Race against time to fly blood to stricken Israeli in Peru
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Race against time to fly blood to stricken Israeli in Peru

Emergency service seeking permits to bring units to save the life of critically ill Zohar Katz, 21

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of blood donated to Israel's blood bank (Rebecca Zeffert/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of blood donated to Israel's blood bank (Rebecca Zeffert/Flash90)

The Magen David Adom emergency service said Sunday night that it was preparing to flying life-saving blood units to Peru for the sake of an Israeli traveler left in critical condition by a blood infection.

Zohar Katz, 21, from Kibbutz Yotvata, is lying sedated in the intensive care unit of a Lima hospital as doctors battle a bacteria that is destroying her red blood cells. Medical staff have been carrying out intensive dialysis on the young woman but need healthy blood supplies to replace the volumes they remove from her body.

When Katz first fell seriously ill her family appealed via social media for Israelis in the South American country to donate blood. Many answered the call, but the effort was hampered by strict regulations preventing those vaccinated within the previous six months from giving blood. Hikers visiting South America usually have a bout of vaccinations three months before their trip.

MDA stepped up and said it would fly the necessary blood units to the hospital as soon as it overcomes the tricky bureaucracy involved in transferring blood to Peru, director Eli Bean explained.

“We are carrying out a complicated race against time and we are coordinating the shipment of blood units with the MDA senior hematologist, who will help with everything necessary to bring Zohar back to Israel for further treatment as soon as possible,” he said.

MDA said the procedure for transferring the blood is not a simple one and requires a battery of permits. The Foreign Ministry and the Migdal insurance company are both helping out in negotiations to authorize the blood shipment.

“As soon as we get the green light from Peru, we are ready to get going,” Bean said.

Dr. Eilat Shinar, deputy director of the MDA blood bank, said that 17 Israelis in Lima donated blood, and local doctors now have enough for the coming day, Channel 2 reported.

“Tomorrow the hospital will contact the local health ministry to get permission to bring blood units from abroad,” she said.

If the plan goes ahead, a hematologist and a senior MDA blood bank doctor will both fly to Peru with the blood and help out with treating Katz in Lima. They will also assess if if she can be flown back to Israel.

Katz’s father, Boki Katz, explained to Channel 2 that a few weeks ago his daughter was stung while in Brazil.

“When she arrived in Peru she felt ill and went to a clinic, but the test they did found nothing. When she reached Cusco, a relatively elevated place, she collapsed. She had vomiting, nausea, and bruising. As soon as I heard about it, I quickly got on a plane to South America with her sister. When we arrived we transferred her from the clinic in Cusco to the hospital in Lima.”

After her arrival in the hospital, her condition quickly deteriorated.

“The bacteria damages red blood cells, and that could kill her,” he said. “At the hospital they decided to sedate her and now she is having a kind of dialysis. They are filtering her blood and need many units of blood to replace it. The situation is critical, but to fly her back to Israel isn’t possible because she can’t be moved.”

Limor Sherman, the Israeli consul in Peru, said that members of the local Jewish community in Lima also answered the call to find blood for Katz, Channel 2 reported. “Dozens from the community and many travelers arrived yesterday and today,” she said.

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