search

Flown from Ukraine to Israel with a 1-2% chance of survival, teen recovers

After 3 months in Israeli ICU with rare infection, Anna Kosma is released to rehab; ‘Doctors see this once in a lifetime,’ says her physician

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

Anna Kosma (front), who has just entered rehab three months after doctors believed she had 2% chance of survival, pictured at Shaare Zedek Medical Center with her physicians Dr. Stefan Mausbach, left, and Dr. Roni Eichel (courtesy of Shaare Zedek Medical Center)
Anna Kosma (front), who has just entered rehab three months after doctors believed she had 2% chance of survival, pictured at Shaare Zedek Medical Center with her physicians Dr. Stefan Mausbach, left, and Dr. Roni Eichel (courtesy of Shaare Zedek Medical Center)

A teenager has made a remarkable recovery in Jerusalem, three months after being airlifted from Ukraine when she was deep in a coma and thought to have a tiny chance of survival.

As the health system crumbled around her in Ukraine this spring, Anna Kosma was having several seizures a day. Local doctors had given the 18-year-old medicine that temporarily paralyzed her, and her family didn’t know where to turn.

A Ukrainian-Israeli citizen who lives near Kyiv, she was flown to Ben Gurion Airport by the rescue organization Hatzolah Air, after receiving help before her departure from Zaka and United Hatzalah. An ambulance was waiting to take her to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where she was, until now, in the ICU.

“I met the ambulance, and took her straight to intensive care, without even stopping at the ER as there was no point given the seriousness of her condition,” Dr. Stefan Mausbach, director of neuro-intensive care, told The Times of Israel. “She had been having seizures for weeks.”

Kosma had gone through a rare bacterial or viral infection that caused epilepsy and a range of serious reactions. “Upon arrival, she was totally non-reactive and in a coma,” said Mausbach, explaining that the chance of serous brain damage in such scenarios is very high. “I estimated her chances of survival at 1% to 2%.”

Mausbach’s colleague Dr. Roni Eichel, director of neurology at Shaare Zedek, explained that she faced a rare case of fever turned epilepsy that is “very difficult to treat with drugs, so that the patient in most cases suffers from severe brain damage, and in many cases there is a risk of death.”

Anna Kosma, arriving at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, straight from a flight from Ukraine, in May 2022. (courtesy of Shaare Zedek Medical Center)

The doctors deepened her coma to a state called cerebral anesthesia, as this allowed her to be treated with a reduced chance of brain damage. They maintained this state for four days. After this, they changed all her medications and saw some improvement. Mausbach said: “She started to react more, but even then, she had around 20 seizures a day for another week.”

A long, laborious process of trying different approaches and different drugs followed, and a few days ago, despite the possibility of some lasting brain damage remaining, Anna left intensive care — on her own two feet — and went into rehab.

“I was very excited and very glad she was discharged,” Mausbach said. “We put in lots of effort into helping her — working with her all day and night. What we just witnessed is something that doctors see once in a lifetime. We have a lot of miseries in intensive care, so to see something like this is so great.”

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed