Monday, May 06, 2013

  • Monday, May 06, 2013
  • Elder of Ziyon
A few days ago, AP published this story:

In his short life, Palestinian toddler Mohammed al-Farra has known just one home: the yellow-
painted children's ward in Israel's Tel Hashomer hospital.

Born in Gaza with a rare genetic disease, Mohammed's hands and feet were amputated because of complications from his condition, and the 3 1/2-year-old carts about in a tiny red wheelchair. His parents abandoned him, and the Palestinian government won't pay for his care, so he lives at the hospital with his grandfather.

"There's no care for this child in Gaza, there's no home in Gaza where he can live," said the grandfather, Hamouda al-Farra.

Mohammed's plight is an extreme example of the harsh treatment some families mete to the disabled, particularly in the more tribal-dominated corners of the Gaza Strip, even as Palestinians make strides in combatting such attitudes.

It also demonstrates a costly legacy of Gaza's strongly patriarchal culture that prods women into first-cousin marriages and allows polygamy, while rendering mothers powerless over their children's fate.

Mohammed was rushed to Israel as a newborn for emergency treatment. His genetic disorder left him with a weakened immune system and crippled his bowels, doctors say, and an infection destroyed his hands and feet, requiring them to be amputated.

In the midst of his treatment, his mother abandoned Mohammed because her husband, ashamed of their son, threatened to take a second wife if she didn't leave the baby and return to their home in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, al-Farra said. In Gaza, polygamy is permitted but isn't common. But it's a powerful threat to women fearful of competing against newer wives.

Now Mohammed spends his days undergoing treatment and learning how to use prosthetic limbs.

His 55-year-old grandfather cares for him. Mohammed's Israeli doctors, who've grown attached to the boy, fundraise to cover his bills, allowing him and his grandfather to live in the sunny pediatric ward.

But it's not clear how long he'll stay in the hospital, or where he'll go when his treatment is complete. As a Palestinian, Mohammed is not eligible for permanent Israeli residency. Yet his family will not take the child back, the grandfather said. His parents, contacted by The Associated Press, refused to comment.

Dr. Raz Somech, the senior physician in the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer's pediatric immunology department, attributes Mohammed's genetic disorder to the several generations of cousin marriages in his family - including his parents.

Speaking to Ynet, Somech said the toddler was returned to Gaza once or twice so he could see his parents, and returned "even sicker and more bruised. The grandfather said he did not want to take him back to the hospital, but cannot treat him on his own."

Somech said Mohammed arrived at the hospital at the age of six months with a severe intestinal disease. "Intestinal diseases are very rare at this age, so it was clear to us that it was something genetic. We diagnosed him as having a genetic disease that is related to the immune system and mainly damages the digestive system. He is the first child in Israel who was diagnosed with this disease. There are only a few hundred others in hospitals worldwide," said the physician.

Doctors at Sheba stabilized Mohammed's condition with large amounts of medication. "We considered a bone marrow transplant, which can save lives, but unfortunately we could not find a donor with matching tissue type, so we continued the medication treatment, which paradoxically weakens the immune system even more," he told Ynet.

"Mohammed was in the hospital for a long time, and at some point a severe bacterial infection led to necrosis, which required the amputation of his four limbs."

...Doctors' fundraising has covered Mohammed's years of treatment, Somech said. One donor provided $28,000 for Mohammed's prosthetics.

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is supposed to fund transfers to Israeli hospitals. But it stopped covering Mohammed's bills six months after he arrived, Somech said. Palestinian health official Fathi al-Hajj said there was no record of the case.

There has been a growing number of cases where the Palestinian Authority stopped paying for patients because of its budgetary problems, Mor Efrat of rights group Physicians for Human Rights said.

Al-Farra said he stepped in to care for Mohammed to save his daughter's marriage. He sleeps beside Mohammed and ensures he's clean and fed.
This story did not sit well with Hamas.

So they made up their own:

Palestinian citizen from the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip revealed that due to a medical error committed by one of the Israeli hospitals, his child has lost his hands and feet.

Abu Ahed Farra, 37, said that their suffering has begun when his youngest son Mohammed, who was born in August 2009, started suffering from continuous diarrhea.

He said that doctors in Gaza were unable to diagnose his illness, so they moved him to an Israeli hospital, where he remained more than eight months hospitalized.

"During this period, there has been no improvement in the health condition of Mohammed" Farra said.

He added that in June 2011 the Israeli doctors injected the child with a dose of medication after which his condition has somewhat improved.

"Days after a nurse gave the child another dose without consulting the doctor, and the child's condition quickly worsened. He entered in a coma. The doctors injected him with the anti-dote and the child woke up. However, his skin color turned into black and the examinations showed that the blood was not reaching his hands and feet," the father said.

He added that they were shocked when they received an urgent request from the hospital demanding them to approve the amputation of the child's four limbs.

The family filed a lawsuit against the Israeli hospital, and the court decided that the hospital will pay all the costs of treatment and accommodation of the child in hospital.

Mohammed Farra, who will be four years old after few months, still suffers from a difficult health condition. He has not fully recovered from his illness, and ended up losing his limbs due to a medical mistake.
So, which story is more believable?

Given that the grandfather testifies that Abu Ahed Farra has no desire to visit his son, and in fact he never does, it sure sounds like the Israelis are telling the truth. (I'm no doctor, but necrosis does not seem to come from giving too many antibiotics.)

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