At long last, the Hadassah Medical Organization team located a bone marrow donor urgently needed to save the life of a six-month-old baby boy in Jerusalem. The baby has a disease called osteopetrosis, where the bones become petrified, causing blindness, deafness, and death.
The donor lives in Germany. What should have been a routine direct flight from Frankfurt rapidly turned into a logistical nightmare as, one by one, airlines canceled flights because of the coronavirus epidemic. Not only were there very few flights from Europe to Israel, but they were all full, bringing Israelis home before the borders closed.
Hadassah’s Bone Marrow Transplantation staff tirelessly worked the phones. They tried to find alternate routes via Paris and Manchester, as the Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem team prepared for the surgery. These routes were also shut down.
Finally, the team tried London. There were six final flights, but no seats available.
Department Chairwoman Prof. Polina Stepensky called El Al Chief Executive Officer Gonen Usishkin and explained that the baby would die if he didn’t receive the donor bone marrow.
El Al replaced a crew member with the bone-marrow courier. The courier had to agree not to travel to the hospital but to enter immediately into quarantine. After a 36-hour journey, the bone marrow arrived in Israel.
The plane landed at 10:00 pm on March 19th. Waiting in the jetway, dressed in a protective suit, a nurse took the case containing the bone marrow, and an hour later surgery began.
A team of doctors worked through the night to perform the transplantation. “Like with most bone marrow transplantations, it will take several weeks before we know if it took,” explains Prof. Stepensky. “If it did, the baby will be cured. We’re hopeful. I am incredibly fortunate to have such an amazing team in this department. I always knew it, but this brought it into sharp relief. Life is the supreme value to each member of our staff. We continue working during this corona crisis, and we will help anyone who needs us.”