Yaron Kellner, Yediot Achronot columnist, visited the most optimistic spot in the State of Israel: Ezer Mizion’s Oranit Cancer Patient Guest House
Based on an article in Yediot Achronot Nov. 2013 by Yaron Kellner
Li’el Efrat Gurevich had only one question when the doctor at Schneider’s Hospital made his rounds. Would she be allowed to leave the hospital that day for the afternoon. She was a brave girl and tried not to complain about the chemo treatment but an afternoon off at Ezer Mizion’s Oranit Center, a few hundred meters away, was like a splash of sunshine in what was otherwise a miserable day.
If she was lucky and her condition allowed it, Li’el would come with her father, Danny, to the Center. The choices abound. She may first visit the art room to create a masterpiece to take back to the hospital. Then she would continue to the Riant Bakshi Wildlife Pavilion at Ezer Mizion’s cancer patient guest home and play with the dogs and hamsters. (That’s her favorite!) At the end of her allotted time, which is always too short, she would be given a suite on the premises to shower and return to her hospital room where she would begin dreaming of the next visit.
Perhaps her biggest enjoyment is to catch a lesson in the music room, to bask in memories of the days when she used to play piano, before she was stricken with leukemia more than a half year ago. “The hours she spends at Ezer Mizion’s Oranit Donald Berman Rehabilitation Center give her strength to go on,” her father says.
“We came by ambulance from the Eimek Hosptial to Schneider at two in the morning and we desperately needed to rest. An Oranit staff member came there at that unearthly hour of the night and brought us to the amazing haven called Oranit and gave us a room to rest in,” Danny recalls their first encounter with the place.
Oranit provides support not just for the cancer patients themselves, young and old, but also to their family members. Established 17 years ago, Oranit offers spacious suites, like those in a respectable hotel, which enables families to remain close to the hospitals in the Center of the country for the duration of the treatments, instead of making the tiring journey home every day to the periphery of the country.
Oranit has a dining room where hot meals are served morning and evening and sandwiches at lunchtime. The guest home also houses the Donald Berman Rehabiltiation Center which houses a pre-school, a library, a synagogue, an auditorium with a giant screen, and extensive therapeutic/recreational activity, such as the sand therapy room filled with dolls. Not only can children spend hours here on their own, but they can also be attended by a therapist, who, through sand play and dolls, can help them express their feelings and release frustrations.
From there, they cross the corridor to the Rinat Bakshi Wildlife Pavilion, the cheerful abode of snakes, turtles, fish, bats, chinchillas, even a wild whistler – a furry, screechy creature. But the biggest attraction is the pair of adorable puppies, Yifat and Nana, who the children can frolic with without fear, since the dogs undergo examinations every two weeks to make sure they are not carrying any germs that may endanger the children.
In the animal room, we meet three-year-old Chaya Kozba from Nesher, who also has neruoblastoma cancer. “I love Nana and Yafit,” she whispers. “What else do you like?” we ask her, and the cute little girl, sitting on her mother’s lap, sticks her fingers up at the sides of her head like two horns. “Chaim, the rabbit,” she says with a wide grin.
Yumi Dzialovsky is the director of the Division for Children with Cancer at Oranit. He knows all the children by name and makes sure none of them will be lacking anything. For the 17 years he has been there, he says that the children still stir his emotions each day as they did the first time he came here. “This place revives me. Some people are sorry when Sunday comes, but every weekend, I can hardly wait to get back here. When a child has strength and is happy, his medical condition is also better. That is what we do here – we give them a hug-literally and figuratively- so that they can keep fighting.”
That’s when my heart sings with joy. But there are other times…times that are unbearably sad…times when I have to make funeral arrangements for children who were defeated in their battle. The staffs of oncology wards in the surrounding hospitals call him anytime of the day or night and Yumi helps them. “If it’s so hard for me, I can’t even imagine how hard it would be for the grieving parents. That’s why we at Oranit handle the details.
But lets talk about the happier parts.
Not only the sick children, but also their siblings and parents benefit from Oranit, as well as families in which one of the spouses is ill and unable to keep the children occupied. “One day, I went to sleep in the afternoon, and when I awoke, I saw that nobody was home,” says Tamar Morad, 39, from Ramat Gan, who is fighting breast cancer. At first she was frightened, but in the end, she saw a note explaining that her oldest daughter, who is just eight years old, called the grandmother and asked her to take them to Oranit. When the Savta said she did not know how to get there, her granddaughter assured her that she would direct her there. “Many times I take them myself. If I would sit at home, I would feel miserable. Here, you forget about the nausea and all the horrible things. Here, there is a special magic,” she relates.