Chapter one: My Hadassah

The hallways of Hadassah Hospital tell the ongoing history of the City of Jerusalem and thousands of personal stories too. My story begins in those hallowed hallways of Hadassah and continues as I make my way to my shifts as a Maternity ward nurse.

So many special moments of my life went through these hallways. My mother, a Hadassah midwife, carried me through these same hallways at my birth. I completed my National Service in Hadassah and graduated from Hadassah Nursing School. Working on the wards, and, of course, the incredible memories of my children’s birth are highlights. Oh and… 3 years of cancer treatments and rehabilitation… Yup, all those moments happened in Hadassah’s hallways. For good and for less good…

And on one sunny morning in July 2015 another incredible moment joined the list.

From the moment I was diagnosed with cancer five years ago I was optimistic that I would recover. I dreamt, prayed and hoped for the best outcome possible. But, in my wildest dreams I could not picture the moment that I would step back into my nurse’s uniform and walk those hallways of Hadassah as a member of staff as before. During all those years of visiting Hadassah on the receiving end, as a patient, I could not picture myself being lucky enough to go back to treat those in need. It seemed as “mission impossible….”

But on that lovely summer morning in July 2015 it was not so impossible after all…

In the same Hadassah where I was born thirty three years ago and where my life was saved twice in the years I was undergoing treatments, in those same exact halls I was taking my first steps as a recovering patient and a proud returning member of  the Hadassah staff.

Clocking in on that morning for a shift at the same point where I clocked in merely less than 24 hours before I was diagnosed 5 years previously, was the closure of one chapter of my life and the beginning of an exciting new one. So symbolically rejoining the forces at the giving end once more.

We don’t know what the future holds for us. Hey, we don’t even know what will happen to us in the next 24 hours. But I do hope and pray to the Almighty that the energy I felt that miraculous morning of July 2015 in the hallways of Hadassah will be something I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Chapter Two: The circles of my life

It is said that a single photo can tell a story better than a thousand words. In our day and age each smart phone contains millions of photos and often people have innumerable words to add to them. Ten years ago times were different and much simpler. We worked hard and took the rare Selfi’s (or maybe none at all…). So this single photograph of me in the white coat, in the middle of a working day, is the only picture I have from a year of major significance in the way my life has since developed.

I remember vividly the day this picture was taken. It was 2002, I was only 19 years old, working proudly as a “Sherut Leumi” girl (National Service Program) in the Bone Marrow Department of the Ein Kerem Hadassah Medical Centre. Already then I was quite a gifted little chatterbox, a quality which came in handy in making new friendships and communicating freely with patients.

Etan, a young photographer, was a cancer patient on our ward. He was scheduled to undergo a Bone Marrow Transplant from a donor. One day he came for his treatment to the clinic fully equipped with his professional camera and snapped some spontaneous photos of the staff hard at work. The next time we saw him he gave us each a photo as a souvenir. I have not seen Etan since but I have treasured the photo.

Ten years had passed since I had served in the Bone Marrow Department until I was a cancer patient on the same ward myself. Undergoing a Transplant I too was assisted by the “Sherut Leumi” girl serving the ward that year. All smiles, busy busy, she helped all the patients who needed her services just as I did when I was her age.

On one of the routine checkups at the clinic, whilst waiting for my turn to the doctor, a young healthy looking man sat down by my side. “I hope I’ll be looking as healthy one day” I thought to myself. I took one more glance at the young man and realized it was none other than Etan. The very same Etan who had taken a photo of me so many years before. My heart was jumping from excitement to see him looking so healthy and strong! This sight filled me with hope. Surprisingly I felt too shy to approach the man who I remembered so well but there was no need as he beat me to it.

“Are you new here?” he asked.

“Yes. I mean No. Sort of…” I was not sure what to answer. “You took a picture of me ten years ago” I suddenly blurted out of context.

“I am a photographer” he answered. “when did I take your photo?”

I couldn’t hold myself back from asking: “Did you undergo a Bone Marrow Transplant ten years ago?”

In utter shock he answered “Exactly ten years ago I received my new Bone Marrow AND my life back” and  he carried on telling me his story in detail, when he suddenly stopped and asked again: “But how do YOU know me???” and on we went chatting away as I retold my side of the story, now on very mutual grounds, giving each other strength and hope to continue believing life is worth fighting for.

And so as it turns out, a picture in Hadassah is worth more than a thousand words.

Nurse Libbie