A Personal Touch Behind the Mask

Professor Alon Hershko, the director of Hadassah Ein Kerem Internal Medicine Department C has a personal mantra during this time: “putting the patient front and center – from the smallest touches to make coronavirus patients feel more at ease to leading a national campaign urging patients to get the care they need right now.”

“Even in these complicated times, the connection with the patients is important – perhaps more now than ever,” Hershko, whose daily work is in treating COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Hershko, born at Hadassah Hospital in 1965, has deep Hadassah roots. His father, Chaim Hershko, was a professor of hematology at Hadassah. His sister, Prof. Dorith Shaham, heads Hadassah’s Thoracic Imaging Center. His wife, Dermatologist Klilah Hershko, studied at Hadassah and their daughter Anat is an intern in the hospital.

“I don’t think we’re necessarily working harder,” he said. “I think medical staff always work incredibly hard. It’s just a different kind of hard.” Hershko insists that his staff manage to make time for the human side of their relationship with patients. He instructed all his team to pin smiling photos of themselves to their protective clothing so patients can identify the faces behind the masks. “This definitely helps connect, bring close and make the experience more personal when a doctor or nurse enters the room to check, treat, care for or update patients. They are here alone, far from everything they love and need. Their connection is with us and we must all wear our best smile.”

Learning Lessons in Loneliness and Love: A Photo Essay

Ayala Van Dijk is a nurse in the “Internal Medicine Outbreak A Ward” at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem. That’s the formal name for what has been dubbed “the COVID-19 Ward,” one of four wards that were hastily set up in an old, abandoned wing. The heavy, uncomfortable, protective gear she is wearing allows Van Dijk and her colleagues to experience all the symptoms which their COVID-19 patients experience, accelerated heartbeat, perspiration, shortness of breath and sores.

But the greatest difficulty she and other members of the COVID-19 ward medical staff experience is loneliness: their own and mainly that of their patients.

“Loneliness — it’s the greatest lesson in life,” Van Dijk remarks, “the loneliness of patient, the family, the staff. The hardest thing is to see people suffer alone, people who have raised families all of their lives, and in the end, they find themselves alone. And the only thing we can give them is a caress and to call them by their name. So, they are not nameless, they are not anonymous. It is something, but only a drop in the ocean.”

To learn more about Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, visit Hadassah.org.

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