A former Israel Defense Forces soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder has been responding to his family as doctors have begun to bring him out of a coma five months after he set himself alight in an act of protest.
The family of Itzik Saidyan, 26, announced Sunday that he was able to make small gestures showing that he was aware of his surroundings.
“Today, for the first time, he really answered a question and we all cried,” Saidyan’s brother Asvhalom told Channel 13 news. “At the moment he can’t talk and is still considered in a life-threatening condition, but there is a small improvement and you can see that his body is slowly responding to the recovery.”
He said that two weeks ago doctors at Sheba Medical Center where he is being treated began reducing the drugs that were keeping Saidyan sedated in order to slowly bring him back to consciousness.
“They are really slowly reducing the stuff and each day he responds a little more,” Asvhalom said.
Two days ago his brother was able to raise his head for the first time, he said.
Saidyan’s lawyer, attorney Aviad Lenchner, said in a statement that “the improvement is a source of joy not only because an entire country has prayed for his recovery, but also because it allows the country to right the terrible injustice done to him. I wish Itzik will be the last PTSD sufferer who needs to shock an entire country in order to get the rights he deserves.”
According to Ynet, Saidyan will now be moved to a special bed that can tilt vertically and that was bought for him by the Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation department earlier this month in order to assist in his recovery.
Three months ago Sheba Medical Center reported that Saidyan was able to breathe by himself.
Saidyan has been hospitalized since April following his self-immolation outside the Petah Tikva offices of the Rehabilitation Department for disabled soldiers, after years of struggling to receive the care he requested.
His act brought the Defense Ministry’s treatment of wounded veterans under intense scrutiny.
The IDF Veteran’s Association has said that Saidyan was frustrated over his treatment by authorities. He was recognized by the Defense Ministry as having 25 percent disability from his post-traumatic stress disorder, but had requested 50% recognition. The ministry had refused, saying at least a portion of his condition was due to childhood trauma, not his military service.
Saidyan served in the Golani Infantry Brigade during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. He participated in the Battle of Shuja’iyya, a neighborhood in Gaza City that saw some of the fiercest clashes in the conflict
Veterans and their advocates have long-maligned the rehabilitation department as providing woefully insufficient care and subjecting applicants to a bureaucracy so convoluted and torturous that many were required to hire expensive lawyers to help them navigate the system. After Saidyan’s self-immolation and the accompanying outcry, the Defense Ministry sought to implement reforms that it had for years been considering but had not had the political will to carry out.
In May, the government announced that it reached a compromise on a Defense Ministry plan to reform treatment for wounded veterans.
Judah Ari Gross contributed