Doctors reported a significant turn for the better in the condition of two young boys who were critically poisoned last week by pesticides left in their Jerusalem home by an exterminator. The tragedy claimed the lives of the boys’ two younger sisters and injured their parents and an older brother.
Medical staff at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center said on Monday that Yitzhak Gross, 7, and his brother Michael, 5, had improved to the point that their heart and lungs were once again functioning. Doctors were considering disconnecting the boys from the ECMO respiration and cardiovascular machines that had been keeping them alive since the poison struck their hearts and lungs last week.
The brothers began to show signs of improvement on Saturday when Yitzhak opened his eyes for the first time since his hospitalization, and briefly responded to external stimuli.
Afterwards he was sedated again, and hospital staff said that he and his brother, five-year-old Michael, were still in very serious condition.
Their parents, Shimon and Michal Gross, who lost their two daughters to the toxin, remained at their side throughout the weekend, praying.
The girls, Avigail and Yael, aged 1 and 4, were laid to rest on Thursday in Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuhot cemetery.
The exterminator suspected of negligence in the girls’ death was released from custody on Friday. He was slated to remain in house arrest at the home of his attorney, Moshe Shiffman, until Monday.
During a visit to the family’s home in the Givat Mordechai neighborhood last Monday, he allegedly used aluminum phosphide, which, when mixed with water, reacts to release phosphine, an extremely harmful gas.
The exterminator, whose identity has been suppressed by a gag order, had used the material before without any problem, Shiffman said on Thursday at the remand hearing.
The exterminator reportedly left a container of the poisonous material inside a room that he sealed with masking tape, intending to return to continue his work.
Shiffman said on Thursday that his client was an experienced professional who did not deserve to remain under arrest.
“Just after this happened and even before the police got to him, he rushed to the hospital to help pass on information about the material he used to the doctors,” the lawyer said. “This is a substance he’s used for a long time. It’s tablets and it’s not clear to me that there’s a limit on the amount you can use.”
After falling ill, the girls were rushed to the hospital on Wednesday along with the rest of their family, but doctors were unable to save their lives.
The boys suffered severe damage to their cardiac muscles, and doctors cautioned that there was no known antidote to the toxin.
On Saturday, the family asked that the public join their prayers for the boys.
In a separate incident, Linda Schwartz, a woman who was left in critical condition following a gas explosion in Jerusalem last Monday, died in hospital on Monday, bringing the death toll to four. The blast, which tore through an apartment building in the Gilo neighborhood of the capital, claimed the lives of a couple and their 2-year-old child.