Israeli doctors save 3 yr-old Gaza child from paralysis


Because of a massive tumor extending to his neck & spine, 3 yr-old Sliman was “on the brink of paralysis” in his lower extremities until doctors at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem performed a procedure done only a handful of times in history.

By Maytal Yasur Beit-Or


A rare procedure performed at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem has prevented a 3-year-old boy from the Gaza Strip from becoming paralyzed. The boy was released from the hospital walking on his own.

Three-year-old Sliman from Gaza recovers from surgery at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem – Photo: Hadassah Medical Center

Sliman, 3, had developed a benign tumor in his chest, which not only interfered with his respiratory system but also caused a malformation in his spine and limited his range of motion. The tumor posed a risk of causing permanent paralysis in the lower extremities in the future.

This tumor is very rare with only a handful of recorded cases in medical history. It was the first such case to be seen in Israel. The doctors at the Hadassah Medical Center agreed to confront the challenge and decided on a two-stage approach.

The first stage involved a “stretching” of the skeleton with the use of weights in order to facilitate access to the tumor. In the second stage, the doctors excised the tumor as it pressed against the spine in the neck, threatening to cause neural damage at any minute.

During the complex, 6-hour surgery, the part of the tumor that had encircled the spine was removed as well as part of the tumor that had grown into the spine. One of the vertebrae was also removed.

“This was a rare procedure not just on a national level, but on a global level,” said Dr. Joshua Schroeder, a senior orthopedic surgeon at Hadassah. “There is almost no documentation of this kind of repair anywhere in the world. Needless to say that this is the first procedure of its kind in Israel.

“The child arrived at Hadassah with obviously limited range of motion due to the malformation and also required close monitoring of the respiratory system because of the tumor that had spread from his chest to his neck vertebrae. We straightened his spine and alleviated the pressure by removing the tumor from around and inside the spine.”

“Tumors on the neck vertebrae are very rare in children. Most of the children under our care in Israel would not have reached a stage where the tumor is so large. This boy was on the brink of paralysis. The tumor was two millimeters from his spine. He could have easily found himself in a wheelchair very quickly.”

Dr. Moni Benifla, a senior neurosurgeon at Hadassah, remarked that “after the successful surgery, it was clear that the child’s range of motion improved, but his neck still needs to be protected with a brace until he fully recovers. He is awaiting planned chest surgery in the coming months to remove the rest of the tumor from his chest.”

The boy resumed walking and has been discharged from the hospital. Sliman’s father said that “the doctors at Hadassah were welcoming and helpful. They appear to be miracle workers, with the help of Allah. We are truly grateful.”

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