Innovative Israeli surgery gives Palestinian toddler new lease on life
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Innovative Israeli surgery gives Palestinian toddler new lease on life

'There are no politics in a hospital, only people,' says Hadassah doctor who saved Gaza three-year-old Suleiman from a lifetime of paralysis

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Doctors at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem performing surgery, Jerusalem, March 5, 1990. (Nati Shohat/Flash90/File)
Illustrative: Doctors at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem performing surgery, Jerusalem, March 5, 1990. (Nati Shohat/Flash90/File)

A three-year-old Palestinian boy from the Gaza Strip was saved from permanent paralysis after an Israeli doctor carried out a complex and innovative procedure to remove a tumor wrapped around the child’s spinal cord, a Walla news report said.

Suleiman developed an extremely rare tumor in his chest that resulted in the malformation of his spine, and causing him to suffer from respiratory illnesses, the Hebrew-language website reported.

Though benign, the tumor was causing pressure on his spine in his neck, severely restricting his movement and posing a serious risk of neural damage and paralysis in the future.

Dr. Josh Schroeder, a senior orthopedic surgeon at the Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem, said the six-hour surgery was among the first of its kind in the world.

“This was a rare procedure not just nationally, but globally as well,” Schroeder told the news outlet on Tuesday. “There is almost no documentation of this kind of repair anywhere in the world.”

An image from an April 26, 2016 report about a Palestinian boy (L) who underwent spinal cord surgery in the Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center in Jerusalem, and Dr. Josh Schroeder (R) who performed the procedure. (screen capture: Walla)
An image from an April 26, 2016 report about a Palestinian boy (L) who underwent spinal cord surgery in the Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center in Jerusalem, and Dr. Josh Schroeder (R) who performed the procedure. (screen capture: Walla)

Schroeder developed a two-stage procedure to tackle the delicate surgery.

First, he “stretched” Sueliman’s spine using weights to make access to the tumor easier. Then, in a six-hour surgery, Schroeder and other doctors carefully removed the tumor and one vertebra that had fused with part of the growth.

“We removed the growth from the back of his neck, and were able to re-align and straighten his spinal cord in such a way that it will greatly improve his quality of life.

The boy’s spine was so severe malformed that he could not stand up or even look straight ahead.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” Schroeder added.

Sueliman was released last week, after almost a month of recovery at the Jerusalem hospital.

His parents, Schroeder said, were delighted by the results.

“We hope that when they go back to Gaza they will talk about the positive sides of Israeli society,” Schroeder said. “There are no politics in a hospital, only people.

“Just yesterday we treated a girl from Ramallah,” he said. “Everyone here is equal.”

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