at the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. The heart that now beats in her body is that of a new immigrant man from the former Soviet Union.
Sarah held fast to her dream even though the drugs used to prevent a patient’s body from rejecting a transplant lead to increased risks for pregnancy and birth. In addition to the transplant drugs, “there are hormonal changes during pregnancy and a cessation of fluids that are liable to put a load on the heart,” said Dr. David Zechut, a senior physician in the Department of Obstetrics and Maternity who personally followed Sarah during the pregnancy and childbirth. “Pregnant women who are not transplant patients carry the added load relatively easily,” he said. “But with a transplant recipient, this could cause heart complications.”
Hadassah helped make Sarah’s dream come true.
Prof. Arye Hurwitz, Head of the IVF Unit at Hadassah-Mt. Scopus remained steadfast. After five IVF treatments and one extremely difficult miscarriage, the long-awaited pregnancy became a reality. In the 29th week of her high-risk pregnancy, Sarah was hospitalized. She needed complete bed rest and medical supervision to give the tiny twin fetuses the chance to develop in optimal conditions.
Everything was going well until the 33rd week when doctors discovered signs of toxemia–a condition that can lead to deadly complications for both the mother and the baby. As Sarah was taken to the operating room for an emergency Caesarean section, her anxious husband and parents tried not to think about the last time Sarah was in the OR – undergoing the complicated heart transplant they weren’t sure she would survive.
All they could do was pray.
One hour and twenty minutes later, with her husband Gal by her side, they heard the blessed sound of a baby’s lusty cry. It was the moment Sarah had been dreaming of for nearly two decades and she couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down her face. The healthy babies – weighing 1.5 kilos [3.3 lbs] and 2 kilos [4.4 lbs] – were whisked away to the Neonatology Unit, and on the way their grandparents had a chance to see them.
Drying their own tears of joy, the excited grandparents called the event “The Feast of Hats” because they never dared believe Sarah could give birth, and used to say that if it happened, they would “eat their hat.”
After delivering the babies, an emotional Dr. Zacut said that Sarah experienced a double miracle – the heart transplant that gave her life and being able to create a new generation.
Sarah and her husband are a modern religious couple who believe in the concept of Hashgacha Pratit, Divine Providence. They also believe that the Hadassah doctors, nurses and the entire medical team that held their hands throughout the years were the messengers of their Divine Providence.
Excitement over the historic event spread throughout the country and was recently featured on television. Even as she was getting ready to leave the hospital and start the new phase in her life, Sarah was thinking of others. In the television interview, she urged people to become organ donors.
A growing number of women choose to experience the miracle of birth at the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Mother and Child Center at Hadassah-Ein Kerem and in our Maternity Department at Hadassah-Mt. Scopus. These include women with healthy pregnancies and those at high-risk, such as women who have undergone IVF, in-vitro fertilization, and other fertility treatments. Hadassah’s IVF Services are highly sought after. In Israel the general pregnancy success rate after IVF treatments is 30 percent – but Hadassah’s success rate is 40 percent. In the past year, 10,594 babies drew their first breath at Hadassah.
I am sure that this remarkable story will help to make your Shabbat more enjoyable.
Osnat Moskowitz, Director, Donor and Development Department