Dr Judith Guedalia

Thanksgiving Jerusalem Style 2006: The Triple's Fifth Anniversary

         Amalia Oren, director of social work at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem where I work, came down to show me a well-worn edition of LaIsha. On the cover of this women's magazine was a beautiful model. There was something familiar about the eyes. I looked again and again. But it wasn't until I opened to an inside page and saw her as she looked when we first met, that I said: "Leah."



         I never give my patients' real names. Even though she gave mine while the TV cameras whirred, I will still just use her last initial.


          However, last night, there I was standing next to her on the 8:00 News broadcast (Channel 10), when she said, "This is Dr. Guedalia and she did EMDR with me!"


         Leah had been there with friends celebrating her 18th birthday. At a table nearby a group of 16-year-old boys were there enjoying A's and L's (who are twins) birthday, too. They didn't know each other yet.


         Not far away sitting on the mirpeset (terrace) of his dorm room in a chassidic yeshiva sat M. Within seconds their lives would change.


         The first bomb went off; there was silence as if everything in the world had stopped. Within seconds the air and area were punctuated with the sounds of screams and sirens.


         Sitting on his mirpeset, M knew it was a bomb. While others in his yeshiva immediately ran to see what was going on, he held back. He had was recently become engaged to be married and so was a bit more "cautious."


         Also by the end of November, we Jerusalemites knew or thought we knew, the diabolic plan to set up two bombs and time them so that the second one would get the people who came to help. After he heard the second bomb go off, M went to see if he could help out.


         The first bomb wounded the boys who were celebrating the birthdays. A had been hit with so many nails and bolts to his body that it was decided not to operate. Miraculously, these "additions" to the bombs did not puncture any vital organs; they were "just" lodged in his bones, but he was nevertheless a very injured boy.


         Leah was more fortunate, or so she thought. She was thrown from her chair by the blast, but after counting all her limbs, she was intact. She wanted to go help others, but the police motioned them to go up an alley.


          M was also sent in that direction. Within minutes a booby-trapped car blew up. It had been filled with flammable material, as if the mere bomb was not sufficient. It was there that Leah and M were burned.


         The group of 16-year-olds, Leah and M were among those taken to Shaare Zedek. The scores of injured were triaged at the spot and divided by their injuries to be sent to the main Jerusalem hospitals.


         The "Aran" Trauma Team (acronym which stands for the Hebrew "mass injured events") was beeped immediately, and as the chief medical psychologist of the team, I took up my position in the emergency room.


          A sight that remains with me is the long line of gurneys carrying young teens waiting for x-rays of their punctured limbs and bodies. In the entire tally that night were 180 injured. Forty-seven percent, 84 people, mostly teens, were brought to Shaare Zedek Medical Center.


         We worked through the night until morning, went home for some "shut-eye" and then came back. The wards were full. Many of the injured teens had lost friends and were worried about others in different hospitals. They were in relatively good shape. A was in ICU (intensive care unit) and was unconscious. His twin was more lightly injured.


         M and Leah did not know each other. They were in rooms on opposite sides of the burn unit, both having suffered second-and-third-degree burns on their faces and bodies. M's injuries were mostly on his legs and hands, because he had tried to put out the fire on his pants. Leah's burns were more extensive. Most of the injuries were on her face, hands and arms.


         I worked with M using EMDR when he was in the ward and then, for the weeks afterwards, as an outpatient. It was amazing to see him improve both physically and emotionally. M returned to his home in the States, and B"H was married. (He even came to visit me on one occasion - see Jewish Press article: "This Week I Had A Visitor").


         Leah's therapy visits were longer and more intense. More than a year later she was finally able to remove the pressure bandages on her body, and later yet, her arms and hands. Leah became the "poster child" survivor of the "Meshulash" (as that "triple" terrorist night has become known).


         Pictures of her were all over, as the beautiful girl she was "before" the bombings, and now the "burnt" girl lying in hospital and fighting for her life. As her body healed, I wondered how she would "re-identify" herself from being a victim/survivor in order to "move on."


         So it was with great joy, that I looked at "the model" on the cover of LaIsha magazine. Her eyes and face were gleaming as she modeled this winter's clothes. However, it was with even greater happiness that I accepted her invitation to the Se'udat Hodaya (thanksgiving dinner) celebrating her birthday and the birthdays of the twins, all in the company of their friends and the medical team from Shaare Zedek.


          Leah S. not only showed us how with G-d's help she remade herself, but also how she exemplified Hakarat HaTov, recognition of gratitude.


         May she continue to go from strength to strength and realize the many aspects of her potential in all that she wishes to do.


Originally published in the Jewish Press on January 3, 2007

Tags: EMDR | Jewish Press | Terror