Prof. Itai Pessach, Director of the Edmund and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital at Sheba, was recently interviewed on Channel 12 in regards to what his team experienced when treating the returned hostages, whom he elaborated “went through hell.”
In a week described as the most harrowing of his life, Prof. Pessach recalled the moment when the hostages first arrived at the hospital in varying physical conditions. Despite the dire situation, Sheba’s dedicated medical professionals had been prepared for their arrival for weeks. Medical and psychological protocols for treating the hostages have been planned at length by the Health Ministry and Welfare Ministry since the onslaught of October 7th.
Transforming Trauma: Sheba’s Dedicated Unit for Hostages
Equipped with a secure entrance and facilities that suit both children and adults, the Safra Children’s Hospital has since been transformed to a dedicated unit for these hostages. When treating them, Prof. Pessach’s specially curated team consisting of mostly female staff are extremely careful not to trigger them in any way.
After checking the hostages for any urgent healthcare emergencies, the primary focus is immediately shifted toward providing them with emotional and psychological treatment. Their own accounts revealed the diverse circumstances they endured while in captivity. Some hostages had very little food and nourishment, others didn’t see the light of day throughout their entire stay. Even more heart-wrenching, a great number of hostages didn’t even have space to move around in.
“Most of them don’t stop talking, they want to share… At first it’s trivial things, what we ate, what we drank, and slowly details start to come out in stories as they talk to their families,” he stated.
Being committed to protecting patient confidentiality, Prof. Pessach did not go into specific detail regarding any singular patient experiences. However, he did disclose to hearing numerous distressing accounts of what happened to them while in Gaza.
Navigating the Aftermath of Captivity and Loss
An additional trauma that Prof. Pessach and his team had to be prepared for was updating the hostages on the occurrences that took place following their kidnapping. The majority of the hostages only learned about murdered and kidnapped relatives once they arrived back in Israel. In the same vein, they were largely unaware of the October 7th events and the scale of Hama’s impact.
Despite the trauma these hostages suffered while in captivity and the long road to recovery ahead of them, most of them are standing strong and encouraging Sheba’s healthcare providers to do the same. Prof. Pessach recalled a touching moment, “I heard hostages saying things like ‘I didn’t cry for 50 days, don’t you cry now. Because we are strong,’” Pessach further stated, “How can I break down when these are the people I have the honor of treating?”
Sheba has been the first step on the journey to healing and renewed happiness for a majority of the released hostages and it has been an honor to undertake that role. As for the hostages still being held captive in Gaza, our dedicated medical professionals are fully prepared and awaiting your safe return.