A mother’s fear for her baby took them on a difficult journey from Gaza to the ophthalmology department at Hadassah.
It was a journey that no parent wants to take but every parent required to take it is forever grateful.

A Gazan mother’s concern about an unfamiliar white spot on her baby’s eye led her to a number of local doctors before the condition was diagnosed - cancer.

The tumour known as retinoblastoma posed a real risk to the nine-month-old. Without the proper treatment it would likely mean the loss of sight. A parent’s worst nightmare was about to unfold.

The doctor’s in Gaza were adamant that there was nothing they could do. They told the parents “The cancer is aggressive and the only solution is to remove the eye.”

The mother, Norhan, said, “We were devastated until I saw on TV a news item about a child with the same problem who had been treated at Hadassah in Jerusalem.

“The experts there used a unique treatment and saved his eye. We realized that we must get to Hadassah! After waiting two months for official approvals, we arrived. Since then, I have blessed the staff (at Ein Kerem) every day. "

At Hadassah she met Prof Shachar Frenkel, the hospital’s director of ophthalmology.

Prof Frenkel said an examination revealed that the tumour covered half of Miyar’s eye, the central part of her vision, indicating that she had no sight at all in that eye.

"Urgent action was required,” he said. “Within three days we organized approvals and the start of treatment. Miyar received chemotherapy by catheterization to the main artery of the eye, under the supervision of Prof. Jose Cohen and his team in the hospital's cerebral catheterization unit.

“This was quite an innovative procedure known as Intra Arterial Chemotherapy, allowing the catheter to inject the chemotherapy directly into the tumour.”

Even though the tumour had shrunk, more drama was to come.

“We noticed that around the tumour there was a ‘growth cloud’ in the eye which was actually scattered tumour cells. Together with my colleague Prof. Yaakov Pe’er, a senior specialist in ophthalmological oncology, we administered chemotherapy injections into the eye.”

In total Miyar underwent three chemotherapy catheterizations and four direct injections into the eye, all under anesthesia, over a period of several months.

Hadassah is the first in Israel to use these treatment methods to win the battle and treat retinoblastoma in children’s eyes. Without this innovative treatment there would be no choice but to remove a child’s eye.

The outcome for the family is beyond their wildest dreams. The tumour has died and calcified, the scattered tumour cells have disappeared, and Miyar has vision in the affected eye.

"I firmly believe that our team at Hadassah's ophthalmology department not only saves sight and heals difficult and complex cases, we also serve as intermediaries between people and build bridges to overcome differences or disagreements with our neighbours."

Chair of Hadassah Australia, Ron Finkel AM, says Miyar’s story is a reminder of the power of cross border people-to-people engagement through health.

“Hadassah Australia continues to facilitate the treatment of many children from Gaza who suffer eye injuries or complex conditions that can’t be treated in local hospitals,” he said.

“The children are treated at the St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital and at Hadassah Jerusalem as part of an ongoing program we initiated called Peace in Sight.”

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