A coronavirus project that tranversed continents at Hillel Yaffe

A nine-year-old boy who is sick with cancer was flown to Israel, after being granted exceptional authorization, to be operated on in Hillel Yaffe Medical Center’s Orthopedic Oncology Unit

Nine-year-old Artem Zorneko from Ukraine came to Israel six months ago for an initial examination by Prof. Jacob Bickles, Director of the Orthopedic Oncology Unit at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, and a world expert in his field. His parents, Ukrainian citizens, were recommended to the unit at Hillel Yaffe and Prof. Bickles himself, in the wake of an irregular growth discovered in their son. During the examination, which included a biopsy, an aggressive cancerous tumor was discovered in the bony pelvis, which required chemotherapy for around four months, to be followed by complex surgery to remove the growth.


Since the family have limited financial resources, the boy returned to Ukraine for the chemotherapy, but was slated to return to Israel during May 2020 for the surgery to be performed by Prof. Bickles at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center.


“Coronavirus arrived in the middle and threw a wrench in the works,” Prof. Jacob Bickels described the situation, resulting in a crazy process to receive exceptional authorizations for Artem to come to Israel, a process to which the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center management harnessed themselves, with the help of the Ministry of Health and the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with unequalled dedication.



Prof. Bickles, Artem’s mother, Artem and Nurse Marina before the surgery performed at Hillel Yaffe


“Due to the global crisis and the borders being closed, we can’t get authorizations for patients from overseas to have surgery in Israel,” explains Prof. Bickles. “We also need to add the fact that Ukraine is still defined as a country where the virus is at its height and there are absolutely no flights to and from Ukraine. Making a sure recipe to cancel a procedure planned six months ago. However, it is clear that the surgery needs to take place at this time, and if it won’t, the boy’s life will be endangered.”


Prof. Bickles sent a special request to the management of the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center to help bring Artem to Israel to perform the surgery, despite the clear difficulties and the great complexity in achieving an authorization. To the great joy of both Prof. Bickles and Artem’s family, people were willing to listen, and with uncompromising stubbornness, a large number of complicated arrangements, and the composing of a special practice for how the child would be accepted for treatment in Israel, the Ministry of Health gave an exceptional authorization which was urgently transferred by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Israeli consul in Ukraine. All of this was part of a cooperative effort which Prof. Bickles terms, “Israeli mobilization at its finest”.


The boy and his mother arrived in Israel about two weeks ago, were transported directly by ambulance from the door of the plane to hospitalization in the Orthopedic Oncology Unit to await surgery, and were together in isolation after having had an additional test to negate the possibility of coronavirus, so that surgery could take place. Surgery was performed successfully this week and Artem is expected to be released from hospital in the next few days, and continue his needed chemotherapy treatments.

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