Sunday, August 7, 2011
Unbelievable Reunion of Two Holocaust Survivors over Half a Century Later
One really interesting aspect to studying medicine in Israel is that you are exposed to a cross-section of people who immigrated to a land from all over the world. Many of these people being survivors of the Holocaust with no other place to go, however Jews are not welcome in many parts of the world, and Israel also has a huge cross section of people due to many different waves of immigration. For example during the 70's to the early 90's Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel due to mass hunger and political instability that threatened their existence. Other immigration waves include Yemeni, South African, South American, French Russian, Iranian, and Moroccan Jews. Perhaps the latest wave will be from Tunisia. Ironically, I have also met some characters in Israel whose legal status in another country remained questionable, while I don't think that this type of immigration is common, it does appear that if you're a Jew with potential jail time, Israel might be the place to go. Either way with Israel's Independence in 1948, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world had to come together, learn Hebrew as a main language and unify a country together.
Back to my original point, part of my medical curricula involves shadowing several doctors, mine is a brilliant South African Hematologist. She told us a story about her experience that truly underlines how unique our patient's stories are.
A 60 year old patient came to the hospital complaining of fatigue, weakness, and enlarged painless lymph nodes. After careful physical exam and blood work it was confirmed that this lady had ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia). She had this disease before, and it went into remission. Generally, such a disease that returns after chemotherapy is less responsive to such treatment, so in many cases, a bone marrow transplant is indicated.
The next step was to find a donor, and the one that the Hematologist found was very unusual. The match profile of both the donor and the patient was so close that the doctor was convinced that these two were close relatives. She told this to the patient, and they set to work on allowing them to meet. There is an unusual law in Israel (I don't know much about it) that forbids a donor and a patient from meeting before a year has passed from the date of the operation.
Finally a year past by and the donor and the patient were able to meet. The patient had immigrated to Israel after surviving Auschwitz Concentration Camp where she was estranged from her entire family. She never saw them again and assumed they were all dead. It turns out that the donor had a similar story.
Over 50 years later, these two realized that they were sisters, and it turned out that one was able to successfully save the other's life with a bone marrow transfusion.